Wednesday, December 16, 2009

• Southwest Tour • T OR C

A particularly cold and wet afternoon has kept me indoors at Aqus Cafe in the town of Petaluma, CA where we'll be playing tomorrow night. A hot drink in my hand and my mind is drifting back to no-man's land and jumping in that river called the Rio Grande.

Further south than the mountains of Santa Fe, T or C (as the locals call it) was significantly warmer, but not exactly balmy for an outdoor concert--somewhere in the low to mid 50's, if memory serves. Luckily, we were playing in a covered gazebo/patio area right next to the hot tubs, and Jake, the owner, set up a couple propane heaters and aimed them at the stage area like two large footlights pointing up at us.

People started coming in, appropriately bundled up or carrying blankets. About twenty five chairs had been set up and as we started into our set they found their seats and settled in for the music. The sun had set behind us but we could still make out the line of Turtleback Mountain in the dusk, and the bend of the Rio Grande rolling past us.

We were full of energy and basking in the glow of a warm audience of strangers as the night rolled on. We could even hear cheers coming from the hot tubs, which helped to remind us of what we had to look forward to after we finished playing.

After an hour and a half-long set we thanked everyone for coming out and braving the chill for some live music. After chatting with several of the locals who had come from town to hear us we packed our stuff back to our room and made a beeline for the hot spring tubs. I can't think of a better way to cap off a great outdoor evening show than a soak in natural hot springs a mere stones-throw from where we'd played our last notes.

The three hottest public tubs were under a gazebo overlooking the river with the two other tubs a few steps below. As we unwound in the water, faces full of grins, I remembered the ecstatic feeling from jumping in the cold, cold waters back in Desert Hot Springs and decided that it was only fitting to see if the mighty Rio Grande would do the same. It did.

And our heads hit the pillows that night like stones falling softly through water until our thoughts rested at the bottom of some sleepy river rolling through truth, or consequences, or both.

Monday, December 7, 2009

• Southwest Tour • Arizona to New Mexico

We drove north through Arizona and started climbing steadily. The air began to get noticeably colder as we gained elevation. By the time we reached the outskirts of Sedona, AZ in the late afternoon the clouds had started to gather above the red cliffs and wind began to pick up with a bite. As the sun sank below the clouds it lit up the red rocks with long beams skirting along the ground and illuminating the cliffs from the side, making them seem to hover and glow above us as if on display. Dusk turned to dark and the waxing moon rose slowly while clouds politely cleared out of it's way, clinging to the horizon and leaving their chilly moisture hanging in the air until they returned with a slight mist as we parked in town and found a place to eat.

After a great meal and a few innings of the World Series (Phillies/Yankees) we decided to try and make it to Gallup, New Mexico--a few more hours down the road. With snow a possibility we made our way through some winding mountain roads and met up with I-40 to begin heading east again on old Route 66. About forty minutes west of Gallup we came to a dead stop and looked ahead at what seemed like miles of brake lights. It was coming on 10pm and the dropping temperatures had created black ice all over the road. In the two hours or so it took us to go the remaining twenty miles we saw a U-haul trailer with what appeared to be a family's entire belongings scattered across the freezing road, and a jack-knifed FedEx semi twisted, tipped, and laying forlorn on it's side in the median. A humbling reminder of just how dangerous these roads can be and how fragile our little flesh and bones really are.

We made it to Gallup around 1:30am, found a Super 8 motel off the interstate and quickly unloaded the instruments from the car, out of the frigid New Mexico night. Tired, but safe and thankful to have a place to rest for a few hours, we relaxed and quickly fell asleep with Route 66, frozen river of asphalt, waiting for us to hop back on in the morning...

The windows were frozen when we woke up and started loading the car early the next morning. A cup of coffee and cup of PG Tips tea warmed us up for the drive to Santa Fe, and a freight train let out a long pull on the air horn as we put the car in gear. Snow dusted the tops of red cliffs along the highway, making them look as if someone had spread icing over them, or powdered sugar. These deep red plateaus had started rising up in our sights the day before as we'd driven up to and through Sedona and we followed them all the way to Santa Fe.

