Panhandle Crabgrass blew its transmission, but not three tours

Posted: Friday, July 11, 2003

Juneau's Panhandle Crabgrass Revival Band has toured three times up and down the Parks Highway between Anchorage and Fairbanks.

Their worst mishap on the road? They once blew the transmission of a brand-new rental car as they drove from Anchorage to Fairbanks in the middle of November. When they got to Fairbanks, the car would go only in reverse.

But most of the time, northern tours are great, said banjo player Erik Chadwell.

"Every town you go to - Cantwell, Talkeetna, Fairbanks, any small town - everybody's really welcoming," he said. "The smaller it is, the more they like to party until dawn. It's pretty much a sleepless time, if you're playing every day."

Panhandle Crabgrass is on hiatus until December. Two members are fishing and two more are working for legislators in Anchorage. The band played Nome's Midnight Sun Festival, June 21-22.

Last summer, the group flew to Anchorage, rented an RV, drove to the Anderson Bluegrass and Country Music Festival just south of Denali, then played Healy, Talkeetna and Girdwood.

"When we tour, we're looking to break even," Chadwell said. "When we play enough, we feed ourselves. Every once in a while we can find a place to stay when we aren't playing. We made some money and having CDs really helped a lot."

"With the RV, everybody had a place to crash, and it was comfortable and we could sit around picking," he said. "We'd wake up at noon and drive a couple hours and be at our next gig. We'd have some beers before the show and eat. It was a really great time."

Panhandle Crabgrass has an advantage as an acoustic band - banjo, fiddle, harmonica, guitar and upright bass. They have only one vocal microphone and another for the bass. They may or may not set up a pair of monitors. It takes them just about 30 minutes to get ready on stage.

"When you're on the road, if you're an acoustic band, you can get gigs like nothing," Chadwell said. "They don't get too picky in the smaller towns. We can go into a bar and play for beer with no sound equipment if they're not expecting us. In Anchorage, we couldn't get any gigs."

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