Friday, July 18, 2014

The end of the "road", as it were

The amazing Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center

When fully lit, the ceiling has LED stars that mimic the night sky on the evening the Wright Brothers took their first legendary flight

Me dear friend Gary Minyard, introducing the campers we taught in masterclasses, as part of the Victoria Theatre Assoc.'s Shake, Rattle and Roll camp

The bar, from 1861 at Century Bar

Tyler and I getting ice cream at Young's Dairy

Me and the boys doing some radio press

Kelly fawning over her vampire man-crush.  And the copier. 

Reunited with Gary after nearly 13 years

Holding Johnny's signature Martin D-45 

Hello everyone, and welcome to my Dayton blog!  This week was full of plenty of events, excitement, and the end of an era in MDQ tour land.  Here's what happened!

Monday was a very long travel day, as we had to take a long bus ride to the airport, two planes, and another drive to get us to our hotel in Dayton.  Another town, that in places, it seems time had forgotten.  But, there were also quite a few nice things to see.  It was a very hot day when we arrived, and after walking around for quite a while to find something nearby to eat, I round up Tyler and Robbie and headed to Smokin' BBQ, just a stone's throw from the hotel.  It may have looked a little dingy from the outside, but their brisket was some of the best I have ever had.  After heading back to my room and chilling there for most of the evening, Tyler joined me for a bourbon at Century Bar, one of the top 10 bourbon bars in the country.  

Frace and I headed to our home for the week, the Schuster Center (above) to teach a couple of masterclasses to some young artists.  My friend Gary Minyard (with me, above) had contacted the company and I months ago, asking if anyone would be willing to teach a few classes to his camp kids.  We were more than willing to help, and Frace and I taught two 1 1/2 hour classes back to back that day.  The students were all very engaged, and had some amazing question for us about our time on tour, and our careers in general.  I always love doing that sort of outreach, so I was overjoyed that we were able to help.  Following our classes, I headed back to Smokin' BBQ with Frace and his girl Haley for a bite before opening night.  I tried to get in a bit of a nap, to no avail.  We headed off to work that night, and had a relatively good opening night, except for one tiny little hitch; we had not one, but 2 hecklers, yelling at us each and every time one of us lit a fake cigarette.  It was not only horribly distracting and rude, but I think it really detracted from the audience's enjoyment of our show.  We made it through the best we could, but there were literally show-stopping moments where it was nearly impossible to go on until the screaming stopped.  It was perhaps the most embarrassing and strange experiences I have ever had on stage; not one I would ever like to repeat.  Brad started his week run as Carl that night as well, and I was sorry that he had to deal with that.  Despite the unpleasantness, he did a great job and the show went pretty well.  A few of us headed to Lucky's in the Oregon District for a bite after the show.  I wasn't feeling all that well, so I only stayed for a bit; even after they forgot to put in my food order, and it took me nearly and hour to get my food.  Sheesh.  

The boys and I had a pretty long day of press the following morning.  We did some at the theatre, and some at various TV and radio stations.  It was a very productive, but long morning.  And of course, we had to answer the obligatory questions about the heckler from the night before.  Brad did a great job with his first press junket, but I think we were all pretty drained from the morning.  Brad, John and I ate lunch with our press rep in the lobby of the theatre, before I headed home to nap before the evening show.  The audience was great that night, with not a heckler in sight.  I headed to the hotel restaurant for a bite before calling it a night.

Tyler and I had another press jaunt on Thursday morning, heading to an NPR station, and a country radio station with a stop at Young's Dairy (above) and another local restaurant, Peach, in between.  It went quite well again, and after a bit of downtime another great show ensued.  Our press rep arranged for a group of us to get free tickets to see the midnight showing of Jersey Boys that night, so a slew of us jumped in a cab and headed out of town to catch the flick.  Having never seen the show, I was anxious to see it.  I thought it was really well done, and it makes me want to see the show even more now.  It was a late night, but well worth it.  

