Steely Dan Road Trip

The Gorge WA - June 2000

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In which your correspondent describes events leading to, and the actual trip to and from The Gorge, Washington, June 3 2000.

The 70s. It goes without saying that I have been a major Steely Dan fan throughout their tenure. After the Beatles, they will always be my favorite band. I do confess that in the early 70s, their music did little for me. I recall thinking that "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" was a rather silly tune, and paid little attention to their other work, Do It Again and Reelin' In The Years notwithstanding (I DID like those tunes a lot). My brother Chris, well into Steely Dan before me, would tell me to listen to them, it's good music. I remember him mentioning the "Steely Dan T-shirt" song (Show Biz Kids).

Then something happened with Katy Lied. I can't explain in it. Virtually overnight I fell hard for the Dan. In the 70s I was madly involved in science fiction fandom, publishing my own fanzine, attending sd conventions, etc. Katy Lied found its way onto my turntable and remained there for weeks while I edited and produced one of the issues of my zines. I sought out the earlier albums, and salivated like a Pavlov dog in anticipation of the ones yet to come.

To buy two tickets, or not to buy. That was the question

I followed the exploits of Don and Walt throughout the 80s and 90s, buying the solo albums, the NY Rock and Soul Revue and live albums, wondering like the rest if another studio album might appear. Then came the Internet, and web pages, listservs, newsgroups and the like. The first web page I found was Pat Beemer's brilliant Under the Banyan Trees with Steely Dan. Word came soon via the SD Homepage that a new album was in the works. So I began paying closer attention to info travelling over the web, discovering in the process Hoops McKay's discussion group, The Dandom Digest . I also subscribed to the official Steely Dan newsletter.

Through these various channels I stayed in the Steely Dan loop, aware that the album would be released on 29 Feb 2000, and that a tour would ensue later in the year. That I might attend a show on the tour was the farthest thing from my mind when I bought the album that day.

I listened to the album many times over, and still do. The songs embedded themselves into my consciousness, and I often found myself humming bits of each of the nine great tunes. I followed discussions on the lists and occasionally contributed my two cents (which is about .013 cents US). When the tour was announced, my brother half-hearterly e-mailed me with the suggestion that we go to The Gorge, and try to "liven things up a little." I laughed. I chortled. I guffawed once or twice. I couldn't imagine going...

What got us into the concert ...until the day the SD Newsletter announced that access to tickets for the first nine shows would be offered to subscribers via TicketMaster one day in advance of going on sale to the general public. Interesting, I thought. Hmmmm, I pondered. I even mused once or twice. Those damn muses. A few more thoughts, ponderings and musings, and it occurred to my wee brain that there was a chance of actually doing this. I had a conference to attend in Bozeman MT on July 7th, I could get the time off, I could actually afford the ticket (about $130Cdn), so why not? Chris and I discussed it the day before tickets went on sale, but didn't come to a final decision. At work the next day, two colleagues of mine strongly encouraged me to throw caution (and my MasterCard) to the wind and buy the damn tickets.

A phone call to Chris with 20 minutes to go until the tickets went online confirmed it - buy the tickets, we'll go. So I went online at 11:00 am MDT that fateful day, and 12 minutes later was the proud owner of two tickets on the "floor", Section B, Row 22, Seats 3 and 4, to see Steely Dan at The Gorge. Ohmigod...

Steely Dan Road Trip: Day 1, Thursday, June 1st

I live in Edmonton, Alberta, three hours north of Calgary where my brother Chris lives. Or 2 hours and 30 minutes when I drive. Logistics dictated that I join my brother Chris in Calgary, and given that he had a much nicer vehicle, we would leave my car there and take his vehicle to Washington. I drove down that afternoon and visited with my parents, who were visiting from Winnipeg and staying with my other brother and his wife and kids. Around dinner time, Chris and I packed up and drove as far as Cranbrook, British Columbia, where we found a motel for the night.

Steely Dan Road Trip: Day 2, Friday, June 2nd

We packed up in the morning, and before leaving scored 12 bottles of Kokanee beer for Diane, who loves that Canadian brew. We also bought a bag of Old Dutch salt and vinegar chips just for her as well! When we were about a block away, I realized I'd left a towel and a baseball cap in the motel room. We returned to the hotel, where I found hat and towel, and happened to notice two of Chris's jackets hanging in the closet. A portent of things to come?

Paraphernalia secures, off we went, down Highway 3 to the Kingsgate BC/Eastport ID border crossing, where the US Border Guard asked us the usual questions, eyeballed Chris's vehicle for a few seconds, and told us to have a nice day. We drove for two or three more hours until we reached Spokane, where we stopped for a bite to eat at a great greasy spoon, then headed down Division Street looking for a mall. In Edmonton, we receive our US network cable stations from Spokane, so have become familiar with the local ads broadcast on said stations. Some excitement ensued when we passed and recognized the Wendel Ford dealership, a frequent advertiser on said stations, after which I made note to self to get a life.

