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From the Mountains to the Sound

This last weekend I played a trio of venues north of Seattle, an area I've been trying, (and struggling) to expand into for a couple of years now. It also marked the final three of a seven show streak of new-to-me venues.

Friday night's show was in the town of Arlington at the Lounge. They had a small corner stage, perfect for solo or duo acts, and specialized in cocktails and artisan pizzas. As I was setting up I was surprised to see an old friend from my punk rock years walk in.

Kory and I rockin out at Club Motor in Seattle somewhere around 2008

As the first set kicked off three more friends wandered through the door adding to an already healthy audience. Two hours later I was wandering through the lounge, chatting with new fans, enjoying a great beer, and sorting out where I was going to sleep that night.

Luck seems to find me more often than not when I'm out playing the traveling troubadour. Just a few miles up the highway the raft trainees that I had spent a weekend with in Oregon last month were setting up camp for a training weekend on the Sauk. I rolled out to meet them, set up camp in the back of the trusty Subaru, and spent the rest of that evening swapping stories around the campfire.

Dawn comes knocking early this time of year. Too early for someone who goes out banging on a guitar in various bars and taprooms late into most evenings. With the morning sun prodding at heavy eyelids I eventually surrendered to the light and stepped out to a sight that more than made up for the rude reminder that there's a six in the morning too. On the other side of the Stillaguamish River, lazily meandering along the clearing we were camped at, Whitehorse Mountain towered over the valley. Near the peak the snowfields glowed in the dawn light, while further down the mountain a parade of waterfalls acted as a reminder that summer heat had arrived early and the snow was facing numbered days.

I said my goodbyes to my rafting friends. A not so small part of me was wishing I would be joining their whitewater adventures that morning. With an evening show to make in Port Townsend, however, my road was headed west towards the swirling salt waters of Puget Sound.

The Pacific Northwest has long had a reputation for being a constantly gray and rainy place. Throughout much of the fall and winter this reputation is undoubtedly earned, but when the sun steps in and chases away the seemingly perpetual cloud cover a real life wonderland emerges. With a relatively short drive to the ferry terminal, and plenty of time to accomplish it I took a leisurely pace making several stops along the way. First stop was a leg stretch above the swirling tides of Deception Pass.

A short distance later I took another break for coffee and lunch in Oak Harbor while sending out a small barrage of booking emails for dates in July and August that I still have available. The café was right next to the bay where the local inboard association hosts a regatta later in the summer. There were no hydroplanes throwing roostertails as they chased each other through progressively rougher corners this weekend, but looking out on the bay there was another kind of regatta happening.

A half hour drive south of Oak Harbor put me at the ferry terminal well ahead of my reservation. The Coupeville ferry terminal is located right next to Fort Casey, one of three historic gun batteries meant to protect the entrance to Puget Sound at the beginning of the twentieth century. The huge concrete bunkers that housed disappearing "pop up" cannons are still in place, and the westernmost section has been largely restored with interior lighting and interpretive signs. Exploring this bit of Washington State history helped kill the time while I waited for my turn to board.

I've ridden on the Washington ferry system several times throughout my life. The white and green boats are an iconic part of life in the western part of this state, and a fun way to get from the I-5 corridor to the seemingly remote and rugged Olympic Peninsula. Of all of the times I've ridden, however, this is the first time I remember parking at the very front on one. What a view on the crossing from Whidbey Island to Port Townsend!

After arriving in Port Townsend I headed to the home of my great aunt and uncle to settle in before my show at Sirens pub. I'd played at Sirens a few years earlier when they had The Roostertails out there but this would be my first solo appearance at the popular bar. Load in at Sirens is always a bit of a beast, hauling gear up two steep flights of stairs. The bar itself, though, has an awesome vibe and a truly receptive crowd. At various points throughout the night people in the bar and out on the deck overlooking the sound were dancing and singing along. George (the bartender, manager, booker, and just about everything else at Sirens) was mixing drinks to the beat of the cajon.

I didn't know what to expect from that night, having picked up a cancellation by another performer less than a week before the gig, but everything came together for an awesome night. I'm headed back there in two months and I already can't wait!

I woke up Sunday to yet another beautiful Washington view. This time it was looking west, across Discovery Bay and towards the Olympic Mountains and Hurricane Ridge. After a delicious, home-cooked breakfast I said see-you-soon to my great aunt and uncle and headed to Bainbridge Island and Eleven Winery.

Wineries have been a bit of a mixed bag for me. Some seem more geared for softer singer/songwriter acts, and my thumping cajon and occasional use of electric guitar tones can be a bit much for those. I was a little concerned that would be the case again at Eleven, but people were into the driving country and swinging rockabilly from the start! While the audience was on the small side as I began the first set, people filtered in and stayed through to the end.

I feel incredibly lucky to be able to travel around sharing songs with people all over, but this weekend was a reminder of just how lucky I am to live and perform in the Pacific Northwest!

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