Just back from debuts in Michigan and Ohio.
It's true what they say about people in the Midwest -- they're kinder and more friendly than East Coasters. By and large, everyone we encountered on this trip seemed genuinely happy to talk with us, help out with questions, or was just generally as pleasant as can be. More than once, I heard members of the band practically exclaim with astonishment: "People are so NICE here!"
I arrived in Ann Arbor a couple of days before the band so I could spend some time with Connie Converse's brother and sister-in-law, Phil and Jean Converse. They graciously offered up their time to me and to documentarian (and fellow Brooklynite) Andrea Kannes, who synched up her trip with mine to minimize demands on the Converses' time. Phil and Jean spent the better part of a couple of days answering questions, reminiscing, and allowing us unlimited access to CC's papers. I'm fascinated by the latter's music and life, and have been performing some of her songs at recent shows.
* * *
The band arrived on Friday, and what a band it was! People often ask at shows -- "how long has the band been together?" Anyone who's seen more than a couple of my concerts knows that this is a hard question to answer, since I have --essentially -- a collective of a couple dozen stellar musicians who all know my music and perform with me regularly. Who I have with me at any given gig generally depends on scheduling and availability. This particular version of the group included Mazz Swift, Etienne Charles and Nathan Peck.
Our first show, at the Kerrytown Concert House, was terrific and packed with an enthusiastic, smart audience that made us feel completely welcome in our first Ann Arbor outing. We can't wait to go back there!
Of course, it didn't hurt that the venue was just a block away from Zingerman's Deli. Oh man. If you're ever in Ann Arbor, this is a don't-miss. And if you're craving some delciious Korean, stop by Seoul Street, a little hole in the wall in the back of a strip mall that serves up the authentic goods and sources their ingredients locally. Alas, everything is served in not-very-green throwaway plastic takeout dishes, but the staff is friendly and accomomodating, and finding this place open late-night one evening was a godsend.
* * *
One funny aside about the Ann Arbor show -- at the intermission, while people were (literally) mobbing the CD table (who knew that people still buy CDs? They do in the Midwest!), a young woman introduced herself and said she'd enjoyed hearing my songs about Romania, her home. "Oh," I asked, "and what part of Romania are you from?" "Maramures," she replied. "Wow", I said, since this was the area I was traveling in when I was there. "Where in Maramures?" "Baia Mare," she said.
Well, that was a first. I've been playing these Romania-inspired songs for a couple of years now, but have never before met someone from Baia Mare (the subject of a song by the same name that I wrote and recorded for the CD "No Further Instructions"). I had to apologize to her in advance -- it's not a pretty song.
The Black Swamp Arts in Bowling Green was the following afternoon and, again, we were received with such warmth and enthusiasm it left us wondering why we don't visit the Midwest more often. Impresario/presenter Kelly Wicks knows what he's doing...all of the food in the artist hospitality tent was grown and harvested on local, sustainable farms. And the coffee was roasted at Kelly's own local coffee shop, Grounds for Thought. I think the best part of the Bowling Green festival for me was the fact that there were so many little kids there, enjoying the music with their families. I love playing for kids, and only wish we got a chance to do it more often.
We drove home after our set on Saturday, a straight ten-hour shot back to NYC, arriving home around dawn.
Next up, the Algonquin!