Star Anna & the Laughing Dogs

Dave's 2010 Star Anna & The Laughing Dogs Travel Log

2010 was a breakout year for Star Anna & The Laughing Dogs. As their manager, partner, fan, and friend, I traveled with them to about 70 of their shows.  The band composes, rehearses,  arranges, performs, and records tirelessly....but my trip log is mostly about public appearances and major events. I hope you and they enjoy reading this as much as I did writing it. We look forward to 2011, and the release of the band's third album.  Yes, I've been told this is ridiculously long, and that nobody still exists with the attention span to get through it. So, maybe that's true, and maybe not. Anyway, you can browse, or just look at the pictures!

- Dave MacDonald

The band moved into 2010 on New Years Eve 2009, playing a show at RAW SPACE in Ellensburg with The Boss Martians for Scar Bash Eve. Fittingly, it was a "charity and hedonism" benefit for the Ellensburg FISH food bank. Of course it was snowing and cold.

Next up was a sold-out date January 16 at The High Dive in Seattle, with North Twin and Hurricane Chaser. The High Dive is a fantastic small-ish venue in the Fremont neighborhood. Capacity is around 105, but we sold something like 160 tickets, as there were people coming and going throughout the sets. We like to park the coach across the street in the funeral home lot....I traded parking for cleaning up their yard in the morning. There was a serious after-party to be had. Holly and I spent the night...we woke up, found coffee, and and then set up the lawn chairs and watched the neighborhood come to life. This was a hot sweaty show...and if I recall correctly it was North Twin's last one. I'm sure Tony will tell me if that's wrong. Here's a clip of "
All Her Ghosts" from that show. Layne Freedle, of Outlaw Digital Media, took this one and many others throughout the year...all as a volunteer. Thanks Layne!

January 28 brought the Lucinda Williams tribute show at the Conor Byrne in Ballard. I don't seem to have any pictures or videos from it, but
this link is of Star doing "Joy" at the No Depression festival last it gives you an idea. Lucinda is an influence so this was fitting.

February 5th was the "509 For Haiti" benefit in Ellensburg. I didn't make that show. Damn...February and I already missed one! Star and Justin played acoustic.

February 12th was a rocking night at RAW SPACE in Ellensburg, with Marty Marquis (of Blitzen Trapper) and Visqueen. Rachel Flotard rocked the house. If I remember right, we loaded in during a snowstorm. 

February 13th we trekked up to the Mission Ridge ski area outside of Wenatchee, Washington for a Mission Ridge Music Festival gig. It was snowing like crazy...I remember the staff there being awesome.

February 28th was a big night for us. Star and Justin played to a sold-out crowd at the Hootenanny for Haiti at the Showbox in Seattle. 1200 people, and many of them hearing Star for the first time. She captured the crowd....I remember standing in the middle of it all and being swept away with everyone else and being really proud. If you look around the 4:00 minute mark in "That's How Strong My Love Is" (below), you'll see what I mean. Mike McCready was already a fan and Duff McKagan joined the club that night. He and Star killed it on "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and later he published
"Why it's time to get yourself aquainted with Star Anna & The Laughing Dogs". Thanks Duff! We sold a lot of CDs, donating 1/2 of all sales to the cause. I like the article that Travis Hay wrote about the show on
. The video below of  "Don't Let Me Down" is one of my favorites of the year. I think this night was the night that Ty Balie realized there was no escaping his destiny as a Laughing Dog. Killer piano at the end of it. Our thanks go out to Debra Heesch of STG Presents and Mike and his wife Ashley for their work in organizing the show. Another great review of the show is here at

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On March 2nd, we loaded up the coach and headed for Montana, where I'm from. The band played 5 straight nights, at Empyrean Coffee in Spokane, The Great Northern in Whitefish, The Bitter Root Brewery in Hamilton, Chubby's in Clancy and The Filling Station in Bozeman. The Chubby's show was absolutely packed, a stage about the size of a sheet of plywood, and a partying crowd. The people were all great, even when they were falling onto the stage. Only minor injuries...a fat lip or two from microphones getting knocked back into Star and Justin's faces. I was pressed into service lifting people off the band. Afterwards, Star said that "Clancy is the best place on the planet". I enjoyed the lack of open container laws. Dave, the owner there, gave everyone in the band "Chubby's" hoodies, so if you see one of them "sporting a chubby", well, now you know.

