*Nevada City is . . .
A.) Deceptively not in Nevada
B.) California’s most well preserved Gold Rush Town
C.) A little strange after dark
D.) Where I found myself last Saturday night playing a gig with the Debora Iyall Band
E.) All of the above
I love a good road trip, but I rarely take to the open road alone. Still I found myself cruising down I-80 E towards Grass Valley with nothing but my keyboards and some new music this past Saturday afternoon, headed for a show with the Debora Iyall Band. While the keyboards didn’t do much more than occasionally rumble around in the back when I hit a rough patch of highway, the music turned out to be a great companion. The road opened up to rolling, barren hills beneath an ultra-blue sky as lush as the synth sounds on M83’s “Hurry Up We’re Dreaming”; the rustic countryside of Highway 49 provided both a compliment and stark contrast to plaintive vocals of EMA’s Grey Ship. “When you see that ship, it is the ship you can see, when the grey ship calls it is calling for me.”
It was a good drive.
When I arrived in Nevada City I was taken aback by the quaint nature of the town, but it soon lost its appeal . Any meditative state the solitary drive had afforded me was quickly broken by the number of tourists darting in the path of my car as I crawled up and down the main street looking for Miner’s Foundry Cultural Center.
Thanks to bassist, Dave Wenger, I soon found the hall and a primo parking spot.
We were there to play Nisenan Heritage Day, an event that celebrated the indigenous people of Nevada County. The event included speakers, dancers and craftspeople. Live music was an end-of-the-day cap off, so in the meantime I had a chance to walk around the downtown area and check out some cute jewelry shops as well as some historical artifacts in the town square.
Then I headed back to our makeshift green room and hung out with Debora until it was time to get on stage.
The stage at Miner’s Foundry is a good size and has hosted a wide range of musicians from Zepperella to The Dark Star Orchestra to Johnny Winter. The sound was amazing, but leave it to me to be freaked out by the loudness of my own keyboards. The set went off pretty well, but I had a couple of instances of stage fright where my mind drew a complete blank . Still, the audience was appreciative. Particularly a boy named Tyler who was dancing his heart out at the front of the stage and later made the effort to introduce himself to the band and offer us some chai tea.
We played two short sets and then it was time to pull it all down and turn things over to Shelly Covert & UnderCover, an amazing cover band that sent most of us back to our formative years with tunes from Heart, REM and Georgia Satellites.
However, I was pretty hungry at that point, and since my fellow band mates had already wandered off on the quest for dinner, I took a late night stroll through Nevada City after dark.
Nevada City was a pioneer town and it has held on to the identity, if only for the sake of the tourist trade. At night its quaintness take on an eerie quality, which was accentuated by a man in a black cape and top hat leading a crowd through the streets and telling stories of ghosts. Certain alleyways were completely deserted, while other areas bustled with life; young people crowded around open storefronts like moths flocking to a flame.
One thing that has most definitely changed since the Gold Rush days are the prices. I had a hard time finding a decent place that wasn’t in the $20 and up entrée price range. I finally settled on Lefty’s Grill and had a yummy flatbread pizza.
Back at Miner’s Foundry Cultural Center, Shelly Covert, who has a phenomenal set of pipes, was heating the place up pretty good, but my band mates and I decided it was time to head out to our hotel, the Northern Queen.
Our drummer joked that we could trash the place as all true and good rock stars do. I thought perhaps, since this was our first time out doing such a thing, we could simply set our TV sets outside of our room doors, rather than throw them out the window. It’s good to have a goal, but to break it into smaller steps.
We checked in without event and I was just about to settle in when I realized my leftover pizza was still in the car. Who doesn’t love some good leftover pesto pizza around midnight or so? On my way out to retrieve said pizza, I ran into Steve-the-Guitarist and Rob-the-Drummer who asked if I wanted to go back to town for a drink. Now I’ve heard the sirens’ call many times (it usually sounds like my cell phone ringing and when I answer they say, “Hey, Paula, why not come on out to this big rock and get smashed. It’s pretty cool. We think you’ll like it.” They’re usually right.) Going back into town at 11 PM “for a drink” was a bad idea, especially when I was hoping to get an early start home in the morning, so of course 15 minutes later my pizza was safely in my room fridge, and I was driving back into Nevada City.
First we hit the saloon at The National Hotel. It’s the oldest bar in Nevada City and supposedly haunted. It was full of the spirit of karaoke when we arrived, as evidenced by a young man doing his best at Train’s “Meet Virginia” while an older couple danced cheek to cheek like they were on the Lawrence Welk Show. Not long after that we found ourselves down the street at The Mine Shaft Saloon.
It was drinking as usual after that. Rob- the- drummer dropped a dime in the jukebox (okay, it probably was more than a dime) and put on some Hendrix , Rolling Stones and of course,“Never Say Never.” A group of young’uns in spandex and big wigs kept us entertained for a good long while as they got progressively drunker. Steve-the-guitarist questioned if we were in still in Nevada. Shots of Patron and Jameson’s flowed freely , and the highlight of the evening for me (the designated driver who was not having shots of Patron) came when Rob-the-drummer passionately recounted the music video for Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself”.
When last call came we headed out but forgot to leash our drummer and he escaped to the bar across the street, The National Hotel Saloon, where he stayed for a good long while, supposedly ghost hunting.
I got to bed at 2 AM, woke up around 6:30 AM and was on the road by 7:30 AM. Road trips alone aren’t so bad after all.
* The correct answer is E.