Day Two: Pulling Out of Pittsburgh

I think Pittsburgh may have provided my soundest sleep of the tour, which is odd because I dozed in a sleeping bag on a hardwood floor. But a strong seven hours of sleep when you're out on tour is not to be questioned.

Pittsburgh was also the only stop where a dog barked and spun around in circles for our entertainment. Bonecrusher was a vocal little bastard, but an all-around good pooch. Except for that moment in the early afternoon when he pounced on my chest upon Bill's return from the store. Could've done without that. But I exacted my revenge by routinely besting him in a series of tugs-of-war, embarrassing him in front of a roomful of strangers and his doggy parents. He never even came close. I totally wrecked him.

Humiliating a 17-pound pug helped pass the time as Bill attempted to get the tire cover back on the trailer, which wound up being a little more difficult than he thought it would be. Or else he just loved our company and couldn't bear to see us go. Either explanation is possible. In any event, Doyle, Drew (the Falcons' drummer), and I kept watch over the gear (which had to be loaded out of the trailer so Bill could do what he had to do), and I made a ball out of plastic and gaffer's tape, much like MacGyver might do if he was traveling around with a band. Actually, I suppose MacGyver probably would've focused more on reattaching the tire cover to the trailer so we could get to Akron. But I do the best I can with what I'm given.

As the day dragged on and Bill emptied out his supply of tools in an effort to get the tire cover into a position where it wouldn't fly off three hours later, it became harder and harder to stay on our feet. Some moved inside to watch TV. Others walked around while reading a newspaper. Doyle settled in among the tools and took a nap.

That reminds me--Pittsburgh also brought the realization of our second minor calamity of the tour. We forgot to take Doyle's bag. With all his clothes in it. For 11 weeks on the road. Oopsie. Plans were made to have the bag express mailed to the club in Columbus, where the tour would hit the next day.

But first, there was Akron. And after Bill was finally able to secure the front of the cover with an L-bracket (thanks again, Bill!), we were on our way to Chuck's Steakhouse in Akron. You hit all the glamorous stops when you travel with a band.

Aside from being in a less-than-appealing area of Akron (with a drive-thru liquor store next to it and a shady-looking gentlemen's club a few doors down), Chuck's was actually a pretty cool place. And, to be fair, I didn't really see any gorgeous areas of Akron while we were there, so for all I know, we were in the nice part of town. Anyway, Chuck's wins the prize for Best Jukebox of the Week (my selections included the Georgia Satellites, Bocephus, Sam Cooke, James Gang, and Thin Lizzy), and my brave decision to once again try pizza outside of the NYC area was rewarded this time with a pretty damn good homemade personal pie. I am told that the bathrooms were less than stellar, but I made a point to avoid bar bathrooms as best I could throughout the week. So, if you're ever in Akron, try to get out. But if you can't, go to Chuck's.

Maybe Pete, whose vehicle was holding up much better, got into Akron well before we did, enabling them to sample the fine cuisine (and beverages) provided by the Akron branch of TGIFriday's. Frankie was well lubricated throughout the evening, holding up the start of his set until Kerri got out of the bathroom (and then chastising her for being too quick, suggesting that she couldn't have washed her hands) and ending the evening by replicating the "Clerks" parking lot dance in a gas station. In between, Maybe Pete delivered a really strong set, highlighted by a killer rendition of "Can't Hardly Wait," the end of which featured Kelly playing the song's riff while on her back, as captured above.

The night in Akron also introduced two firsts into the world. The first emerged from Kelly's insistence that Frankie says the word "badass" too much. So he made a new word that would serve as a synonym: quontagious. I'm guessing on the spelling, so I'll try and get confirmation, thus enabling you to use the word freely in your everyday life. It's gonna catch on; I can feel it.

The other first occurred midway through Maybe Pete's set. Generally, when people don't know your music, they're obviously gonna want to hear something familiar to grab their interest. It's a natural thing. So when Frankie announces that the band is from Jersey, there is almost immediately a request for a Bruce song. A little obvious, but it could be worse. For instance, it's much better than being asked to do a Joe Piscopo impression. So the Bruce requests, while a little annoying, aren't really that bad.

But sometimes you get the less than obvious, off-the-wall requests. Or at least that's what I discovered at Chuck's, where I saw something that I may very well never see again. Yes, dear friends, I have been many places in my life, seen many things. But none of them shook me to the core quite as much as when a black guy shooting pool moved closer to the back of the stage and put in a request for a Phil Collins song. And he was serious.

Akron. It's a weird place.

The Falcons' set was nearly derailed by a discussion among the kids in front of the stage about various scatological acts. And then there was a kid who just stood stock-still in front of the stage with his arms folded across his chest as if he'd been brought to the show as a form of punishment. I noticed several people doing this throughout the tour. Stop it, imbeciles. You're not earning any cool points. And, yes, I'm dispensing the cool points now. So get on my good side.

But aggressive displays of apathy and talk of Cleveland steamers can't stop a Falcons show. It was probably one of their stronger sets of the tour, with the usual steady assault of originals capped off with an end-of-show jam with Frankie and opener (and friend of the Falcons) Doug McKean (from the GC5 and Rosavelt, among others). They ripped through "Sympathy for the Devil" before bidding farewell to Akron with a quontagious cover of "No Surrender" (with Doug on bass and Maybe Pete's Johnny Macko on drums). Yes, a Bruce song, by special request. This is a tour for the people. As long as those people don't ask for Skynyrd or Phil Collins.

And it was probably the best on-stage moment of the tour.

After settling on a Best Western for the night, most of the rock and roll caravan called it a night, seeing as it was 4:15 in the morning. But, never one to turn down a late-night eating experience, I made my first foray to a Steak 'n Shake with Mark and Kerri for some Strawberry French Toast that tasted a helluva lot better than it looked from Kerri's view.

And, by 5:30, it was time for sleep again.

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