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This Saturday, the KUNM radio program “Ear to the Ground” played a 40-minute segment of our music and some interview with us (and Paul’s grumblings, and Matthew dropping a drumstick during a sensitive moment, and other wonders of live recording). Here is a link to their page of the show, and on our video page you can find links to three videos of the recording session that they published. We’d like to send a special thanks to Matthew Finch for being so supportive, not just of us, but of local music in Albuquerque generally.


 Click above on the member of the band you think is cutest. If you are right, you will be whisked away to our CD Baby page, where you will be able to purchase our album—either in physical form (for earthlings only; $14) or in digital form (all creatures; $9.99). Thank you so much for supporting us! You are helping us to record our second album—as well as, someday perhaps, to rise up out of the dirt. (Photo by the ever-lovely Kate Burn.)

Dear Friends,

Photo by Kate Burn Photography
Photo by Kate Burn Photography

We are writing to update you on the progress of the album and to let you know its official release date. While things are still a bit in the air at this point (including the dog!), we should have the albums in our hands by April 8th, and in yours by the 11th or 12th.

Recording, mixing, and mastering are now completely done, and the audio tracks and visual images (for the album cover, etc.) have all been sent to CD Baby for duplication. They should reach us by April 8 if all goes according to plan. We then slip them in the mail (we’ll get all the envelopes ready ahead of time), and you should receive them by the end of the week at the latest, Ap. 11 or Ap. 12. (If you live in Albuquerque, we may just drop yours off ourselves—but we will dress as mail carriers.) Posters will go in the mail at that point as well, and unless something strange happens, t-shirts and original pieces of art too. If your particular pledge prize will be delayed beyond this, we’ll let you know personally (again, dressed for the part).

The official CD release party will be on Saturday, April 12, at Sister Bar at 407 Central Ave. NE in Albuquerque. The show starts at 9 pm, with AJ Woods opening up and Wildewood playing second. They’ll each play for a little under an hour, and we’ll go on right at 11 pm. The cover charge is only $3, which is as low as Sister ever goes. We hope you’ll come and bring many friends!

Last but not least, thanks so much for believing in us and for helping us make this project a reality. We’re really happy with the product we have created, and we definitely could not have done it without you.

Your Cacti,

David, Christy, Stef, Samuel, Brandon, Paul, and Matthew

Cactus Tractor at Low Spirits. Photo by Kate Burn Photography.

Cactus Tractor at Low Spirits. Photo by Kate Burn Photography.

Dear Friends of Cactus Tractor,

Happy New Year! The second month. We are writing to all of you to let you know how thankful we are for your having supported us during our Kickstarter campaign. Our album is going swimmingly! Despite Christy, David, and Matthew having been legitimately sick, and Brandon being merely hungover (see photo); and despite Stef and Samuel having been in North Dakota where it was a frightening 70º below and Paul being in a play-directing Vortex, we are making phenomenal progress on the album.

Brandon in drum

You can guess which one of us this is. Think nacho cheese.

We’ve laid down basic tracks for all 15 of the songs that will be on the album, and we have done most of the overdubs (our last two scheduled days of recording are this Wednesday and Thursday). We’ve also had some fantastic gigs recently (including two art openings for our very good friend Lance McGoldrick, one of which was at our favorite café, Zendo; a show with our favorite band, Le Chat Lunatique; and an unforgettable evening as the house band at the Tricklock Theater Company’s variety show, the Reptilian Lounge. Christy has been hard at work making original art for eight of our supporters (this was the most requested pledge prize—other than the album itself, of course!).

christy making CT art 3

Here she is, drawing away.

We’ve also been working with photographer Kate Burn to schedule our poster and album photo shoot. The photo that opens this letter is by her… amazing, right??? Here are a few more.

You don't want to come across these two in a dark alley.

You don’t want to come across these two in a dark alley.

This guy either.This guy either.
Now that's a face a mother could love.

Now that’s a face a mother could love.

One note about the delivery date of the album and the other goodies: while we don’t expect delivery of the album to be too much later than the expected date of Feb. 14, since we’ve had a few sicknesses and similar mishaps (e.g., Brandon’s hangover, which, in addition to nacho cheese, involved and an epically embarrassing text message—the transcript of which we’ll be offering as the grand prize in our next Kickstarter campaign!), we’re a tad bit behind schedule. Getting the CDs mastered and printed can also be a little unpredictable temporally. We will keep you up to date on all of this as the future plays out. The current forecast is that the CD may be more likely to be Pisces than Aquarius. No word yet on the rising sign.

We love you and thank you for all your help and support!

Yours forever and ever,

Cactus Tractor

We have two very exciting pieces of news to report about our Kickstarter campaign, mostly regarding numbers.

