Alaska Part II: Into the Midnight Madness
We can hardly believe our luck at how warm it is only a hop, skip and a jump from Russia. After a rowdy, early morning chat with Glenner at the classic rock station, KXLR, we head over to the U.S. Army base, where Sergeant Alton Huckaby, a 10-year veteran of the US Army band and trumpeter extraordinaire, has hooked us up with a sweet rehearsal space so that we can dig into some of the new tunes we’ve been aching to attack. We have to get special entry passes to the base by proving that we can sing the National Anthem without a cheat sheet before they let us through. But, once we’re in, we are shown to the amazing array of U.S. Government issued amps, drums, tympani – even a tuba, which Megan scurries to pull out of the case, as the tuba was her first “bass” instrument. We do our best to simulate our own version of heavy artillery fire, and after a nice little round of pure bombast, which gets the thumbs up from our new friends, Sergeant Huckaby then treats us to a sweet Greek feast, complete with the Alaskan national food: Salmon Spawnakopita.
We then head over to the public radio station, where we have a chat with DJ Lori and pull out a few acoustic numbers, including a teasing rendition of Bron Y’Aur Stomp with Megan, Leesa and Shannon jamming madly on “knees” and “handclaps.”
You can hear the complete interview here:
The next morning, we’re up early with the sun – which, incidentally is now hangin’ around until at least 10 pm and steadily gaining about 7 minutes a night. In this impending Midnight Madness we head for a quick excursion to Chena Hot Springs, stopping along the way to view the modern miracle that is the Alaska Pipeline. Aye, it’s a manly thing all right, but that doesn’t dissuade Shannon from trying to lift the giant tube single handedly above her head in a show of pure macho exhibitionism.
Fairbanks’ hoppin’ hot spot is only 60 miles out of town and snuggled beside the Chena River, where the steam rises up from pristine 107-degree pools. If you run fast enough from the locker room through the minus 40-degree air and plunge into the center of the thing, you’ll probably not notice that all the hair on your head has frozen into a spray of white dreadlocks. It was a glorious dip, tho’ we took care not to linger too long after our promoter at the Blue Loon warned us that a good half hour would render us helplessly lackadaisical and we would be in danger of collapsing beneath the weight of the guitars.
In truth, we were still slightly dizzy by the time we stepped onto the stage before a packed house at the Loon, and Steph was thankful, indeed, that the 600-pound doubleneck had unceremoniously refused to ride in cargo to Alaska. Nevertheless, the medicinal waters of the springs, spiced ever so gently with a spattering of the single malt, succeeded in sending the band, and thus the audience into a midnight frenzy. All of which led to a miraculous appearance of the Aurora Borealis, which emerged in spangling glory as soon as we concluded the show.
“You brought the lights with the music!” shouted a happy local hippy, as he pointed toward the sky and puffed on a joint out in the parking lot. For, indeed, the Aurora had not made an appearance for weeks until that very moment, when the crunching chords of Whole Lotta Love careened into the far perimeters of space. All we could do as we stood beneath the glorious quilt of winking stars on this Last Frontier is wonder just how much cooler this could possibly get…
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