Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Puppet Festival

On Saturday June 18, we had two gigs. 

It started at 7:00 am, showing up at the Nashville Downtown Library to play for the International Puppet Festival. This was followed by a trip to Smithville, Tennessee for a wedding reception that evening. 

To add excitement to the day, WannaBeatle David was planning to return from a trip to Florida the night before our early morning show, but ended up stranded in Washington D.C.  after a late flight caused a missed connection. 

David's predicament led to a burst of creative energy in the WannaBeatles administrative offices that Friday night. WannaBeatles Nathan and Dennis, with extra help from Nathan’s wife Sally, sprang into action, finding and purchasing a new plane ticket for David, which would require his waiting at the airport until 4 am to catch a flight to Nashville. 

Getting David to Nashville in time for the gig was only part of the problem. Getting his drums to the gig was the other. 

After extensive discussions of options, Nathan displayed his native New England skills of pragmatic problem solving. He drove with Sally to David’s house in Nolensville, where he found the extra set of keys, opened David’s garage, located and loaded all of David's drums into David's van, driving David's van back to his own house, while Sally drove back in their car, finally arriving after midnight.

WannaBeatle Bryan, unaware of this nocturnal activity, arrived as planned at Nathan’s house 6:30 am Saturday morning. Nathan explained what had happened the night before, concluding with the new plan: the only way to make everything work was for me to drive David’s van containing his drums downtown, while Nathan drove his own, carrying his gear and mine.

We would have to wait for David to arrive at BNA, find his car, then drive to the Library to arrive in time to set up and play at 7:00 am.

And so, there was an extra level of improvisational excitement added to our morning. Not to mention a bit of lost sleep, especially for David, who had to spend the night in the airport.

But the emergency plan worked, and David arrived to greet us in the parking lot attached to the Library.
Arriving downtown with Dennis, Nathan and David's drums
before David arrives
Meeting in the parking lot for David's big adventure part 2
The empty tent before loading in our gear
Setting up for sound
Dennis coordinates information with production team

The Puppet Festival starts Saturday morning with a parade at 9:00 am. The WannaBeatles are scheduled to play immediately afterward, so we have to set up and be all ready to play before the parade starts. That's what makes it such an early morning.

But it makes for an interesting time before we play, watching a parade devoted to puppets created for the occasion. 

Announcing the beginning of the parade

The crowd assembled, with view of Library
One of the floats in the parade
A lengthy serpent puppet, 
requiring several handlers to keep it aloft
A duck puppet

The parade went longer than expected, but we finally started, and entertained the people under the tent, and the crowd beyond. 

Wireless WannaBeatles guitarist
wanders into the crowd during a solo

The Library did a great job of hosting the event, providing all the entertainers a cool room with lunch and snacks. 

After our set, Mr. Steve the Music Man performed, as we packed and gathered our equipment, retrieved the cars from the garage, and loaded them up. There was just enough time to drive to David's house, where he could gather clothes for the evening gig, and we could ride together in his van to Smithville.

Smithville is one of those smaller towns in Tennessee, not located near an interstate. Our route was through smaller roads, gently rolling terrain, expansive farmland, and sketchy cell phone reception. 

But we arrived at Evins Mill, a beautiful resort, to unload our gear, carry it down steps and through several rooms to set up to play the wedding reception in the dining room. 

Nathan captured a couple of shots of the resort, built on the site of an old grist mill.
Evins Mill
A new bridge to the old mill

There are no photos to show the gig itself. We were set up tightly in a corner, and there were beautiful flower vase settings on each table. We were allowed to join the wedding guests in the line for our meal, and took our plates to a cozy den on the lower floor. 

Five hours later, the party was over, and it was late Saturday night, with some tired WannaBeatles, when we finally loaded back up to drive back to Nashville.

David was especially glad that day was over. But we made it through both gigs just fine, in spite of the unexpected challenge of a missed plane the night before. Thanks especially to some quick thinking and acting by Nathan, Dennis, and Sally, The WannaBeatles met their latest emergency and turned it into a satisfying victory.

