Cleveland, March 1

posted by Steve-
The last show of the Eclectica Winter Mid-West Tour, and it was a GREAT one! The folks in Cleveland packed out Nighttown in an intimate setting. The band was playing with an added bit of excitement, as the last show of a tour can give you that extra charge in your spirit. Cleveland is the hometown of our manager, Doug Wood, so he had the added pleasure of having his lovely family and some friends come out for the show. We were also glad to see our dear friend, Cleveland’s own, Anne Cochran. The music was great, the crowd was at capacity and full of energy and we had a great closing show. Now for the other high point of the night. No, make that high point of the tour as far as food is concerned. We capped it all off with this unbelievable bit of pleasure for the palette, the house specialty at Nighttown:
The Dublin Lawyer, the house specialty of lobster meat sauteed in a mild cayenne butter cream sauce with mushrooms, scallions & Irish whisky served with rice pilaf.
Oh sweet mother of God it was delicious!!
Go there. Eat it. Thank me. You are welcome.
I should close out the post of the last show of the tour speaking of the great friends and fans we made along the way, the thrill we had with each other as we ventured through the music night after night, taking a different musical route every time we played, the help we had from sound, lighting and stage techs, the jokes- oh the jokes! We laughed A LOT! Certainly the stories around the saga of the Phorty Pheet of Phunk bus. Cool thing is, after a couple of weeks off we get to do it again in Colorado, Maine, New York and maybe YOUR TOWN too!
Until next time, keep those cards and letters coming, kids!

Rockford, Ill Feb 27

Posted by Steve-
Often times musicians look at a gig and maybe weigh how much they enjoy it based on what they get out of it. You know, sometimes you are thinking about what YOU heard as you played and interacted with the other musicians as you colaborate to create music. There can be a great feeling of satisfaction when you have a “good” night and everyone is clicking and you walk away thinking “hey, I really had a good time playing tonight”. As good as that can feel, allow me to submit something that can eclipse that self rewarding feeling. When you play before an audience and the music you play brings joy to that audience, when people are smiling and listening, being moved by what is played, cheering in appreciation and excited about what they just heard you play, they have become part of the music and the performance. Something that you play has connected with their spirit, caused a reaction and in that action, you have been used for something much more
important than just what YOU get out of the gig.
That’s the way it was tonight in Rockford Illinois and reminded me that the best music is not self serving, even better, tonight was a double reward. I thoroughly enjoyed what was played AND the audience was moved by the performance.
I’m a blessed and humbled man getting to experience things like this!

Defiance, OH Feb 23

from Steve’s facebook:   (check it out for photos)

When there is a problem with the bus that you have leased and the owner declines to fix it, that can put you in a tough spot. The guy was not going to fix the fuel pump, which was really our biggest concern since it could leave us, and tens of thousands of dollars worth of gear, stranded on the roadside. That could also cause us to miss more gigs which equates to big $$$!!
The solution: abandon the Phorty Pheet of Phunk, tell the owner where it is, rent another vehicle. The owner of Phunky Phorty is just happy to avoid any legal action and gladly agrees to our plan. The cool thing is, our manager lives in Cleveland, so he can return the new RV from where it was rented. It took a bit of Tetris skill to get everything packed into the smaller RV, but we’re in it and rolling dependably down the highway. From an undependable, junky 40′ class A motorhome to a 30′ class C motorhome, that in the end should bring us in well under budget. Let’s hope that is the end of this story!!

Bowling Green, OH Feb 22

from Steve’s facebook:   (check it out for photos)

..We eventually make it to Warrensburg, MO. Play the show in Warrensburg. Great crowd, great positive response. (I had to put something positive in here!) Battery’s dead, get another jump from AAA. Head from venue to hotel. Next morning, get another jump. We notice while checking to see that all is secure before departure, the bay door with the pressboard and a sheet metal screw holding it closed, is no longer being held closed at all. At the same time we see that the exhaust pipe for the generator has fallen and is dragging the ground. Great. Go to Lowes, buy a drill, drill bit, sheet metal screws, heavy duty zip ties, two tarps and some duct tape. Did I mention it’s raining this whole time? Pull under the covered lumber loading zone at Lowes, unpack the bay with all our gear, then I crawl into the bay and start drilling, screwing sheet metal screws thru the bay door frame, duct tape a tarp inside the bay for a weather seal and secure the generator exhaust with the heavy zip ties. After waiting that morning for a service truck and spending all of this time on repairs just so we can roll down the highway, now we are way behind schedule again. Combine that with the road conditions between Kansas City and Iowa due to weather and we are forced to cancel the gig in Ames Iowa for that night. Head to Ohio. Bus is running worse. Gained a little breathing room on time since we started driving the night before. Tracy has a solo show that night so we get the night off. Arrangements have supposedly been made by the owner of the bus for us to take it at noon the next day to a Cummins Diesel service facility. We arrive, they don’t have an appointment for us but get us worked in after a short 30 minute wait. Mechanic crawls under bus, says a lot of “wow” and “man, what a mess”. After hooking up to diagnostics and getting trouble codes it appears that the fuel pump is well on it’s way to going out. To replace the fuel pump on one of these things runs about $3800. Owner is contacted and he declines the repair. The owner is defiant on getting repairs in Defiance. Yeah, read that again. So, we go play the show in Defiance that night to a wonderful audience. Things are looking up. We have a plan…….

