Normal History Vol. 418: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

In 1989, on the return leg of a West Coast tour, we drove the 640 miles from San Francisco to Olympia, Wash., and played two shows in one day. We opened in Eugene, jumped back in the car, my 1972 Impala, and made it to the Portland show, after which we drove a couple more hours to Olympia to sleep.

Back in the ’80s, we toured various sections of North America three and four times a year, but this crazy plan was an anomaly. Typically we steer away from super long drives—and we make tours enjoyable by including interesting stops (art museums, thrift stores, the Tabasco Sauce factory) and good food (olive tasting at Granzella’s in Williams, Calif.)—so I’m not sure how a 640-mile drive ever got booked, since we do all our own booking.

I’m also not sure whether the two album reviews below appeared before or after this particular tour, but considering Calico was our second album (and our first on a label other than our own), it was truly exciting to read these. I don’t think we’d heard of Gerard Cosloy yet, and we certainly didn’t know we’d be moving from K Records to Matador Records within a year or so.

“Jean’s the one with ‘that voice,’ a completely riveting presence that’s only more powerful when backed solely by Lester’s guitar. Zero star potential, they’d sound totally incongruous coming out of your radio, but so would Woody Guthrie, so don’t worry about it.” –Conflict, 1989, by Gerard Cosloy, who joined Matador Records the following year

“This is quite powerful stuff. Jokers like Bono and Bruce could certainly learn a few lessons from this.” –Vicious Hippies From Panda Hell, a Portland zine

“Don’t Shoot” from the album Calico Kills The Cat (K, 1989) (download):