I found myself at GTG Fest Part Three, watching 11 bands over the course of an evening. They asked me to perform in between bands to an audience that was hanging out in the alley behind marxist art gallery Basement 414. I did not know I would be performing, so I had no instruments or stage outfit with me. I performed in cargo shorts and t-shirt (a no-no for JU performances usually). What an audience this was. One section at a time, I got them to sing a four part backing track, while I sang “River To the Sea” and they got it perfect. I don’t know what it sounded like out in the alley, but from the stage it sounded great. They took direction very well.
Next, I found what during the school year is an open mic in Bloomington, IN. Since it was summer, there were no musicians. But they still had a stage and a PA, and when I asked if there was the usual scheduled open mic, they said “yes, but you’ll be the only one.” So I set up and performed for the six people who were there. It was a shame I had not had a real show there, because the sound system was good and the acoustics were decent. I plan on booking a show there in the Spring if I can remember the name of the place.
Then it was off to The Mill in Iowa City to perform at their usual Monday open mic. What an appreciative audience. And a nice room, completely separated from the main bar area. J Knight’s open mic has been happening there since the seventies, or so I’ve heard.
Then, I had a scheduled appearance at Roxie’s Patio in Sioux City, IA. Now that I’ve been there, I understand the name. All the furniture inside is patio furniture, and there are umbrellas at the tables. I gave them the full performance, and I made a few fans. Someone even bought me a root beer!
Then the northern road to Fargo and the Red Raven. I’ve been going back to the Red Raven and building up fans a few at a time. A great coffeeshop, in a new location since last year. Nice stage and sound system, although the room is a little verby. Really cool people there. Bicycle people, artists, gamers…my kind of people. Folk duo Kaboom Rawr opened the show with their guitar/accordion rock songs, and electronic act Lava Proof Boots did the middle slot and hypnotized us all with hard-hitting rhythms and electronic noise.
The next day, a scheduled appearance at the Thursday open mic at Rhythm Records and Cafe in Bismarck, ND, one of my favorite towns. The thing that separates Bismarck from most other cities in the country is it’s vibrant “strip” straight out of the fifties. Standing on the sidewalk outside the record store for an hour, I saw no fewer than 20 big trucks with a bunch of people in the truck bed screaming at people in the sidewalk. If you haven’t been screamed at from a passing vehicle, then you haven’t truly experienced the city of Bismarck. The show went well. Some of the regular people from previous Bismarck performances were there, plus a bunch of new people. Ryan Schweitzer did a poetry set, as usual, but this night in particular he was dead on. Man, what a performance! I purchased Weird Al’s first two albums and Paul and Linda McCartney’s “Ram” on vinyl. Records are arranged by price, and in no kind of alphabetical order. You simply have to look through every single record each time you go to the store. That night there appeared to be about 50 people, and it looks like about half of them were purchasing vinyl. I don’t know how well the store did that night, but it sure looked like it was going well.
Off to the three-day Why Not? festival in Minot. Three days and about 6 million bands. Highlights: the joke band Gallons of Bacon put on a stellar performance at 62 doors to an audience that was singing along to every song. I enjoyed their song structures and their sense of humor. Progressive Metal band from Australia, Dead, performed a bit after me, and I was transfixed. I bought their LP. And then there was the highly impressive Atom’s Rite. Honestly, listen to their music…it’s up there with Tortoise. They played a disappointingly short set. My show went as well as it possibly could have. My fanclub showed up wearing unicorn horns. People sang along. Everyone had a good time. And once again, the people in Minot showed me more hospitality than I could have asked for. It was the last show of the tour, and it was the best possible end for the tour. The floodwaters have receded, and the city has begun to clean up. The art community there remains as vibrant as ever!
Thank you everyone who helped me get in the black on this tour. Stay tuned for next year!