The Mill - Iowa City. What a great little club. The atmosphere reminded me of the old Lion's Share in San Anselmo although I think The Mill is a little larger (capacity 350 approx and the NRPS pushed that to the limits!) and has a full bar (uh oh). Before the show, Tricia and Brad took us all out to eat at one of their favorite restaurants, Mekong (which is actually Thai and not Vietnamese). We had a private dining room and all the "heat" we could take.
After dinner, we went back to the club where the band put on an amazing show. Even more amazing was the audience - packed to the gillies and ready to party - and the number of people who were not even BORN when NRPS recorded PANAMA RED yet rushed the stage to request it - that was a real moment. Brad and Tricia pretty much knew everyone in the club so it really felt like home.
OK, Tricia and I put away quite a few Tequilas so I cannot really recount with any accuracy the evening's events but I do know NRPS played LOUISIANA LADY, which has ALWAYS been one of my very favorite songs. I have my own set of words to that chorus which always play in my head when they do that song. Thanks to Timmy, I do have the set list which does help. The band opened really strong with DEAD FLOWERS and they did not slow down all night. The band also played PEGGY O which is one of my favorite songs in the whole world. It made me really miss the DNB all the more but they were great and Buddy's pedal steel work on that song was really something. David (Nelson) has never looked happier - he had a shit eating grin on his face from the moment we walked into the restaurant right up to the end of the evening with RAINY DAY WOMEN #12 AND 35.
It was good to see all the guys in the band and the family Toast (Captain and Little Toast), SkareCrow and Timmy. That crew takes amazing care of the band.
The next night, we were on to St. Louis to the Lucas School House which is a new venue in a renovated church. Really cool except for the long and windy stairs. Major props to the crew for getting the equipment all the way up those stairs - sheesh, they could put in a freight elevator! What a great time we had. Billy Laymon showed up and sat in with the band on a couple of tunes, which made the evening all the more special. And at one point, we had a kick line going down in front of the stage. I cannot remember what song we were dancing to when THAT happened, though (but perhaps Tricia does). Again, I put away a considerable amount of tequila before going to the band room between shows and downing a fair amount of Johnny Walker black label. After the second show, David Nelson, Johnny Markowski and myself finished off said bottle of scotch. Needless to say, next day I was planning my funeral (but NRPS agreed to play my service so that was OK). Here is the set list for the two St. Louis shows:
SING ME A RAINBOW
WHATCHA GONNA DO
I DONT KNOW YOU
GARDEN OF EDEN
LOCHINVAR W BILLY LAYMON
15 DAYS UNDER THE HOOD
LAST LONELY EAGLE
ONE TOO MANY STORIES
HENRY W/BILLY LAYMON
RUNNIN BACK TO YOU
LET IT BLEED
TAKE A LETTER MARIA
RIPPLE W/BILLY LAYMON ON ACOUSTIC GUITAR
I must admit we had a hell of a taxi ride back to the hotel but again, I do not much remember it.SHAWNEE CAVES
This was probably the weirdest event of the weekend. Hell, weirdest evening of the year for me (so far, anyway). First of all, I was dying. Let me just get that right out there. Despite David's best efforts to caution me against drinking too much, I did so anyway and paid dearly for it in the morning. We got to the venue (which is a cavern front to an actual CAVE in some sort of park) and were told by the teenagers at the command post that they did not have the guest list. Further, we did "not look like you are doing the tour..." (whatever that meant). However, they ultimately stamped our hands to let us in. I inquired about parking and backstage and they said we should talk to the promoter, who was described as "an old hippie with long grey hair and beard and a bad attitude."
Whoops! We started down the access road (well, we were NOT going to park miles away, I can tell you THAT) and got about 100 yards or so when an old hippie looking guy came running up and challenged us. "Hey! Where do you think you're going." I said, "To the stage, we are with the band." "Who are you?" "Michelle McFee." Then this old fart says "I'm Animal" and started to hug me as if we were old friends. I thought OK, this is creepy but he fits the description. Animal jumped in the back seat with Tricia and we continued another 200 feet or so before we got stopped again by another crotchety old fart. Same conversation, worse attitude than guy#1. I jumped out of the car to talk to him and he finally said "How do I know you are who you say you are?" to which I replied "because nobody else would claim to be ME." Begrudgingly, he handed me a VIP wrist band and said that would get my friends and I into the backstage area. He told us we could park nearby if we were planning to leave early and I said, "Can't we park by the (band's) bus?" "no." OK. So down we go, first old hippie in tow.
We get to the stage area and I asked David, "Do we know some guy named Animal and if so, why." David got a real freaked out look on his face and said, "Yea. Stay away from him. New York Hell's Angel. Or maybe Richmond." Shit. Turns out he was one of the culprits from Altamont. And he LOOKS like Charles Manson - really scary, let me tell you.
I have mixed feelings about the cavern - it was a natural amphitheatre and provided, especially with the lighting, a gorgeous backdrop for the band. But who likes to play in the damp, dank atmosphere of bat guano falling on your equipment? Stinks like chicken shit. The audience was a little strange, too. During the break, David came up and asked me to go out front and dance (as if, after the night before, I felt like it in the first place and in the second place, my knees and ankles would not work on that uneven ground in front of the stage). Anyway, David asked because from his perspective, nobody was dancing. Turns out, a lot of them were out of the band's line of sight.
Second set was good but I missed a lot of it because an old friend was having a bad time and I was playing counselor. It was actually a real drag having to deal with that sort of thing when I was trying to enjoy myself at a show but I know he was going through a lot of personal hell. The mommy in me wanted to smack him in the face and yell "snap out of it."
For the life of me, I cannot remember if SkareCrow went on before the band or between sets, but he did an excellent show in his own right and it was wonderful to hear him sing "Edge of the Wire." I sure miss the DNB so any chance to hear Nelson Band originals is greatly appreciated. And SkareCrow is very talented in his own right (and easy on the eyes, even if he was not wearing a kilt) (after he told me about his kilts, I asked if his real name was David Johnson since the sound engineer with the King and I tour was fond of wearing kilts and we had nicknamed him Mac the Kilt but no, not him (although he was amazed that two sound guys would be into the kilt thing).)
It was also great to see Fido and Cindy, whom I had not seen since I was in Auburn, Ill. with the Nelson Band in 1997. They invited us out to their little slice of heaven and we happily stopped off there the following day. Beautiful job on the restoration of the pond behind their house and the wildlife was amazing, including a couple of piebald (partially albino) squirrels.
Waiting for Brad and Tricia to fill in the gaps here....