Tony picked me up at 6:30 in the morning, his car loaded with all of our sound equipment. We still had to go to Waterford and get Dan, then head to our friend Scott’s house to borrow PA speakers before leaving for Melbourne. We had to be there at 9am for the St Patrick’s Day parade, sponsored by Meg O’Malley’s, a downtown Melbourne pub favorite.
I hadn’t slept well the night before and Dan had no time to make coffee, so we were not running at full speed yet. Tony, though, seemed largely unaffected by the early hour and I’m fairly certain he’s a robot.
We got to downtown Melbourne at just about 9 am and our meet up point was Sugar Shack Donuts on Melbourne Ave. Sean was only a little bit behind us and Justin, who had spent the night with his parents in Melbourne, was very close by. The parade would be headed down Melbourne Ave at 11:00, so all the streets in the area were closed off. Sugar Shack was a fortuitous meeting place, as oddly I really like donuts, though I only indulge in one about once a year. The amount of flavors they had was impressive and I debated between the Irish Cream St. Patrick’s Day donut and the Fruity Pebbles Donut. I went with Fruity Pebbles.
(This is mainly because I am completely fascinated with the branding. Fruity Pebbles was created amid the original run of the Flintstones cartoon, hence Fred and Barney as mascots. The show only lasted 6 years though and the Flintstones are still on the cereal box, meaning the product outlasted the show it was a tie-in for by like 50 years. There’s a whole generation or two who only know Fred Flintstone as the mascot for Fruity Pebbles and they have the timeline and causal chain backwards. [Similar to how Paul Newman was once referred to as “The Salad Dressing Guy” by a younger friend that had no idea he was an actor.] Yes, this all factored into my donut decision and yes I think about stuff like this way too much. I won’t even get started on William Faulkner and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)
Sean and Justin arrived and we met up with Erica Knight, who helped set up our performance in the parade. Our float was a trailer to be towed behind a pickup truck with a gas generator in the bed. Tony and Justin hung our Beemo Kelpie banners on the sides of the trailer and our friends Jason and Christine tied the gold and green balloons on. Lucky’s Market of Melbourne was kind enough to sponsor our banner, so hat tip to them.
We crammed onto the trailer with our PA system and three speakers. Justin was seated on his cajon in the back facing forward and the rest of us faced out the sides, with me and Sean on the right (starboard?) and Dan and Tony on the left. I was back to back with Dan. I could hear his vocals, and Sean’s dobro because I was right next to them. We could hear the drums and bass pretty well, but I’m pretty sure Justin and Tony couldn’t hear much of the rest of us.
When the parade started we were all pretty sure we were going to get jolted over (and Justin was going to lose his freshly purchased cheese fries), but our driver, Steve, was awesome and it was a smooth ride. We started “Potatoes and Leeks” and “Long Sleep” as we made the turn. Then it was “Back Again” and then “Wild Rover.” There were a lot of people lining the road, clapping along, especially during “Wild Rover.” Jason and Christine walked alongside us handing out beads and tickets to our House of Blues show in April. Justin’s mother Leona did the same, sporting a Beemo T-shirt.
“Whiskey in the Jar” was kind of a mess. We practice that song about 3 times a year, right before St. Patrick’s Day, so we’re hardly on automatic pilot and with the back of the float not being able to hear the front of the float we had a bit of a rocky start. In a controlled practice environment we do it fine, but a moving float with no ability to really communicate with each other it was another story. I missed my queue for the mandolin solo but Sean covered for me. It was fun and the crowd, much bigger now that we were getting closer to Meg O’Malley’s Pub seemed to enjoy it. “Ok, not doing that again on this parade,” I thought. We were far enough from the last performance that we could play Wild Rover again. Then we did 500 Miles by the Proclaimers which went over well. The crowd was really thick now and on my side of the float people were in the balconies of the buildings and seated on lawn chairs in the street. I actually played the solo the best I had in a long time, but I have no idea if anyone could hear it.
Just as we finished the song the float stopped right in front of Meg O’Malley’s. I thought there wasn’t going to be a better time for “Back Again.” Dan got the crowd yelling on the “heys” and i was starting to worry about throwing out my voice. (I was the only one other than Dan with a mic so I felt obligated to sing louder than I normally am inclined and with the sound quality I was having to belt. I also sing on every one of the songs we played that morning and I’m not vocally conditioned nearly as well as Dan is.)