We spent the night in a Motel 6 a few miles out of downtown and after a brief walk around the Mission we made our way to El Farol, the oldest bar in the city. A very warm and pleasant place with a fantastic little stage for music. Hopefully we can book something there the next time we're out that way.

With a four hour drive to Truth Or Consequences ahead of us, we spent the next morning wandering along Canyon Road, dropping into a few art galleries here and there. Gardens were filled with sculptures, abstract, realistic, modern, and even though it was about 28 degrees, the cold seemed to add a buzz to the morning somehow. Everything was crisp and clear, and the conversations we had with people we met were all up-beat and friendly. Several of the galleries had blazing fires in whitewashed adobe fireplaces. And everything seemed to have a touch of turquoise to set off the earthy reds and oranges. There may not be a more beautiful combination of colors on earth.

The highway took us due south for awhile, shuttling us along Albuquerque's outskirts, crisscrossing the Rio Grande several times, passing out of the mountainous north to the flatter and drier landscape of Southern New Mexico. The only trees were huddled in the flood plain of the Rio Grande as it wound it's lazy way through the valley to spill eventually into the Gulf of Mexico several hundred miles away.

But we set our sights for Truth Or Consequences; an ultimatum of a town on the banks of the river, in the shadow of Turtleback Mountain, named after the large outcropping of rocks at the top of a ridge that looks like a giant turtle climbed up for the view and decided to stay there forever.

Riverbend Hot Springs looks right up at the turtle from the west bank of the river and was our destination for the night. It was still a couple hours till our show's curtain so we checked into our room and went into town for a bite to eat. A brief description of the resort is warranted because we had no idea what to expect other than the few pictures on the website.

Rooms were tastefully painted with Southwest tones our eyes had become accustomed to over the past few days in the high desert. The six or seven Double-wides that made up the accommodations each contained varying numbers of bedrooms--some private, some shared, hostel-type lodgings. We were treated to our own two bedroom place, so our traveling instruments had their own bed. But they, and we, had a show to put on first, so we headed down the path to the outdoor patio where Misner & Smith would make their much anticipated Truth Or Consequences debut....

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What is a House Concert?

Since we've been performing at more of these 'House Concert' venues recently we thought we'd explain little more about what they are. This acoustic concert medium is fast becoming one of our favorite ways to share our music and we hope you all will join us for a House Concert experience in the near future!

A House Concert is a fast-growing circuit of performance venues all across the country for acoustic musicians. Generous hosts open their homes to provide a uniquely intimate place for musicians to perform and for music lovers to experience a live show. Imagine seeing your favorite artists or being introduced to new ones in the comfort of a living room. These are not house parties (though they often include pot-lucks) but rather a full-fledged concert with the music being the focus of the night.

Anyone can host a House Concert, even you! It takes a little bit of effort to organize, but is relatively inexpensive, and one of the best ways you can support independent musicians. If you are interested in being a host, or just want more information about house concerts feel free to email us at: or check out a great website devoted to these types of shows:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Berkeley House Concert *FOLK MUSIC*

For tickets, reservations and more info please email FOLK MUSIC's host at:
There is limited seating so reserve your spot today!
Go to the Event invitation on Facebook:

We will be performing at FOLK MUSIC, a very well established house concert venue in Berkeley, CA. Some of their recent performers include NINA GERBER, CHRIS WEBSTER, and CLAUDIA RUSSELL. A House Concert is a very unique and intimate way to experience live music.

’Living rooms were made for live music.’
~Concerts in Your Home~

Saturday, November 14, 2009

• Southwest Tour 2009 Second Installment

November 7th, 2009 (from Austin, still looking back)

...We got into the town of Desert Hot springs in the late afternoon and after unloading our things into the hotel room we drove 40 minutes up the hill through Yucca Valley and into Joshua Tree National Monument to watch the sunset. A few miles in we found a place to pull over and walk out into the trees and boulders. The sun was sinking into the hills as we scrambled up the piles of rocks, amazed at the trees around us that looked straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. The quiet and coolness of the high desert air at dusk was stunning, especially after having spent the last several days surrounded by the hum and glare or L.A.

