Ever since Carrie and I first talked about moving to Las Vegas, I’ve been excited about being so close to the Joshua Tree National Monument. I know it’s a unique area full of natural wonder, but the real reason I always wanted to go is that is was the site of Gram Parsons’s cremation.

At some point, Carrie discovered the Joshua Tree Inn; Gram Parsons not only had a dedicated room, but it was also the room in which he died. For my birthday, she reserved us that room and planned a weekend trip out there. It’s an amazing place; still the desert, but different than the desert we’re used to: Joshua Trees with crazy arms growing in wild directions, rocks that look like skulls, and the most threatening cacti I’ve seen.

After telling a visitors center employee our reason for the trip, he drew us a map to Gram’s cremation site. I hadn’t planned on being able to visit it, so this was incredibly exciting to me. We stopped throughout the park for short walks and pictures; after passing it a couple times we found Cap Rock, the site of Gram’s cremation. It was quite an experience being there; the messages in the rock had been recently sand-blasted into oblivion and the altar was moved to the Joshua Tree Inn, but just being there was amazing. As the nice visitors center guy said, it was the perfect spot to set a body on fire and keep it out of the wind.

(Let’s take a moment, recognize this may be considered slightly morbid, and move on.)

The innkeeper, Marsu, was incredibly nice and had all kinds of information about the area and the things we should see; we went to Pioneertown, which looked exactly like you’d imagine, and met some nice people who did amazing woodwork and small crafts. We saw a fantastic San Diego-based alt-country band called Sara Petite and the Sugar Daddies at Pappy and Harriet’s, the last of the great pioneertown bars, with great food and iced tea in mason jars.

Gram’s room was kept as I’d picture it in the 1970s, while decorated with Gram Parsons posters, relevant newspaper articles, a string of white Christmas lights, and an amazingly enormous guestbook. The door to the back patio was “gold-plated,” just like the door in The Flying Burrito Brothers’ “Sin City.” The altar from Cap Rock had been relocated a few steps outside our room, and it was nice to see it every time we opened the door.

I wish I had a cool ghost story to go along with this.

Zach at Cap Rock

Gram's Altar

Gram’s Altar at the Joshua Tree Inn

Gold-Plated Door

“A gold-plated door won’t keep out the lord’s burning rain.”


Carrie and I saw Jenny and Johnny perform at The Cosmopolitan, the newest of the Strip casinos. They seem to be doing a good job of getting great indie performers there, so I hope they can keep it up. Although I know Jenny is the object of many a boy crush (disclaimer: when I saw her in El Paso, TX, close to ten years ago, she was very nice and gave me a big hug), she is one of my biggest influences and inspirations as a writer.

The show was pretty casual, and not many people were talking to to the band before they played, so Carrie and I decided to say hello. Carrie told Jenny that I was her biggest fan, then took a picture of us together. I never know if this is a good thing to tell someone; I told her that she probably gets this all the time, but she is one of my biggest influences. She said she never gets that, and seemed very moved that I had told her. So I was glad I shared.

Their performance was absolutely fantastic. Jenny and Johnny are both passionate and obviously committed (no reference intended, unless you caught it; good job!) to delivering a stellar show, even to an open casino area of non-ticketed fans and passers-by.

Oh, a few minutes after we talked to her, after some indecision and discussion, I rushed over and gave her one of my newly printed business cards and said something like “If you ever need an opening act in Vegas, let me know.” What’s the harm, right? At worst she won’t look me up or will misplace the card (although she did put it in her jacket pocket), and at best she’ll listen to songs like “some cliches,” “like a pirate’s hat,” and “if i left the stove on,” realize how profoundly she’s influenced me, and want to cover my songs and/or produce an album, possibly taking Carrie, the dogs, and me on tour with her and Johnny. No pressure, Jenny.
Jenny and Johnny

After such a musical year, between 52 of 28, my first tour, and recording / performing with my other group Scrap Iron Saints, it’s been a challenge keeping the momentum this year. I’m always looking for ways to keep my live performances interesting and fresh, and it had been years since I’ve played drums while performing; until March, I’d never played them live in Las Vegas.

I’ve never liked sitting down while playing live; I’m probably too self-conscious, but I try to avoid most things that could be interpreted as singer/songwriter. Maybe that’s why I never consistently performed live with my drums; I’d been used to standing up for performances, so even if I was doing something somewhat unique it just felt weird sitting down. My old set-up was a bass drum and high hat with tambourine, so for recent shows I ditched the high hat and set the tambourine on the bass drum, so there’s one drum to hit that covers highs and lows. Less involved, so I can stand up and focus more on singing and whatever other instrument I’m playing. (I know there are other ways to do that, but that would involve me finding a band.) There are only so many beats I can handle while performing and it only works with certain songs, so I’m not sure how often I’ll be doing this. But between that and switching out various instruments, I hope I can keep everyone entertained, maybe even convince an audience I’m a band.

It might get crowded:

Live at Studio 8 Ten

Don’t forget to hit the drum!

Nine states, twelve shows and one live radio appearance later, I’ve found myself back in Las Vegas, settling in and catching up after the longest time I’ve spent away from home. (Although I drove through more than nine states, I only counted the nine in which I performed. Also, I have an old song called “nine states,” and I thought it was a neat coincidence.) It was a strange feeling, packing up and getting ready to head out onto the road, being only a musician for the better part of three weeks. I guess not only a musician, just as far as my profession goes. My instruments were all I really needed to perform my job, and that is a very different feeling. I have these songs, and that is what I do. I write songs and I play them.

People have asked about my favorite and least favorite shows, and that is a tough call. For diplomatic purposes, I won’t go into detail about my least favorite (although I enjoyed them all in varying degrees). I will say I absolutely loved Meadowlark in Lincoln, NE. I performed before an open mic, and the other performers (a very talented and varied group) and coffee shop patrons were very kind and receptive. The house show hosted by Forrest Fallows in Tucson, AZ was great fun. I think there were around ten performers, and a nice variety of styles. Forrest and his friends/fans welcomed me, fed me, passed the hat around, and gave me a place to sleep. They also seemed to truly enjoy my music, which is definitely the point of it all.

rushmore beekeepers is going on tour in October! I apologize to those of you I have neglected to tell in person. You should know this is a very exciting and scary thing for me.

Confirmed shows are (so far):
October 7 – Kansas City at The Brick
October 8 – St. Louis at Foam
October 12 – Tulsa at The Coffee House On Cherry Street
October 13 – Dallas at Opening Bell
October 14 – Austin at Kick Butt Coffee (Triangle)

I’ll post more info soon. If you know of any great folk-friendly places in/near: Flagstaff, Denver, Colorado Springs, Omaha, Memphis and Little Rock, let me know. (Coffeeshops and houses work just fine.)

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