#1. Sometime yesterday, for a brief but memorable moment, the total amount pledged to our campaign was exactly six hundred and sixty-six dollars (and one cent), thanks to one devilishly clever (and addition-savvy) donor. Well, we would like to thank all our donors for helping us reach that number … and move past it! We’re now up closer to $888.01. Perhaps the next clever devil will donate 87 cents.

#2. Even though we’ve now played the song “Green” at least two hundred times, and possibly as many as five hundred times (Christy’s total, since she wrote it and was playing it before we were, is probably right up around the number of the beast), Christy forgot the lyrics midway through at the Low Spirits show last Saturday night. That’s partly funny based simply on disbelief, but mostly is exciting because I got to noodle around (“solo”) until she could clear the fart smell from her brain and get back on track. I’d say that took at least 81 seconds, and perhaps as many as 243. The song has only three chords, but those three chords have the ability to combine in something like 27 different ways, and of course all nine band members guessed differently which section we were in. It was total three-chord chaos. Power chord chaos! Power-of-three chord chaos? Now I see how Christy got so confused. I think I smell something…


Be careful your face doesn’t get stuck thinking about this!

“Jar guy should keep not wearing clothes.” This was one of Ginger’s musings on this art project (“Five Guys Take Same Photo For Thirty Years”). Also, drastic disappointment that the roach and its photo of a rock star were not in the jar in any but the first photo. What a letdown.

We’re at the Beanhive in Galesburg, IL, drinking coffee. When Ginger ordered, she asked what was in a Banilla Smoothie. I was talking over the barista as he explained the drink, giving what I figured was the crucial piece of information, that the drink didn’t have coffee, only to have Ginger interrupt both him and me to say, “Yeah, well, I’m thinking of getting both that and coffee.” I’m ashamed to say that my response was, “Wait, can you do that?” much like a day or two before when I had said in all earnestness, “Lucky!” She was nice enough to refrain from making fun of me until we returned to the seclusion of the car, after which, however, she has ceased to let up.

Shoe plants at the Beanhive

The day before yesterday was Ginger’s birthday, shared with that of her twin brother, who happened also to be in Chicago (and born on the same day, go figure!). We got “PB&J’s” at a bar called the Boiler Room in Logan Square, which consisted not of bread and spreads but of pizza, beer, and a shot of Jack. We each had two, and we would have to chug any remaining beer before beginning our next pizza slice and shot. This was difficult only for me. My lack of skill in chugging was charmingly aggravated by our waitress, who didn’t mind standing around and waiting for me to finish each successive beer since we were her only table and she’d been cut for the night. Her name was Stephanie, and she joined us for a drink and told us she was off to the northwest to look for a job in social work. She and Andrea talked about this for a while, since Andrea’s in a similar field.

Andrea K. Kampfner (neé Voelkel), formerly of Immanuel Won’t, now of the SSA at the U of C. One of my best friends in the entire world. And really one of the world’s best friends.

Tony thought, however, that Stephanie likely had a thing for him, or perhaps knew him from a drunken, debaucherous escapade from days past, since she called him by name. But it turns out she did this only because she couldn’t get his attention any other way, so entranced was he with his macaroni (about which birthday-boy David Cook taunted him by calling it a pasta salad with truckloads too much mayo). She apparently just asked someone further down at the table what his name was.

Tony smells his pasta salad-mayonnaise soup (neé macaroni and cheese).

Ginger is talking with her mouth full again, which makes it even harder to understand what she’s saying. She’s probably ordering another PB&J.

David Cook and Michael Castele

Ben and Akemi

Here are Christy and Orson on the bed watching Heather’s son Hunter’s award-winning 2009 video about the Easter Bunny, cleverly titled “Easter Video 2009.”


Here are Orson and Monkey getting down in Ben and Akemi’s super-fly flat in the Chicago West Loop, where we stayed Sunday night. Here’s also Christy doing some loft-modeling while I do some loft-photography. It was my really good Tom Sawyer idea to suggest it would be sexiest if I photographed her packing up the stuff. Sadly the lugging-down-the-stairs-all-alone pictures didn’t turn out as well.

Here’s a note we wrote to Dan Luban in thanks for letting us crash with him after our Salon gig in Hyde Park on Saturday night. It was delivered in a bottle. He may not receive it for many years.

Here are some pics from the Hyde Park Salon (Majel’s Opera Cabal series), taken by my sister Mugs. The good-looking audience members on the left are my dad and step-mother.

David Lakein was the performer who opened the show, and here he is with a nice woman and equally nice bottle of mustard.

Doing a little catch-up from Springfield, here’s my lovely grandmother, at 98 years of age.

Here’s Katie (my sister, who drove up from St. Louis), Heather Hoffmann (who drove down from Galesburg), and Ginger (all the way from Albuquerque, NM) after the sixth Springfield show, now outside the Celtic Mist.