We capped the night off with a swim and soak back at Desert Hot Springs, leaving my skin tingling. A few hours of sleep and then up before the sun to get back up to the park as early as possible. The eastern sky was on fire as we loaded the car. Packed and ready to go we set off, saying our goodbyes to sea level lands for the next few weeks.

The independent coffee house we'd heard so much about from a friend had recently closed it's doors in Yucca Valley due to corporate competition, and we were forced to get our cup filled by Starbuck's....As John Prine wrote in an unrelated reference: "...and they wrote it all down as the progress of man..."

But the Joshua Trees were calling to us as the sun inched up above the horizon and we rolled back into the park with 30-50mph winds whipping across the landscape. Up we went to the highest point in the park to peer down across the valley and the clear line of the San Andreas fault running across the floor. Palm Springs to the west and the Salton Sea shimmering further east. Back down we went through hundreds of acres of those strange crooked statuesque Joshua Trees hovering over us like aliens. Jumping out of the car for a picture or two in the parking lot under the shadow of Cap Rock. I hummed a few lines of "Wheels" as I thought of Gram Parson's buddy setting the man's body ablaze (according Gram's own wishes) on this spot some thirty years earlier....

Onward, twisting through the desert roads barely encountering a soul as we walked out to the ruins of Ryan Ranch and got a glimpse of a life mining these hills for ore and living in an adobe brick house. Scraps of discarded iron ties and pipe lay around the remaining walls of the ranch house.

As we made the slow descent out of the park back to the wide river of asphalt of Interstate 10 we watched as the Joshua Trees dissipated and were suddenly gone like ghosts. With a left hand turn and a step on the gas we sped off east toward Tempe and the great Southwest.

November 8th, 2009 (a-lookin' back still)

We pulled into the Phoenix area on October 27th around 4:30 in the afternoon in the middle of a dust storm. The was a swirling beige and the air was warm. There wasn't much to see, and even less to describe but it was interesting to be in the midst of the storms that Woody Guthrie sang about all those years ago. A couple hours of down time and then we made our way over to Three Roots Coffee to set up. It was a comfortable little cafe right across from Arizona State University; good coffee, friendly people and a very nice room to play in. We set up the Bose P.A. (which has been an AMAZING addition on this tour!) as students sat studying and chatting. I immediately recognized the sister of my great friend Paul House as she walked in with their mother and various nieces and nephews. It was so nice to have them in the audience, truly supportive even though none of us had ever met. Suddenly the room felt familiar, as if we were playing in a place we'd been to before. To top it all off, in walked Daryl Scariot with his wife, daughter, and son. We had done a show years ago in the Bay Area before he'd moved out to Phoenix. They stayed for the entire show and made us feel even more at home.

The entire night was lovely. The audience was very supportive, we had a great time playing and we were treated with such generosity by the folks working and by Ryan, the owner. And as we left town the next morning, after a couple coffees on the house (tea for Megan), we set up another show there for our return trip in a couple weeks. That makes two added shows on this Southwest Tour since we've been out. Not too shabby....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

• Southwest Tour 2009 First Leg

November 5th, 2009

Here we are in Austin, Texas on Gram Parsons' birthday almost three weeks into the tour. We've covered a lot of miles, met a lot of great people and seen quite a range of landscapes along the way. From the central coast of California, San Luis Obispo, further south to L.A., out to the high desert of Joshua Tree, through Tempe, Arizona, black ice in Gallup, New Mexico, Santa Fe, Truth or Consequences and a dip in the waters of the Rio Grande under an October moon, the plains of west Texas slowly changing to the hill country of Comfort and Welfare and Kerrville, spilling into the waters of Barton Springs in the heart of the live music capital of the world.....Austin.

