[license to krill] Week 6: Dining in Denver, pie shakes in the midwest, and the final journey home

Editor's Note: This is the sixth and final installment of License to Krill, a tour and food blog written weekly by KRILL drummer Luke Pyenson. Catch up the previous five posts at the bottom of this wrap-up edition.

We only gave ourselves one week to drive back across the country, and, powered by fond memories of tacos past, we set out. From Los Angeles we traversed that great expanse of land stretching east until, 12 or so hours later, we reached Grand Junction, Colorado. We stopped there for the night, and it was one of two times we had to stay in a motel because it was too cold to camp and we knew not a soul in the area. Jonah went in the motel’s hot tub alone at like 10 am.

The next day we drove to Denver, the location of our next show. I happened to overlap there with my brother, who was there visiting friends, and we had dinner with our friend Julie at a new hip Asian-fusion restaurant called Ace where she works. The food was uniformly good -— standouts were probably the buns, one filled with braised shortrib and the other with chicken thigh and pickled mango. It’s worth mentioning, I guess, that there is a ping pong room in the back, though I didn’t have time for a match.

Chicken thigh bao at Ace in Denver. We're lucky to know someone who works there!

We played at an art space called Unit E, which puts out a zine called Sugarfactory. Though we were all exhausted, we played a good show and fell into a deep sleep immediately upon returning to Julie’s house. The next morning we got bagels and eggs at a deli where a close friend’s grandmother worked for many, many years —- never in my life have I seen so many mentions of “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.” From the storefront to the menu to a blackboard with listings for re-runs, this place made it egregiously clear that their presence was once graced by the inimitable Guy Fieri. The food was good and we were happy to patronize a restaurant so important to our friend’s family, but (with all due respect to the Leach family) I never again want to eat somewhere with so many reminders of that man and the horrifying culture that he represents.

Our next show was in Omaha -— a surprisingly nice city. It also didn’t hurt that it was 75 and sunny there, as it somehow was almost every single other place we went on tour. After a culturally interesting experience watching half of the second presidential debate at a dive bar, we played at a non-dive bar called Side Door Lounge. Though it was one of our smaller audiences of the tour, it was paradoxically one of the best bills of the tour. We played with an Olympia, Washington-based artist named Spencer Sult who performs as Generifus —- sometimes with a band, but in this iteration solo. His voice is reminiscent of local Whitehaus-affiliated musician Shai Erlichman, and his folky jams are absolutely worth checking out.

Spencer Sult performing as Generifus in Omaha. Check out his music; he'll be in Boston in early November! Location pending.

Closing out the night was an Omaha band called Cheap Furs, who were eerily similar to us in several ways. The biggest difference was that they were primarily 17- and 18-year-olds and were shockingly good at their instruments. They were like a math-ier, more intense Born Ruffians, and, as I said, many aspects of their songwriting (abrupt endings, multiple sections in songs, etc.) were quite reminiscent of our own music. That being said, they were different enough that they made complete sense on a bill with us, and we left Omaha excited to have met and played with both acts.

Our friend Ian's favorite dessert-- "salad." He admitted later to sometimes calling it "grandma's special jello."

We continued east towards Iowa City, stopping in the Des Moines suburb of Grimes to hang with our Iowan friend Ian, who offered us free reign of his kitchen, including his mom’s superb banana bread and his favorite dessert -— a bright red mixture of applesauce, gelatin, and melted Red Hots euphemistically (or perhaps, just misguidedly) called “salad.” I’m sorry to admit that I truly enjoyed it. Believe it or not, the culinary wonders of Iowa did not stop at “salad.” In Iowa City, we met up with Spencer from Generifus (overlapping with us for another day) at the historic Hamburg Inn for something called the “pie shake.”

This is a shake made with vanilla ice cream and a slice of pie blended in. The result is something that, though smooth, tastes undoubtedly like pie and hides a few transcendent bites of fabulous crust that didn’t get fully blended. Ian actually got a slice of red velvet cake in his and turned noticeably red — between that and his mom’s “salad,” he consumed more red food coloring that afternoon than is probably conventionally healthy.

The great Iowan "pie shake" at Hamburg Inn. I got apple. Iowa is apparently famous for pie -- this was one hell of a way to enjoy it.

We played at a bar called The Mill to a decent crowd, at that point running on “we’re almost home!” adrenaline. The next day we were back in Chicago, and played at a dive bar called Stage Bar with a Chicago-via-Seattle dude named Shelby who performs as an alter ego named Richard Album. Though he sometimes has a backing band, this night he was solo, interacting for the beginning of his set with a video recording of himself on a Macbook. His pop songs are catchy as hell, and his live performance was more entertaining than probably any other band we played with on tour.

The following day we drove to Pittsburgh, where we spent the night, and finally the Bronx, where we played at a DIY venue called “Teh Olive Garden” [sic]. It was another good bill -— local band Frankie Cosmos played witty, yet substantive little folk songs, and Philly band Evil Sword put on one of the strangest and most captivating performances I’ve ever seen, not just on this tour.

Philly band Evil Sword at "Teh Olive Garden" in the Bronx. This show coincided with CMJ and couldn't have been less affiliated with the whole CMJ ethos if it tried. Look at Evil Sword's dates on their website and do anything you can to see them live-- you will not be disappointed.

I can’t articulate anything about their set, but the instrumentation was this: recorder/slide whistle, bass, floor tom. The singer painted her face green and wore a potato sack and the drummer dressed vaguely as a scarecrow. Their spooky, sparse, weirdo-disco tunes exuded the Halloween spirit, and I wondered what it might be like to see them perform not in October. Probably just as awesome.

And just like that, the tour was over. We are truly, truly indebted to everybody who put us up, played with us, booked us, donated to our Kickstarter, hung out with us, or engaged us in any way during this incredible experience. For a first tour, everything was overwhelmingly positive. Now it’s time to focus on being a part of the community here in Boston, and we can’t wait to keep playing more local shows and working on new material. Thanks for reading our tour blog.

Week 5: Big Sur + California's taco heaven + on the road with Ezra Furman

Week 4: Adventures on stage, and at dinner, in the scenic Northwest

Week 3: Midpoint Music Festival + getting friendly in Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis ...and Bozeman

Week 2: Touring with mouths agape down a hungry East Coast

Week 1: Eating on the road with Krill: Introduction + Plattsburgh + Montreal

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