My oh my! California is such a beautiful state! We had an incredible time playing five shows and one composer workshop up and down the coast in five cities in six days. It was quite a whirlwind trip, but we got to see so much of the state, see so many friends, explore some of the culinary gifts that California has to offer (they are bountiful), and perform great music for some amazing new crowds!
We landed in San Francisco from NYC and could already feel that the air was brighter and the people were friendlier. We dropped off our bags where we were staying in Burlingame, a close SF suburb, then headed into the city to check out the venue (Center for New Music) and stretch out our legs in the city after all of the traveling.
We had been awake for quite some time, but this concert definitely got the adrenaline going since we were premiering Tacit by Ravi Kittappa and performing Violain by Scott Wollschleger for the first time for an audience (it was officially a preview performance since Scott might make some changes before the premiere on December 14th in NYC). On the program we also played Bezier by David Bird and Ghosting [A Shadowy Trace] by Leaha Maria Villareal. This was a Permutations show that we split with Chartreuse, and they played an incredible set with music by Leah Asher, Marcos Balter, Klaus Lang, and Peter Swendsen.
The next morning we woke up early to see a bit of SF before having to leave. Our first stop for coffee, treats, and a half a loaf of sourdough was Tartine Bakery. This place was delicious and just the pick-me-up that we needed to snap us out of our sleepiness.
We didn't have much time since we had to get to Santa Cruz, but we really wanted to see the piers, get a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge, and have our first in-the-wild sighting of sea lions! Hannah is in her happy place when weird animals are around, so this was definitely her bag. We also snuck in a couple of local late-morning oysters before hitting the road! yum.
The drive to Santa Cruz on Hwy 1 was absolutely beautiful, and the two of us couldn’t get over the California scenery! How do people get anything done living around so much beauty?!
We got to workshop some pieces with UCSC (University of California Santa Cruz) composers for two days, and it was a total blast. The composers were all open to the changes we suggested, full of ideas to try, and just lovely people to work with.
The composers suggested some places to visit before our second day of workshopping, so we woke up early to get in a couple of adventures. First, we went to the Natural Bridges State Park where we got to see these beautiful natural bridges, groves of eucalyptus trees, and walk along the Monarch Trail where the monarch butterflies were currently resting on their migration south to Mexico. Next, we were off to the wharf to hang with some more of our beloved sea lions and hear their silly 'arf'. Lastly, tacos at Taqueria Los Pericos! Don't pass up on these spots if you ever go through this city--they are not to be missed!
We played on the Indexical series run by composer, Andrew C. Smith, and it was such a pleasure. We were playing at a venue that Indexical has worked with in the past called lille æske. We got to perform two sets and present a lot more music, so in addition to Bezier by David Bird, Ghosting [A Shadowy Trace] by Leaha Maria Villareal, Tacit by Ravi Kittappa, and Violain by Scott Wollschleger, we also played DOGGED by Fjóla Evans, Four Koans by Brendan Faegre, à l'unisson X by Eva Maria Houben, and Den intimitet som finns i smultron by Kristofer Svensson.
Boulder Creek is thirty minutes north of Santa Cruz up a mountain, and the drive up was a wee bit scary. There were no lights, a majorly curvy road, and a certain section of the road was down to one lane due to a recent landslide. Once we got there, though, our anxiety from the drive melted away. The venue was picturesque and cozy, and the owners, James and Sarah, were the most welcoming hosts one could imagine.
This town was straight out of a movie or tv show filled with burly mountain types, a tiny Sheriff’s office, and a volunteer fire department.
We arrived in Paso after one of the most life changing drives of all time. We had the burritos that ruined all other burritos for us at El Charrito in Salinas, we stopped at Monterey Bay to see some more sea lions and gaze out at the nutso beautiful landscapes, and then topped it off by driving into Big Sur for as much as we could of Hwy 1 until it closed due to recent fires. This drive was epic, and it will definitely be repeated. Mark my words.
Hannah waxes poetically about El Charrito: "andPlay spends a lot of time thinking about what we are going to eat while traveling; we always want to make sure we find the best things. We ate a lot of great food in California, but our number one experience had to be the burritos at El Charrito in Salinas. Our friend, Andrew Smith, recommended this slightly out-of-the-way place, and we were definitely not disappointed! The homemade flour tortillas were some of the best things we have ever eaten in our lives, and we could not stop dreaming about them for the rest of the trip. Even just writing this is making my mouth water. If you are ever in a 3-hour radius of Salinas, it is worth the drive! Just be prepared to eat the burritos straight out of the bag in the parking lot; there is no dining area and you will not want to wait to taste your first bite!"
Paso has its own beautiful landscape with rolling hills filled with vineyards. We were playing at the Guyomar Wine Cellars for their pick up party where members of their wine club come to taste and pick up wine.
Ravi Kittappa lives in Paso Robles, so he set andPlay & Chartreuse up in a lovely Aribnb overlooking a vineyard and just a short dirt road away from Guyomar. It was nice to hang and wear stripes with the hilarious and lovely ladies of Chartreuse for an evening of wine, music, and merriment!
The morning mists were the real deal. When we woke up in the morning it looked liked we were living in a cloud!
After the incredible drive to Paso Robles, the LA drive paled in comparison, but we still got to stop at a roadside booth for some local strawberries and to ogle the 10 for $1 avocados. (No wonder Californians never want to leave...) We managed to get into the city and settled in Culver City where we were staying without hitting any traffic! In LA we stopped at Hannah's favorite ice cream shop Salt & Straw (originally from Portland, OR) for some amazing ice cream. The flavors were out of this world! We met up with some Oberlin friends for coffee and poke before the Permutations show with Chartreuse at Monk Space. Monk Space was definitely a cool venue albeit a bit loud for some of the pieces on the program, but we were thankful to all of the people that helped make it happen.
Last stop on this tour and we have managed to go from SF all the way down to San Diego without hitting any of this crazy traffic that everyone was warning us about! I am sure it exists, but this time the traffic gods smiled kindly and spared us the headache of it all. In San Diego we were being hosted by Madison Greenstone (an incredible clarinetist and human) at UCSD, so we got to play in the school's lovely recital hall for old and new friends. At this point we were pretty burn out from playing a show in a new city every day for six days, and we were ready for a bit of a break.
We managed to squeeze in some ocean time and some fish tacos and sandwiches from El Pescador Fish Market while in San Diego/La Jolla and it was SO worth it. We even caught a glimpse of the notorious seals at the Children's Pool in La Jolla (from the This American Life story)!
Until next time, California! You were beautiful, delicious, and so full of love. Thanks for sharing your bounty with us and letting us play some tunes for you!