I had had very little time to explore the area, so I made that my priority on Friday.  I walked around the historic Oregon District in the heat of the day, taking pictures and even stopping in at an independent record store.  I grabbed some sushi at Thai 9 before heading back to my room to regroup before heading to the Schuster to watch the camp's performance in the spacious lobby.  The kids did such a great job, and there were quite of few of the cast there to cheer them on.  We were more than happy to take pictures and autographs afterward, and Gary even allowed us to handle and play the array of Martin Guitars that were on display in the lobby (me, above).  The weather was quite iffy that afternoon, and we were all dodging thunderstorms to and from the theatre for most of the day.  The show went quite well that night with Frace on as Sam (as he would be for the rest of the weekend), and we celebrated what was to be our last weekend as a full group at the hotel bar that night. 

Saturday was quite busy as usual with two shows, and I squeezed in some last minute laundry at the theatre in between.  That night we took part in a post show event in the black box theatre that doubled as our jam room.  Quite a few donors, board members and audience members stayed to meet us, and listen to our amazing Thunderstudies play music for quite a while.  It was a lot of fun to watch them perform some tunes they had been working on for weeks, and following that, it was time to grab some food at the hotel, and also enjoy the company of our cast and crew, some of whom would be leaving us after the following day.  

Sunday brought two great shows and even a visit from Ted, one of our producers.  Frace did a great job again that day, and following the show that night, we said goodbye to quite a few people who would not be continuing on with us to Cleveland.  Kelly, Patrick, Robby, Brian, Nicole and Matt were all done following load out that evening.  Kelly, Matt and Brian have all been a part of the tour since September of 2011 when we started, so it was pretty crazy to think that they wouldn't be continuing on with us.  It truly was a changing of the guard.  What some people don't realize, is that when you are out on the road the way we are, especially in close quarters and with such a small group, we become much more of a family than just coworkers.  And when you see someone nearly every day for a matter of years, it's hard to think you won't be seeing them again any time soon.  However, it is always "til' next time" and never goodbye.  We enjoyed our last few moments as a full group at the hotel that night, and grabbed a night cap at Century Bar.  It was the end of an era. 

We all went our several ways the next morning, with a two week layoff ahead for some, and home for the forseeable future for others.  I made a 24 hour stop in NYC before heading home for much of the break.  I attended to quite a few things I had been putting off for quite a while, and mixed relaxation with helping my parents with quite a few things around the house.  The weeks were spent organizing, catching up on "real life", and mostly time with family and friends.  I jumped in my car and headed back to NYC in order to see a couple of shows I was anxiously awaiting, and to spend some time with new and old friends.  I even got to see MDQ's very own Levi Kreiss in Violet!  It was a treat to see him doing so well, and give such a great performance.  Then came the long road trip out here to Cleveland, and you are pretty much up to date.  

So, there you have my latest installment.  The boys, m'am and I are out here in Cleveland for 3 weeks, and what for some may be the very last stop on their MDQ journey.  I will be back for more blogging soon, so stay tuned for my final installment from the road for the year; it will be on it's way in just a couple short weeks.  Thanks for reading!

A brewery tour, a slew of beautiful theatres and 4 cities in upstate New York

A celebration with friends for Maia's birthday in Elmira

I'm sorry....where am I again?  New York?

Me and the boys doing some interviews (and a bit of taste-testing) at Saranac in Utica, NY

So many barrels, so little time 

That's a big stein, Jack

James IS Utica Club

The gorgeous Stanley Theatre in Utica, NY

Keep reaching, Utica.....

The Clemens Center, Elmira, NY

The Palace Theatre, Albany, NY

The Forum for the Performing Arts, Binghamton, NY

Hey kids!  It's about time I write a few more blogs to keep you updated with all the goings on here on tour!  Yes, I realize that we have moved on from these places for quite a while, but there's something to be send for looking back fondly well after an experience.  And though this was a crazy week on tour, I can now look back and remember all of the high points.  Here follows the events of our week in Upstate NY.  

