by Charlotte Peters
The 2016 Rogue Festival is almost here. KRL has been featuring several Festival performer preview articles over the last couple of weeks, and they can all be found in our Arts & Entertainment section. A couple of weeks ago, we also published an article about the Festival itself. We will also be reviewing many of the shows once the Festival begins later this week, and we may even do some more video interviews. Check out our Rogue Performer event page for more information as it becomes available, and you can also check out the Rogue 2016 website.
It’s 11:30 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, and I’m sitting at a little diner off Route 263 in the Northern California town of Yreka. I’m taking a break from my massive circumnavigation of North America, a trip which will eventually encompass both coasts and some 10,000 miles of cycling. I’ve already been “in the saddle” for nearly four hours hours today. At dawn I started in Ashland, Oregon, and I’ve got roughly another five before I reach my destination in Mt. Shasta, California. Yesterday I rode from Grant’s Pass, Oregon to Ashland, what I would consider an easy day of 55 miles with only minimal elevation gain.
Today’s ride is a bit harder, 80-some miles over a major mountain pass and through rolling hills in high desert. I’ve got roughly 5500 feet of climbing as well as nearly 4,000 of downhill riding. Riding downhill is exhilarating to be sure, but can also be a major strain on one’s nerves with a fully loaded bicycle, as one false move can spell major disaster in an isolated area.
My bicycle is fully loaded. Up front sits my waterproof “office” containing my laptop, camera, miniature midi piano, and microphone, as well as various cords for all of those. It’s a new thing for me to be riding with an entire portable studio, but it’s been fun to record songs with other musicians I’ve met along the way. The rear of the bicycle is dominated by a large bag containing my accordion, ukulele, trombone, and costumes. You learn very quickly what is absolutely critical to your show when you put it on the back of a bicycle to move it around the country.
I’ve been touring like this for a little over two years now, covering thousands of miles on three continents. In fact, I’m rapidly closing in on the 10,000 mile mark. That number is staggering to most folks you’d talk to about it. I’m often asked how on earth I’d accomplish something like that. The simplest answer is, one mile at a time. Sometimes quite literally, I’ve had to push a bike with a broken sprocket for nearly fifteen miles just to reach the next place with cell phone service. The second most common question is, “Why?”
The why is an easy one for me. I’ve got a thirst for adventure, longing for a life like something out of an old cinematic serial. I can swash a buckle with the best of them. I’ve had a tire blow out while flying down a hill in the north of France and ended up catapulting about fifteen feet into a ravine and landing in a tree. I’ve been chased by dogs, mountain lions, small children, and the occasional free-range bull. In my travels I’ve had run ins with Salvadoran gangsters, metal bands, shotgun-toting farmers, and half a dozen police departments who couldn’t comprehend my presence in a place they’d never seen a bicycle, let alone such a small one. There’s always another story just over the next hill.
Telling those stories is what my shows are all about. On the surface what I do is play songs on my accordion, seasoned with a liberal assortment of circus tricks, but there’s more to it than that. It’s my hope that every show is a time of connection, that audiences leave feeling like they got to know me a bit. To that end almost every song has a bit of a story attached, to provide background, flavor. Everything feeds back into the show, even my bicycle doubles as a face balancing prop, and I use my spare tire as a juggling ring!
If all goes well my ramshackle cavalcade of songs, circus, and rabble rousing should be arriving in Fresno, California sometime in early March. I’ve never been to Fresno, but I hear it’s much warmer there than where I am now. There is still snow up in these mountains, and the air has a bite in my lungs. Oh well, time to go back outside and hop on the bike. Lookout California! You have no idea what’s coming your way!
– Strangely (Feb. 23, 2016)
Strangely will be performing at the Spectrum Art Gallery on 608 E Olive Ave.Tickets are $5.
Performance Dates & Times:
Saturday, March 5 – 4:15 p.m. Sunday, March 6 – 7 p.m. Thursday, March 10 – 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 12 – 4:15 p.m.