2nd Day at Ellnora Guitar
| September 11,
up around 8 am and went for a run in Urbana, Illinois. Found
a great park and nature center to jog in that I believe they
call Crystal Lake Park. Got showered and cleaned up, practiced,
and visited until 2 pm when a rehearsal was called to tune
up for Saturday night. At the hotel the Krannert Center had
a hospitality room complete with beverages, snacks and various
amps. It is here that we had our rehearsal. Kevin used a chair
and program to play on and I got to play through a Kalamazoo
bass amp. This is a vintage tube amp made in the 1960's.
I haven't seen one of these since visiting the local
music stores in Lowell, Massachusetts when I was just starting
out. We sounded good and worked out a tentative set for our
75 minute show. Laurie and Lisa head off to do an interview
with the Big 10 television network. It turns out they are
doing a one hour documentary of the Ellnora Guitar Festival
and a half hour program of Laurie as a U of I alumni, with
an engineering degree who played volley ball at the school
and is now a blues musician. Nice.
After this we all made it over to the Krannert Center to see
Jerry Douglas and his group play. Guthrie Trapp was on guitar
(they should call this guy lightning because of his speed
and cleanness in playing), Luke Bulla was on fiddle, guitar
and vocals, Todd Parks was on acoustic bass, and Chad Melton
was on drums. Jerry played a dobro. These guys are serious
players. The music they played was in the bluegrass style
or what I've heard some people refer to as "newgrass"
music. The musicianship was phenomenal and it had to have
been one of my favorite performances of the entire weekend.
This style of music seems so pure and unpretentious. At one
point they did a reworking of a Weather Report song written
by Wayne Shorter called 'A Remark You Made.' This
song is so beautiful and it brought back memories of the first
time I heard it with Jaco Pastorious playing this gorgeous
melody on his Fender fretless bass. Cool. This was primarily
an instrumental outing with only one song being sung by the
Luke. Jerry is very funny and does a great job of emceeing
between songs. At one point he announced that they couldn't
stay for the whole festival and had to get home the next day
because the drummer was getting married. I hope Chad, the
drummer, didn't miss his rehearsal dinner.
Susan and I then went in search of food and we found a nice
Italian place called the 'Bread Café' where
we had a nice meal. I had garlic pizza. Susan had the fish.
We then got back to the Krannert Center in time to check out
Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya (say that one time real fast),
a sitarist who has created a whole new kind of instrument
which allows him to play the sitar like a slide guitar. Unfortunately
he was cancelled with no information as to why. This was too
bad, as I wanted to see what this new kind of instrument was
all about. We then hung out just digging the vibe and visiting
with friends and making new acquaintances. Laurie's
parents were there and we enjoyed visiting with them. At 10
pm the Keb Mo show was starting and we made sure we were there
on time and ready to enjoy. Keb and his band did a fine set.
They opened with half a dozen songs and then he asked for
requests from the audience. I sang one of his songs, 'The
Action', to Susan at our wedding reception and so Susan
and I shouted out our request but, either he did not hear
it or it was one he did not feel comfortable doing, because
he did not play it. Oh, well. We enjoyed the music he and
his band provided and he always seems to please. The whole
band and Laurie's parents head back to the hotel after
Now I have to tell you a little fun story about Keb Mo and
my dear Susan. Susan has her nails done at a shop close to
our house. One day while getting her nails done she mentions
to one of the other patrons, by the name of Sharon, that she
is going to the Ellnora Guitar Festival and that one of the
performers is Keb Mo. Sharon chimes in that she knows Keb
Mo and that they were in the high school band together at
Compton High. Susan says, "No, Way!" Sharon says,
"Way!" Sharon suggests that she take a picture
of herself with Susan and that she take it with her to the
Festival and that if she gets the chance to meet Keb that
she tells him Sharon says, "Hi." The day of the
Keb Mo concert Susan is a little anxious about meeting Keb
and is looking for an opportunity to cross paths. While going
to the Krannert Center that night Keb's keyboard player, Jeff
Paris, road with us. Susan is wondering if she should give
Jeff the picture but he is sitting in the front of the van
where it was difficult to strike up a conversation. When we
get to the Krannert Center Jeff takes off and our chance is
missed. After the concert, Susan is a little dejected and
I try to console her by saying some lame things like, "I
guess it wasn't meant to be" and "Maybe next time."
We get back to the hotel and we are bemoaning the fact that
we lost our chance and who do you think walks through the
door? Not only Keb Mo but his entire band. Our band and Keb
and his band quickly begin to mingle and I pull out the picture.
I say, "Mr. Moore (his real name is Kevin Moore), I
have a picture here of my wife and someone you went to high
school with. In fact she says you were in band together."
He looks at me in a confused way until he sees the picture
and says, "That's Sharon. She played flute. I know her.
She married Conrad". Cool he tells us how Sharon played
flute pretty good but that he was a lousy French horn player.
He writes a note on the picture and we are going to deliver
the note and the picture to Sharon when we get back to Los
Angeles. Won't she be surprised? All's well that ends well.
Keb, being tired from his show, goes to his room. Laurie and
Lisa hang out with Jeff Paris, and I get to have a nice visit
with Reggie McBride. Reggie has been playing bass and producing
projects for a long time. He has been playing with Keb Mo
for 16 years. He is a super nice guy and we got to talk all
about basses, amps, gigs and families. Reggie, as well as
Keb, have been involved in the &"Playing for Change"
PBS project. Mark Johnson, who engineered on Kebs last album,
went around the world recording street musicians playing on
the same songs like "Stand By Me" and "One
Love." It's a great program that highlights the
unifying qualities of music. Now Reggie is involved in producing
Grandpa Elliot, one of the street musicians. I told him to
give me a call if he wanted to just produce and not have to
play bass at the same time. A shameless plug to get a gig.
I gave him my card and Susan and I called it a night. Whew.
All days are good but this was an especially good one.