Facebook YouTube Apple Music Spotify Pandora Twitter

Wilebski's Blues Saloon, St. Paul, Minnesota


   Pretty Boy's Corner

August 6, 2010

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 about this.

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.

Copyright ©2023 Laurie Morvan Band