And here’s a picture of an elephant.

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to write. The other day I was packing up the car while Christy/Ginger was blogging, and she felt guilty afterward for not helping (or so she said), but I said, “No, Ginger, the most important thing is that you blog.”

I revealed to Christy yesterday that the name “Ginger” was shared by my family’s first dog (who is buried somewhere in the back yard, but no one knows where). However, I would like to state on record that my calling her that has nothing to do with Ginger the former dog (now rotting corpse), but rather with the host of the miraculous Brain Science Podcast that we often listen to, whose (sexy) name is Ginger Campbell. Someone else reminded me the other day of the Gilligan’s Island character named Ginger. And we didn’t name the dog, the name came with her, from a previous family. The one dog we named as a family was “Mushroom.” She remains in the garage waiting to be buried.


At the show last night, at Boones Saloon in Springfield (IL), my mother and step-father made an appearance. I was able to say, “Thanks to my parents for driving in to see the show, all the way from Springfield, Illinois!” Then I noted that there appeared to be lots of people that had come from Springfield, and we all took a moment to say, “Wow.”

I also alerted the crowd to the disappointing factoid, also recently exhumed (to continue a theme), that my mother’s legal expertise is of benefit only to someone who’s already in prison. My step-father, I did not point out, is of use to you only if you are the Federal Government. Anyway, I was still happy they were there. They heard our first set, which we played as a sort of entr’act between the Chris Maxey Trio’s first two sets.


Then my folks had to leave, so we held down the fort while waiting to play a second set. In the interim, who should show up but our across-the-street neighbors, the Trudeaus. We’d waved to them earlier in the day from across the vast gulf that is the street between their mansion and what in comparison is our shack, but we certainly hadn’t told them we’d be at Boones. They just happened to be there, meeting their son Chris and his wife, because they’ve recently gone into the brewery business (Rolling Meadows Brewery), and they were hoping to get their beers sold at Boones. Ginger had coincidentally had one of their brews the day before at Norb Andy’s, Abe’s Ale, and I’d tasted it. Wonderfully tart. We also got some insight into the Springfield brewery market. Springfieldians don’t like hops, it turns out (though I can’t remember exactly what they do like… My beer knowledge stops at the empty/full distinction).


After playing a second set at Boones (and getting people to dance, a feat when you’re only a guitar and a uke), we hung out for the remainder of the Chris Maxey Trio’s show (during which I heard for the first time “In My Time of Dying” played by someone other than Zeppelin). Then we headed over to the Butternut Hut.

We wanted to catch Tom Irwin’s set having met him the night before at the Tin Can Pub open mic which he hosted. Tom, it seems, is a main force in bringing the Springfield musical community together. He was leading the band at the Butternut, but this was a band which it appeared as if anyone was welcome to join, even in the middle of a song (!). We saw this happen a few times. There were no less than seven people on stage at any one time, and just about each of them took a solo in just about every song. Tom was a leader in starting off the songs and structuring the participatory nature of the group (or so it seemed), but he by no means hogged the spotlight. He was a sort of fatherly musical presence, a welcoming and nurturing one.

The night before, Tom had given us a copy of his recent CD, which is based on an 1893 journal of a sixteen-year-old field worker in Illinois. Tom had also, apparently, told Ginger that we could play some songs at Butternut if we could make it over there after our show. She forgot this, of course, so we showed up just to see Tom playing. We also ended up seeing the Trudeaus there (their beer is next up after a Sam Adam keg gets finished off, so the four of them were drinking as much Sam Adams as they could, and encouraging us to do the same). We also saw many others who’d walked over from Boone’s, including Chris Maxey and his drummer, and a girl who was using a Mood Hoop, who’s boyfriend was running sound for Tom. Tom decided his band needed a break, and so to our surprise he invited Cactus Tractor up to play a short set! This is when Christy remembered that, oh yeah, Tom had told her the night before we could play tonight at the Butternut. Some of the songs we played we’d performed five or six times in the last two days, and for some of the audience members it was the third time they’d heard them in two days. But they didn’t seem to mind. The nicest moment was when the crowd drew silent, suddenly, at the beginning of the fourth line of our opener, Christy’s song “You’re My Rose,” when we sang for the first time in harmony. We seemed to grab people’s attention at this moment—despite the late hour and the fact that the band before us was so rockin and raucus in comparison—and we managed to keep it through our folk-revived trip through the disco era (Stayin’ Alive, Billie Jean, Addicted to Love).

Now I’m trying to get Ginger to stop blogging, so we can go home and nap before our show tonight at the Tin Can, and maybe even practice…which we haven’t done since setting out on our journey. But then I remind myself, oh yeah, the most important thing is that she blog.


