Whiskey Bones Roadhouse, Oct. 9, 2010
Oct. 9, 2010. My brother Ian and I, alongside Dave, Erik, Ryan, Timmy and Banjo Dave of Trampled By Turtles, drove from Fargo to the Whiskey Bones Roadhouse on the outskirts of Rochester, Minn. Our wives, girlfriends, relatives and companions from the previous two nights in Mankato and Fargo didn't drive 320 miles to Rochester. Even Trampled's do-it-all road manager and soul companion, Mike D, was at a family wedding.
Ian and I opened the show and worked the merchandise table while Trampled was on stage. Nights such as this, when Trampled was on fire in front of a roadhouse full of believers, were religion and history, poetry and magic.
The merch table was chaos. The roadhouse was drunk, dynamic and running low on booze. The ATM machines were empty and the bathroom lines were long. Jameson Irish Whiskey sold out two hours ago.
"This is quite an assembly in here," said Colin, appearing in slow motion amidst the ebullience. Colin was a fan of our music and had become a friend. His lingo, sarcasm and wit improved with each alcoholic beverage while his physical movements began to resemble a turtle.
"I heard this roadhouse was going out of busy-ness, but they're making all the loot cake tonight." Colin thoroughly adjusted his black rimmed glasses. "The cap is six. I bet there's almost a G up in here."
Both bands agreed before the show that having all seven of us on stage for the encore was important enough as to temporarily leave merch in the slippery hands of resident con men and comedians.
"Don't even worry about it," said Colin.
Getting to the stage was difficult. Contingents of dancing lumberjacks with plaid elbows flying made sections of the roadhouse impenetrable. Ian and I cut through both bathroom lines, ducked into a side kitchen door, curled through the back room and out towards the side of the stage.
"We'd like to invite our friends to join us, Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank!"
A hero's welcome. I found my place, gathered my microphone, harmonicas and powered up my amplifier. The stage was cramped, but a solace compared to being amongst the crowd.
We ripped into "Drinking in the Morning" with attitude. The crowd sang as if they had been waiting their whole lives for the moment.
"NOW YOU GOT ME DRINKING IN THE MORNING! NO NEED TO WAIT FOR NEEEWWWW-EEEWWWW-EEEEEEWWNNN!"
Dave looked at me for the first solo. Everyone in the room was waiting for it. The harmonica needs something loose enough to swing on. A little space to stretch out and cry, wail and mooaaaannnn. That was all there. The music had purpose, the power of camaraderie and the rowdy encouragement of Minnesotans, proud to claim us as their own. I could already hear the notes I was going to play. I had been shucking in the background until now, but I was set to explode into the solo with a soulful, distorted scream. I was going to blow the roof off of this stinkin' roadhouse.
Feeling the spirit, I spontaneously chicken-hopped toward the front of the stage, as if playing Little League shortstop. When I played the notes and heard nothing, I knew I had stepped on the chord and disengaged the mic. I looked down to see chords everywhere.
For a few beats, an emptiness was in the air ... but not for long. Banjo Dave, Ryan on fiddle, Erik on mandolin and Ian on electric guitar took turns soloing for the people's delight. When given a second chance, I screamed the first few harmonica notes and the crowd went bloody Beatlemania. Loud enough to completely drowned out the music, even my own wailing harmonica. Everyone on stage looked towards Timmy's bass. Timmy never missed a beat. We could watch his hands and feel our way through 'til the crowd settled. If they settled. A great moment, yet a fraction of the euphoria set to be released before pulling the plug on myself. When the song ended, Dave stepped towards me with his right hand along the left edge of a smile, and said, "Classic."
It was past midnight now. The birthday of John Lennon. One more song.
"OHHH YO-KO! MY LOVE WILL TURN YOU ON."
The words illuminated above the room, speaking to us all collectively and personally. The drunken hollering of the crowd was perfect. All within the loving hands of the universe for a moment. Ian stopped playing guitar to put his arm around Timmy. Only the seven of us crowded around the microphones knew Timmy was fighting the flu. We sang with raucous joy.
"MY LOOOOVVVE WIILLL TUURRNNN YOOUU ON!"
When Erik and I returned to the merch table, there was a mishmash pile of cash spread around the table behind Colin.
"Been an exemplary night, boys," said Colin, as the sides of his mouth gradually lifted into a radiant grin. "It got a little insane back here, but I kept it together, for the most part. The bread is all there," said Colin. "I hope that's cool?"
“Yeah, man,” says I. “Together, for the most part, is good.”
“Also, I thought you might be thirsty,” said Colin. “The last beer keg just kicked. The only thing left is cider. I got you boys a couple cold ones.”