Drumming up free tickets

At long last, the story can finally be shared. One of the greatest, most magical and serendipitous moments of my concert-going career happened more than six years ago… and the statute of limitations on stalking in the state of Tennessee is six years.

Here’s the deal – early in 2013, my wife had the fever for Rock & Roll half-marathons. She wanted to run an out-of-town event. She looked at the schedule and Nashville seemed like the best choice: a mere four-hour drive away, and we’d always heard good things about the city but we’d never visited before. Win-win.

I was at work, and on the phone with my wife as we were debating whether or not to go. I remembered the words of my music buddy Joe Sampson: “If you go to Nashville, you have to see a show at the Ryman.” (For the unintiated, the Ryman Auditorium is an old house of worship – it still has pews for concert seating – which hosted the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974.)

“The Mother Church of the Grand Ole Opry”

So I hopped online and checked the Ryman schedule… which showed that one of my favorite bands, Band of Horses, was playing there Saturday night! And the marathon was Saturday morning – perfect timing! So I immediately tried to get tickets – but the website kept showing me tickets for Sunday, not Saturday. Turns out that the Saturday show was already sold out, and we couldn’t stick around for the Sunday night show that had been added. So close, and yet so far. From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in a matter of seconds. I remember telling my wife, “It’s OK, we’ll go back to Nashville some other time for a Ryman show.” But deep down, I was crushed.

Fast forward to the day of the race. It rained buckets in Nashvegas throughout the entire morning. Monsoon conditions for the whole race. I met my wife at three different parts of the race to cheer her on. She was soaked to the bone, and I was getting sopping wet too, even with a golf umbrella to shield me from the storm. After the race, the sun finally poked through a bit, so we decided to head down to the restaurants and bars along the Nashville “strip”, Lower Broadway. The Ryman is just around the corner from Lower Broadway, so we walked past it during our afternoon travels. I spotted a tour bus in the alley next to the Ryman, and joked with my wife that we should go past it, because I’d seen Band of Horses five times in four different cities by then, and they’d recognize me as a superfan and hook me up with free tickets to their sold-out show. As if!

But as we were joking about that, the Band of Horses bass player got off the bus and headed to a doorway in the alley. Hmm, must be a backstage entrance of some sort… let me think…

There was a Lower Broadway bar that had a back patio on the alley, near the Ryman side door. What the heck, let’s grab a beer and hang out here for a bit. Sure enough, about 15 minutes later, the drummer for Band of Horses, Creighton Barrett, came outside that door for a smoke.

“I wasn’t stalking him, Officer, I swear!”

I really wasn’t, but since he was outside and we were 15 feet away, I couldn’t resist the urge to approach him and ask if I could take a photo with him. And that’s all I wanted – a photo op.

I was positively giddy, and blabbering on incoherently. “Sorrytobotheryou…ImabigfanI’veseenyoufivetimesinfourcities…. wecametotownfromCincinnatiforamarathon…canIgetaphoto?”

Instant Besties!

Creighton was super-sweet about me pestering him during his smoke break. I even screwed up his name and still he let my wife take the picture, and hid his cig behind his back so it wouldn’t show up in the photo.

During our less-than-two-minute encounter, this exchange happened:

Me: Who is opening up for you tonight?

Creighton: Nobody. We’re doing an acoustic set first, then an electric set.

Me (dejectedly): Oh, man!

Creighton: Aren’t you going to the show?

Me: No, it sold out before we could get tickets.

Creighton: You want me to see if I can put you on the guest list?

Me: No, that’s alright, we can try to scalp tickets…

Creighton: Why don’t you let me at least check? If there are any tickets left on the guest list, I can add your names. It’s no trouble at all, and I’d hate to see you miss out on the show if there are extras.

Me (dumbfoundedly): Um, OK, sure.

He then asked me how to spell my first and last name, and typed it into his iPhone. He even held up the screen to me to make sure he spelled it correctly. Then he said “Hang out here, I’ll be back in 10 minutes.”

As soon as the door closed, I thought for sure that we’d seen the last of Creighton Barrett – we’d fallen for the old “wait right here, I’ll be back” trick that band members use on unwanted groupies. But he actually came back five minutes later, and said “You’re in! I put you on the band list for two tickets.”

Unfreakingbelievable! Part of me still couldn’t believe it was true. When we went to box office that evening, I felt super-weird saying “Dotterweich – we’re with the band.” I couldn’t even look as the box office worker went back to check for our alleged tickets. But sure enough, the tickets were there – first row of the balcony, sitting next to relatives of other band members.

Stalking has its privileges…

Before the show began, the ushers even brought us copies of the set lists because we were “special guests” of the band.

Acoustic set on the left, electric/full band on the right.

