Agent Ribbons’ tour stories

Now all of America thinks they’re precious, too

<i>She Haw</i>: Sac’s favorite folksy-pop duo hits the Heartland.

She Haw: Sac’s favorite folksy-pop duo hits the Heartland.

Yeah, Natalie Gordon and Lauren Hess (a.k.a. Agent Ribbons) have tour stories, all right. Just ask Gordon about the Ypsilanti, Mich., house-party show.

“We were having a conversation, and I look over and see this young dude wearing black jeans with no shirt on and a bunch of things written on his arm in black Sharpie, and he’s got a belt around his neck,” Gordon recalls. “He was talking to somebody very calmly and he suddenly starts pissing his pants. It was going all over the place. Everyone was just sort of standing with mouths agape, not knowing how to react. Then once he’s finished pissing, and is standing in a giant pool of his own urine, he stops talking and starts strangling himself with the belt until he passes out in the pool of his own urine. He was out for about 60 seconds, and then he wakes up and just walks away.”

Even without the pissing young dudes, hitting the road can be a challenge for a local band. But that didn’t stop Gordon and Hess from piling into tour manager Jerry Perry’s Honda Element for a two-month U.S. tour—their first road trip ever.

Sacramento may have gone ga-ga over the Ribbons long ago, but the rest of America has barely heard of them. So the trip was as much of a listening party as a chance for the duo to get out of town and look around.

“We played some bizarre places: coffee shops, alternative spaces, house parties, a teenage pool hall,” Gordon says. “We played a topless restaurant—that was fun.” (Alas, Hess and Gordon remained fully clothed.)

Despite sleepless nights, peeing partiers and being stuffed into a car with Jerry Perry, the band appreciated the opportunity to do a tour of this length and breadth—34 cities, coast to coast.

And in case, for some reason, you think they skipped Lincoln, Neb., they didn’t.

“The people in Lincoln are amazing,” Gordon says. (See?) “We opened for an Elvis impersonator whose father treated us to a free meal at the Golden Corral Buffet.”

You can’t make this stuff up. You can’t put a price on it, either.

“Even though going into this trip we knew we’d probably come out of it in debt, I loved the fact that we had an opportunity to see the whole country,” Gordon continues. “Obviously I was really excited about playing to new faces. But I never thought I would have the opportunity to go on one of those big, legendary road trips that a lot of people dream about their whole lives. I think that, outside of just doing this as a band, we all grew a lot as people just seeing where the rest of the country is coming from.”

This, in turn, brought fresh perspectives on their own city.

“In a lot of ways, I saw what Sacramento is missing and what it has,” says Hess. “A lot of towns like Lincoln have really amazing music scenes, and it’s not that we don’t, but [for example] we lack a good all-ages venue. It really inspired me to do more here, to get out more and interact and make things happen. It’s obviously not that hard if people are doing it around the country in every community.”

Inspiration must be contagious. Speaking of which, what about the “begging at a Louisiana whorehouse in gold-lamé dresses during a tropical storm” story?

“We got into the French Quarter and since we had no show booked, we decided we were going to busk,” Gordon says. “So Lauren and I put on our gold-lamé dresses and we walked forever through the streets. I think we were in between two whorehouses the first time we stopped. We only have a couple songs that work for busking, so we played those over and over and made a total of $3.50, which paid for our breakfast beignets the next day.”

Bon temps.