But to backtrack a bit first. Our first stop was San Luis Obispo for two shows , and although our kickoff of the tour at the Frog & Peach was rather unattended we had a very warm reception the next night at The Clubhouse where we were the guest performers with a half-hour set before the featured act, a Canadian singer/songwriter, John Wort Hannam. We played well and even ended up being offered a featured slot at another venue that the host Steve Key runs in Santa Margarita. So on our second night out we added another show to the end of our tour. After an enjoyable evening listening to John and the various other musicians who followed his earnest, funny and heartfelt set we shared a beer or two and some bacon-flavored chocolate back at the motel. John was very down to earth, talented, generous and with any luck our paths will cross again soon.

Through Santa Barbara the next day and on to Chatsworth, in the San Fernando Valley where we stayed with my old friend Charlie for the next five days. On our second to last night in town we played a disappointing set in Orange to an empty room, save the owner of the place. He was won over by our music nonetheless, and even though we felt let down by the experience we still connected with someone through live performance. We carried this kernel of positivity with us on the drive home, laughing through mild embarrassment about the fact that we couldn't possibly play to a smaller crowd on the rest of the tour....

As is often the case however, we were redeemed and touched by the kindness and generosity of spirit of friends and strangers. The next night we played to a living room full of people gathered in Charlie's house for no other reason than to hear live music. As empty as the show the night before was, tonight we were filled with gratitude and appreciation by the dozen or so friends on couches and chairs lifting us up and propelling us eastward on our journey.

And then there was Joshua Tree.....

Sunday, November 8, 2009

In Support of Aqus Cafe Music

It came to our attention that one of our favorite music venues in the city of Petaluma, CA is in danger of having it's live music program shut down. There is a planning department meeting Monday, Nov. 9th to decide the fate of live music at Aqus Cafe. You can send an email of support BEFORE Nov. 9th.
To voice your support please email:

Irene T. Borba
Planning Dept.
City of Petaluma
11 English St.
Petaluma, CA 94952
Refer to File #:09-CUP-0309
For more information please visit Here is our letter of support for Aqus Cafe live music!

To whom it may concern,

My name is Sam Misner and I am a Bay Area musician who has played at Aqus Cafe. At the moment I am writing to you from Austin Texas while on tour through the Southwest but i grew up in Petaluma and my family has lived out on King Road for over twenty years. I am immensely proud of my hometown for having such a gem as Aqus Cafe and am pleased to have performed there twice in the last few months, with an upcoming show upon our return from the road. When I heard that there was a real possibility of Aqus losing it's music I sat right down before our show tonight to encourage you to do what's in your power to make sure the city retains this unique haven for musicians, artists, authors and their audiences.

In my travels both as a musician and actor I have seen firsthand how rare it is to find a business so dedicated to nurturing both a community and it's artists. And I mention both because we need both. The artist or musician may be able to create in their own home, for their own eyes and ears, but without a venue in which to share it--one that truly values the work and promotes it--there is a loss, I believe, also to the community which surrounds them. Art and music can bring people together in ways that cannot be duplicated by other forms. A community needs to be able to connect through creativity, and having a place where that is encouraged is essential for those connections to be made.

As a professional musician I seek places like Aqus out because I know my work is respected and valued there. And as a continuing member of the Petaluma community I seek it out because I take comfort in knowing I have somewhere to go to meet and get to know the people who live around me, and share in the joy of creativity.

Thank you for your time, I hope you'll choose to keep Aqus a vibrant part of Petaluma's artistic communtiy.

Best regards,
Sam Misner

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Embarking on the Southwest Tour 2009

It's now a little less than a month before we embark on our very first proper tour across the Southwest of these United States. With stops in Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas this is sure to be an adventure to remember. When we first began talking about putting a tour together it seemed fantastical, something you dream about and then never get around to accomplishing. Now, we are realizing the inevitable departure date approaches and we're busy making preparations for our journey with great anticipation of what is to come. In other words, we're stoked.

Hopefully, we'll have a chance to spread the word about us and our music outside the Bay Area and maybe make some friends and fans along the way. This kind of journey is bound to inspire some more songwriting ideas as we discover new places and experience life on the road as musicians this time, instead of actors.
To quote the Muppets, "Movin' right along in search of good times and good news, with good friends you can't lose. This could become a habit."
See you out there on the road!