Sunday, 25 September 2005

Another busy concert weekend, too busy. Several bands I really wanted to see came to the Twin Cities and I had to choose carefully.

Friday night was easy, that was Greazy Meal at the Fine Line. Tuesday would be Cirque du Soleil with Michelle. Saturday turned out to be a problem. Three of my favorite acts, Sigur Ros, Kaki King, and Lavay Smith, all had shows the same night. They were playing the State Theater, the Cedar Cultural Center, and Rossi’s Blue Star Room respectively.

As far as clubs go the Cedar is somewhat lacking, but The State Theater ain’t too shabby. Throw Rossi’s into the mix, and the small, intimate jazz club wins easily. I think it would be nearly impossible to have a bad show there.

I saw Lavay fairly recently, back in June when I was in San Francisco. Kaki had been here in March, but played a very short set. It’s been over a year since I saw Sigur Ros.

In my head I knew that I’d enjoy myself regardless of which show I ultimately chose, but that really didn’t make it any easier.

Lavay would be back in the area come November and Kaki was playing in Duluth a couple days later, so Sigur Ros seemed the way to go. Unfortunately, when it came time to buy tickets, I could only find nosebleed seats. Delighted, my attention turned back to the Lavay Smith show. I figured I’d see Greazy Meal on Friday, Lavay on Saturday, hit Duluth to catch Kaki King on Monday, then drive back Tuesday to see Cirque. If I didn’t collapse from exhaustion, I’d be back to work on Wednesday.

When it came down to concert night, there was no way to make the Duluth plan happen. But I still had Lavay, so everything would be OK.

When I had made my reservation I asked for something in the 2nd row of tables. They didn’t tell me of any problems at the time, so I figured it would be no big deal. Unfortunately, when I got to the club they gave me a table basically just inside the door. The sight lines were still pretty good, but it was a let down after sitting up front in San Francisco. A quick conversation (and perhaps some begging) with the hostess didn’t pay off. She wanted to help but there wasn’t much she could do until after the main dinner seating. She promised to keep me in mind and see what could be done.

20 minutes later, the hostess kept her promise and I was rewarded. My new seat was much better: Right. Up. Front.

As with the San Francisco show, the band did a two song warm-up. They started with Illinois Jacquet’s “Symphony In Sid” and “Tickle Toe” by Count Basie. After that, Lavay came out and did “Busy Woman’s Blues,” “Daddy,” “Kansas City Boogie,” “Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl,” “Big Fine Daddy,” “‘Deed I Do,” “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You?,” and “Walk Right, In Walk Right Out.”

Between sets I got a chance to talk with a few people in the band. First was Lavay herself. She didn’t know why, but my face was vaguely familiar. When I explained that I had flown 1500 miles to see her show back in June, she lit up. I added that she had been kind enough to sign both of my CDs, but I was star-struck. I completely forgot to ask for a picture with her. She said “that’s the sweetest thing!” and gladly helped me correct the error.

Next I ran into the piano player/band-leader. He recognized me right off, but just that it was from a previous show. Again with the 1500 mile story and I asked when the new album was due. “December, maybe January depending upon packaging. It’s mixed and ready to go, but there are a couple details to work out.” I don’t want to wait that long!

Finally I caught the trombone player, Danny Armstrong. In June I had made a point of introducing myself simply because we have the same last name. Hey, it was a good opening. He made my night when he took one look at me and said “Cuz?” something we had joked about in June.

After the break, it was another two song warm-up: “Dizzy Atmosphere” and I think one called “Doolittle.” I missed the title of Lavay’s first song, but it was a Billie Holiday number. Then came “Don’t Mean a Thing,” “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans, ” “What a Little Moonlight Can Do for You,” “Evil Gal Blues,” “Happy Birthday” for two people in the audience, “Everybody’s Talkin’ ‘Bout Miss Thing,” “”On the Sunny Side of the Street,” “Jumpin’ In the Mornin’,” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

Through the whole show I was grinning like a fool, clapping and singing along, totally into it. Along the way I realized something. Even though I listen to tons of music and enjoy a wide variety of stuff, most of it failed to excite me any more. But Lavay and the boys truly brought joy, no exuberance, into my life. They are the first band in a very long time that has done that for me.

Afterwards I talked to Danny again and caught Chris to thank them for a great show. Chatting a bit longer I asked, “What are the odds I could get a picture with the whole band?” To my surprise Chris said it shouldn’t be a problem if I can wait around for a while.

That’s how I found myself hanging out with the band after most everyone else had gone. I got to talk with most of the guys as regular people. I know they’re just like the rest of us, but when it’s a person or group you really admire, there’s still something exclusive about it. I don’t usually get a chance at this kind of thing, so it was oh so cool!

Eventually a couple of the guys decided to call it a night. I caught Chris again to say goodnight so he wouldn’t run around looking for me later. Before I could tell him not to worry about it he hollered “Hey! Michael, the guy in the hat here, wants to get a picture with the band.” 60 seconds later everyone had gathered and one of the two remaining patrons snapped the picture.

I didn’t sleep at all that night I was so charged up. Their November show is the same night that G. Love plays First Avenue. I didn’t know what to do before, but now I know exactly where I’ll be: at Rossi’s to see Lavay Smith again.

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