It is time to tell the story of Friday night and playing accordion with Kevin Fowler. I haven’t gotten to it yet because life keeps getting in my way. Cleaning, gardening, laundry, sleep. I feel like an update of my site should take priority, too, but I am procrastinating on that and I will procrastinate by finishing this tale.
Have I said lately what a great place the Nutty Brown Cafe is to see a great show? Mark and I used to go there for just a fabulous Sunday brunch or any meal (and I still recommend that), but then they built the huge stage and there are lots of places you can just “be” at a show without being stuck in the middle of a crowd. The VIP seating is very nice and restricted, but the smart folks that bring their lawn chairs create their own VIP seating.
It was a beautiful hot summer night for a show, but not as hot as I thought it might be. Those thunderheads were building off to the east, but nothing that was going to interrupt this show.
Just about as soon as I got there and rolled my accordion in from the parking lot because I had missed an important call from Thomas, the production director of the Nutt, telling me where I could have easily parked backstage. Oh well, it is fun to have lots of people wonder what is in that big gray case.
I took my “gear” (I would like to be able to say that with a straight face, but I can’t, I’m an amateur) up to the stage so I wouldn’t be hauling it around all night. A quick trip to Kevin’s bus to find out about the set list (mine was song number 10 on the list) and a big happy birthday to my friend Sarah, who was on the bus celebrating #29. She’s the woman I want to be my Girl Friday when I become famous and need a handler.
Before I had been there very long I saw one of my favorite radio listeners, Mike Connor. The last time I had seen him was at Kevin Fowler’s CD release up at the HEB in Round Rock, which was PACKED with fans wanting that CD (the store ran out and had to go to the closest Best Buy to get more!). Mike and I had a good visit and caught up.
I found Thomas and Ron, the guys who make everything click at the Nutt. They work with me a lot at Hill’s Cafe and Shady Grove. Later Thomas made me VERY nervous when I saw him climbing among the scaffolding of that huge stage (see above? up at that top?) readjusting the lights.
Next I found Sam and Dana and their friend (I can’t think of his name!). All old great listeners that I frequently would run into as I was out and about. They caught me up on their lives and the baby and I caught them up and let them know I wasn’t with the radio station anymore. They hadn’t heard that news and were surprised.
I moved down to the cement apron in front of the stage and found Pat and “Texas Deb” (that’s her motorcycle name) and Joe and Lisa, more listener/friends that I see most often at musical events (well, duh, it’s not like I’m going to run into these people at the grocery store). I saw a man looking at me and then he said, “We sure miss you on the air!” I introduced myself and then found out we’d met before and I knew him best from being a winner on “Let’s Learn About Austin.” Richard and wife Janice looked sharp and it was nice to catch up with them.
Mike Farr, the owner of the Nutty Brown, came along and gave me a sweaty hug (at my insistence). He was working hard getting it all together and making sure it was a great night. He has really built a wonderful venue, not only for the audience, but for the performers to, with a secure backstage area and a fabulous “green room” house that is readily available and big and comfortable. From my perspective, he’s thought of things that most venues don’t realize are important at all ( . . . what? you mean the star of the show can’t just go to the portapotties on the other side of the audience?).
I find my friend Christy and her friend Mindy and end up spending most of the night watching the show with them.
I haven’t mentioned the opening acts, which helped add to my bands for the month and especially the new ones.
BAND #20 (and new band #5) was Smash Cowboys, or something like that. I’m not coming up with anything on them on myspace so I could be totally wrong. I didn’t think they were too bad. I’ve heard some really bad opening acts that make me cringe and these guys were melodic and rocking without being over the top. I thought they were a good match for a Kevin Fowler show. They didn’t try to out-rock him (you just can’t—unless you are Aerosmith) and they weren’t too traditional either.
BAND/PERFORMER #21 (and new artist #6) was Charla Corn. I had just met her a week or so ago at Hill’s Cafe. Her brother, Clay Corn, used my accordions on the new Honeybrowne CD (which I still do not have a copy of, but I heard one song on the radio and it sounded great). Charla just moved to Austin from Nashville. She played a duo with Tracy Martin of Kevin’s band playing guitar with her and she was good. Strong voice, confident, very pretty. She just needs to knock the Nashville off her act a bit and she’ll be fine here.
Okay, finally, it is Kevin Fowler showtime. (BAND #22) And what a show it is. He has the lights, the smoke machines, the stage crew, and the band that make it all work so flawlessly. I have been seeing Kevin since 2001, I think, and he has changed and grown, but it is always an amazing, entertaining performance. There are so many times I plan on only staying for an hour or so, but his show keeps you right there and there is no way you want to be the one to leave!
The band is top notch: Tracy Martin on guitar, Gary Herman on bass, Artie Passons on steel, Ken Tondre on drums, and the newest member, Jason McBride on fiddle. I met Jason on Wednesday night at Hill’s when his brother was playing with Aaron Watson, but I had no idea he was going to be playing with Kevin when I got there.
So, okay, let’s get to ME. I was amazing. I have finally played that song with Kevin and the band enough to know what I’m doing up there. No, I dont’ know what I’m doing on the accordion necessarily, but I know how the stage feels and how the others perform and I know that there is only a couple of times that the audience can even hear my accordion. It is all smoke and mirrors. But I played my heart out, and, yes, I do know how to play the song so I was basically playing it although I couldn’t hear myself either. It is an incredible rush to play to that many people in an audience. I can see why Kevin does it.
Exhilarated, I left the stage, put away my accordion, saw Kevin’s manager George Couri and told him I was seeking a new manager and I went back to stand wit Christy and Mindy. Now that is an experience none of those guys on stage ever get to have… Going into the audience during their show. It was nice to have some of those “Good jobs!” as I went back to them.
Kevin and the band played on and worked the crowd right up until the 11:30 p.m. curfew. I made a quick dash to the car with my accordion rattling behind me and came home feeling flushed with success. What a night! Thank you, Kevin, for making it possible.