Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The birthplace of Delta Blues, a homecoming for H. Brad, and the tale of 2 Springfields

One of the first juke joints offering blues to the people of Mississippi

The Dockery Plantation, known as the birthplace of Mississippi Delta Blues

Bologna Performing Arts Center, Cleveland, MS

Vada Sheid Performing Arts Center, Mountain Home, AR

Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts, Springfield, MO

Sangamon Auditorium, Springfield, IL

Me Springfield, IL

My dear friend and IWU SoTA alum Maggie came to visit!  

And so did my IWU dance/movement/stage combat professor Jean!

Hey everyone!  My apologies for another overdue blog, but as I have said a million times, it is busy out here.  This week's blog tells the tale of a week in the moderately distant past; of Blues legends, Arkansas nights, and visits with good friends.  Without further ado, here are the events of the week.  

After our great day off in Memphis, the cast headed to Cleveland, MS on Tuesday with an impending show that night.  It wasn't too long a drive, and though I was not feeling the greatest (which seems to becoming a trend....), I was excited for the events of the afternoon precluding our show.  Colin Escott (Sun historian, musical know-it-all, and the writer of our script as well as the amazing book about Sun, Good Rockin' Tonight) had contacted Gabe about bringing him and a couple of other people on a bit of an early American music pilgrimage not far from our hotel in Cleveland, and he asked Jake and I to tag along.  So we hopped in Colin's SUV as he drove us to seemingly the middle of nowhere for us to take in some musical history.  First we stopped at Po' Monkeys (above), a jook joint featuring the best of the best blues musicians from all around the Delta since the mid 40's.  A crazy little place that is apparently only open "when somethin's going on".  We then headed a little further away from the hotel to visit what is widely regarded as the birthplace of the blues, The Dockery Plantation (above).  It was here that legendary blues man Charlie Patton honed his skills while farming the land, with a slew of other musicians that changed the face of the blues, and thus were instrumental in creating what we now know as Rock n' Roll.  We talked to the caretaker for quite a while as he pointed out all of the places where Charlie and others honed their craft, and he gave us more information than I could have imagined about the history of the area, the plantation and the birth of an art form.  After a great afternoon, the four of us headed back to the hotel for a little bit of downtime before our only show in Cleveland that night.  We headed to the theatre that night, and greeted Frace and Jimmy who were joining us on stage that night at the Bologna Performing Arts Center (above).  The show went off without a hitch, and the folks of Cleveland, MS were definitely ready for our type of show.  Colin and his wife were in attendance, and it was really nice to catch up with them a bit after not having seen them for so long.  After the show I laid pretty low in my hotel room, as I anticipated the long drive to Arkansas the next day.  

The drive to Mountain Home, AR took much of the day on Wednesday, so when we got in it was time to lay low a bit.  I headed to the nearby Sonic for dinner that evening after driving around trying to find a place, and following some time in my room I headed to the Arena Bar within walking distance of the hotel to join the crew and some of the cast.  We played arcade games, had a beer or two and hung out for quite a while before adjourning to the hotel for some rest.  

Thursday was a bit stressful for me; I had hit a bit of a deadline to tape an audition for my agent, and as I had mentioned before, I hadn't been feeling well for much of the week before.  So, it was now or never.  While trying to go over my sides and music, as well as enlist the help of Frace and Jimmy to read with me and tape, I was also fielding phone calls from my agent (turning down 3 jobs in the course of a 10 minute phone call is never easy), and taking Jake to get his hair cut and for lunch.  Sheesh.  It was a busy afternoon.  Once my audition was taped, it took forever to upload, edit, and subsequently send it out, so it had me a bit frustrated.  Once finished, I jumped in the car with Jake to head to a nearby resale store, Flashback, to shop for some clothes and records quickly before we headed to work.  I of course found a couple of Cash records, and the two of us jetted back to the hotel to pick up Gabe for another one off show that night.  Brad went on for the closest he would get to a hometown crowd that night, and Frace was on for Bryan again, who had taken a couple of personal days.  Though the space was a bit strange (above), the show that night at the Vada Sheid Performing Arts Center went extremely well.  After the show, I invited the boys and m'am to my room for a viewing of My Father and the Man In Black, the documentary made by my friend and son of Johnny's longtime manager, Jonathan Holiff (he met all of us last year at rehearsals in NYC, if you recall).  After the movie and a moderately late night, it was time for some rest.  

We had a nice late bus call on Friday for our drive to the first of two Springfields of the week, Springfield, MO.  We arrived at our hotel in the early afternoon, and I spent much of the afternoon chilling in my hotel room.  The boys and I jumped in the car that evening (our hotel was a bit in the middle of nowhere) to grab a bite to eat and some much needed caffeination before making our way to the Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts (above) for the first of 3 shows in town.  Bryan was back for the show that evening, Bradley joined us as Carl again and it went extremely well; the crowd was not as enthusiastic as the prior two towns perhaps, but they were still great.  I went back to the hotel after the show with the boys, and after getting sucked into a few things on my computer and on tv, I headed to Patrick's room where he, Jake, Colte and I listened to some of our recently procured records.  We were up pretty late, so I headed back to my room for some sleep in the early morning. 

Thought moderately busy with two shows, my Saturday was pretty low key.  Jake got a bit of an allergic attack with some of the allergens in the air, so Skye was on for both show that day, doing a great job as usual.  I opted to head back to the hotel by my lonesome between shows for a short nap, and then grabbed a nice salad at Panera before the show that evening; all three shows in MO went quite well, and after a quiet night by myself at the hotel that night, it was time to head to bed before another travel day into a show on Sunday.  

It was a bit of a drive to Springfield, IL that day, but we did have quite a bit of time to rest at the hotel.  I had been looking forward to our return engagement at the Sangamon Auditorium (above) for quite some time.  Not only had the audience been INSANE there the year prior (we were booked for this year's show that same night), but I had quite a few friends coming to the show.  Due to our close proximity to Bloomington, it would be one of the first times a few of my professors from IWU would have the opportunity to see me perform since I graduated 14 years ago.  The boys and I headed to the theatre that evening, a bit tired from the week but ready to do one last great show.  And, as they had been before, the audience blew us away.  It was truly one of the best shows and audiences we had had in quite some time.  Afterward, I met up with Nancy Loitz (head of the School of Theatre Arts during my days there) and her daughter Zoe (who was probably 4 the last time I saw her), my dear friend Maggie (above) who graduated a few years ahead of me, and Jean Kerr (above) who taught me just about everything I know about movement, dance and stage combat.  It was really heartwarming to see and talk to them, and though Nancy and Zoe needed to leave, Maggie and Jean planned to join the cast and I for some live music downtown.  On my way out of the theatre, I ran into a van of folks from Bloomington who desperately wanted to meet the IWU grad in the show.  We talked for quite a while, and it turned out that a few of them had actually seen me in shows at school.  Pretty crazy.  I headed to Bar None with Gabe to catch Big Sandy and the Fly Rite Boys, a great rockabilly band that Patrick knew personally and had played drums for.  It just so happened that they were in town at the same time as us, so it was pretty cool that we got to catch their set.  I got to catch up a bit more with Maggie and Jean before they had to make their way back to Bloomington, and the boys and I stayed for the rest of Sandy's set, after which I of course bought all of their merch.  We then headed back to the hotel for the impending travel day to Oklahoma City the next day. 

Another week is crossed off our schedule, and each blog I write brings us one week closer to the end of tour; a crazy thought.  I hope you enjoyed this week's installment, and please tune in for tornado fun and bad weather (and bugs), and a whole lot more from Oklahoma City next time around!  

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