Day Five: Lions and Tigers and Falcons, Oh My!
Yessir, the mercury slipped to a brisk 196 degrees below zero when I awoke in Huntington or Barboursville or wherever exactly we were in West Virginia. OK, you got me. It wasn't really that cold.
I was actually getting used to the little-sleep routine, and by this point I was getting up earlier than everybody else so I could see what the daylight looked like. I spent the morning crossing the highway to check out the Grandview Weekend Outlet, which had a ton of crap and a handful of good deals, a bare-bones CVS, and a creaky, near-abandoned mall that housed the prestigious Huntington Beauty School. It was a little past 11 when I wandered over, so there was a fair number of people strolling around. After about 10 minutes, I got bored and walked back to the hotel to read the local paper.
Soon the rest of the troops were stirring about and it was time for breakfast, just after the crack of 1 p.m. But it was the Breakfast of the Week at Tudor's Biscuit World. The mere fact that West Virginia is home to a chain of restaurants built around the biscuit makes me think that all those backhanded slaps to the state are completely unwarranted. I had some fried apples on a biscuit and pancakes, and followed that up with some taters and a buttered biscuit to go. The taters and extra biscuit only made it as far as Ashland, Kentucky, where we stopped for some cheap Camels for the smokers in the rock and roll convoy. They walked out of the convenience store with cartons under their arms and joy radiating from their faces.
It was about a six-hour drive to Detroit, so I settled in with some Su Doku (returning to the game after a long absence) and took the occasional catnap, which I was also getting very good at. We stopped for a bathroom break in Ohio, where I happened upon the first cologne dispenser of the tour. I briefly considered plunking down a couple of quarters for a Drakkar/Obsession mix until I realized that the other four people in the van might not find it as funny as I would, particularly with about three more hours of driving ahead. So I settled for a picture.
Though the -196-degree sky at the top of this post might indicate that we had glorious weather for the ride, it's not true. By the time we hit Ohio, the sky was turning an ominous shade of gray and the clouds were ready to burst. They finally did in an impressive thunderstorm (lightning looks cool on a flat Interstate highway) that ended with a perfectly arched rainbow sometime after we passed the outlet for the unfortunately named Coons Candy.
As Mark was flipping around the radio for the Ohio State football game, I heard the familiar tones of Hairl Hensley. Then I remembered that the home of the Grand Ole Opry, WSM 650 Nashville, had a real strong signal, which, as it turns out, spreads to Detroit. So after stopping for dinner at Wendy's, I asked Mark if the Ohio State signal kept fading out if it would be possible to listen to the Opry for a bit. He was gracious enough to do so, and we got to hear Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, and my main man John Conlee (doing the quintessential '80s country song, "I'm Only In It For The Love") before Jim Ed Brown came on and I gave full permission to Mark to abandon the Opry. It was pretty sweet to hear the Opry, particularly since Sirius recently stopped carrying WSM. I would be mad at Sirius, but they recently aired Todd Snider's Tipsy Gypsy Hour and next week, Artie Lange's making out with Blue Iris, so I can't stay mad long.
When we got to the 2500 Club in Detroit, Doyle got out to ask where we should park the van. Soon there was a guy in a hoodie with "Parking" written on it telling us where to go. We pulled right in front of the club, and he told us to just stay there, even though we'd be parking right in front of a fire hydrant. Then, after a few minutes of thinking and a lot of gibberish, he took a highway traffic cone and just put it right over the fire hydrant. Voila! It fit perfectly. Up until that point, the guy was annoying me, but that move upped my opinion of him considerably. I'm still not convinced, however, that he didn't just buy a shirt with "Parking" on it and appoint himself as parking attendant.
It turned out that I could see Comerica Park from outside the club, and because of a rain delay, the Tigers-Royals game was only in the 4th inning. After loading in, I decided that I couldn't be that close to a ballpark (and to a potential division-clinching game) and not go in. So I ditched the 2500 Club (sorry, opening bands) and walked over to Comerica Park, where I bought a $15 SRO ticket and took in about five innings of the game.
I spent most of my time at Comerica trying to find a decent hat, but with no hats commemorating the actual stadium, I came up empty. I contemplated buying a Justin Verlander shirt (a key fantasy baseball pick-up this year), but ultimately decided against it. It was a pretty cool park, though, especially the statues in right-center and the dancing fountains in center field. Would've been cooler if the Tigers had won and clinched the division, of course, but it's all good, because without that loss and the one that followed, they wouldn't have been matched up with the Yankees. And we all know how incredibly awesome that turned out. Let's go Mets!
I also snapped a picture of the Fox Theater marquee on the way out, because I love the old school neon marquees. Even when they're advertising a Vince Gill show (I keed, I keed; he's touring with NRBQ's Al Anderson in his band, so he aint all bad).
The third band of the night was midway through their set when I got back to the 2500 Club, meaning Maybe Pete was on next. It was also their last night of the tour, so I was looking forward to a big finish from both bands. After the opening hardcore and punk bands, it was once again a rough crowd that faced Maybe Pete (from about ten feet back) at the beginning of their set. And it took them a little while to get their stage legs under them before achieving total domination. They even had their very first crazy mosher, who was slam dancing with one other willing participant and trying to entice others (including me...no thanks) to join him.
He was well behaved for the most part, until Kelly came down from the stage to play, and he started dancing near her. I was keeping an eye on him for awhile and then all of the sudden, he kind of swooped in and, I think, tried to kiss Kelly. I had a brief vision of the night going horribly, tragically wrong, but Kelly held her own and worked out of the situtation. She also wriggled out of a headlock the guy started to wrap her in a few minutes later. First lunatic mosher successfully handled. Congratulations, Kelly.
There's a point during the Hudson Falcons' "Revolution" that someone from the crowd usually comes up and yells some hearty "Revolution"s into Doyle's mike. No one was stepping forward, so I figured this was my shot. Yep, I made my stage debut in Detroit. I kinda lost my place for a bit, but it went OK. Some other guy came up to the stage, so any pitchiness was all his fault. I take no responsibility.
Then, a few seconds after I got off the stage, the show got shut down. Coincidence...or something more?
Turns out the 2500 Club has been having its own troubles of late and can't afford to get any more violations and lose its liquor license. So the show had to end at 2:30, with the Falcons only about two-thirds into their set. So there would be no big finale with the folks from Maybe Pete, no big sendoff as we headed back to New Jersey. What a drag. And an anticlimactic ending to some of the most fun I've ever had.
I took a plane home early the next morning and headed back to civilian life somehow exhausted and rejuvenated at the same time. It's definitely not easy being out on the road (and even harder when you're in a band trying to make a living doing it), but if you're with the right bunch of people, it can be the most exhilarating thing in the world.
Thanks to Mark, Kerri, Doyle, Drew, Frankie, Kelly, Bino, and Johnny for a quontagious time on tour. And please go see the Hudson Falcons if they come anywhere near you on the rest of their tour (see their website for dates). They'll be glad to see you.
'Til the next time.