Lately we’ve been very lucky to have some incredible musicians play with us. Our sax player, Cole, has been touring with Bon Iver. We couldn’t be more excited for him, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about finding someone to fill in for him. Well, we found the perfect guy, a young saxophonist named Connor Carroll, who can probably play anything, but focuses mainly on big band gigs when he’s not playing with us. He’s the real deal. Our bassist, Nick, has been doing a lot of dates with alt country bad ass, Ryan Bingham this year. It’s such a perfect gig for him, we’re all thrilled to see him on it. As soon as he started doing those gigs, he connected us with a student of his to fill in, Dan Carpel. I believe Dan has been a student of Nick’s on and off for like 10 years. He brings all of Nick’s musical sensibilities to the table, but mixes it with something else. Maybe it has something do with his jazz chops (he’s a wicked upright player), or perhaps it’s just his youthful energy, but whatever it is, it’s awesome! We’re lucky to have him. Lastly, our organ player, Sam, went back to teaching music in an elementary school in September. Our first call was to local gigsman Kevin Gastonguay. I sort of figured he’d do a few gigs and then we’d call some other folks and try a few different players. I’ve not called anyone else since his first gig with us. It hasn’t even crossed my mind. Sam still does the gigs that he can, but when they conflict with his job, Kevin has been filling the role exceptionally. All three subs are not only top notch players, but great guys that seem to just fit right in with the band.
On Friday we played at a private party at Icehouse in Minneapolis with all 3 subs and down one horn player. One half of the band was comprised of subs. There was a point in time, not very long ago, that this would have freaked me out. In fact, I’m sure I just would have turned the gig down. But, I feel that first, and most obviously, as mentioned above, we’ve connected with some incredible players. Secondly, I think after hundreds of gigs, dozens of in-studios, a live album, and two studio albums, we’ve pretty clearly defined who we are as a band both musically and inter-personally. I feel like that makes it a lot easier to discern who’s right for the gig, and a lot easier for the subs to know what they should bring to the table. With all of this in mind, I wasn’t worried in the least bit about playing with so many subs. It turns out, my confidence was no unfounded. Everyone sounded awesome. Which is great, because we had a gig the next day with all three subs.
Being back at Icehosue felt great. This is the room we cut our teeth in. We had our first ever show there and used to play there all the time. The first video most people ever saw of us was shot on that stage…
After knocking out an early 90 minute set (8pm-9:30pm) on our old stomping ground, we hug out for a bit with some familiar faces. No one stayed out late, though. We had to fly to Detroit in the morning to play at the city’s annual Noel Night celebration (more on that later).
We wound up flying out on two separate flights, one at 6am for Dan and Blair, and another at 9:30am for the rest of us. Dan and Blair were total troopers about the early flight. The rest of us had it a little easier. We hit the airport at a reasonable hour to find absolutely no lines at security. As it happens, our gate was 50 feet from a bar, which made it easy to grab some bloody marys while we waited.
When we landed in Chicago to catch our connecting flight we learned that it had been cancelled… Classic tour high jinks… We were able to get on the next flight into Detroit. It left at 3:15pm Central Time, but our load-in was scheduled for 4:00pm East Coast time. We landed a little after 5:00pm. Due to the time crunch, the promoter offered to personally pick us up at the airport to avoid any issues with ground transportation. There are two types of promoters. The kind that get stressed out and point fingers when things go wrong, and the kind that roll up their sleeves and help to keep things movign forward. Chris from The Cube at The Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center in Detroit is obviously the latter.
We walked into the venue a few minutes before 6:00pm to find all the (top notch) backline set up and ready to go. We immediately began soundcheck and cruised right through it, leaving plenty of time to run a Christmas song we would work into the set later than night. We were done at 6:30, leaving 30 minutes to set up merch, eat, and get into our suits… just enough time!
The show was part of Detroit’s 44th annual Noel Night, a sort of art crawl of cultural institutions in the midtown area that serves as a kickoff to the holiday season. The venue we were in was a multi-purpose 500 cap room in the home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. It was beautiful, sounded great, and on this night, filled with kind people who would eventually succumb to the urge to get out of their seats and dance!
After the show we stopped by a convenience store to acquire some libations. The surly gentlemen behind the counter told us to “be safe out there tonight” when handing me my change through the glass window separating us. Somehow he could just tell that we weren’t from around there.
Once we got to the hotel, we swing by the grill for a bite and some drinks, which luckily included a couple glasses of Bookers. After that, we made friends with one of the night watchmen, Al. As it happens, he’s an experienced B3 player.
Half of us stayed up too late and drank too much. Some didn’t bother going to bed before the early flights. We flew out on 3 separate flights, a 6:00am, 7:30am, and 2:30pm. I wish we could have hung out a little longer. The midtown neighborhood looked like a blast. Detroit has Jet’s Pizza, Telway Hamburgers, and several large casinos with craps! The people drive like it’s a real city, and they have a burgeoning arts scene. Plus, you gotta respect any city that emanates steam from the streets like Gotham. We were lucky for the opportunity to be part of such a special event and very fortunate to make so many new friends. We look forward to going back as soon as possible to play for them again!
As much fun as we had, and we really did have a good time, I gotta say there was something a little odd about this trip. It felt like we didn’t really see the sun since the Icehouse gig on Friday. Even when we landed in Minneapolis, it was dark and cloudy out and had just snowed. It’s weird to leave for like 24 hours and come back to see everything look different. Maybe the lack of sleep had something to do with how weird it felt, though.