One thing happens for sure when you cross the Mississippi and start to head west. The states start to get really big. The east does have some states that can be thought of as ‘giants’ in their region; Florida, New York, Pennsylvania and length wise you’d have to consider Tennessee. But they’re about the size of the ‘frontline’ of the western gate. I’m referring to Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, North & South Dakota. All with prodigious horizontal lines, excepting Oklahoma but the panhandle does stretch out there a bit, and all with respectable vertical lengths. We’re on our way to Whitewood, S.D., a small town just 12 miles west of Sturgis, S.D., and that means going pretty much the whole distance on that South Dakota horizontal plane. The speed limits are set high here, so if your vehicle is up to the task well it doesn’t take long to complete the journey. The settings and views can be so peaceful on this Interstate 90. I point out to Yoshi the ‘Wall Drug’ signs that dot the sides of the road and continue to do so for hundreds of miles. More sorghum fields and some sunflower fields with blooms showing their yellow petals. Then we get to the grasslands. The wind is making the tall grass appear as if it’s a sea with waves out there. The swaying is hypnotic and beautiful at the same time. There’s also a sense of peace with enormity when you get on top of a hill and you see out on a valley that stretches for miles and miles and you notice the paucity of trees on the horizon. I wish I could go to the Badlands Park up here but we’re on a bit of a mission and I’d rather get this drive over with and on to the gig.
We drive straight to the venue and decide to check in. We get there and our co-workers are there; Beth Lee & The Breakups. Her band was here last year too. She plays a mix of country, rockabilly, rock and Americana songs and she has a band that’s really versed in all these areas. Beth also writes a good number of their repertoire and she’s a good songwriter too. I really enjoy watching them and listening to them. Beth’s voice goes from a country crooning to a tough scratchy belter and then to a sultry vixen voice all in the course of her shows. Really good on her rhythm chops too. She’s not just eye-candy up there. She’s one of the kats up there and it’s all working well for her.
We check in with Peggy and Dan, the promoters, and we then head to our home for the next 5 days. We stay at the promoter’s spacious house out in the country after traveling on some dirt roads for a bit. I really like it out here. There are neighbors but they’re not too close. So you feel like you’re out alone. I get to go running in the mornings on the dirt roads and I can go as far as my legs want to take me. The wildlife out here is something else I like look forward to. There’s deer and eagles, hawks and meadowlarks and one day I saw a Belted Kingfisher. It’s like I have nature all to myself. Sure you see the occasional car that passes you while running but after that and it’s just the wind and the animals and the wide open spaces. I know you can get a sense of nature when you walk through a park and you’re under a shaded canopy of trees and maybe see a stream or river but this is so different. You’re out under the vast expanse of Big Sky. There’s a lone mountain on the horizon, Bear Mountain, and I’ve had fantasies of running all the way to it, but my enthusiasm is tempered when after 5 miles of what seems like a direct trajectory to Bear Mountain, it’s features remain exactly the same as when I started out. Oh well, if I ran all that way I’d still have to turnaround to get back. It is lovely out here though. Just me and my thoughts.
So now it’s our shift down at the Beer Garden down in Whitewood. We head down the hills on the dirt roads and towards the town. Beth and her band is done and we’re pulling our stuff on the stage. It’s this rustic looking wooden band shell/stage that’s set up and it’s a good size too. With attendance up here from last year we can tell it’s already going to be fun. Beth’s band has agreed to step in as the ‘sound by committee’ and we’re thankful for their help. A couple of things I don’t do on the road and have purposely not learned them; how to help tear down a drum kit, even though I own one and how to set-up and dial in sound on a P.A. system. I mean I can do it if push comes to shove and I’m the only one there that knows anything about it but I prefer to not touch the stuff. This year the sound is actually sounding good. Last year wasn’t the best and that was some professional guy doing it. This year is a kind of cobbled together set-up but the guys are really taking the time to get it right. The first day’s show goes well for getting up early and driving all day but it’s an auspicious beginning. We’ve got 4 more days to go out here but if today is any indicator I’m liking what I’m hearing so far. This is going to be fun.
More to come about this week…