March 13th was a gig at The White Eagle in Portland. I didn't make it to that one. After that show, the band transitioned from Frank Johnson on bass to Keith Ash. Keith and the band rehearsed almost daily, and were ready for their March 27 show  at the Conway Muse.

On April 1, thanks to John Hill of KUOW, Star and Justin played at "A Night with Garrison Keillor and Tom Douglas" at the Hotel Andra. We got to meet and chat with Garrison, who is really an interesting character. Tom is a great host, donating 50% of all ticket sales to KUOW.

On April 2nd and 3rd, we did two shows in Central Washington with Sadie and the Crooked Road. The first show was at the Brick in Roslyn, and then we moved to the Yakima Sports Center. Keith was fully indoctrinated by the end of the trip.

Star and Justin played a sold out acoustic set at the Jewelbox Theatre on April 9th, with Tony Fulgham and others.

On April 10th, the band played in the Yakima River Canyon, at the grand opening of Red's Fly Shop's Canyon River Lodge. Sadie and The Crooked Road joined us again. If you've never been down the Yakima Canyon, you owe it to yourself. The lodge there is beautiful, and the river is a blue ribbon trout stream.

On April 18th, Star and Justin played an acoustic set at Mark Pickerel's store, "Damaged Goods".

On April 23rd Star and Justin opened for Mike McCready's
Flight To Mars benefit concert at the Showbox. Mike puts a lot of effort into our community, and it was awesome to be able to be a part of this Crohn's and Colitis Foundation benefit. His group of people are talented, generous, and a lot of fun to be around.

On April 24th, Star and Justin played the Fremont Abbey's Round. Nathan Marion has developed a great concept where various musicians sit "in the round" and take turns playing. Sometimes, they join in with each other. After each song, a slam poet does a reading, and all the while other artists are painting. Really cool to see....if you're in Seattle check out the Fremont Abbey, and feel free to donate to their arts program!

We sold out the Tractor Tavern on April 30th with Hurricane Chaser and the Legendary Oaks. Travis Hay of wrote a nice review of that show afterwards, stating "The set not only showcased Star Anna’s amazing vocals but also put the spotlight on her band, the Laughing Dogs. The 75-minute performance featured about a half dozen new songs from her yet-to-be-released third album, many of which relied equally on Star’s singing and songwriting and the remarkable musicianship of the Laughing Dogs. Star Anna sings with enough passion and pain in her voice to make it sound like she’s lived several rough lifetimes, which is a mark of great country singer. However, a great country singer can only go so far without a solid backing band and it seems like Star and the Laughing Dogs figured that out with the new songs they let loose at the Tractor. They feel like a natural progression for Star’s sound and the show felt like a notable step in what is shaping up to be quite a notable career for this young songstress." Photo by Jason Tang.

On May 1, Star and Justin played a house concert in West Seattle at the Jordan residence. Mark Jordon of Invicta Law Group has been our attorney for several years. 

Ellensburg rocked on May 13th, where we joined forces with the Dusty 45s at RAW SPACE. That night was so epic that the sound dude (Pierce) got a noise violation ticket. Don't get me started about ridiculous tickets, lack of a sound reading, or any of that. Balderdash! Pierce is an awesome dude and RAW SPACE gives the underage college crowd a place to go and not drink. The cops should give them a medal.

May 14th we traveled to Spokane and played the Empyrian Coffee house. On the 15th the band played downstairs at the Fremont Abbey arts center with Kasey Anderson. May 16th was a show in Portland at the Hawthorne Theatre. It was a long, late drive home from there, but we were testing out our new trailer behind the coach! When we got home, the band spent about a month finishing up material for the next album, rehearsing, and arranging. They also started plans to move to Seattle. Star inadvertently let the cat out of the bag in an interview for an article in Yakima's "Whatssup Magazine". On June 19th they played a show at the Conway Muse in Stanwood, WA.

Wine, Women, and Song was the next adventure. This was another Tom Douglas hosted event, at the Palace Ballroom in Seattle, arranged by Debra Heesch. Star killed it....I love the way that Justin looks at her at the end of the video below. Great evening, June 25th!

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On July 9th, we went over to the Bumbershoot booth in West Seattle for a meet and greet. They had a prize wheel that people could spin. We tore off some of the prize cards and replaced them with "Star and Justin sing you a song". Justin just happened to be carrying a guitar. They terrorized small children with Beatles' tunes and enjoyed that immensely.

July 11th was theYakima Folklife Festival at Franklin Park. Mike Siebol is the talent buyer for them and we've done a number of shows for him and become a friend.

