Alyssandra Nighswonger Cycles Onward and Upward
You probably recognize Alyssandra Nighswonger from the cafés and small theaters around Long Beach, where she and her former band, the Daymakers, played stripped-down electric folk in a style that has become definitive of the city's music scene, which champions the rootsy Americana of decades past.
Now a solo artist, she's a voracious collaborator without boundaries. Taking advantage of free flights courtesy of her brother who works in the airline industry, she has teamed up with Joshua Bassett of the Portland band Welfare to produce her newest EP, When My Love Knot Slips.
She'll celebrate the record release at a variety show she curated, "Follow Me Along the Sea Vaudeville Spectacular," which features a roster of locals bands, tap dancers, jugglers and, yes, vaudeville performances. The aptly titled production doubles as a fund-raiser for Nighswonger's six-week, 1,500-mile bicycle tour of the West Coast, spanning from Seattle back to Long Beach, with dates in Seattle, Olympia, Portland, Eureka, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura.
She's gearing up for the trip with an intense workout regimen and a multi-tier Indiegogo campaign to raise the $5,000 she needs to hit the road. The top rung of support is a cool $1,000 donation, for which Nighswonger will write a song about the subject of your choosing, then perform and record it (with video!) amidst a scenic lookout deep in the Redwoods.
OC Weekly: What inspired the idea of touring the West Coast on a bicycle?
Alyssandra Nighswonger: Last July, my car broke down, so I started doing lots of cycling to get around, including a 30-mile roundtrip from my house to where I work at Disneyland. Then in October, my brother told me he would rotate his buddy pass to another friend. I thought it would be a great challenge to do a music tour by bicycle to connect my project up in Portland with my music down here.
What has been your training regimen thus far?
My travel companion, Sarah Rosenberger, is way more fitness-savvy than [I am]. She's made a whole training plan for us. We did our first 60-mile ride last weekend from Long Beach to Laguna Beach and back. This week is hill-training. We've also been cross training and doing yoga, running and weights at the gym.
What's your travel inventory for the trip?
We're putting panniers on our bikes and loading up our tents, sleeping bags, a camping stove, maintenance stuff—extra tires, spokes, tubes, chain links and brake pads, and a first-aid kit. I'll be bringing Baby Taylor in a hard case with a pickup installed, extra strings, CDs. I'll have my mom mail merch to a few stops on the way, so I don't have to carry it all at once. Then, of course, my 35mm camera, some film, my flip and my journal.
What made the last Vaudeville so special for everyone involved?
It was like that book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, in which one idea begets another idea. The best part was this openness and a beautiful sense of community that everyone had. With each band, we had a dance act or a film, and there were no rehearsals. So when we performed, we were looking at an audience, their faces lit up by the movie screen, reacting to something we'd never seen and couldn't see because we were performing. It was electric.
This column appeared in print as "Cycling Onward and Upward."
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.