Ann Arbor, Michigan
Yesterday, the 26th, was a day off in Chicago....gym and a walk down Michigan Avenue...the Miracle Mile. There was a Cubs game on, Chicago vs. Washington Nationals, and our Matt Rollings, who has a good inside source, arranged for us to attend batting practice. Paul Crockford, Pete McKay, Glenn Worf and I took the El to Addison and at 4:30 were met by Cubs public relations person Sam Moore at Wrigley Field...that's Sam as in Samantha. She ushered us in a half hour prior to the gates opening and straight down onto the field where the Cubs were already warming up. We actually stood on the outside track of Wrigley Field watching the batters lob balls out to various fielders. It was organised chaos as there were several parts of the field where this was going on at the same time in order to get everyone warmed up. What struck me was seeing how fast the ball was coming and going at eye level, very different then seeing it sitting above in the bleachers, and they weren't even up to game speed, just lobs and flukes. We couldn't believe how lucky we were to be standing there and particularly exciting for me. Being born in Chicago, I used to go to Wrigley Field in the 1950's as a kid, my father and his brothers went there when they were kids....and here I was on that ground....actually standing on the Cubs 'on deck' disc. Incredible. A big thanks goes to Matt R. for putting it together and Sam Moore of the Cubs. Even though it was a clear, sunny day, it was windy and chilly and after standing on the field for 90 minutes watching both teams warm up, we were all freezing. We retired to the Sheffield Lounge at Wrigley's for hot dogs and beer before the game began at 7. We watched the first three innings before leaving to meet Guy, Dan, MK and Tim Hook for dinner. The final score, Cubs 4--Nationals 3.
As for dinner, this was a Guy Fletcher researched choice. The Capital Grille with rich dark mahogany panelling, welcoming staff and crisp white linen table cloths, was immediately inviting. It's a place you walk in to and know a spectacular meal is in store. From the salad, bread and vegetables to the dry aged, hand cut steaks, perfectly roasted chicken, wine selection through dessert...this was a monstrously delicious dinner. It couldn't have been shared with a better bunch of guys and has set a new tradition when we're in Chicago. The Capital Grille is located at 633 N. St. Claire Street just off Michigan Avenue. Go there.
Today, we decamped to begin our trek north. After 6 days basing from Chicago, most of the contents of my luggage were strewn 'round the room. Gathering it all up and re-packing took a little time. Where'd all this stuff come from? Bags collected, incidentals paid and we're on our way to tonight's show in Ann Arbor.
Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan, a big college, and much of the town revolves around it. This is the first time I've ever been to Ann Arbor and it looks like a nice place ...cool shops and restaurants. We arrived at the Michigan Theatre a little earlier than usual for MK to work on some strap lengths before sound check. Guy Fletcher had posted a photo in his diary of Bo Ramsey playing a Reverend guitar on stage and that raised the interest of the Reverend folks who are based not far from Ann Arbor. Ken, Joe and Steve from Reverend met us at the theatre with three of their latest guitars. Guy, Mark and I visited with them and played the guitars in a very cramped room due to the fact the backstage area wins the award for the smallest of the tour and Pieta and Bo were already on stage doing their sound check. We all played each of the guitars and were nicely surprised with how far these instruments have come in the last five years in design, use of Korina wood (similar to mahogany but lighter) for the bodies, finish, playability and over all sound within the guitar. Since we didn't have an amp in that tiny room, we simply played the electric guitars unplugged. You might wonder how you can tell much about a solid body guitar that's not plugged in as they make a very quiet sound without amplification. Most guitar players with some experience under their belts will tell you that's the BEST way to try an electric guitar out initially. You can tell a whole lot about body resonance, sustain before it's plugged in. If it has good tone and body resonance to begin with, it will most likely be a good sounding guitar when amplified. The guys from Reverend left all three guitars with us to continue playing and I'm looking forward to spending some time with these instruments. You can see the entire Reverend line of guitars at www.reverendguitars.com. Thanks Matt, Joe and Steve.
As soon as the Reverend boys left to take their seats for the show, my dear friends Heather and Bill Howitt from Windsor, Ontario, their son John, his wife Patty and some friends turned up to say hi. It had been a couple of years since seeing them last, though we keep in touch by phone and e-mail. Again, due to the extremely cramped space backstage, we all gathered outside by the stage door. It was great catching up with them for a half hour.
By the time I'd said good-bye to the my friends I was running a little late to get changed for the show and, once more, because of the small space backstage the wardrobe trunks were in the semi trucks that move the equipment from city to city and they were parked down the block. Our catering genius and all round ombudsman, Steve Ricalis, came to the rescue and we retrieved my stage clothes. A quick dash up to the miniscule dressing room, threw on some clothes and before I knew it was on stage.
It was a capacity audience and a well played show for a seriously enthusiastic crowd followed by a runner to the Legacy and a 45 minute flight to Toronto where we'll be for the next couple of nights. As I'd completely missed dinner tonight visiting with the guitar guys and friends, I was really hungry and Diane served buckets of Buffalo chicken wings with creamy blue cheese and hot tabasco sauces for dipping. Elbows and chicken bones were flying in every seat and at least 6 barrels of these wonders were devoured. Everybody's hands were covered in neon orange grease and tabasco requiring rolls of paper towels and wet wash rags. With a bit of help, Diane managed to get it all cleared up just as we landed in Toronto. From there it was a short drive to the hotel and from there a short trip down the lift to the hotel bar for a night cap with the boys.