July 16th Star and Justin visited Marty Riemer and Jody Brothers for The Marty Riemer Show promotion of "Zune Tunes". About that same time, The Seattle Times published a piece by Nicole Brodeur, titled "Star Anna: a name and a voice to remember", and Duff McKagan wrote an article for the Seattle Weekly, proclaiming "Star Anna is the real deal, and if you haven't seen her or her amazing band yet, now is the time. I don't often throw out this kind of jargon, either spoken or written. But this woman from Ellensburg has more originality and soul in her left pinky--especially live--that I just can't help but be in awe. It's a musical inspiration, a mix of Merle Haggard, Mark Lanegan and Patsy Cline"

 At Zoo Tunes on July 18th, Star and Justin joined forces with Carrie Akre for the first time. Carrie and Star together make a fella pause.

July 23rd was the debut night as a Laughing Dog for Ty Balie, on Hammond B3 and keys, at the Columbia City Theatre. Although the band had been badgering Ty for years about joining, I think it was the Hootenani for Haiti that did him in. This article by Abbey of "Sound on the Sound" previews the show nicely, stating "There is such a technical proficiency to the album and such confidence radiating from Star Anna when she sings, it can at times seem aloof — but then her voice cracks with emotion as she begs you to hold on and she seems as fragile, as tough. There is something delightfully complex about Star Anna, something that makes you want to listen more loudly, more closely and just, more." The video below, taken by Layne Freedle, is also the debut of "For When I Go", which will be on our next album.

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Star and Justin opened for Amos Lee at the Greennote festival on July 24th. They did an acoustic duo on the Mural Amphitheatre stage. We found great bloody marys at the bar just North of the stage. On the 2tth, Keesha Davis published a really nice blog titled "Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs—Your New Favorite Band".

July 29, 30, and 31 were spent in Montana. We started at The Filler in Bozeman, then played at the Missoula Winery and Event Center, and then moved to Helena for our 2nd annual party my brother and his friends put on there. This one was titled "Pigs On The Green". The weather chased us through Montana...but through some miracle we managed to get every show in, with only one slight rain delay. I love this photo of Holly looking at the one of the storms and rainbows with local kids.

August 6th the band made a quick swing down to Portland for a show at The White Eagle.

August 13-27 was a blistering tour. In a two-week period, the band played:

  • The Festival at Mt. Si, North Bend 
  • Olympic Cellars Winery Concert Series, Olympic Cellars Winery, Port Angeles
  • Taste of Edmonds Festival (Duo), Edmonds, WA
  • Harlow's, Sacramento, CA
  • SpaceLand, Los Angeles, CA
  • Music Under The Stars Summer Concert Series, Levitt Pavilion for Performing Arts, Pasadena, CA
  • The Compound Grill, Phoenix, AZ
  • Winston's, San Diego, CA
  • West End Celebration, Sand City, CA
  • Hotel Utah, San Fransisco, CA
  • Caspar Inn, Caspar, CA
  • Jambalaya Restaurant, Arcata, CA
  • Alex's, Ashland, OR
The trip was fraught with peril. Highlites included two flat tires in the hot desert, the power transformer cooking in the B3 (fixed in the parking lot of spaceland by yours truly), and an all night drive from San Diego to Monterey. We spent an extra day in Carmel, visiting Maria Matias, our booking agent, and since there was no show booked that night, the band rehearsed. It was a good tour though, and we had a lot of fun. Mike came out with Ashley and some friends in LA, and sat in for a few songs on guitar, as shown in the video below. As we were watching the show, Mike mentioned that he might come to one of the other California shows. I said "oh, no, you're not gonna become a stalker, are ya, and he responded "F*** yeah, I'm already a stalker!" We had a great time there. Here's an article about the show in Ashland.

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September 2nd was the Hootenanny for a Healthy Gulf, with Duff McKagan, Mike McCready & Friends at the Moore Theatre in Seattle.  Fun show, something like 1400 people in the audience I think. Duff wrote a nice article about that show. Star, Jeff Rouse, and Mike did an acoustic version of "Patience" on KISW radio the day before the show to promote it.

September 3rd, Star and Justin did an acoustic show at the Spokane Pig Out in The Park. I didn't make it to that one.

September 4th was Bumbershoot. Playing at Bumbershoot is awesome, and when Carrie Akre and Mike McCready join you, it's even more so. Marty and Jody came down and did a backstage interview and Mike jammed on a few songs. Check out the guitar solo in "Wolves in Disguise", a song that will be on the next album, with Mike playing the solo again. The guy can rip! Here's a nice review of that show on by Michael Toombs.

