Top 6 Gigs of 2008
1) Birchmere – Alexandria, VA 2/23, opening for Christine Lavin. The Birchmere is one of the premier venues for singer/songwriters in the country, and it was a great honor to play there, as well as to be asked by Christine Lavin to open the show. The staff and hospitality were first rate, and playing in front of a 300+ listening room audience is a rare treat in this business.
2) Magpie House Concerts – Salt Lake City, UT 2/8. A beautiful drive through snow covered mountains brought me from Las Vegas up to Salt Lake City. I had met Grant, the host of the series at the 2007 Folk Alliance Conference, and had always wanted to come back to play in Salt Lake City (I hadn’t been there since 1996). The living room was absolutely packed for the show, only a couple feet between myself and the front row of seats. It was one of the most folk friendly audiences I had ever performed for. Everyone was hanging on every word, and the whole night couldn’t have gone better. Even the pregame meal of Memphis-style barbecue was better than I could have expected. (I didn’t expect much out of barbecue in Utah, but it was the real deal)
3) Vanilla Bean Café- Pomfret, CT 6/7 with Jud Caswell. This night was a perfect example of what I love about being a touring singer/songwriter. Vanilla Bean Café is a perfect setting for acoustic music, tucked away in a very small town in the northeast corner of Connecticut. Jud and I had played 4 gigs together in the span of 2 weeks, and we finally had our act together for this show, we had figured out how to play on each other’s songs, and if I do say so myself, we sounded pretty darn good. Despite the very small audience, I have rarely had a better time performing.
4) Chapel Meeting House – Foxborough, MA 10/18 – A very quaint little venue run by a nonprofit organization, they only hold a couple of concerts per year, the room was filled nearly to capacity on a cold October night. The audience was very fun to play for, and I had a very good time making Bill Belichik jokes throughout the night.
5) Moore Music In The House – Rockville, MD with Jud Caswell 5/31. Scott and Paula Moore are among my very favorite people in the folk music community, and it was quite a pleasure to play at their house concert series. Despite having to listen to Jud, the audience seemed to have a great time:) The greater DC area has a pretty good number of venues and house concerts, and it was good to see several other concert hosts and old friends in the audience.
6) Music In The Burbs – Bloomfield Hills, MI 5/10. The last gig of a weekend swing through Indiana/Michigan, Jay and Renee were great hosts, and they had the largest crowd since they began doing house concerts. The room was very well set up for house concerts, and lent itself well to a fun night.
Best Tour of 2008 - Las Vegas/Los Angeles/Utah, February 2008. My favorite tour of the year only had a little bit to do with the concerts I played. The #2 concert of the year, Magpie House Concerts was part of this tour, but the highlights were hanging out in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. I flew into Las Vegas and spent a couple days there, playing a nice concert series called Garage-Ma-Hall. The first night I was in Vegas, I went to see Stomp! Out Loud. That is written up later in this blog. Then, I played a little blackjack in between eating pizza at New York, New York, and watching the lion tamers at the MGM Grand. After the first Vegas gig, I drove to LA, where I watched the Super Bowl with Ryan Brown. It was great to see Ryan, as well as watching one of the best football games you will ever see. Later in the trip, I got to spend some time with Rob Seals as well. And though it wasn't quite as exciting as our 2007 trip to Disneyland, Ryan, Rob and I did have a musicians day out at In 'N' Out Burger! (which is very close to Disneyland in excitement level). After LA, I drove back to Vegas and spent a few more days playing blackjack and seeing some comedy shows, before heading off to Utah for the Magpie concert.
CD of the Year – Though it actually came out in 2007, I didn’t get it until 2008, Andy Gullahorn’s ‘Reinvent The Wheel’ is fantastic. A very close 2nd is Joe Crookston’s ‘Able Baker Charile & Dog’. If you are a fan of acoustic singer/songwriters, you should definitely check out both of these artists, www.andygullahorn.com and www.joecrookston.com
Hosts of the Year – Sam and Erin Hensley, Washington, DC. The weekend of the Birchmere gig in Alexandria, VA, I stayed for 4 nights with my friends Sam and Erin Hensley. Sam a very talented singer/songwriter, (certainly more talented than he turned out to be at NCAA Football on the Sony Playstation). Sam booked me a couple additional gigs in the area, at which he performed as well, and they were great shows. Sam and Erin had the place stocked with Vanilla Coke before I arrived, took me to some very good restaurants (even the Steak & Egg was worth a visit), and even stopped to pick me up some Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food after the Birchmere gig, so I could celebrate the great gig with a couple thousand wonderful calories. I have stayed at a LOT of places over the past 15 years and 400,000 miles, and Villa de Hensley was definitely one of the better experiences. (I’m sure the dominance of DP-led Auburn in the NCAA Football didn’t hurt my opinion of the place.)
Rental Car of the Year – In late May, I toured in Northern Virginia and Maryland, flying into Reagan Int’l Airport in DC. I have been getting stuck with a lot of PT Cruisers over the past couple years, but someone at Hertz was informed as to the fact that the amazing, world famous Dave Potts was renting a car, and they gave me a Mustang. Finally a car that could nearly match my level of awesomeness. (I am pretty sure that’s a real word)
Movie review of the Year – I’ve never heard a movie summed up so well as this; While waiting in line to buy tickets to Batman, There were a couple of college guys in front of us talking about the movies that were playing. One guy asked his friend if he intended to go see Mamma Mia! He summed up all of my deepest feelings about the idea of seeing that movie with his response.. He said, "Mamma Mia! Did you see the previews? I wanted to kill myself." Well said college guy.
Best 2nd Half of a Play – I actually attended several plays (as in live theater, like real people on the stage, you know, no editing or overdubs or re-do’s). My wife and I went to see ‘Wicked’ in Atlanta, we had both heard wonderful things about the show for years. For the first half of the show, I was beyond confused as to what the fuss was all about. It was OK I guess, but OK is the highest rating I could give it. However, just before the break and for the rest of the performance, it really picked up steam, and by the end I could say I was very impressed, and was very glad we went, even though it always against my better judgement to dress up.
Best stage performance of the year – In addition to several plays, I saw Stom Out Loud! In Las Vegas. It is a version of the touring show, Stomp, which I had always wanted to see. It was fantastic, and I will probably go see the show again if I have a chance.
Movie of the Year – In the most lopsided vote in movie of the year history, Batman:The Dark Knight is an easy choice. I only saw it 4 times in the theater, so I am glad it is being re-released prior to the Oscar’s.