Thurs June 30
Last night, Hannah Rae Beale came over on the Lake Express ferry to rehearse with the band, and today I have to get up at the crack of dawn to drive to Bayview to drop her off. When I get back home my friends in the band Soul Patch from Traverse City, Michigan pull up in their RV. They’re on their way to Summerfest to see The Pipe Circus and play a festival in Crivitz, Wisconsin. So when my mom, coming over to babysit, pulls up, she finds a bunch of hippies congregating on my front lawn. She is not surprised; she loves it.
I was too slow and indecisive in packing, and was a little late to the park and ride and of course I have to reload the van like a tetris genius because Dillon, Sam and Anthony bring huge airline luggage cases, and 5 bags of food and a dozen other things for this 17-day tour. I have a backpack.
We get to Grand Rapids and load into the venue. One Trick Pony makes a perfect hamburger. Hannah and I talk business and advance the band some per diem cash. Then we wander the downtown for a minute, window shop, and stumble upon a weird restaurant/bar with an old school arcade. I light up like a Christmas tree and play me some Gradius and original Mario Brothers. Some of the dang machines eat about 4 of my quarters. Psshhhh!
We bounce back to our gig. We meet Melissa the videographer and merchandise girl about to accompany the band on the road. We perform for many of Hannah’s friends and family members. My guitar amplifier is channeling a televangelism radio program and is like a 6th band member; a murmuring background vocalist whose message only gets to shine in between songs if you listen real hard.
Afterwards, I finally meet Hannah’s brother, Charles, an actor and filmmaker. Some guy tells me I look like Harry Potter. Thanks! Wait a sec… Ouch! Oh well, if I even had an ego it might have been bruised. We load up in the rain.
We stay at some friends of the Beale Family in lovely East Grand Rapids, and watch Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The 80’s hitmaker Joe Jackson is musical guest (I love the song “Steppin Out“). I try to get Questlove to reply to a tweet. He seems to reply to every shmo but me. Maybe he just jealous of that my drummer’s afro is cooler. I enjoy a New Glarus Apple Ale. Bedtime.
Fri July 1
Hannah comes over for breakfast, (she and Melissa crashed elsewhere), and we upload some emails to our mailing list databases. Then we play Apples to Apples and a scrabble type game with the band while listening to some CD’s from my car, like Soulive and Raashan Ahmad.
We jet to Holland, Michigan and mess around in RIT Music. I’m drooling on a certain Telecaster. Hannah buys a green egg shaker. Next door, we eat at the venue, then walk around town a bit and take some silly band photos with a bronzed band. On the way back we stop at Kilwin’s, and they name a beverage after me. It is a huge ordeal because the lowy humble sever has to get permission from superiors to actually combine the ingredients I request: Fresh squeezed limeade, lemon sorbet, and sprite.
The band sets up. I guess as usual in these parts, my guitar pedals cause my amp to broadcast radio signal, this time a sports network is loud and clear through my Fender Deville 2×12 so I have to play without effects, but our show at New Holland Brewery rocks nevertheless. I fill a growler of a cask aged Mad Hatter (about 10% ABV), with a prediction that it won’t last 24 hours.
Sat July 2
Its 1 am and we drive 3 hours from Holland to Hannah’s house in Frankfort. We arrive and its getting light out so the delirous band stays up and talks.
I stay awake, watch the sun rise, walk to the lake, walk in the woods, too buggy, walk back. I raid The Beales garden and begin chopping and slicing and preparing breakfast for the extended family. I make some mean fried green tomatoes my first try ever. Crash after breakfast.
Wake with a headache. Take a long shower. Ill for two hours. Oh man I have to play in the sweltering afternoon sun at The Bayview Barbecue in about an hour. I am totally exhausted and out of sorts. We set up and play. A few of my vocal acrobatics fail early on, but today the band clicks and we sink into a groove and deliver our first great performance of the tour. There is a carnival in Frankfort and during our set an 80-year old woman gracefully ascends, then sways back and forth atop a 100-foot pole. The carousel and tilt-a-whirl spin. The neon lights flash. The band members ride the Gravitron.