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September 8th and 11th were Patsy Cline Tribute shows, at The Rialto Theatre in Tacoma and 2 shows at the Triple Door in Seattle. This show has been an annual's arranged by Debra Heesch, and always awesome.

We traveled to Yakima on September 12th for the Skewered Apple BBQ Festival. They close down streets and put on a fun event with a street stage. We have quite a few fans in Yakima, and it's Travis's hometown so it's always fun to play there.

September 13-20th we started recording our third album at Litho in Seattle. We spent 7 days there, working to capture a dozen new songs with producer/engineer Brad Zeffren. Litho is a great place to work. Star and several others came in with colds. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, making espresso, fish tacos, and lots of healthy food to try to pull people back from the edge. Mike joined us for a couple of days and recorded guitar parts on 4 of the songs. When the album comes out, check out his solo on "Wolves in Disguise". We'll release some video from Litho in advance of the album. There's a short teaser in the videos folder on our facebook page.

September 25th the band played at RAW SPACE in Ellensburg, and October 8th they played the Roslyn Crawl, at The Brick.

October 9th was "Come Together: Celebrating the Music of John Lennon" at The Triple Door and The Laughing Dogs were the house band for the night.  We have a few serious Beatles fans in the band, so they were very excited to be part of this. Debra put a bunch of video from that night up

October 23rd, the band opened for Sera Cahoone at the City Arts Festival. I'm a fan of Sera's and really enjoyed that show. Our friend
Gregory Paul sat in on Banjo with her band on a few songs. There's a nice review of the show complete with videos at Java Colleen's Jitters

October 29th, we jumped on the ferry from West Seattle and played at The Red Bicycle Bistro and Sushi on Vashon Island. Fun place, great people, great food. Very late night ferry ride home. 

October 30th is Halloqueen night at the Tractor Tavern, and this year the band did a Ramones set as "The Rawbones". It was really a blast...we spent quite a bit of time costuming for the night, and have some incredible pictures, like those at left. In our newsletter (sign up at the bottom if this page if you haven't already!), we wrote: ""Seattle's best and shortest lived Ramones tribute band, the Rawbones, are playing their first and last show ever this October 30 at the Tractor Tavern. The Rawbones began life on a night of beer and exuberant (read: LOUD) conversation between Star Anna and Justin Davis about how badly they missed just throwing down and playing punk shows. The idea of paying tribute to one of the greatest and most influential bands of all time came up and the wheels began to spin! We would do a whole night of Ramones music! Hooray!" The band was happy to blow off steam after the days spent recording and later mixing. Thanks to Chris Friel for looping us into the shenanigans.
On November 6th, the band played a private event at the Seattle Sheraton. New friends!

The Treehouse Cafe on Bainbridge Island was our host on November 13th. We played to a packed and enthusiastic crowd there, and infused Bainbridge Island with CDs and Tshirts. Another late night ferry ride. Thanks, Eddie, for having us over, and a special thanks to the ownership and staff there who extended incredible hospitality. We'll be back for sure! There are some really nice fan photos of that show on our facebook page in the fan photos folder.

Sometime in November, the band recorded on

December 10th, we re-united with Frank Johnson in Ellensburg for the band's annual "Star Anna and Friends Benefit for The Community Christmas basket" at the Starlight Lounge. Star and Justin performed an acoustic set, and they passed the hat and auctioned off numerous donated items. Over $5000 was raised to help feed Ellensburg's hungry...really a stunning success. Frank puts a lot of work into this event each year and I thank him for continuing the tradition.

The last two shows of the year were December 29th and 30th, at Mississipi Studios in Portland, and The Tractor Tavern in Seattle. We partnered up with Kasey Anderson for both shows. I didn't make the Portland show, but the Tractor show was fun...about 350 people which is officially a sellout, but as far as I know nobody got turned away. Liz Fountain wrote a really nice review...stating "Star pulls something out of the depths, something comes into her voice that wasn’t there before, and this song…well, imagine a cross between soul, rock, and blues, a song that is half joy, half longing, half praise, half pain; imagine a lead guitar full of whine and growl and distortion; imagine a drum beat and bass line that echo the Mississippi delta and the rock arena at the same time, somehow, and drive right into the ancient part of your brain, where you recognize it...."(read the rest here). We finished the year strong, and look forward to 2011! Check out this article on, reviewing the best of 2010 in Seattle music. We can truly say we spent some time in paradise this year!

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