Warrensburg, Feb 20

Had a blast in Warrensburg. Hung with lots of high school and middle school kids doing a workshop in the afternoon and then played in Hendricks Hall that night for the first show of the winter tour. If you haven’t checked in with steve’s facebook page for details of the tour, click here.

Copying his “Saga of the Phunky Bus” part 1 here:

The saga of the phunky bus:
This is such a long story I might break it into a mini series….
It’s a common and wise practice for a business to try to keep overhead expense to a minimum. The same goes for a band wanting to minimize tour expenses thus increasing profits from the tour. With that concept in mind, when Eclectica was arranging tour transportaion we considered several transportation options: flying to a point then renting a vehicle, using a tour bus with a driver, rent a big van with a trailer, etc. Well, what seemed the most comfortable and economical was to rent a large RV and have our band/tour manager handle the majority of the driving. Sounds like a great plan, now let’s look for our best deal.
The immediate lesson in that is the lowest price is not always the best deal. We initially saved a couple thousand dollars by renting online and having the RV delivered, as opposed to renting locally with a very reputable dealer. Another “plus” to renting locally would have been you actually see what you’ve rented before you take delivery. Online photos can be deceiving and sometimes intentionally not showing problem areas of the online vehicle.
Our first issue was the phonecall from the leasing agent that the 37′ RV we had seen online and leased had developed mechanical problems, so he was sending another in it’s place. The original delivery time was to be between noon and 2:00pm Thursday so we would have plenty of time to load gear and be ready to head out early Friday morning. The RV finally showed up at 11:45pm, ten hours late. The two kids who dropped it off spent just a few minutes going over the general operation. One of our requirements was that the RV have locking storage bays since we would have most of our gear stored underneath in the bays. Of the eight bay doors, only one would lock, one was unusable due to a broken handle and lock, one had flimsy pressboard screwed on in place of the metal door that had been damaged and ripped off. Online, we rented a 2004 in what appeared to be pretty good shape, we received a 2000 with 108,000 rough miles, a major oil leak and body damage to the point that the retractable stairs work intermittently and of the bays that open, only one will lock. I’m nowhere close to being finished. We had intended to get on the road around 5:00 am to make a radio interview and a workshop. Those had to be cancelled because the first half of the day was spent getting a new tire to replace the right front that was split entirely around the sidewall to the point you could fit your fingers in it. While at the tire shop, a locksmith was dispatched to see if he could repair the broken bay door locks. Nope, can’t fix it. Gave him the RV owners credit card number for payment. It was promptly declined. We finally get on the road around 4:00, eleven hours later than planned.
The grey wastewater tank leaks into the water access bay, three of the cabinet doors inside are broken and unuseable, we were supposed to have a widescreen tv to use during travel along with one in the back. We have, instead, a 19″ tv over the driver that you can’t see during travel and the one in the back is not connected. This bus has been in way too many NASCAR infield parties! After spending a few hours on the road we notice a significant surge which gets worse as the miles add up. By day two it has the bus jumping and bucking trying to get up to speed. The owner seems to think an air clamp is loose (really? I think unlikely) so we stop by a truck stop to check it out. More downtime. They can’t find a problem upon visual inspection, other than we’re a gallon low on oil. Top it off and roll on…….

Kerrville, TX–Sept 5

Spent the night in super smelly smoking rooms at an unexpectedly badly maintained hotel in Austin which will remain nameless but which rhymes with Restwood Suites but has a C in front of it. Booked through priceline and beware you priceline users out there—evidently priceline does not guarantee non-smoking rooms.

But our outlooks changed after a wonderful breakfast at an Austin institution called Kirbey Lane. Organic and vegetarian choices and serious pancakage. Right up there with the place in Athens ohio, casa nueva. Then we drive to Kerrville, which took a little longer than anticipated—going through some surprisingly cool towns like Fredericksburg and LBJ’s hometown of Johnson city, TX, which was actually named after a great great great uncle or something like that. Anyway, we pulled into Kerrville a little late but the very pro and yet surprisingly mellow staff and crew were cool with it and we got our soundcheck in just before it started pouring, which it continued to do all afternoon, getting heavier and heavier all day. It was just torrential by the time the music started up at 7. We were last up at 10:30 and by then it had mostly stopped, but the crowd was not the usual several thousand. But for those that were there, it was a fun show and Kerrville is a great vibe, starting from the sign at the entry that greats you with “welcome home” to all the folks involved. It starts from the top down, because it’s run by a very wonderful lady named Dalis Allen.

