TALES FROM THE ROAD: Manatee Commune: California calling

by Grant Eadie

It absolutely blows my mind that I could be carted around the globe showing people what I like to do for fun. Tour seems like the dream, so naturally I was very stoked when the Australian indie-funk band Jakubi asked me to open as main support for them on tour in California.

It wasn’t much, just three dates, but making my break in San Francisco and Los Angeles in some well attended venues was undoubtedly worth the trip. I had just finished up my visuals with Erica Kutz, I felt confident with my Ableton arrangement, all my instruments were functioning with normal parameters, and my awesome manager Austin Santiago was joining me for tour management so I was feeling pretty cozy and ready to blow some minds.

My only worry was my car, a 2000 Honda Accord with over 200k miles. She had been mine for only a year by this point, but she was not doing well with both the ‘check engine’ and ‘maintenance required’ lights on and a history of guzzling oil.

Just when I was sure I was going to have to just tough it out, my wonderful dad sent me a picture of a 2007 Honda Civic with the text “It’s all yours, I’ll see you in Issaquah tomorrow.” I’m still blown away at how incredible my parents are, so supportive and patient with every decision I’ve made in my life, I love them so much.

Twelve hours of driving, including the car exchange and a food stop in Portland for the best ramen I’ve ever had, got us to a Best Western in Chico, California at 4 a.m. I had no expectations and the next 24 hours was probably one of the weirdest experiences of my life.

The venue owners of Lost on Main, the hosts of the first show on the tour, were kind enough to let all of us, including the Jakubi boys, stay at their place the night of the show. Their ‘place’ was actually about four acres of property that one of the Australians accurately described as “the set for Mad Max.”

Two full sized buses, a golf cart turned into an alligator, what looked like a helicopter cockpit with wheels, a pig named Olive, and our gracious hosts greeted us that Friday morning as we rolled in to drop off our equipment. “Oh this is just the front!” they said as we commented on their impressive collection.

After letting us settle into their guest house, fully furnished with water beds and hockey tables, they toured us around their full property. These two had collected so much stuff I couldn’t even begin to take it all in. Five zip lines, the swimming pool, a huge, homemade metal slide, a junk yard specifically for old sign letters, 20 or more custom welded bicycles, and a shooting range equipped with two compound bows and endless arrows.

Despite how strange and foreign their lifestyle was, I had to do it all. So I jumped in that pool, zipped those lines, shot those arrows, slipped down that slide, then four hours later played a lovely show in Chico’s quaint downtown to about eight people.

San Francisco was our next stop, this time staying with Austin’s cousin in an adorable apartment in the Mission District. The venue was the Independent, a legendary venue with incredible acoustics and a history of booking huge acts. I was the only opener, and being that Jakubi had their own sound tech, my good man Coltrane, the house sound engineers were at my disposal.

I wanted to passionately kiss their wonderful beardy faces because the sound in that room was absolutely amazing. There could have been five sober people and a naked man and I still would have had the time of my life at that show, but luckily the room was nicely filled with over 200 people for my set and I got a very warm welcome for my first time in San Francisco. Jakubi absolutely slayed that night, bringing the crowd to the most drunken mess of a dance party I’ve ever seen. Probably my favorite evening of the trip.

The next day was spent as a tourist. Austin and I mashed around the city, eating and listening to tunes while he narrated the setting. It was on this day that I had a special moment that really set the tone for the whole tour.

Austin, being a taste maker, knows exactly the kind of music for the mood. Our bellies full and our hearts content after enjoying Sole Food, a Puerto Rican restaurant that’s famous for their grilled sandwiches and mango ice tea, he put on a song called Walking Lightly by Junip, Jose Gonzales’ side project. I think all anxiety I had about anything in my life washed away in those four minutes as we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge. That song ended up being stuck in my head for the rest of the trip, and the album was my go to for any quiet moment.

That night we finally got some good uninterrupted rest, which we very much needed for the next couple of days.

The Mint in Los Angeles was our last stop in California, and by far the smallest room we played in. At only 150 cap, it seemed like a dining room in comparison to the venues before, but it was gorgeously decorated with soft lighting and a cozy bar. Felt like a place Vito Corleone would be comfortable in.

The vibes were great at this last show, with an awesome seven piece reggae band opening and warm audience grooving. After hugging about a hundred people, Austin and I loaded up and drove through the night back to San Francisco and crashed out for a few hours.

Though our tour with Jakubi was over, we had one last show in Seattle, a Sofar Session in a coffeeshop in Bell Town. So we drove for 12 hours to reach Portland, stayed with some friends for a quick night, then another four hours the next day.

I was hesitant with a coffee shop show. As an producer, a sit down audience feels judgmental and intimidating, like I somehow lose my validity as a musician the moment people stop dancing, but this was different. The last five days had given me some perspective and in turn some confidence, so I calmly explained what the Launchpad and APC were for, what inspires me as an artist, and then let myself fall into my set.

That was probably my most flawless set of the whole tour, and I got some very passionate fans from it.

Take aways: I want more food, everywhere there are awesome people, I need to write more music, and I can’t wait to do that again.

For more about Manatee Commune follow him on Facebook.

Published in the June 2015 issue of What’s Up!