A Tale of Two Gigs…
8:53 AM. The text says to check my Facebook. I don’t recognize the number. I check anyway. Less than 12 hours later, my wife and I are opening for Eddie Money at one of the best venues in town. Then did a four-hour gig of our own, at one of the other best venues in town. This kind of craziness does not suck.
Like many artist/musician/freelance journalist amalgams, I work a day job to keep shelter, food, and H2O consistent. Tina, my wife, has been a full-time artist for the length of our marriage, going on six loooong…mmm.. blessed years, so it’s been a great, sometimes hectic mix of the two worlds as they collide.
The collision described above did so occur this past Friday the 3rd of September, while working said day job. I did not recognize the number, strange yet familiar, so I caved and did as asked. It was a venue owner/promoter around town who runs one of our favorite venues- People’s On Court, in downtown Des Moines, IA- asking if Tina and I could perform our duo act in support of classic rock icon, and all-around good guy, Eddie Money. The hitch- every year we hold a bash that’s lovingly titled “Deacon’s Day”, and this very night, Deacon’s Day IV was going to occur at the Blues on Grand, the yearly host. There’s a fifteen-minute break to get between shows and pull both off.
There is a lot of sadness this year because the Grand is closing in October, another victim of rising artists costs, transportation expenses, a broken economy, and a statewide, two-year old ban on smoking in public buildings that dug deeply into business. The Grand, aka BOG, was the recipient of the 2002 International Blues Award for “Keeping the Blues Alive”, as most of the greats passed through those doors over the last twenty years, especially in the leanest years when Blues = Pariah. Anyway… long story short, I had hurt my hand in a snow blower accident earlier in the year, which delayed the event from February until now, when the pending closing forced our hand, literally, into action.
Of course, we said yes.
We hit People’s at 7:05 after dumping gear at BOG. We are sound checked by 7:13. Doors are at 7:30, so we do what any self-respecting musicians would do- find the closest bar and plan a setlist. We finish with enough time to hit the respective heads, and get inside the room, and take a breath. It’s a good crowd- a few hundred strong and the show hasn’t started yet. We get it together, take the last breath, and take the plunge.
It’s on and it feels good. Most of the folks crowding the stage for their nostalgia shots of the Money Man stay put, and such opportunity shouldn’t be wasted. Our set, a 45-minute mix of Bill Withers, Curtis Mayfield, Janis Joplin/Big Mama Thornton, and originals are well-received and the crowd sings along heartily when they know the tune. Near the end, we pull into one of our faves, a tune my wife wrote last year called “Steal My Soul.” Yes, the crowd didn’t know it, but being the teacher she is, by the end of the first verse, they were singing the catch with Tina- “Take it away, if you want to… take it away if you want to…” The recession has hit independent middle-class artists the hardest in some ways, and the song’s about the fact that you can take everything from me, but you will not Steal My Soul.
It obviously resonated with more than a few souls in the crowd.
The two minutes left were eaten up by an abbreviated slam through Zep’s “Rock and Roll”, and lot of thank-you’s and good-bye’s, and we’re out the door a bit later than we should have been. It was a rush, but if that was the sprint, now comes the marathon. Off to the other gig, where we hope the crowd is good, but are just glad to play that stage one last time. The room is pretty darn full before we begin. This is going to be a truly great night, indeed…
Lots of originals from my wife and/or me, lots of our favorite covers, and even a new song got premiered. Des Moines is also home to an international award-winning radio DJ named Andre Mosqueda, who hosts “The Roadhouse”, one of the few truly independent blues shows left on Earth. The tune, called “Roadhouse Saint”, was something I started a long time ago, and absolutely had to do on the BOG stage before it closed. Without a rehearsal, the boys and girls of our full band, bella soul, pull it off in a righteous fashion, and it nearly sent me flying. Andre seemed moved as well, and after that, we could do no wrong.
If in the Midwest, look up keyboardist David Larson, saxophonist Kyle Gowin, bassist Julie Myers, and drummer Josh Strother. They win awards, tune pianos at expert levels, serve as life guards by day, jazz coaches by night, and are, all-around, some of the finest folks I’ll ever play with. They play all over, so find them, and enjoy.
It was loose, fast, and furious at times, but there were no train wrecks, lots of guests, and the aforementioned “Steal My Soul” set up our traditional closer, a medley we call “The House of the Rising Grace”. The Blind Boys of Alabama, as evidenced by the inaugural Bonnaroo soundtrack, as well as their own albums, do a chilling version of John Newton’s “Amazing Grace” lyrics to the melody and chords of “The House of the Rising Sun”. [Fun, somewhat schizo fact- Harriet Beecher Stowe added the ’10,00 years’ verse to “AG” in Uncle Tom’s Cabin from an old slave hymn titled “Jerusalem, My Happy Home”. Sorry- I can’t help myself.] We end the medley with the final stanza of “Stairway” (“And as we wind…”), and by the time it’s done, there’s nothing left to give. Don’t believe those folks who tell you that worship only happens in some staid, often dead, church house. BOG is one altar I’ve worshiped at, and on, many times.
Also, it does, in fact, take a woman of considerable skill to nail Robert Plant, much less any guy I’ve met. If you know of one, there’s 250,000 bands looking for him right now.
By 2:45 the next morning, it’s time to leave Jeff Wagner, BOG’s owner/operator, and head home. It’s been a great, righteous day, and those last few, quiet, peaceful moments of conversation have been among the best. It’s crazy some days, but I’ll take it any day. Yeah… I don’t mind when the world’s collide. It keeps you honest and fulfilled. Perhaps we’ll meet you on the trail someday soon. Until then.. Catch you on the flip side, brothers and sisters….