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2nd Day at Ellnora Guitar Festival


   Pretty Boy's Corner

September 11, 2009
Got 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 the show.

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.


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