Just for fun, check out what we saw on the steps of the Old State Capitol this morning. This is where Obama launched his campaign for the presidency, back in 2008, as well as where he announced that Biden would be his running mate.

We woke at 9:30 and left Vega after packing the car much more perfectly and successfully than we’d done the day before, so now the trunk would close and we created no sparks as we drove. We thought we’d breakfast at a hipster café in Amarillo, so we got off at the Amarillo College exit, but then couldn’t find much other than cube-shaped bank-like buildings. Also, Ginger/Christy was disappointed that the streets, shops, cars, trees, and so on were not yellow, as advertised (amarillo). So we just got back on the highway and found coffee a little later at a not-claiming-to-be-yellow truck stop, listening to David Sedaris along the way.

We showed up in Shawnee at 4 pm or so, then went to the Hamburger King for a few burgers (one for Ginger, two for me). Orson had to wait outside in a park, which was sad, but we got to talk on the phone to place our orders (see pic).


Then we headed up the street to Sips where our gig was soon to begin.

Marty Peercy, whom I met in Chicago around this time last year at Z&H café in Hyde Park, runs the shop here, and also is the force behind the band Head Cabinets.

Shawnee is a quiet Oklahoma town. Its population of 30,000 is significantly reduced—and significantly less coffee-drinking—when its two colleges are adjourned for the summer months. Nevertheless, there was a roaring crowd at Sips. This is thanks entirely to Marty, who opened for us and tweeted about the show in order to get people out on a Monday night. It was a heartwarming evening. Marty’s songs are deeply personal, honest, and confessional, and yet his personality I would describe as combatively playful. This makes for a prickly interrelationship, powerful personal engagement of the audience with his stories and artistry.

In the audience were a couple of adorable children. We were lucky enough to have test-run a few child-focused quiz questions at last Saturday’s show at Marble, such as “does anyone know what this thing is?” (washboard) “and what it’s used for?” (laundry, back in the day). One of the children (Indigo, 3 years old) impressed her father and other onlookers by singing right on pitch to “Somebody I Used to Know.” Another of them, Duke (also 3), heard Marty playing live for the first time a song that he’d previously known only from the CD player at home, and his impulse was to get as close to the music maker as possible, like a moth to flame.

Duke’s parents—George Wright and LeAnne Henry Wright—very generously invited us to their house to spend the night, so we wouldn’t have to camp in the muggy, Oklahoma heat as we’d planned to do. We were happy to take them up on the offer, and Marty and Matt (father of Indigo) joined us at the house for beers and scotch. Before arriving there, however, we stopped at LeAnne’s art studio in downtown Shawnee, a few blocks from Sips. I think rather than using any words to describe LeAnne’s art, I’ll just advise you to begin living today and click on the link I just posted. I’ll even give you another chance. Here it is. You’ll be happy you did.

Staying with the Wrights was what you might imagine it would be after looking at LeAnne’s art. (Which I know you’ve done.) The whole experience was beautiful. We stayed up drinking all kinds of things into the wee hours of the night. And then in the end Christy and I just rolled out the air mattress and slept in the backyard anyway.

Experiences like this are what make going on tour magical.

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We were supposed to be in Palo Duro Canyon tonight for some camping, just south of Amarillo. So that meant leaving by about 11 a.m. Which meant getting an oil change before that, for about 30 bucks. But the oil change turned into a brake replacement, cost 1400 bucks, and took till 5 pm. Then it was raining and necessary to cook hot dogs (not related), so we left finally at six. We’re in Vega, TX. Massive bug, basically the size of Christy, which she accidentally half killed, and then wasn’t sure whether to finish off or not. He looked like Jiminy Cricket, and his face was that expressive. He was carrying a briefcase. We righted him, and tried to send him on his way, but much of his abdomen was smeared on the ground and on the bottom of Christy’s shoe. Then we found our room, at the Bonanza. While Christy was photographing the sign (we’d had a bonanza bagel a few days before at Winning Coffee in ABQ, with bonanza soup, and regular iced tea masquerading as bonanza tea), I quickly ushered all the roaches in the room into the toilet in the corner (sort of a jail cell type of place, but they allow dogs). Then we turned on the air and claimed beds (Orson claimed mine).

Like I said, we were supposed to make it to Palo Duro tonight, but we didn’t quite, and just as I was giving up I tried to say we could stay in a hotel or motel, but these came out slurred as “ho-motel,” which made Christy raise her eyebrows, since she thought I’d said “ho motel,” and I assumed she thought I’d said “homo-tel.” Then this became “homo-ho-motel,” and then finally “homo ho-ho motel,” with rooms made of chocolate cake. So we had high hopes. Nevertheless, we’re at the Bonanza. See pics.