An account of an afternoon with Evan Dando and Howe Gelb
From Circuit - Devil Music Spring 2002
Howe Gelb and Evan Dando are throwing a party out in the desert. Howe is firing up the barbecue in the yard and marinating the steaks while Evan tosses the salad and prepares his own secret recipe dressing. It is mid afternoon, the sun is hot and high and the mood is strange and heavy with expectation. "Who's coming by?" says Evan, tearing at a stubborn lettuce. "Just a few good friends" says Howe, kicking his docile mutt out from under his feet. Evan twists open a bottle of tequila and pours himself a generous measure, "want some of this?" "Nah," says Howe "I'm gonna spoil myself today and open a bottle of BNJ sent over from England." Howe shuffles off into the shack.
In the Arizona desert the bone-dry cacti grow as big as houses. Evan stands under a thin tree and throws a bad tomato at a cactus, it splats and dribbles down the spikes. In the distance a dustball is flying up the track towards the house, as it gets closer a station wagon comes bumping into view making a noise like a broken tractor. At the wheel is Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse. He parks the motor behind the washing line and climbs out looking frayed and gloomy. "Hey Mark," shouts Evan "looks like you need a drink." "Sure, you got any vodka for one of those White Russians?" "Hey there Howe," says Mark as Howe appears on the stoop. "Man, you look beat," says Howe. "Well, it's a long drive from Virginia, and the car's been a tad cranky." Mark pulls up a chair and puts his feet up on the table where Evan is slicing up vegetables. Another car pulls up and PJ Harvey pokes her head through the washing line looking fresh as a daisy. "Polly, how ya been," says Mark. "I'm good, real good. Hi Evan, what's cooking?" "Just a little salad and stuff, you hungry?" says Evan taking a big slug of the golden tequila. "I'm starving, where's Howe?" "I'm here, man. Polly, glad you could make it," says Howe running across the yard and clutching her tight.
As the afternoon sun arcs across the deep blue sky Howe drags a table across the yard and arranges a strange collection of seats around its perimeter. Mark stares wearily into the desert nursing his White Russian and Polly and Evan share mystical fables by the vegetable stall. Then the dog starts yapping and whining and chasing it's tail. Howe looks over to it, knits his brow and makes a long shushing sound. Full speed clattering down the track comes a big battered green pickup with old time country music pumping out of the radio. The truck pulls up in a cloud of dust, the engine cuts out and the music stops dead. Silence. "Kurt and Vic, I'm presuming." Says Howe and strides over the yard with his dog at his heels. As the dirt cloud lifts, Kurt Wagner from Lambchop and Vic Chesnutt brush the dust from their shirts. "What a trip, man" says Vic "where's the party?"
Evan is proud of his dressing. He makes a deal of getting everyone to try it and they all agree it's a good dressing, except for Kurt. "It's a bit too piquant for me" he says and cuts another slice of his t-bone. PJ pours herself two fingers of tequila and swallows it down. "Great shack, Howe" she says. "Yeah, I like it" says Howe "it reminds me of me." He turns to look at the house, a grand rambling old structure, full of awkward grace, hidden corners, strong and alone out in the desert. After the meal, when the big pink sun is setting and an evening chill starts to prick the air, Evan demands they all drive out to Tuscon to get more liquor.
The bunch of them clamber into Kurt's pickup and the crackling radio plays Giant Sand's Blue Marble Girl as they rattle through the dusk. When they get to Tuscon Kurt heads the truck towards Howe's chosen bar and they all tumble inside, dog in tow. Howe, Evan, Mark, PJ, Kurt and Vic find a snug corner in the Congress Hotel bar and order a batch of tequila shots. In a while they are joined by fellow desert men John Convertino and Joey Burns from Calexico. Howe stands to address his compadres. "Good friends, before I take my leave, what say we take this medicine show to London, England and play our mystical music to the folk across the sea?"