Back in Royal Oak, Michigan this weekend for some more fun at 526 Main Piano Bar. The Greyhound once again bore me safely here in its usual manner. A fairly uneventful trip, other than making friends with a carny who builds roller coasters. I let him use my phone and bummed him a few cigarettes and he, in turn, provided my meals for most of the trip. Oh, the folks you meet on the road.
Yes, I’ve started smoking again… not to say that I’m proud of it, but I’m certainly not ashamed of it. I usually don’t allow myself to have more than three or four a day and damned if they aren’t a great supplement to being on the road so much of the time. I’ll take this opportunity to allow any non-smokers to verbally harass me and disappointed friends to call me up and say, “So, I read your blog and…” Yes, I’ve resorted to the old vice…but the good news is I don’t eat the french fries!
Excited to play with Ryan Miles and Adam Pringle tonight, and maybe Frank Turner, three great players and people I have tremendous respect for. Frank’s sardonic wit never ceases to put a smile on my face, Adam’s sarcasm is unrivaled, and Ryan’s drums and bass chops are always humbling. Oh, and here’s a little blurb I wrote about Royal Oak some months back that I never got around to posting until now. This should give you an idea about what the place is like:
Another exciting weekend playing the piano bar at 526 Main in Royal Oak, MI, has gone by, and I write these words on that great American form of mass transit, the Greyhound Bus.
I love playing in Royal Oak for many reasons, not the least of which is I get to stay with my wonderful Aunt, who pampers me with all the love an affectionate relative could muster. Karin Pierson, and her husband, Larry Braden, lead a popular cover band in Detroit, called Remedy. Due to their popularity, they are a frequently-booked band, and have dates in the calendar lined up all the way through August. Being a musician herself, Karin never shies away from the opportunity to “take me under her wing” in any way possible, from providing food and shelter to imparting advice about the business aspects of being a professional musician. Being a guest in her old house in Allen Park beats the hell out of any five-star hotel.
The job itself is a pleasure and I always get good feelings as I approach Royal Oak’s Main Street, lined by trees strung with Christmas-lights, upscale restaurants and bars, tobacco shops, and even a two-story Barnes & Noble. Royal Oak is the young, hip, college crowd Mecca. Aggressively beautiful girls parade up and down the street, accompanied by their athletic, clean-cut boyfriends in their black Polo winter coats. Middle-aged couples stroll around, eventually joined by their middle-aged friends in order to have some middle-aged fun. Mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles and nephews and nieces, all flock together and huddle at friendly corners lit by electronic signs and illuminated shop windows. They dawdle only for a moment, then march on into the cold night [it was obviously winter at the time of this writing], heeding the big cars that have to slow at pedestrian walkways, continuing into a warm restaurant or bar where they can fill their bellies with food and enjoy libations of an alcoholic persuasion in the joy of one another’s company.
526 Main is a restaurant as well as bar. This makes it a unique venue, especially for a Piano Bar. Most Piano Bars do not serve food. At 526 Main, the first hour or so of the piano show is spent breaking through to the audience, many of whom are still absorbed in finishing their meals. Another challenge of this particular bar is the room itself, which is uniquely small for a room in which so much is going on. The tables nearest the stage, which is just large enough to accommodate two baby grand pianos and an electric drum set, are arranged in such a way as to provide a narrow gap between them and the edge of the stage. More tables behind those allow for very limited movement even when the place is not full of people. On a typical Saturday night, forget about moving around without brushing or bumping someone, or standing anywhere without blocking the view of the person behind you. The poor servers have no choice but to navigate through such madness with trays of drinks and food, sometimes having no choice but to squeeze through throngs of jostling customers.
Because of the size of the room, any night where there are seventy-five people or more make the place seem packed. The maximum occupancy is 130, but there may as well be 200 crazy people. And indeed, they only get crazier as the night goes on.
That should give you at least a vague idea of the venue and the goings-on there. Needless to say, it is always a source of much anticipation for me. I am sure that this weekend will be yet another crazy but enjoyable one.
At any rate, I am kind of hankering to go down to the Exercise Room here at the Fairfield Inn in Madison Park and do some much- needed… well, exercise. But I will leave you with this. I have always been really into self-development (nothing new for those of you who know me pretty well), and one guy in particular really strikes a chord with me. His name is Brent Smith. You can find him on brentsmithlifestyle dot com, and he’s got a pretty extensive array of YouTube videos as well. He also has a series of pretty inspiring podcasts that he’s been putting out where he interviews different people on the topics of managing your life, living your dreams, and hosting champagne parties. Here are the links to some podcasts that really stuck out for me and have been one of the driving forces behind my renewed blogging and my general musical-personal life:
“Following Your Dream Like A Ninja”
Brent interviews a dude in his early thirties who abandoned his teaching career in the states to move to Japan to become a full-blown ninja.
“A Discussion On Never Losing Your Way In Life”
THIS is probably my favorite. Brent talks to a guy who started a blog out of his parent’s basement and now makes regular homages to Brazil and Costa Rica just to surf.
“Create Your Life Using Your Intuition”
Brent talks to a lady who might be known in conventional terms as a “soothsayer” or “medium” but really just knows how to be highly intuitive and lives her life through helping others do the same.
Enjoy, and let me know if these podcasts, or any others, are a source of inspiration to you as well!