-Bloggin' Bryan 24August2016

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Crockett Park 2016

Sunday June 12 was our annual concert at Crockett Park in Brentwood. This has always been a big show for us, playing a free show for a local crowd sitting on the expansive lawn with their picnic coolers, blankets and chairs.

We usually add a special guest for our Crockett show; this year we invited an American Idol contestant named Joshua Wright. He's a fine singer, and a very nice guy, who brought his own Texas soul to a couple of classic Beatles songs, "Something" and "Help." 

Nearly empty stage as we arrive to set up

Loading in at the rear dock of the Eddie Arnold Amphitheater....
WannaBeatle David brings in his drum gear
While our faithful sound man Jody Fraser hauls in lights
David is proud to be working out, getting (back) into shape
WannaBeatle Dennis sets up the retail display 
Nathan checking out his keyboard
David checking his cell phone at the drum kit
Dennis and a crowd starting to assemble
A sound check for Joshua
Gatorade to replenish electrolytes on a hot day
Our yellow submarine prop
And a crowd getting larger as showtime draws near

We played two sets, one before sunset, another after dark. There were dozens of dancers of all ages gathered at the cement area in front of the stage. It was a classic summer evening, with enjoyable music filling the air. 

Joshua did a fine job with the new versions of "Something" and "Help." 

We don't have photos of the concert, so we'll just let this small selection provide an inside view of how The WannaBeatles arrive and set up to play our annual Crockett Park show. 

-Bloggin' Bryan 17August2016

Monday, August 15, 2016

Ashland City 2016

On  Friday June 10, The WannaBeatles returned to Ashland City’s Riverbluff Park for their annual Summerfest. 

Nathan and I drove up together, out the Briley Parkway up Route 12, arriving at the stage to find WanaBeatle David already there setting up. 

Nathan's 4Runner parked behind the stage
stage ready for load in
David’s been working out

This was rare, a WannaBeatle gig starting with three of us arriving before Dennis. Usually Dennis plays the role of our resident Brian Epstein, arriving early, checking the stage dimensions, scouting locations for the merch table, and negotiating dinner plans. 

We took advantage of this opportunity to pretend to scold Dennis when he arrived a few minutes later, pointing to our watches as he pulled up, as if his tardiness were spoiling the flow of our well-oiled machine. 

We were early enough to explore the fair grounds, to see the other offerings that would keep the crowd entertained and well fed.
Enough lemonade for a regiment
Flashy fast food options
Just in case we missed 
the medical reference in their name,
Flatline Grill presents their mission statement: 
"If you're experiencing Food Coma,
we've done our job."
One attraction we had not noticed before:
Zombie Hunters. 
The sign assures us it's "Family Friendly."

We loaded our gear and worked with the sound crew, as they put monitors and mics into position.
Dennis and Nathan at sound check

David in shades
Horns set up for WannaBeatle Bryan
Nathan and the sound men

As is our usual custom on this gig, we ate supper at Riverview Cafe across the river, at a table that looks across the Cumberland River to the fairgrounds, where our stage is set up.
Nathan, David and Dennis peruse menu

Then, we drove back across the bridge to the stage again, put on our gig clothes, and listened to an interesting opening act, Tarryn Aimee Smith. Playing mandolin for her was Scott Neubert, a fine player who's crossed paths with Bloggin' Bryan over the years, so we said hi.
Scott Neubert on mandolin, with Tarryn Aimee Smith 
and her band

We had the enthusiastic Marie as our one woman welcoming committee, wearing her black shorts and red suspenders to achieve a show-biz flourish. She announced us from the stage.
Our friendly announcer Marie

We also saw our friend Daryell Smith, the army veteran from Arkansas who makes his own ball point pens out of deer antlers and rifle shell casings. He gave us a sample last year, which we photographed for the blog. 
Daryell's hand-made ball point pen

Daryell is also a photographer, whose photos of last year's show added a lot to our blog from that show. Here's the link:

Ashland City was hot, but we had fun, and so did the people who gathered to hear Beatles songs.

Thanks to Marie, and our hard working sound crew, for making it a successful evening.

-Bloggin’ Bryan 15August2016

Monday, August 8, 2016


(Our southern tour, continued...)

