Friday, April 26, 2013

Don't you make no nevermind; the Acadian had a great time in Cajun country

 Louis Armstrong at the New Orleans airport that bears his name

In the Louisiana Museum, at the Katrina exhibit

Bloody Mary's grave, St. Louis Cemetery #1


 The Mahalia Jackson Center for the Performing Arts

 Inside the 1850 House on St. Ann and Decatur

 Louis Armstrong park

Hello all, and welcome to my blog from the Big Easy!  It was a crazy and busy week, but it was great!  Now, on to the nitty gritty!
The cast and crew arrived in New Orleans from Austin, TX on Monday around 3 PM.  After settling in a bit and unpacking, a big group of us headed further into the French Quarter, just off Bourbon Street for our introduction to the Big Easy...a Haunted History tour.  After walking through the streets and grabbing a couple of frozen drinks (you can carry them through the streets....crazy....) we took the tour.  It wasn't exactly what some people expected, in that we didn't go in any "haunted houses"; it was really more about the history of New Orleans as a whole, and the buildings that are known to have had sightings and hauntings.  I have to say, the stories were quite amazing, but the best part of it for me was getting a very detailed and vast tour of The French Quarter and getting me acclimated to the city.  One of the stops along the way was Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop; one of the oldest existing buildings in New Orleans, that has now become a bar. Following our tour, we walked around a bit and had worked up an appetite.  So, we headed to a place closeby to get some grub, Café Pontalba.  I jumped right in and got a crawfish po boy.  It was pretty good, but I knew that there were many more good meals ahead.  I walked back to the hotel to get some rest for the big day ahead on Tuesday. 
I woke up the next day bright and early and headed to the airport to pick up Amy.  She flew in about 11 AM, which was a perfect time; not too early, and in enough time so that we had almost all day to walk around. After dropping her bags at the hotel, we walked around the French Quarter a bit, making my obligatory stop at the Hard Rock Café (pictured above).  We wandered for quite a while and ended up eating at Landry's Seafood House.  It may be a chain, but it had some great Louisiana seafood.  I got crawfish etoufee for the first time, and Amy got her first po boy.  We also got a free order of seafood stuffed jalapeno poppers...for free.  One of the many reasons I check in everywhere on Foursquare.  That, and it helps me when I sit down to write my blog after a long right now.  From there, we headed next door to an independent record store, Peaches, and after walking around a bit more, headed home to chill before opening night. 
I had the pleasure of opening the show in New Orleans as Johnny Cash, and the local press was quite kind to me with the review that followed.  Not only that, but the crowd in New Orleans was great!  Amy was there, as was an old friend of mine, Pete Roze who did two of the productions of Ring Of Fire I did a few years ago.  He's toured a bunch, and is a great guitar player.  It was awesome to be able to catch up a bit. It's always nice to go on and get a reception like that.  Following our successful opening night, a group of us headed to a bar called Coop's Place on Decatur, and I sampled the duck
Wednesday morning came very early, as me and the boys headed out for a long morning of press; tv, radio, and an interview.  All of the above went quite well, and along the way we stopped for a breakfast break at The Ruby Slipper; I have to say, for a "popular" place that is always busy, I wasn't very impressed.  My breakfast was...."ok".  Certainly not a highlight of the meals I had in NOLA.  Following the few hours of press, Amy and I wandered around some more before stopping in to get some lunch at Desire Oyster Bar.  For the second time in as many days, I had alligator.  And, I'll tell ya, I could get very used to it.  I had had some fried and blackened alligator on our first night in town, and I was acquiring a taste for it.  This time, I got beef, one pulled pork, one gator.  It was quite tasty.  We stopped in a place for Amy to get a reading from a medium, but it turned out to not be exactly what she was looking for.  So, we headed home so I could rest a bit before going on that night as Johnny Cash again.  This time, our writer Colin Escott, and our producers and general management team were in attendance at the show....ya pressure.  The show went extremely well, and afterward they invited us to Chartres House for some food and drinks.  It turned out to be a really fun night.  Though, it started to sink in even more that we are nearing the end of tour.  Pretty crazy.....
The next morning, Amy and I woke up bright and early to head to Café du Monde for their legendary beignets.  Though we had to wait a bit, I assure you they were worth it.  The place has been there for almost 100 years, and locals and tourists alike agree that there is NO other place to get beignets. Once we filled up a bit, we headed down Decatur St to a little coffee shop to meet our tour guide for a cemetery tour.  Like the haunted tour, we got a very nice walking tour of the French Quarter, as well as a lot of history about New Orleans, specifically, WHY NOLA cemeteries are as they are....above ground tombs....(see pictures above).  There are many factors that I won't bore you with, but essentially it's because of the fact that NOLA is below sea level, and things buried in the ground tend to float to the surface....nice mental image, isn't it?  I encourage you to look up the gruesome history of their burial habits, and the yellow fever, etc. that led to so many deaths in that region in it's early history.  Along the way, we also stopped at the Basin Street Visitor's Center.  