Vacationeer does the West Coast with RV friends Winnebago

by Nikko Van Wyck

It’s been awhile since I’ve had the opportunity to do a non-regional tour, and with Vacationeer just dropping a vinyl and our old friends and bandmates Winnebago releasing a new full length, I thought it was an opportune moment for us to hit the road together.

During our two and half week jaunt down the West Coast, there were highs and there were lows. I got into my first physical fight since elementary school with a racist in Eugene. Both us, and our vehicles, suffered heat exhaustion. We watched desert sunrises in bat country and learned that the odds in Reno are roughly the same as the odds in Vegas. We got to play with puppies and kittens and spend time at the beach.

We were lucky enough to be in San Francisco on the day that gay marriage was recognized. We wandered up to the Castro district and celebrated. I can only hope that there will be many more times in my life that I witness that much love and happiness in one place. I also got to catch an awesome Mariners game in San Diego, which somehow turned into us going to a free Lil’ Jon concert at the ballpark. All of the non-musical shenanigans aside, we met some amazing people up and down the coast and played with some really talented artists.

I booked this tour with the help of our good friends Danielle Oyama and David Mitchell. Danielle also manages Bellingham stars City Hall, while David runs and manages bands on our label, 20 Sided Records. With their help, we were able to snag some awesome venues willing to host us and even more awesome bands to play with. Sleep Spindles from Oakland was one of my favorites, we had the pleasure of playing with them at the Night Light in Oakland right before they ended up in Bellingham playing the new Alternative Library spot.

Sea Knight from San Francisco was also amazing. We were lucky enough to be able to snag a spot at The Hemlock Tavern for our SF night, and I highly recommend any Bellingham bands looking to play SF to stop by there. I hope I helped convince Sea Knight to come up to the Northwest on tour to share there Mazzy Star-esque sing along vibes. I know the Bellingham scene would absolutely fall in love with them. Another favorite was this band from Orange, CA called Waste Age. They were incredibly talented and had some of the craftiest pop hooks mingled with pure noise I’ve ever heard. Our show with them was one of the weirder but cooler spots we played; this DIY spot called the Tririlla, about four blocks away from the Los Angeles Angels baseball stadium. It rivaled the close quarters of a Bellingham house show, and was about as opposite a vibe from the typical moving-too-fast-for-me Los Angeles I have come to know. I definitely plan on playing Tririlla again, and would also say hit it up to Bellingham touring bands!

My absolute favorite spot on the whole tour was Sacramento with our good friends, Sun Valley Gun Club. I had actually booked the entire tour around this show. We had such a good experience with them on a regional tour last January that when they offered us a show in Sacramento this summer, I couldn’t turn it down.

We played at this bar called Old Ironsides, and the SVGC folks had one of the coolest sets I’ve ever seen. It was their 94’ Mix Tape release show, where they had a million of their friends come and perform covers with them of songs that came out in 1994. In between the 15 some odd covers, they played originals that are so damn catchy and memorable, you’d think they were part of the 94’ mixtape release and were covers themselves.

They’d probably sigh and tell me to get over it if they heard me recommending you to listen to the song Hey Collapser, just because of my unhealthy obsession with it and how I tend to be up front at their shows, requesting it non stop…but, seriously, it’s that good!

The entire night felt like we were at home and surrounded by our close friends even though we were about 900 miles away and in a room filled to the brim with strangers. When I look back on it years from now, I know that night will always help remind me of why I love being a touring musician. That’s only the second best thing that happened though…

I have to say that the most awesome thing that happened on this tour wasn’t planned, or really related to music in any way, but it did have a huge impact on tour morale at one of the inevitable low points we had found ourselves in.

We had just played Fresno several nights before, which is the closest place to hell that I’ve ever been to in terms of environment (108 degrees, no wind and heavy air) and we were absolutely burned out. To top it off, one of Winnebago’s guitarists had a medical emergency and had to fly home just a couple days prior, which really just added to the road weariness we were feeling.

We got to Los Angeles and ended up staying in Hollywood with some family, and low and behold, there’s a puppy. It doesn’t really seem like it’d be that big of a deal, but for everyone that had been on the road for two weeks, it was incredibly relieving to have this ball of energy to hang out with for a couple days.

What’s more, I found out that he was up for adoption. The folks we were staying with had just been fostering him and he was a rescue puppy. Upon finding that out, it was one of those things that just made sense to do; I got a tour puppy! Just another reason why I’ll never forget that while it’s hard work, touring is amazing and it will inevitably present the most random, life changing assortment of occurrences to whomever is on the road.

None of this touring would have been possible without the help of our friends and family. Winnebago’s parents graciously let them use their car after the first vehicle kicked the bucket on them before they even left Seattle. I am still blown away that I have friends up and down the coast who are cool with letting seven stinky people living out of cars show up super late at night and sleep on their floors, I think we owe them more than anyone else for helping us and encouraging us to follow our dreams. I’m also blown away by the support of strangers and new fans at shows. Every single one of them that came up and had conversations with us left quite the impression, and made us feel a little less like strangers far away from home. I can’t wait to do it again, and soon!

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