We are off at about 9 am to make our drive to Minnesota.
We noticed a couple of days ago from a Google alert that
there was an article in the local paper saying that the
show we will be performing was moved to a substitute location
called Valentino's. Apparently the original club has closed,
but the new club Wilebski's is moving to is still being
renovated, and not yet open. But on Facebook it says that
Wilebski's is no longer open, and the Wilebski's website
still has nothing about the change in Venue on the home
page - it just gives the old address. We are getting nervous
The drive is uneventful although a bit long. As nice as
Big Mama is, eight hours in her can get tiring. We cross
the Mississippi at the Illinois and Iowa border and drive
through a lot of farmland. Corn and soybeans are everywhere.
We make it to the hotel, which is another Super 8, and
try to check in. They tell us that they have no reservations
and all our calls to Ted find no one answering and a voice
mailbox that is full. Oh, bother.
We eventually find someone with Ted's organization
and they tell us to go ahead and book the rooms and they
will reimburse us for them later. Needless to say this
makes us all a bit nervous. You never know when you are
going to get stiffed in this business and sometimes you
get a queasy feeling that all is not as it should be.
We finally get our rooms at the hotel and decide to lay
low here until about 7pm at which time we will head over
to Valentino's to set up, sound check, and then
perform. This means we will have to be dressed and ready
for the gig as we will not be returning to the hotel between
set up and performance.
Valentino's use to be a bank and is a very ornate
building which was built during the early 1900's.
We are told that Al Capone had something to do with it
and that at one time it was held up by John Dillinger
when it was a bank. It has 4 or 5 floors with different
rooms and facilities on each floor. On each corner of
the building are round turrets with conical peaks.
We arrive and meet Kurt who works for Ted Wilebski. He
apologizes for all the confusion and explains what has
happened. The old Wilebski's is in a bad neighborhood
that is connected to another bar which has illegal activities
like shootings, drugs, and underage drinking. The liquor
licensing board in Minnesota has threatened to shut Ted's
bar down and take away his liquor license because of this.
Ted finds another location in a better part of town but
it needs to be remodeled first. He was hoping that the
remodel would have been done before we got there but the
work is running behind. He can't use his old place
because of the legal problems, so he puts us in Valentino's.
Kurt shows us where we are playing. It is on the lower
floor and it is cavernous with many small rooms. We are
to set up in one of these small rooms which faces'
another small room where the bar is located. Upon looking
on this the number of people that can sit and watch the
band at one time would be 40 to 50 people. It is going
to be hard for Ted to recoup his costs with this low number.
The soundman has not arrived as yet. This is all starting
to look a little shaky to us.
We load in our gear, set up, and await the soundman. Several
calls are made and finally Jeff, who will be our soundman
for these two nights, arrives. He is a likable fellow
but when he starts bringing in his gear in milk crates
and Cub Food Grocery shopping baskets, I get a little
worried. What he brings in is a hodgepodge of gear that,
let us say, is not new. The area we are playing in is
very small with high ceilings, stone floors and walls.
We all agree that we need not mic anything except the
vocals. A mic is put on Laurie's amp only so she
can hear her guitar through her in-ears monitor. We sound
check and the sound is so bad we are all getting a little
despondent. Laurie is looking a little freaked because
of the venue change and the poor sound quality. I guess
we all were a little freaked. People are starting to show
up. Some from as far away as Madison, Wisconsin which
is a four hour drive. These fans told us they almost missed
the show, and it was a lucky find when they found the
newspaper article about the change in location with the
new address in it!
The room is filling and Jeff is fiddling with the sound
system. He has some guys helping who are checking the
mics for him and how they are doing it is almost embarrassing.
Let's just say by now we are all looking a little
less than professional. Jeff finally gets things going
but later than planned. We were to start at 9 pm but we
don't get underway until 9:15 pm. We do our first
set and it is painful to play. We can't hear anything
distinctly and the p.a. keeps squealing, making everyone
wince whenever it happens. Even though we tried to explain
to Jeff that the squealing was probably caused by the
two humongous monitors he placed in front of the band,
he wouldn't turn them off, and after unplugging
the one in front of Laurie, we did our best to endure.
Thankfully the folks that have come to see us are very
understanding and encouraging. They know that we are working
under less than good circumstances but they are enjoying
the music anyway. Thank God for blues fans who know good
music and talent when they see it, even in this tough
room. We take a break, but still have not had a Ted Wilebski
sighting. We are nervous about getting reimbursed for
the rooms and getting paid for the night. We play our
second set and, despite the funky sound, we play our hearts
out and the audience responds with enthusiasm. We take
another break and then play a short final set to finish
at 1 am.
Laurie and Lisa finally find Ted, and they get some of
the money that is promised to us, but not all of it. He
tells them that he will have the rest if we go by his
new club tomorrow. Ted is making it tough to be a believer.
We head back to the hotel at about 1:30. It is nice that
we don't have to pack up our gear as we are playing at
Valentino's tomorrow. Back in the van everyone is in somewhat
low spirits and feeling like we all stepped into another
episode of the "Twilight Zone". Tomorrow is
a new day and perhaps after a good night's rest we will
all feel a little better.
Back at the hotel things are looking a little wild. It
is 2 am and people are milling about everywhere. The hotel
is a Super 8 and, as I've talked about before, it
one of the cheaper chain hotels. Look back at the Delaware
date for a refresher. This means that they rent to people
who cannot afford more expensive hotels or people who
might be on subsistence and are being put up by some agency.
Perhaps they are sent here from child protective services.
Many of the characters we meet seem like they are under
the influence of something. Donto has met a few of these
characters who have put a scare into him. Susan and I,
as we are trying to sleep, hear loud music. We call the
desk and they promise to talk to the noisy party. The
music stops for a short while but it is not long before
it is loud again. Oh, well. It is a good thing that we
are too tired to let it interfere with our sleep.
It is just about this time in our travels that Laurie
has come up with her inverse theory of hotel quality and
length of stay. The theory goes like this ... the nicer
the hotel, the shorter the length of stay at the hotel
and the reverse is true ... the worse the hotel the longer
the length of stay. This is all in direct proportion to
the quality of the hotel. To support this theory we give
you the two Super 8s that we have stayed at during this
tour. Both of these were two nights stays, the longest
of any of our stays, and of the lowest quality. On the
other hand we stayed in a Double Tree Inn in Columbus,
Ohio. Double Tree Inns are one of the top-rated in our
books. We stayed at this hotel for a whopping five hours
before we had to be up at 6 am to hit the road. It is
surprising how this theory has held up during our travels.
Another theory that has also been proven more right than
wrong is the quality/budget of the club and the length
of performance. It seems that the lower paying clubs that
put you up at poorer hotels want you to play the longest
and have more stringent rules of what you can and cannot
do. It seems the opposite is true of the nicer venues.
They put you up at nice places and pay well. These nice
venues also seem to trust that you will know how to entertain
their clientele and only put moderate restrictions on
what is expected of the band. This just reminds us that
we have to roll with it, make the best of all situations,
and enjoy the good when it comes.