It used to be a train station, and thus it had a lot of artifacts from the early days of railroad in that area.  After a quick break, we headed off to our final destination (ooooohh.  Creepy.....), St. Louis Cemetery #1.  Known mostly because of the fact that it houses the famed Voodoo priestess Bloody Mary, and (unfortunately) the ridiculous pyramid that will one day house the remains of Nicholas Cage.  The architecture of each tomb was pretty fascinating.  More than that, the idea that each structure holds WHOLE FAMILIES was really interesting.  If you are ever in the Big Easy, I highly suggest you tour this cemetery.  After we got back from our tour, we met Kelly, Billy, Rosie, Corey and Jenn (Corey's wife) to get some boiled crawfish at the famed Acme Oyster House.  I had had crawfish before, but not out of the shell.  It freaked some of our party out, but really it's no different from lobster; just smaller and not as flavorful.  It was great though, and certainly an experience.  For a little desert, Billy, Rosie, Amy and I headed for some gelato.  It was the perfect thing to top off the evening.  And thankfully I didn't have TOO much to eat, because shortly before the show I got the news that I would be on again as Johnny Cash.  The show went extremely well again, but I was pretty damn tired.  So, we went home.  As we walked home, we found that the main drag, Canal St., near our hotel was blocked off because of a suspected bomb.....not the kind of thing you want to come home to. 
Friday morning started with a visit to May Bailey's Place.  Now a bar attached to a hotel, it used to be a bordello, and is notoriously haunted.  I can't say we say any spirits, but I certainly felt a bit uneasy in there.....after a coffee at what had become my go to place, Royal Blend Coffee, we headed to Jackson Square, and the Louisiana State Museum.  Housed in the Cabildo, a centuries old building founded by the Spanish colonists in that area, it is a comprehensive look at NOLA's history from slavery to disease to music to the Battle of New Orleans and the Civil War.  One exhibit in particular, a surgeon's kit from the Civil War is supposed to be haunted....and from the picture that Amy took with an unexplainable apparition in it....I would tend to agree.  They also had a very out of place but great exhibit about the history of Rock n' Roll in Louisiana; even questioning it's true origins.  Also a part of the museum was a Katrina exhibit (picture above), and one on Mardi Gras, and down the street the 1850's house.  We didn't have enough time to hit all of that, so we decided to get some food at Café Pontalba again.  This time I had jambalya and more blackened gator....
That evening during the show, Amy and Jenn were planning on going on a haunted history tour, and the temperature had dropped quite a bit.  So after resting for a bit, we went out in search of a sweatshirt for her.  Along the way I got to stop into another independent record store, Skully'z.  A great little shop, and I found a couple of gems.  One, a DVD documentary I gave to Billy featuring Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles and Fats Domino.  I made my way to the show that evening, and afterward, Corey and I met our ladies following their psychic readings and had a drink. 
With two shows the next day, and Amy leaving in between, we headed out early to go to the Katrina exhibit that we had missed the day before, and the 1850's House (pictures above).  Both were quite interesting...but the Katrina exhibit was pretty eye opening.  It's quite amazing that they have rebounded as well as they have.  It's a tribute to the people of that city.  Following our adventure, I headed off for the matinee, and when I got back, Amy left for the airport.  Sigh.  So, shortly after she left, I headed to ANOTHER indy record store to celebrate Record Store Day.  I found (strangely) a Johnny Cash box set I didn't have, and a few other things, including a documentary about the resurgence of record stores, and a book about the Louisiana Hayride.  Then, after a quick bite it was off to the theatre. 
That night marked our Jerry Lee Lewis' (Ben Goddard) #$^%*( th, a group of us went out to help him celebrate.  Following that, I took an adventure when Ben E and Robby V to an all night diner, where we seemed to be there for hours...and not on purpose.  The walk home on Bourbon Street at 3 AM was enough to let me know it was about time for me to leave NOLA. 
That Sunday marked our last day in town.  There was an Iron Man (not the super hero, the run/swim/bike competition) event that was going on in Armstrong Park that housed the theatre, so it was pretty difficult to get around.  Cody and I stopped at a hot dog place called the Dreamie Weenie.  It was a hell of a long wait, but well worth it.  You know I'm a sucker for a great hot dog.  Austin and Jam went on for both shows that day, and the matinee marked our last day of collecting for BC/EFA, which I'm proud to say capped off a fundraising endeavor that yielded over $95,000 for these past few weeks!  Just amazing.  I'm proud to be a part of that. 
So, the next morning it was off to St. Louis, where I am writing you from now.  I've been there before, but I haven't seen all that much of it.  Something I will change this time around.  This trip means it is our next to last city....and in one week, we will be saying goodbye to Cody....which is pretty crazy to think about.  We were the first people to meet on that first day of rehearsal on September 11, 2011, and I am going to miss him dearly. 
So, I hope you have enjoyed this week's action packed blog, and that you will stay tuned next week for the next to last one.  Crazy.  Take care everyone, and keep reading!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Live in the Live Music Capitol of the World