The show was absolutely fantastic too. My friend Joe was right, there’s nothing quite like a show at the “mother church” and Band of Horses was in peak form. If there’s a Cloud 10, I was most assuredly on it.

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They put out a record of the acoustic songs… listen closely and you can hear me clapping.

Right place, wrong time turned into right place, right time… completely on a whim.

After the show, I wanted to get in touch with Creighton to thank him for being so sweet and generous. I was thinking I could donate the cost of the tickets to a charity of his choice. But I didn’t have any way to contact him other than via public social media – and if I did that, every shmuck in the country would start stalking him at venues. If you’re tight with CB, let him know – my offer to donate to a charity of his choice still stands.

Meanwhile, channeling my inner Casey Kasem, I’d like to make a long-distance dedication to Mr. Creighton Barrett, the drummer who made his way outside the Ryman and found his way inside my heart forever.


Second place = first loser

Imagine you are a pretty smart dude or dudette. (I can’t even imagine that so you’ll have to do it for me.) If so, you’ve probably dreamed (or at least daydreamed) about getting onto the TV game show Jeopardy. You play along at home and do pretty well with the answers… yeah, you could totally be on the show and show that pompous Alex Trebek a few things.

Now imagine you do take the Jeopardy online test, and do well enough that you make it through to the live auditions. And then you beat the odds once again and survive the live auditions. You’ve made it – it’s a dream come true… you’re finally going to have your moment in the sun on Jeopardy!

Then, when you finally get on the show, you have to go up against James Holzhauer. Dude is a total beast. As announcer Johnny Gilbert would say it, “…and our returning champion, a professional gambler from Las Vegas, Nevada whose 17-day cash winnings total $1,275,587…”

James isn’t just winning, he’s winning in spectacular, runaway, big money fashion. Because he’s so smart and quick, he typically has control of the board most of the game, which means he usually finds all the daily doubles. Then, because he’s a gambler, he’s not risk-averse, so he goes all-in on the daily doubles, gets those right nearly every time… and for all intents and purposes the game is a rout before the second round even begins.

The other contestants aren’t stiffs. Sometimes they’ll go into Final Jeopardy with eight or nine grand, which is no small feat. But in nearly every game so far, James has an insurmountable lead.

The other players have the brainpower. If they were on the show at a different time of year, they might wind up as multi-day champs. But if you’re on during James’ roll, you have the unfortunate luck of bad timing. The only thing to do is to go out with a bang:


Sidewalk surfin’… and sidewalk fallin’

Spring has sprung (and I’ve got the allergies to prove it) and thus commences the daily struggle to get the kids off the couch, off the phones and out in the “fresh air” (achoo!).

Leah went out in the fresh air yesterday. She was grabbing a skateboard from the garage as I left to go pick up her younger brother from soccer. When I got home, she mentioned that she had fallen on the driveway and that her elbow hurt. Time for a trip to urgent care…. where time stands still, and the only “urgent” is your urgent desire to get a nurse, then X-ray tech, then doc to show up without an interminable wait in-between.

Four hours later, we finally got a diagnosis: incomplete radial head fracture. Time for a splint, and soon a cast. It’s her left elbow… and yes, she’s a lefty.

Poor thing is gonna have to learn how to text righty. While sitting on the couch.

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Robert Burns knows the score.

If I had a boat…

And if I had a boat
I’d go out on the ocean
And if I had a pony
I’d ride him on my boat
And we could all together
Go out on the ocean
I said me upon my pony on my boat

“If I Had A Boat” by Lyle Lovett

I don’t have a boat. Instead, we have four cars. Which means four tickets in the car repair lottery. About five weeks ago, my 17-year-old’s ancient Honda got a crack all the way across the windshield. It just magically appeared. A week after I got the windshield replaced, aforementioned 17-year-old managed to scrape the rear passenger door on one of those two-foot high poles that are put in public parking lots to… create more business for repair shops and replacement parts dealers, apparently.

I still miss The Far Side…

He did that on a Friday night, and never mentioned anything to me, even on the Saturday morning after, when I woke him up for bowling. The trim piece by the door was loose… and when he drove Saturday, it flapped in the wind and wound up breaking a taillight housing. If you’re keeping score at home, a replacement trim piece is $20… and a taillight housing is $100. Actually the taillight housing is $100 on Amazon or eBay, but I found it at a local auto salvage yard for $80… a penny saved is a penny earned!

Two weeks later, on a Monday morning, he was driving to school and skidded on a thin layer of ice that had formed… right into the back of the car in front of him. Everyone’s OK, it was just a fender bender… but in addition to paying the deductible, I’ll be paying for that for the next several years via higher insurance premiums.

Ah, the joys of old cars and teen drivers, and the magical combination of both.

