Hey everyone. Figured I’d chime in again with a blog.. been a while. Busy fall with touring, working on pre-editing outlining of the documentary, the cover art and packaging for the Mali album, booking shows in the states and Europe, one trip to Nicaragua with another coming in two weeks. A bit of a whirlwind, actually.
It’s been great to get back to the west coast. Played some fun shows with my cousin Gabriel Mintz in Seattle and Portland, and was joined by two fantastic musicians- Sam Anderson (played cello in Seattle, bass for Portland show) and Aaron Benson on drums. The material was new for them and they played great. Got to see some friends in Seattle and check out West Seattle, Ballard, brunch at a great spot called Dish in ‘Freelard’, International District, and a quick trip to Green Lake.
Drove down to Portland Saturday night, stopping off for some food on Olympia’s main drag. That town is punk rock all the way. Got to Portland and went directly to Mississippi Studios, a great venue, to see what was happening. Missed the show, but met up with my friend Count Kellam at a cool local tavern and went over to his studio to hang out. Stayed up all night hearing the stuff he’s been recording, including an awesome group called Mali Dusu (‘Heart of Mali’, featuring Ali Farka Toure’s nephew), and played my Mali album. Fun times. We were crashed out on the floor at noon when his studio partner came in to show his bother-in-law’s family the space. Kids started streaming in as we woke up in a daze. Went to an amazing biscuits joint for brunch- Pine State Biscuits- and dropped in to Stumptown Coffee to visit another Athens expat in Portland. Walked with my friend Michael across the river and I went straight for Powell’s City of Books. Unbelievable. Spent the first half of the Super Bowl checking out the books and ended up getting one about war brides from WWII, a story of a Mali desert trek, and Travels with a Tangerine, a modern author’s work about following in the footsteps of the great medieval traveller ibn Battuta. Watched the second half of the Super Bowl in a bar nearby and we made our way to Mudai Lounge for the show. Neat little spot above an Ethiopian restaurant on NE Broadway. Great people, and a fun night. Drove back in the van with Gabe, the band, and new friend (and great singer/songwriter and bad ass Lizzie Huffman). Spent the ride chatting with Sam and Aaron about music. Another late night.. crashed out around 4 or 5am.
On Monday I slept in a bit, got some computer work taken care of, and met up with my friend Stacy for tea and pizza in Ballard. Visited KEXP for an interview with Jon Kertzer on his fantastic program, ‘Best Ambiance’. Enjoyed playing tracks from Dugu Wolo and chatting about Mali. He asked me if I was busy this weekend (I am- shows in North Carolina) and mentioned I could have been of help to him at the Grammy’s, going around with Bassekou Kouyate and translating for him in Bambara. Hope I can be there with them next time. Hung out with Gabe and Marc Johnson from the American Hotel, a cool hostel in Chinatown that kindly put me up for the Seattle visit, back at Gabe’s place and got some late night Chinese food.
Had an early morning and rushed to the airport and flew down to San Fran. Beautiful flight- Mount Rainier pointing above the clouds and the jagged northern California landscape below- sharp snow-capped mountains, lime green mountains of the wine country, what looked to be some sort of mesa plain in the distance..
Took BART (Bay Area transit) to Mission and 25th on the prowl for Tacqueria Cancun, one of my favorite burrito joints anywhere. Had one in 2002 and have been waiting to get back. Didn’t find Cancun (walked right by it) but ended up eating at La Taqueria, which was equally fantastic. Unforgettable meal (veggie burrito). Walked with my stuff (guitar, rolling bag, and backpack- always a bit of a drag) all the way to my friend Dana’s in the financial district. Heck of a walk, past a ton of crackheads tweaking out on the sidewalk, and some in the middle of the road.
Visited with my cousin Carly and her family for some excellent Indian take-out. Hadn’t seen them for nearly ten years. On Tuesday I slept in a bit and had a slow morning, played some guitar, and finally headed back to the Mission for Taqueria Cancun. Found it, and it did not disappoint. Veggie burrito, again, and it’s a dream. Walked down Valencia in the Mission- cool street with bookstores, venues, bars, coffee shops, art galleries, etc. Bused to The Music Store on West Portal (other side of Twin Peaks) and played the in-store. Great record store- two floors, tons of vinyl and a great ambiance. Some friends and locals came down and we hung out for some beers and caught up at a bar nearby. Walked around with my friend Elliot in the Lower Haight to end the night. Got about three hours of sleep and headed to the airport. Slept most of the flights. Didn’t get to North Beach, Berkeley, or some of the other favorite Bay Area spots, but I’m hoping to make it back to west coast before too long.
It was exhausting, but a great trip. If you’re still reading I applaud you. Here’s a link to the radio show on KEXP. Not sure if you can stream the program and hear the interview and tracks from Dugu Wolo anymore, but ‘Best Ambiance’ is worth checking out and listening to any week.
Thanks for reading & hope to see ya soon,