On Friday June 3, we woke up in Greenwood SC in our rooms at Inn On The Square, enjoyed another civilized breakfast in their dining room, said our goodbyes in the lobby, then headed west for our gig in Gadsden Alabama.
The lady who owns the hotel, in the lobby Friday morning
Another view of the lobby, with its elegant low country architecture, with sky lights and shuttered windows
4Runner at the awning, ready to leave Inn on the Square

We passed the huge Clarks Hill Lake as we left South Carolina, entering Georgia.
Wikipedia tells us that the shoreline is over 1200 miles

Then I-20 took us west from the calm Carolina countryside into the urban energy of metropolitan Atlanta and beyond, back into rural landscapes, as we crossed into Alabama.

Our destination was an amphitheater built in 1935, which was built out of stone, looking more like an ancient Greek theater than any art deco Depression era building.
Gadsden Amphitheater, built 1935, restored 1994

The WannaBeatles poster advertising our show, and the plaque honoring Dr. Mort Glosser 

The space inside is dramatic, with stone seats ascending up over a semi-circle arena.

We couldn’t resist pretending to be gladiators in the arena, using guitars as our weapons.
Gladiators with their weapons
WannaBeatles Bryan, Nathan and Dennis
as action figures
And one final pose
(no instruments were harmed in the making of this photo)

But we were there to work.
Dennis and David pulling cart through doorway
Our sound crew setting up the stage

Dennis the retailer displays our merchandise

After setting up, we ate dinner with other special guests of the amphitheater on the upper level.
The view from above, with the stage set up

The amphitheater is equipped with actual dressing rooms, which helped us feel like we were putting on a theatrical show.

Nathan and Dennis in dressing room, getting ready

We had a good sound company, and an appreciative crowd, so it was a fun gig.

We had never played in a place where the audience was seated on an incline, so that as we looked out, and up, it was a rising mountain of spectators. 

We enjoyed several spontaneous dances from audience members who were moved by the energy music to do their steps in front of the stage. One couple showed their romantic side in a well rehearsed ballroom style, while another lone clogger demonstrated how original and distinctive a body could be when responding freely to music.

The Mayor Sits in

The most memorable part of the show was inviting the mayor of Gadsden to join us onstage to play drums. Our local hostess, Janet Terrance, told us that the mayor played drums, implying that he would enjoy the chance to sit in with us in front of a local crowd. 

But after we called him up to the stage, the truth seemed a little different. The mayor, a dignified man named Sherman Guyton, was not a showbiz personality waiting for his chance in the spotlight. He was modest and reluctant to sit in, which made an awkward moment as we talked it over with him onstage, but he cooperated with the mood of the moment, making the best of the situation. 

We were somewhat embarrassed to discover his side of the story: although he had played drums as a teenager, he hadn’t touched a drum kit in the last 35 years.

The mayor was a good sport, sitting in at David’s drums for “Oh Bla Di Oh Bla Da,” which we had selected thinking it would be a simple drum part to play. Hearing Mayor Sherman struggle with it made us appreciate the genius of Beatles, who often took complex musical ideas and found a simple part to hold it together. Or maybe that was Ringo’s genius. At any rate, hearing another drummer find his way on that song made us realize that it’s not as easy as it might sound.
David and Nathan consult with Mayor Guyton
David encourages the mayor 
as he sings out front for a change

But having the mayor of the town playing with us helped connect us to the city of Gadsden in a way that no other gesture could have accomplished. For that moment, for that evening, we belonged to the people of Gadsden, Alabama, as their souls surrendered to the sounds of The WannaBeatles. 

After the show, we could feel the enthusiasm, as we met various local folks who expressed their joy and appreciation from hearing the music. As always, we met parents and children, young listeners who already knew Beatles songs, and who were thrilled by the experience of a live show.

A Gadsden fan with tee shirt

After packing up, and thanking our wonderful local sound team, we retreated to our hotel, then got up the next morning and drove to Nashville. It was only two shows in two towns, but it was a southern tour, and we enjoyed it. We’ll never forget the topiary of Greenwood, and being gladiators in Gadsden.

-Bloggn’ Bryan 8Aug2016