The Mahalia Jackson Performing Arts Center

David and David on the Gibson Guitar bus

 Outside the Salt Lick
The Gibson private showroom

Our acoustic set at the Cactus Cafe

The Magnolia Cafe 

MMM.  Salt Lick BBQ 
 Salt Lick blueberry cobbler


 The cast with Earl Poole Ball

 At the Butler School speaking to students

The final proof of my album cover!!!!

 Hello everyone! I hope this month is treating you quite well! This blog is a bit overdue, but it has been a whirlwind week here. So, on to the events of the past week in Austin, TX!

We arrived in Austin after a short drive from San Antonio to find the weather quite warm and inviting yet again. I could get used to this whole idea of Spring.....
Shortly after our arrival, Jam, Austin, Cody, David Elkins and I headed to the Cactus Cafe on the campus of the University of Texas to do a promo. We don't usually do promos on Mondays, but this was a very cool opportunity. The boys got on a small stage and did an acoustic set of four songs (pictures above, video below) as well as talking to the audience quite a bit. They were a great crowd, and along with being taped as part of a weekly podcast, we were asked some very insightful questions. It always makes for a better experience when our interviewers and public ask amazing questions. We were also fed some amazing local BBQ, and when the set was over, we made our way back to the hotel to chill for the evening.

The next day, as we were driving distance from the theatre, I drove Austin to work in the heart of the U of Texas campus. The theatre, Bass Concert Hall, is so named because, like the Bass Performing Arts Center in Fort Worth, the Bass family were the main contributors to the construction effort. After a couple of little stops to and from the theatre, I picked up everyone and we headed into the thick of campus for opening night. As usual, the boys and m'am rocked it out, and the amazing crowd went along with them for a ride. After the show that night, I headed with Billy, Rosie, Corey and Jam to the famous Magnolia Cafe (picture above) for some great egg rolls, and then headed off to catch our first bit of live music at a place called Sahara. I can't say the music was the greatest, but it was awesome to go to a little divey venue and sit outside and enjoy the tunes. I feel like I haven't done that in forever.