After all those incidents, I was looking forward to a repair-free week. Walking into the house the other day, I saw this on my wife’s car:

Is it any wonder why I take the bus to work most days?

My son’s car should be ready tomorrow. I don’t know if I’m ready. Where’s that boat?

Wicked good kids

Last night I attended another house concert at the home of my friends Dave and Jacqui. (You can read about the first gig in a previous post.) They’ve always been huge music fans. Now that they’re semi-empty-nesters, they took the plunge and started booking gigs into their home – nearly one a month throughout the year, in what they call their Parlor & Patio series.

Wicked Peace was band performing last night (sans their drummer – it’s a house concert after all). They’re just a bunch of kids from this hills and hollers… Kentucky for most of them, and West Virginia for one.

The lead singer Tanner and guitarist Patrick met in 2013 when they lived next door to each other in the dorms at Morehead State. Started jamming, started writing. Lead singer conscripted his older sister Amanda as a second vocalist and additional songwriter. They nabbed their bass player Jared from the music program at Morehead, and found their drummer Matthew in their new home base of Lexington.

It’s a family affair – in addition to the brother-sister lead singers, Amanda’s husband Adam is the band manager/booker, does album and poster artwork, sells merch, helps direct their videos… heck, he probably changes the oil on the van too!

Wicked Peace did a very nice set of tunes… some songs sounded a bit like Houndmouth, and Amanda’s voice is like a Southern Sandy Denny.

The show included a tasty “pie break” intermission, where Dave and Jacqui served up free slices from a great local bakery called Piebird.

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Great music, gracious hosts, an attentive (no cell phones allowed) and appreciative audience… and pie. What could be better on a beautiful Friday night in the spring? Nothing!

You can check out Wicked Peace’s videos here.

Don’t sleep on these teams… or do.

Virginia beat Texas Tech in overtime to claim the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship last night. Or so I heard. The game tipped off at 9:26 PM EDT. I had to wake my kids at 6 AM this morning. by the time the clock struck zero, I was fast asleep.

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I’m sure it was “one for the ages” or some other nugget of hyperbole from Jim Nantz (who seems to think every word that comes from his mouth is pure gold). But at my age, my beauty rest is more important. (To be clear, I’m not gaining any ground in the beauty department, just trying to keep the ugly at bay.)

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But even if I didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn today, why bother with live feed? It’s a Netflix/YouTube world now. This morning, on my bus ride to work, I was able to watch a 12-minute recap that showed all the field goals from the game. So what did I really miss by not staying up an extra two hours, other than a gazillion Spike-Samuel-Barkley commercials, a bunch of free throw attempts, the always-scintillating “refs going to the monitor for five minutes” and maybe a few Bill Raftery “with the kiss” lines? I’m good.

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There’s no need to watch what happens live anymore. I’ll wait for the recap movie.

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Still the top ranking

“Ranking Roger” of the bands The Beat (a.k.a. The English Beat for U.S. audiences) and General Public passed away a week ago at the age of 56, after a stroke and a battle with brain tumors and lung cancer.

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Ranking Roger (real name Roger Charlery) started out as a London punk rocker before teaming up with Dave Wakeling in The Beat, part of the Two Tone “second wave” of bands that fused ska with punk rock, new wave, reggae and pop music. After The Beat broke up, Roger and Dave formed General Public, while two other Beat members teamed up with Roland Gift to form Fine Young Cannibals. Roger later formed The New Beat and performed with his son, and later still The Beat featuring Ranking Roger.

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It’s worth noting that Ranking Roger was black and Dave Wakeling was white. Well before Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney were teaming up for that schmaltzy “Ebony and Ivory” tune, the Beat were uniting fans of all colors.

“When the Beat were originally going ’round,” he said, “our audiences were so mixed — black, white and Indian, young people and older heads. It was brilliant, and I think we have kind of achieved that today. It is a bit different, obviously, but it is a very friendly crowd and everyone walks out sweating and happy, and I tell myself that’s the most I could ask for.”

Source: New York Times

They also tackled political topics in their songs, most famously in “Stand Down Margaret”… a comeuppance to Margaret Thatcher with the last lines of “love and unity, the only way.”

From the NYT obit: The Beat was born in part out of frustration with the conservative turn in England’s politics.

“To the English Beat,” Robert Palmer wrote in reviewing the group’s second album, “Wha’ppen?,” in The Times, “unemployment, ecology and the antinuclear movement are not separate issues; they are interrelated.”

“Anyone who would like to understand more about the attitudes underlying Britain’s inner-city rioting,” he added, “would do well to start here.”

This nine-minute interview is a great glimpse into Roger’s humble demeanor and his dedicated approach to performing.

Even in his 50s, he was still giving it his all.

That sort of free-spirited yet socially conscious attitude toward life ranks high in my book.