Road Blog: Thursday June 08, 2017 - Kent, OH
Kent, Ohio – June 8th, 2017
We left Michigan yesterday, late afternoon and had an uneventful 3 hour drive to Kent, Ohio down I275, I280, then I80, the glorious Ohio Turnpike. The highlight (not actually a highlight at all) was seeing a motorcyclist nearly lose it all when an oblivious Escalade made a sudden, unannounced jump into the lane and exact space he was occupying. Be careful out there friends. Use them turn signals and check your blind spots!
Our first order of business was to check into our hotel. We had the incredibly rare luxury of staying somewhere really nice for a change – the Staybridge Suites Akron-Stow-Cuyahoga Falls. This hotel is fantastic – super comfortable beds, a pool and hot tub, plenty of space, and a breakfast buffet that’s way above average. Patty and I headed to the pool for a dip while Gabe chilled out for a couple hours. The hot tub was amazing and might have helped loosen up my pollen-infused sinuses some. It's no fun being sick on the road, but it's allergy season and this year seems exceptionally bad. There was a group of moms watching about 8 kids frolicking between the pool and the hot tub and it wasn't long before I had them engaged in conversations about their afternoon at Wal-Mart, their favorite toys, their ages, and how they were all brothers, sisters and cousins. Some days I'd have less patience for this scenario (to put it mildly) but yesterday it seemed like a fun distraction.
We drove the 15 minutes into Kent and parked the van for some dinner. I played a music conference here about 8 years back when I was supporting my solo album and haven't been back since, but it doesn't look like much has changed. It's a small but nice downtown, with a big-band concert in the park (playing the Rocky theme) and plenty of people walking around. We went to the Erie Street Kitchen for dinner. I got the fried oyster po' boy that pretty much kicked ass (though it didn't quite reach the glorious heights that the one I had in Portland, Maine on tour last year had), Gabe had the spicy chicken strips and Patty got the fried avocado salad. The boys seemed pleased. I played some Aerosmith (Lick and a Promise), Stones (Torn and Frayed), James Gang (Walk Away), and more on the juke box and had a shitty game of South Park pinball while waiting for the food.
We pulled into the Stone Tavern at Michel's and felt right at home. This place is a d.i.v.e. dive bar, but like the best of them, was loaded with character and charm. The owner greeted us with beers and smiles, we loaded in, and took a few minutes to call home before show time. Before long, opener El Meister (the opener) and Abstract Artimus (the headliner) showed up and we got acquainted, worked out the logistics, and settled in for some rock and roll. Around then, a group of our friends from Cleveland showed up all full of piss and vinegar and ready to party! Rene and Tad and their buddy always come to our shows in that region and it wasn’t long before they were making setlist requests and buying rounds.
El Meister is a dude from Spain with a ton of hair and a big, friendly heart. He played solo-acoustic, kicking a small bass drum with a tambourine attached. His songs were kinda punky, kinda Spanish, and a whole lotta awesome. He didn't have merch but it's on my list to check his stuff out online when we get home. We had a great chat about The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, which was filmed near his home, and also the namesake for our band. We were up next and played a sloppy, spontaneous set that was somewhat split between new material from the record we're finishing up and old stuff that the Cleveland crew were hollering for. It sounded good on stage and we had fun playing, despite the loose ends all around. After us, Abstract Artimus took the stage. Artimus is an Alabama guy who lives in Brooklyn now and comes from rock and roll lineage that used to roll with the Van Zant guys back in the Lynyrd Skynyrd heyday. Like El Meister (who played bass for him), he's got a good head of hair and a giant smile and they are just the friendliest dudes. His set was a cool mix of southern rock with a little metal riffage and some punk and classic rock thrown in. Super high energy, super fun, and executed passionately and proficiently. It was great to meet these guys and play with them, and I have a strong feeling we'll cross paths again down the road.
As they were wrapping up, the adrenalin was subsiding and my allergies were kicking in like a damn freight train. We loaded out, said our farewells, and headed back to our awesome hotel. Gabe crashed out while I polished off what was left of my po' boy, and Patty and I watched South Park before lights out, somewhere just south of 3am.
The breakfast bar ended at 9:30 and we weren't about to miss out on that. They had mini-mexi-omelettes, waffles, fresh fruit, and just about anything else you might expect from a spread like this. We raised a few eyebrows as we meandered in, but enjoyed the food and coffee before heading back to the room. Patty and I got one last visit to the pool in and we're just about ready to head north to our show tonight in Jamestown, NY.
Good times in Kent, OH, at the Stone Tavern with the great El Meister and Abstract Artimus. Be safe out there on the road guys!