Mall located, Chris found a local provider who shaved and trimmed his beard while I discovered the first of many t-shirts I would buy on this and the subsequent into-the-US trip a few days later (Bozeman MT for a conference after returning to my car in Calgary). Shirt in hand, beard trimmed and shaved, we returned to I-90 and the trip to Ellensburg. We pulled into Ellensburg maybe three hours later, found our motel, checked in, found a local food store, stocked up on chips and steaks, and went hunting for the KOA Campground, where the Danfest organized by Pat Beemer was being held. We found the campground, asked at the desk where Pat was to be found, and received a rather snarly answer and a pass for our car with a stern, "Make sure you leave by 10:00 pm" warning from the campground manager. It was already about 8:15 pm.

L-R: Geoff Lloyd (Chicago), Randy Reichardt (Edmonton), Pat Beemer (Seattle), Kent Hillman (Visalia CA)at the Danfest the night before the concert Pat holds the flag while Kent watches We drove around the campground and spotted a group of partiers that were obviously enjoying the local Danfest. Pat Beemer had earlier advised us to look for a white flag with a martini on it, which would identify the motorhome. We parked, got our of Chris's essyouvee, and introduced ourselves to Pat, Diane, MizDucky, Kent Hillman, Geoff Lloyd, Mark Chimp, Jami Beemer, and a host of other fine folks who had descended upon the site for a pre-Dan show bbq. I can't remember ever descending upon a group of complete strangers who made us feel welcome so quickly. Chris had been nursing a bad cold which he contracted a few days before the trip, and I was fighting the beginnings of a sore throat. So we weren't in the best of shape. But we got into the spirit of things, Pat fed us steaks already barbequed, offered us some salad, and we joined the party. Diane was thrilled to receive her beer and potato chips, and we spent the rest of the evening having fun, talking Steely Dan, and comparing notes about whatever. It was very chilly and very windy, which thankfully was not a portent of things to come.

Steely Dan Road Trip: Day 3, Saturday, June 3rd

The next morning, we checked out of the Comfort Inn in Ellensburg, and drove the 70 miles or so east back to Moses Lake, to another motel. This put us a bit closer to Spokane for the drive back to Calgary the next morning. When we arrived at the motel and checked in, Chris noted with much disgust that he'd left his chiropractic pillow and a couple of other items at the hotel in Ellensburg. A couple of phone calls later confirmed that he'd need to drive back to get his stuff. We were both tired and somewhat cranky, so I wimped out and stayed while he drove back to get his stuff. I spent the next three hours or so trying to sleep, feeling a little guilty for not having gone with him. Such is life.

When he returned, we decided to get ready and drive to the Gorge to join the Danfest-already-in-progress at the Campground. Fortunately, Chris had been at the Gorge two years earlier to see the B52s and the Pretenders so he was familiar with the location. Because the Danfest was on the Gorge campground, we paid the $25 to park there rather than in the parking lot for two reasons: it put us closer to the Danfesters, and it allowed for us to join the post-concert party without having to worry about what to do with Chris's SUV. Chris talks with StAl and the amazing Diane, cropped from the pic at her request

We arrived around 3:15 pm and were able to park just a few vehicles away from Pat & Jami, and Diane. Dan music of various sorts could be heard emulating from a number of car and portable stereos as we made our way to the technicolour motorhome, where we joined a much larger than the evening before party in progress. Of particular note was the weather: no wind, sunny and warm! I opened a Corona, and we spent the next two hours visiting one-day old and very new friends. Al and Jane D'Addario from Boston StAl and Mark Chimp do it with their fez on

We had the pleasure of meeting Jane and Al D'Addario from Boston, who had flown in just for the concert, their excuse to see The Gorge and listen to a great band at the same time! They also spent the day before the show on a wine-tasting expedition. Another very fine fellow we met was Mark Chimp Bacola, from Seattle, with whom Chris and I had many conversations during the two days we were there.

View of the Gorge facing west, walking towards our seats Around 6:00 pm, some of us wandered down to the beergardens, raised another cool one, and visited with a few more people. It was there that I met Pete Fogel, another well-known SD fan and photographer of note. Eventually we made our collective way down to The Gorge. This was my first trip, and I wasn't prepared for the sheer beauty of the site, which is very breathtaking. Terraces carved into the side of the hill facing the stage at The Gorge The Columbian River flows around and behind the stage, with a short mountain range (hills, perhaps?) in the background. The temperature for the show was around 25C (75F), and the skies were clear, with no wind. In other words, the perfect night for an outdoor concert. Another great shot of the Gorge offers a different view. We were sitting two seats in, Row 22, centre, along the row visible in the picture, Stage Left.

Chris and I had seats in Row 22, in the centre, on the "floor". General seating allowed any ticket holder to find his or her place on the hill. Amazingly, the hill has terraces built in every few feet to allow for sitting on a flat surface while watching the show. Totally brilliant idea. The natural amphitheatre idea has been in place at our local Edmonton Folk Music Festival now for 21 years. However, we use a ski hill, so cannot cut terraces into the side of the hill similar to what's been done at The Gorge.

waiting for the show to begin Roger Nichols, Engineer Extraordinaire We arrived with about 30 minutes to go before the show began. I sat patiently, still in a state on non-belief that I was actually going to see my second favorite band of all time (sorry, the first is The Beatles, a band of some note from the 60s.) Chris snapped a few photos of the locals, and caught legendary SD engineer Roger Nichols in conversation with a friend before the show began. Roger was accompanying the Dan on their tour as "Director of Technology."


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