It was a late night, leaving about 4 hours for sleep before hitting the road at 7 to drive down to san Antonio to return the car and fly home.

Austin, TX–Sept 4

Friday morning, the flight to Austin is delayed by 2 hours, but we still have time to get to the hotel and then to the gig. I sit down on the plane and a few minutes later a woman with a 1 year old boy sits next to me. He’s a charming little fellow but he doesn’t stop moving from the moment he arrives. And about 30 minutes into a 2 hour flight, it becomes clear to all of us in the surrounding rows that junior’s digestive system is fully functioning and that the result is collected in his sponge bob shorts. Mom has either no sense of smell or no sense of civility or no diapers in her bag, so after 45 minutes I take refuge in the airplane lavatory for fresh air.

We land, all the luggage arrives and we get the rental car. Massive traffic outside Austin on this Friday afternoon of memorial day weekend. No time to go to the hotel so we go straight to the club. Set up, soundcheck, hang out, get a smoothie for dinner. Fun show, stretching out and getting into all kinds of crazy musical things. Super nice staff at the cactus café and then to our hotel, which has only smoking rooms for us. Nothing against smokers, but how can anyone sleep with a smell like that. Gives me a headache just walking into the room…it’s the bad smell tour…

Philadelphia, PA–July 22, 23

Last show of the tour. I’m fighting off a cold but we drive up to philly for our last stop at world café live. We manage through traffic and get there, unload, soundcheck and don’t dare trying to make it to the hotel, which isn’t real close, even though we have 3 hours til we start. So there’s a lot of just hanging out in the dressing room. Great last show, and then off to the hotel.

Up kind of early and wend our way through philly to Milkboy Studio just outside of town to shoot an episode of a great TV show called Studio Jams. I’ve played several shows before and so has Futch, so we know the drill. The idea of the show is that you get a few musicians together and film them recording some music. That entails figuring out what to play, rehearsing a bit and then doing a couple of takes. It’s kind of a reality TV show. Generally none of the musicians know each other, but sometimes they’ll work with a group or part of a group and add other musicians to that. In this case we were joined by a great guitar player from philly named Jef Lee Johnson. Jef is a legendary player who’s worked with George Duke, Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, played on records for Billy Joel, Robertya Flack and on and on. He’s a real quiet guy who unleashes crazy out jazzy lines and listens to every note everybody’s playing and finds a way to do something cool with it. It was a huge pleasure to be recording with him and we all left talking about doing something together again. We did a funky version of Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood”, a jam on our own “Sister Swag”, a Miles tune and a few other things. Studio Jams used to be aired on BET and is looking for a new home, so when I know where and when it’s being aired, I’ll post it on the site. A beautiful wrap up to the tour. After the session we piled back into the van and off to the airport to drop Futch and Steve off. Michael and I met my parents for dinner, (they live in Philly) and early the next morning set out on the 14 hour drive to Nashville…

Washington DC–July 21

Drive down to DC. Getting into DC is always a bit of work and even with GPS we went back and forth til we found the hotel. I am pretty exhausted but we check in, lay down and shut my eyes for about 30 min and then it’s off to the club, a place called Madam’s Organ in a part of town called Adam’s Morgan. Very busy part of town with a lot of nightlife going on. Parking is a hassle. We set up, eat some very nice soul food that they specialize in and have a really fun 3 set show that started around 9:30. At one point, shortly after midnight, just after we launched into the groove for hendrix’s “1983”, which is a pretty cool slow vibey thing, a couple of local rappers hop up on stage and grab our mics and start hitting one of their tunes. Turns out they work there and occasionally play there, so the crowd was into it. We eventually regained control of the ship and steered it home about 1:30 am. A slice of all night pizza, which was actually really good NY style (and I’m from NY so I’m real picky about my pizza) and then back to the hotel, with a stop on the way for more bottled water at a 24 hour duane reade. Get to the hotel sometime after 3…

State College, PA–July 19-20

Long drive to state college, PA so we hit it pretty early. Check in to the hotel. Turns out I was at this exact hotel a couple of years ago but I can’t figure out what gig it was or where I was playing…head over to the theater and soundcheck. State college is a cool little town. It’s all penn state so there are lots of places to eat cheap. We find a place called the green bowl which is like a salad bar but for stir fry. You pile whatever you want in a bowl and then they stir fry it for you. We ate a ton, and then back to the theater to play…maybe still digesting a bit, it was a more relaxed show than usual.

We have Monday off, so we’re staying in state college. I spent pretty much the entire day at the computer tweaking this website with the designer and taking care of various other travel and business issues. I thought everything was about buttoned up when I changed one little thing on the site and ti created some kind of coding havoc. Dasha, the site designer, had a near heart attack when she saw what happened and the next several hours were spent dealing with the damage. Got to bed around 3…

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