Road Blog: Saturday March 17, 2018 - Grand Rapids, MI
Grand Rapids, Michigan
March 17, 2017
Our hearts broke as we stepped outside our Airbnb in Fort Wayne to discover a blanket of fresh show on the ground and our van. It’s been a rough winter in Michigan – extended periods of extreme cold, lots of snow, and we were hoping our little jaunt to Indiana would provide some springtime relief. Instead it was a massive cold and allergy onset......and snow. Oh well – what are you gonna do?
We drove back into the city and passed The Brass Rail on the way to Cindy's Diner. My pal Paul mentioned it in passing the night before in a text – “Are you gonna get garbage at Cindy’s Diner?” to which I replied “Hell yes! What is that?” Cindy’s is an old-school, eat-at-the-counter, greasy spoon diner with a sassy line cook who takes no shit but makes one hell of a ham-eggs-potatoes-cheese scramble (aka #6 – Garbage). She put on a tough facade, but I could tell she’s a sweetheart underneath. (I hope she reads this!) The food and service were amazing, and we got a round of their home-made doughnuts to-go (Gabriel=chocolate, Patrick=Cherry, me=caramel). Thanks for the tip Paul – excellent choice!
From Cindy’s Diner we headed out into the farmlands on the outskirts of the city to Sweetwater. For any non-musicians reading this, Sweetwater is basically like Amazon, but just for musicians. If it involves making music, they sell it. The Tucos are devoted customers – and not only because their selection and prices are about the best there is, but because they have incredible and personal customer service. It doesn’t hurt that they’re a Midwestern company either, and they treat their employees very well, unlike a certain national music gear box-store that has been scrutinized in recent years for the way they treat their workforce.
The Sweetwater compound is something to behold. It’s more than just a store-front (though that aspect of it was impressive enough). They have a coffee shop, diner, massive cafeteria with a music venue at one end, music school (Sweetwater Academy Of Music & Technology) for everything from guitar lessons to studio engineering, game arcade, salon and spa, health club, racquetball court, state of the art theater, conference center, multi-room recording studios, outdoor tent/pavilion venue, and so much more. It’s just overwhelming. All of this stuff is designed to make it a great place to work and a great place to shop. We browsed the store for an hour or so, checking out guitars, pedals, cables, drums, microphones, lights and everything else, then my personal-assigned sales-rep Philip arrived (on his day off) and gave us the grand tour. The first stop was the coffee shop for a double espresso, which was about the last thing I needed, but so good. The tour was awesome – very thorough and insightful. We were really impressed and half-ready to pack up, move there, and apply for jobs. Gabe found a cool Hamer flying V, so we sent a picture to our pal Sasha from When Particles Collide, who's partial to Vs and researching options for a new one. Somehow we escaped without spending any money (to the great relief of our wives back home) and headed north towards Michigan. We got into our doughnuts, and the sugar, on top of the copious amounts of caffeine I’d had, combined with the cold-meds and lack of sleep, sent me into another dimension.
The drive to Grand Rapids was about 3 hours under beautiful blue skies. We stopped off at my sister’s house, and my brother in law Greg fed us a great St. Patrick’s Day feast of cabbage, potatoes and carrots with grilled flank steak. We had a pint, visited for a short bit with my niece Ella, Allen, and their guests, then had to head over to the venue for load-in.
We’ve played Grand Rapids a few times, but it’s been a couple years. Kuzzins Lounge is an old art-deco dive bar that became a music venue earlier this year, with a focus on punk shows. We were added to the bill a couple weeks ago when they decided to take their normal 9pm show and start it a few hours earlier as a sort-of St Patty’s Day punk-fest. We loaded in to a fairly empty room, but by the time the bands started it was filling up nicely. And The Bullets played a great set, including a cool Sex Pistols cover, then Monkey Robot War went on, playing a tight bunch of well written songs with great hooks. Nice dudes too.
We played after them to a pretty decent crowd who were a little timid to come up front, but appreciative regardless. From the start my throat was trashed, probably from this cold and lack of sleep, but also the late-night show in Fort Wayne the night before. It didn’t help that we played more of a punk set, pulling out songs like `You Owe Me a Heart` and `Throwing Stones` over some of our more rootsy stuff. It was Ryan Adams who said “I started this damn country band, because punk rock was too hard to sing.” And I guess he was on to something there. No excuses, though, it was a fun, fast set and the new guitar rig sounded great. We got off the stage, sold some merch, mingled, and had a pint while new pals Slumlord Radio played a great set of originals and covers to a great crowd and slam pit. The did a cover of the theme to Cheers and had a guest vocalist come up for `I Wanna Be Your Dog` by Iggy And The Stooges. It was a hot, sweaty, beautiful mess of a set and everyone loved it.
After their set we loaded out and hit the road, super bummed that we had to miss the rest of the bands, but we were wiped out after a long day and had a two-hour drive back to Detroit in front of us. We said our goodbyes, Patrick threaded a needle backing the van out of that parking lot, and we hit 96 East, stopping once for a Speedway burrito (JP rating: AWESOME!). Thin Lizzy Official – Live and Dangerous was our St. Patrick’s Day Irish jam and we had a lengthy research lesson on the history of that record and their general discography timeline, comparing notes on the records we have the ones we don’t.
We landed at my place around 1am, grabbed our guitars and luggage, and went our separate ways. I was really happy to find TrooperGirl22 still awake, watching The Shining, when I came in. I grabbed a quick shower and crashed hard around 2am, just as Jack’s descent into the abyss was really taking hold and Shelly Duvall was starting to see that she had a real problem on her hands.
Big thanks to Joseph and everyone at Kuzzin’s for letting us east-siders play at your great venue! You have a great scene there, full of good people who care about each other and each other’s bands and the whole music landscape of that city. Everyone we met told us about how awesome this band or that band was. It’s very communal and embracing, and we can’t wait to come back.
Sunday morning at home, spinning some vinyl, drinking coffee, and doing what I can to quell the sinus pressure, constant flow of mucous, and aching throat, but looking back on a couple super fun shows that were a great kickoff to our Spring tour. Thanks for reading – we’ll see you all out there in the next couple months! Xo