Later this month, we head deep into the California desert in search of war camp ancestors, U2, and rock n’ roll.
On October 21, we are launching a brief tour of California's Death Valley and Mojave Desert regions. But the term tour doesn't quite capture the full spirit and ambitiousness of their journey. We're treating it more like a pilgrimage. Given that the tour includes a stop at a World War II internment camp and a desert expedition to locate the notoriously hard-to-find site of U2's iconic Joshua Tree photo, pilgrimage is just about right. We will leave Los Angeles well before dawn on October 21 and drive to Manzanar War Relocation Center – the Japanese-American internment camp where Tracker DaveTokaji's father spent his boyhood.
Tracker Andy Hill explains: "A lot of Americans don't realize that our government rounded up 120,000 American citizens and put them in these camps in the middle of nowhere during World War II. It was racial hysteria at its ugliest." Manzanar has been preserved as a National Historical Site, and during our visit we will tour the grounds, visit the barracks where Tokaji's father was incarcerated, and perform a brief acoustic set. "I'm not sure what to expect," Tokaji says. "My dad's dead now, but the internment had a big impact on him throughout his life. This is about the closest I can get to that experience and I just want to soak it all in."
From Manzanar we’ll travel to the site of U2’s iconic Joshua Tree album photo. In a sense, we have been following U2’s trail for years, seeing as we invented a "lost" title track for U2’s iconic The Joshua Tree album. We will film a music video for the song at the site ... IF they can find it.
It’s infamously hard to locate the spot where that famous U2 photo was taken. It’s literally in the middle of the desert and there are no obvious landmarks – “truly where the streets have no name,” Tracker Russ jokes.
“We’ve consulted various cartographers and U2 historians to try to get the coordinates,” Tracker Andy explains. “We’re allowing ourselves plenty of time to roam around the desert with a map and compass to find the exact spot. If we still haven’t found what we’re looking for after a couple hours we may need to call The Edge for guidance.”
While this stop may not have the historical impact of Manzanar, we see a real alignment between the two.
Each of us grew up on U2 and was shaped by The Joshua Tree album and how beautifully it captures the desolation of the American desert. So we were deeply moved to learn that the site of that legendary U2 photo is just 25 miles from Manzanar. There’s such a personal connection for us between U2’s sense of social justice and the internment camp experiences of Japanese Americans like Dave's dad.
We do poke some playful fun at U2 with our lost title track of The Joshua Tree. But we genuinely love not only their music but their willingness to take on all these human rights issues and not flinch in the face of all the bile and hostility that people unleash on them. So the site of that classic photo is kind of our rock Mecca.
After these spiritual journeys we will share our music with high desert fans and friends. On the evening of October 21 we will do an in-store appearance and concert from 5:30 to 8pm at Retro Records in Ridgecrest – one of the region’s most renowned vinyl shops.
Then on October 22, we will perform at the 65th Annual Desert Empire Fair in Ridgecrest at 7:00pm, bringing our cavalcade of rock caricatures to the stage – and this will be the first chance Californians in the high desert will have to see Jim Morrison stagger through the audience, Bono preach to the masses, Johnny Cash rile up the prisoners of San Quentin, and Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel vie for the East Coast crown.
World War II internment camps. Desert expeditions. Satirical caricatures. This might not sound like your father’s rock tour. But we have a feeling that our fathers – both musical and actual – will be with us every step of the way.