We made our way from Waterbury, CT on Monday morning to the booming metropolis of Utica, NY (please read this as sarcasm).  No offense to any of the cities that we have visited recently, but quite a few of them have seen better days.  That said, each and every one has diamonds in the ruff to discover, not the least of which are some of the gorgeous turn of the century theatres we have had the privilege to play.  After an uncharacteristic bus stop at a mall along the way, we settled into our meager hotel in the heart of downtown, just a few blocks from our theatre.  After settling in, I made a short trek through dark clouds and impending rain to get dinner at the pan-Asian restaurant Lotus Garden, just a few feet from our stage door.  I was quite pleased, though not with the lack of coffee establishments in town.  The waitress did make me a lovely Korean coffee to go, so I was quite satisfied.  Then I was off to chill in my room for much of the rest of the night.  Later on, I ventured to the lobby and met up with Tyler to head to a nearby pub after a bit of a fracas in the lobby.  I sampled Utica's own pilsner, Utica Club, and after talking with the bartender of Griffin's Pub for quite a while, he took Tyler and I on a tour of the bar's basement.  Parts of it had been used as part of the underground railroad, and much of it had gone untouched for many many years.  It was an unexpected yet awesome experience.  

The boys and I met downstairs on Tuesday morning for a bit of press at the nearby Saranac Brewery.  Housed mostly in an old house that was the original sight of the brewery, it was a really neat place to do some interviews (see pictures above), play some acoustic tunes and even sample the wide variety of beer they make in house.  We all agreed that it was perhaps the best press day EVER.  We headed back to the hotel to chill a bit before opening night, and then headed to our new home for the next two nights, The Stanley.  Another in a long line of gorgeous old theatres that have had sizable renovations in the past few years (see above), and a great place to house our show for a couple of nights.  The crowd was quite appreciative, and so were the theatre's employees, because they threw us an opening night party at the bar next door, Swifty's.  It sounded like a bit of a dive, but was actually quite nice.  They had an array of food for us, and even some free drinks.  After some autographs, some photo ops and some merriment, we headed home for the night.  

I spent much of Wednesday walking around town in a fruitless attempt to find a CVS.  Thankfully I had a wonderful lunch at a quaint little restaurant downtown, and even managed to do some laundry at the theatre.  After a bit of downtime in my room, I headed to work for what would prove to be an amazing show.  The folks at Saranac gave us about 4 cased of beer the day before, so I invited the cast over to sample what Saranac had to offer, while listening to music and sharing our stories of the road.  It was a GREAT night.  

Thursday brought a short drive to Elmira, NY and a bit of downtime at our hotel before heading in our rental cars to the Clemens Center (above).  After a bit of unpleasantness in sound check, we had a great opening night.  Maia's birthday was the following day, so she invited the cast and crew out for food and drinks that night to celebrate at a nearby pub attached to the ice arena.  Nearly the entire company was there (see picture above), and we had a great time just sitting around and reminiscing.  

I spent much of Friday in my hotel room before heading to lunch with Tyler at a little diner called Light's Bakery.  We also got a few things at the grocery store before heading back home to chill before the evening show.  Another great show followed, and I had quite a few people over again to listen to music and hang out, as we are want to do often.  

Saturday meant a drive to New York's capitol city, Albany.  We were a bit off the beaten path, but we WERE across the street from a mall.  So once I got settled I headed over there for a bit of Starbucks and a trip to buy a few of the newly released cast recordings at Barnes and Noble.  After a few moments in my room, the boys and I headed to the Palace Theatre (above) for what turned out to be a pretty lackluster show.  They can't all be the best audience, afterall.  Tyler and I grabbed a quick bite at the IHOP next door before calling it an early night.  It was going to be a long day.....

......because, Sunday brought a first for our cast and crew.  A drive/load in into a two show day.  Phew.  It was an interesting one.  We made the relatively short drive that morning, and arrived at the theatre to drop our bags in the loading dock.  Our amazing crew had slept very little, and had the arduous task of loading in our set only a few hours after loading it out of The Palace.  We had a bit of time to sit and chill before we were offered a nice catered lunch, followed by sound check, and immediately doing a matinee.  The crowd was quite good, and following the show I carted my ridiculous amount of luggage a few blocks to our hotel.  After cooling down and resting for a bit, it was time to head back for the early show that evening.  That night would mark James' last show with us for a while, so following another great show, a bunch of us met in the hotel for some food and a bit of a goodbye to our beloved Pajama James.  Not to worry, dear readers, he rejoins us after our layoff.  

So, there is our busy week in upstate NY, friends.  Though there wasn't a lot of offstage excitement, we certainly didn't have much time to be bored.  Stay tuned for my blog from Dayton, OH, and a little added bonus of my time in NYC, Maine and travels to our "last" stop in Cleveland!!