On Wednesday morning, Kelly, the David's and Jam and I took an adventure; Kelly's friend Maclovio works for Gibson Guitars, and invited us to not only ride on the official Gibson Guitar (pictures above, video below) bus, but we headed to what is regarded as possibly the best BBQ place in Texas, perhaps the world: Salt Lick BBQ. First of all, being on that bus was a trip. It was a tricked out tour bus with big screen TV's, multiple guitar models, amps, etc. for us to play with. David and I listened to the bus driver Wes talk about his many stories about Johnny Cash along his illustrious career as a tour bus driver. The experience was priceless. That was enough to make the day great, but THEN,.......the BBQ. By far, the BEST brisket and smoked sausage I have ever had in my life. I got a sampler platter that featured the aforementioned meat as well as some great cole slaw, BBQ beans and ribs. It was the PERFECT amount (picture above). None of us were overly full afterward. But then we made the brilliant decision to order dessert: peach, blackberry and half and half cobbler a la mode. Wow. When they brought them out (picture above) with 4 spoons, we realized that perhaps they were meant to be shared....eventhough we all wolfed down our own bowl. It was well worth it. Fantastic.

Having left Salt Lick, Maclovio took us to the Gibson private showroom for a little tour and some photos (above). All in all, it was an amazing day. We made the 45 minute drive back, and got some rest before the show that evening.

On Thursday morning, Jam and I headed down to SOCO, or, South College street to get our pompadours cut at Avenue Barber, and then did some shopping. Oops. I may or may not have gotten a great new western shirt and a pair of cowboy boots....To be fair, I don't have a high end pair of black boots (clearly I will get some use out of them in my Cash tributes), so I looked at it as an investment. And, a tax write off. From there, I headed to an independent record store, Friends of Sound, and found some GREAT Johnny Cash LP's. Again, it's all good. Tax write off....research.....

That night we had a special guest; Earl Poole Ball, long time piano player for the likes of what amount to country music royalty, but most importantly for me, Mr. Johnny Cash. He was nice enough to take a picture with us after the show (above) and told us a bunch of great stories about him, Johnny and Jerry Lee Lewis.

We were feeling a bit hungry, so we headed to where all of the famous food trucks were. I stopped at Wurst Tex for a great sausage sandwich and some fries with truffle oil. MMMM. Truffles. We ran into a bunch of the cast downtown, but I had to head back to the hotel to prepare for a talk I was doing that afternoon. I was picked up, and headed back to the U of T campus to speak to some students at the Butler School in a music business class (pictures above). It was great to be able to talk about the "biz" with these students; they had a lot of great questions, and I hope I gave them a better idea of what it is that I do for a living. After a quick bite, I was dropped back off at the hotel, and then headed off to work later that evening. From there, a few of us headed to the world famous Continental Club to catch a band that Billy and Corey knew a bunch about, The Red Elvises. Man, it was a fun show. And of course, like I do, I had to buy a bunch of shwag. I mean, c'mon. How many times am I going to be in Austin, TX seeing the Red Elvises??????

I laid pretty low on Friday. Saturday was relatively busy with the two shows, and on Sunday I got word that I would be on for both shows as Johnny Cash! The great thing about that was, that not only did I get to go on, but I had 4 straight shows to look forward to, as I was going to be on for the first two shows in New Orleans the following week. I was pretty stunned and humbled by the response from the was a great way to finish the week. Later that evening, a large group of us headed back to the Continental Club to catch Earl's band play. They were UNREAL. All masters of their instruments, great singers, and they have played with the likes of (not including those I mentioned above) Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, etc. Just amazing. Earl invited Billy Bob, Corey, Cody and Ben up to play a couple of tunes (video below).  The crowd just loved it!  Cody and I then took a fateful trip in search of a Johnny Cash tribute bar called Mean Eyed Cat; unfortunately by the time we got there, it was closed. At least I got to see it.

The next morning we headed to the airport for our next stop, New Orleans. It's crazy to think at this point that after all of the touring we have done, that we only have 4 short weeks left. Insane.

Hmmm....other highlights....well, we have raised over $75,000 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids, and we still have one week left to collect in NOLA! We want to break that $100,000 mark! Also this week, Billy started the design of my Sun EP (artwork above). I'm so lucky to have such an amazing artist and musician for a friend. It looks amazing, and now all I have to do is wait for the mastered tracks to come back....and a release will be upcoming! Stay tuned!

That's about it from Austin, but next week will be a whirlwind in New Orleans. I guarantee I will have tons of pictures and stories from the Big Easy! Make sure you check back next week!