With the hot sun of late July beating down upon the heartland of America, we venture westward towards Iowa. Tall stalks of corn reach towards their life giving sun rays in long vast horizons giving the landscape a fecund virescence as far as the eye can see. Not to be outdone by the stately corn stalks, the humble but proud soybean whose stature might not be as majestic as their kernel cohabitants but equal in their uses other than the dinner table. Yoshi marvels at the sight of these green chlorophyll seas because Japan, albeit with their own capacity to produce crops, has not the space or expanses as vast as America’s on such a repeating level. After all one only has to get beyond the ridge or hill line of this view of crops to be met by another then another and on and on and so forth. So goes the Midwest. We arrive in Waterloo by late afternoon, our home for the next 3 days, and settle into the downtown hotel. Seems Waterloo, not its original name, was Prairie Rapids Crossing until the Post Office came to town and the name Waterloo was chosen for the station name. Thus the town then adopted the Post Office Station name in 1851 less than a decade after the first families settled in this area. With the abundance of land for raising crops and animals, an agrarian economy and lifestyle took hold. Soon manufacturing and industries related to these operations moved in, namely farm equipment and meat packing plants. Rath Packing Company was one of the major employers of the time. I used to remember the hot dogs Rath put out back in my days of youth. They closed up in the 80’s but the John Deere factory is still a dominate fixture in the Waterloo economy. The streets of the town are charming and there appears to be a comeback and a vibrant entertainment district across the Cedar River close to our hotel. That’s where our gig is.
We get to the Screaming Eagle across the river and not but a quarter mile from us, if even that far. It’s an outside event this day and we inquire inside as to where we should set up. ‘Out there,’ says a bartender inside, hmm,…still dealing with bartenders taking on all duties. Curious though, I wonder if he’s our sound man? Gathering myself back up we start to unload out on the curb but we’re later informed by the sound company that has pulled up, that our area is actually in the middle of the street on one of the four-sides of the intersection. Our stage is the asphalt. My feet will be tired tonight if I’m to carry on in my usual fashion of moving and stomping about while I play. We set up and I’m at least happy that we’re facing east and we shan’t be squinting in the sun as it goes down during our performance. Yes I’d love to be able to don a pair of rocking sunglass to complete my appearance but unless I have an elastic band to affix them on my head, I otherwise just end up casting them off with my head movements whilst I play. We finish preparing our stage and after a short sound check of the system we’re ready to play. A small crowd gathers up in front of the stage as we start and it takes just a bit of getting used to the sound of the stage. The PA set-up is what we would normally see in an enclosed stage setting; monitors in front of us with two columns of speakers on the sides for the crowds ears. No side-fills, this isn’t that large of an event, but being outside, the lack of surfaces around us in close proximity prevents reflection and retention of the sound waves close to us and thus the waves are diffused rather quickly. It can be a bit thin on the bass end and it’s that I’m adjusting to. Doesn’t take me long and soon after we start to find our groove and proceed to step-on-the-gas to ramp up our efforts. I’ve been coming to this area of Iowa since the very early 90’s and I still see some of the fans and staff from Steb’s. The club I first started playing in the neighboring town of Cedar Falls, IA. Steb’s was so endeared by the many who attended it over the years. To this day it is still held in high regard within the memories of the staff, locals and with the many students who were passing through getting an education at the University of Northern Iowa; UNI. Steb’s has been long gone now but like I said, its legacy lives on.
The owner of the Screaming Eagle, Ivan Weiland, has been a long-time fan and saw me back in the Steb’s days. He’s always wanted me to play for him in some capacity or another. From his humble origins growing up in a barely middle class family to being a dishwasher in clubs and restaurants and now owning several businesses in the area. A true American story of hard work and opportunity. He’s still a young guy, younger than me, and we found him to being gracious and accommodating to our needs and desires to giving him the best we could do. I’d work for him any day. The show was a blast and my feet, although I know in the morning will let me know just how hard I pounded them on the streets, were still working fine as we packed up and said good-bye to our friends and CDG family that came out to this show. Iowa has always been good to me and it all started in the Cedar Falls/Waterloo area. Another place I will never forsake in my musical career. So long as I can play and as long as they’ll want to see and hear me, I’ll be coming here to do just that.