(On second thought, I *am* going to talk about Faulkner and Ferris Bueller’s Day off. I was reading the Faulkner Novel “If I Forget the Jerusalem” last month, a novel with two intertwining stories that are told in alternating chapters. I was at the last chapter of “The Wild Palms” story, and read the last line: “Between grief and nothing I will take grief.” This is what Principal Rooney says to Sloan to comfort her when he thinks her grandfather has died near the beginning of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. So now I am wondering why screenwriter John Hughes decided to use this quote from a rather deep cut Faulkner novel in his teen comedy/farce. It’s not attributed either, so he clearly didn’t really care if people got what he was referring to and it was the 80s so it’s not like he could just Google “Grief quote” and just pluck whatever out of the ether. Did he just read that book right before he wrote the screenplay? And why that one? Not Shakespeare, not Twain, but minor Faulkner. Why such a heavy quote from a really heavy novel? [Also, in full context it is *crazy* not appropriate for the dead grandfather situation.] John Hughes died in 2009 so I’ll never know the answers. Sigh)
“MacGregor’s Revenge” was our last song. I was really concentrating, as I had pretty well botched up the intro the night before at Lucky’s Market Orlando. Got it this time though. The song ended just as we crossed the railroad tracks at the end of the parade route. It was a clear day and hot in the noonish sunlight of the unshaded parade so we were all sweating and tired. We’d played for about 35-40 minutes straight with no real break in the songs. It was a lot of fun and overall from what I could hear a pretty good performance. We all sat down in the trailer before the truck sped up and drove back to the side street where we were parked.
We unloaded as fast as we could and headed back West to get to our next show. Tony and Dan went for corned beef sandwiches at Lucky’s of Melbourne and Sean and I went on back to Orlando, though not before stopping at Cumberland farms for some junk food and hydration.
Our set at Crooked Can Celtic Festival in Winter Garden was from 5-8 so we had plenty of time. As usual, Plant Street was packed. The event was put on by our friends at Classically Cool, who always take great care of us, and mercifully our sound technician was Mark Mason, one of the best sound engineers we’ve worked with. Lynn and David had a cooler full of water for us, which we desperately needed, and Mark pretty much got our monitor mix perfect. It’s often a crapshoot at outdoor festivals what you’re going to sound like in the monitors, often being very unbalanced and loud, but with Mark there it actually sounded fairly pleasant in our stage mix.
Andrew, an owner at Crooked Can, brought us a round of beers. I’m partial to the Cloud Chaser Hefeweizen (also 5.3% alcohol; this becomes relevant later). We were pretty energized in our first set which was good because we started with “Nova” which is pretty hard on Justin. The whole first half of the set was up-tempo but we were on. Another round of beer showed up. The stage was covered but unfortunately I and my instruments were in the sun the whole time due to the hour of day. I was having a little trouble keeping the mandolin in tune. (Probably better that it was that way though; as pale as I am if we had set up differently, Sean (of Sean Patrick Quinn) would have been in direct sun and spontaneous combustion would be on the table.)
Some people off to our right yelled something about Metal music as we were about to start our second set. Jokingly I played the intro to Crazy Train. They cheered and started yelling “Play it!” Tony looked at me and said “Can we do it?” I shrugged. “It’s up to Sean. He has to play the solo.” Sean’s eyes got slightly bigger; we hadn’t played it in a while. “Third set. Let’s do it then.” We promised to play it later.
Second set went well. It was probably the best we’d ever played “Crusader” and “Better Now.” After the set I talked to Steve and Jenny, fans from Winter Garden who’d come to see us many times, for a while about Orlando, Mills 50, and Sandusky Ohio. (“Lot’s of people go to college for seven years.” “Yeah, they’re called doctors.”) I noticed Sean sitting at the side of the stage huddled over his guitar and, sensing I was needed, excused myself. I grabbed my mandolin and went over to him where he was frantically practicing the Crazy Train solo, which is no picnic on an electric and is brutal on an acoustic. (He does the tapping intro, too)
I played the solo chord changes while he ran the solo a few times. “We have our tells for the setlist,” I said. “If you see me playing chords and Sean frantically practicing at the side of the stage you know we’re about to play Crazy Train. And if you see both of us frantically practicing, you know we’re about to play Take On Me.” He laughed and agreed. (Keep an eye out on stage, we basically always mute ourselves and separately run the riff a bunch of times before Take On Me. Self doubt runs like clockwork)
It was at the start of the third set that I realized I was four free beers deep at 7pm and I had only had a Slim Jim to eat that day. I generally don’t drink when I’m playing, so I was a little surprised that I was playing well despite being a little... fuzzy. Maybe it calmed me a bit and let me play unencumbered by my excruciatingly loud inner monologue.
Crazy Train went well. I had to audible the setlist near the end and cut some songs as we wanted to be done at 8:00 so Crooked Can and Classically Cool didn’t have a noise ordinance violation. We ended Back Again at exactly 8:00.
So it was a long day, but a very fun day. We heard from our friends in Melbourne that some people at Meg O’Malley’s were asking where the parade band went, which is nice to hear. We don’t have any more marathon days coming up soon but it’s nice to know we have enough in the tank to make it through, especially when we haven’t been rehearsing as much as we usual do.
I’m most impressed by Justin’s ability to not die on days like this. (I’m trying to decide whether him sending out his FitBit stats for the day is passive aggressive or not. Thoughts?)
After the show I hung out for a while and celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with a few more Cloudchasers. (I wasn’t driving).
Between beer and nothing, I’ll take beer.