Laura and Emory arrive in Frankfort after the show, (thanks to a friend who brings them up) after their ride from Manitowoc to Ludington, on the last steam ferry on the Great Lakes, the S.S. Badger. Back at the Beales, we roast some marshmallows for smores around the campfire, and I give an amateur astronomy lesson. Then we go to bed.
Sun July 3
Laura and Emory and I attend mass in Frankfort in the morning. The Beales neighbors loan the band their kayaks for an afternoon expedition on upper and lower Herring lakes, minus Sam, who was recovering from a disconcerting Gravitron ride. For four hours Dillon, Anthony and I kayak across, and halfway around upper, then through the long narrow winding channel to lower, but turn around right before entering it, because of a lack of desire to leave our kayaks and portage over a pier! We talk about religion and philosophy the entire time, and a dragonfly tags along for the ride, perched still on my hat. We paddle back upstream, back into upper, and drive the mule (golf cart) back from the lake lot.
We get to the show, set up, and Emory gets to check the mic! Our show at the Cabbage Shed is hot, meaning sweltering! Its our second show here; the first was two weekends ago after EKG accopmanied Hannah at Elberta Solstice Fest. The venue and audience are both quite hospitable to the band. Tonight Anthony gets to play a great sounding baby grand piano for the show.
Mon July 4
There’s a parade in Frankfort today, and Chuck and Abby Beale are helping with a float in it, as part of Citizens for Responsible Wind. Laura, Emory and I cruise up the Leelanau penninsula, but only make it to Empire before having to return for a 6pm load in. I get some great smoked salmon from a shop in Frankfort, and back at the Beales the band consumes it all during an acoustic practice session on the porch. Tonight we are playing out on the pier, right before the Independence Day fireworks.
We arrive at the beach at the designated early hour of 5pm, but the fireworks guys are still setting up on the lighthouse pier, which we are supposed to play on, so we have to wait. Ok dinnerime; we order at Fusion fast, and I run back 5 blocks to check if they’re ready. Nope. Run back. Eat sushi with Chuck, the band, and my wife and son. 6pm. We all jet back to the beach/pier. Yapping at sound guy. Okay 7pm. Fireworks truck still on the pier needing to exit before we load on. Finally at 7.40 (the band is supposed to play at 8), I get to scarily back down the narrow lighthouse pier in my minivan with a missing passenger sidewiew mirror.
It seems harder to judge, since we are pretty far from the beach, maybe 300-500 yards out on the concrete pier, but we play, with Lake Michigan inches to our left and right and the sun setting beside us, to a crowd perhaps of 5000 plus on an expansive beach in front of us. It is one of the most visually beautiful shows I’ve ever played.
Tues July 5
I sadly have to drive Laura and Emory to the Ludington ferry this morning. After that goodbye made me blue, I stopped at lovely little bakery called McDonald’s, run bye a sweet old couple married for years. The wife made inquiries; I tell her about our tour and she wound up wanting to purchase cd’s from both Hannah and me. I’m impressed by the quality of the long john, filled uber-generously with custard. I also bought a coffee cake to bring back for the band and the Beales.
We pack up and leave the Beale fortress; our last show in Michigan is tonight in Kalamazoo. Before we head south, I take the band up north and show them the pristine beach in Glen Haven, the dune climb at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore near Glen Arbor, and historic fishtown in Leland. Then we head east through Lake Leelanau and come down through Suttons Bay to Traverse City, where I’m obliged to stop and fill empty growlers with hard cherry cider at Cherry Republic.
We arrive at The Union in Kalamazoo and the venue is gorgeous. Hannah opens the show acoustic by herself, and I’m front and center. Then the band takes the stage and proceeds to rock out under the hot colored floodlights. For an encore, we debut James Brown’s “She’s the one,” for a birthday girl.
During loadout, we hear sirens, louder and louder. We see a dark SUV drive through the intersection, followed by, yes, count them, twenty-seven squads! After the din and flashing lights subside, a lonely bike cop pedals our way. I suspect his envy of the motorized cops in chase. He tells us about a bank robbery but withholds further details, as it seems his only way to feel authoritative right then.
Never get busted by a bike cop: you gotta ride to jail on the handlebars.