Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Clarksville & Birmingham

Last weekend, we had two gigs out of town, on Thursday and Friday. One was an hour away, so it was easy to come home. The next one was over three hours away, and we drove home after that one too. 

So we had some miles on the road, some late hours getting home, and a couple of interesting gigs.

The first was the Clarksville Fair, right beside the Clarksville Speedway. It was a hot afternoon, and the stage was set up on a large gravel area. We were grateful for the shade of the tent over the stage.
               Nathan pulling in the trailer beside the stage
 Dennis setting up the merch table
       David - our drummer in the woods - notice the red clay
       Nathan on stage left, with a view of the race track 
             Ed - our excellent sound man, also the owner 
                   of the sound and production company

After our soundcheck, we had a chance to wander around the fairgrounds and have a pizza and some popcorn.
                   Clarksville Fair sign on chain link fence

We encountered an animal we'd never heard of or seen before. It's called a Cavy. They're cute and cuddly.

       Dennis wonders about the risk of getting too close
   You must be at least 30" tall to listen to The WannaBeatles 
                 Health food options at the Clarksville Fair

This was the first year the Clarksville Fair had live bands. Most people attending the fair were on the rides. But we attracted some very enthusiastic listeners, wearing Beatles tee shirts, and dancing along on the gravel. We were glad to find young people who are so into the music, singing along with every word.

The next day we drove down to Birmingham. We were playing for the Alabama Republican Party Summer Dinner, at the Cahabra Convention Center.  It's a fancy facility with a big loading dock. We were grateful for being indoors. 

In fact, there were two dressing rooms, and the other one was for the governor of Alabama, who was speaking at the event that night.
              A view of the stage from the sound booth

We had our sound man Allan Waugh with us this time, and our intern Sarah Hunnicutt.
        Allen dressed up and relaxing in our dressing room
                        Sarah at her video console
              Ed Sullivan, apparently saying "Don't Shoot!"
               on the video monitor at the front of the stage

Not only did we get a nice air conditioned dressing room, and a complimentary dinner, they also had high tech facilities for the stage.
                          The sign on the stage door 

The wheelchair lift allowed us to move our gear and PA system up to the stage without having to lift it four feet from the floor to the stage level. 
                            Dennis inspects the room

Yes, it was a long way from the Clarksville Fair.

Here's an action shot Sarah took from the side of the stage during the show.
                 Four guys having fun in Birmingham.

And then we packed up and drove three and a half hours back to Nashville, a van load of tired puppies.

But it was a great weekend.

Bloggin' Bryan 25June2014

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Rockin' at Crockett

Crockett Park in Brentwood is our biggest hometown affair. It's an annual free concert at a beautiful outdoor facility that draws thousands of people, usually families with picnics and blankets and chairs.

Because it's such a large stage and a big community event, we get the chance to enlarge our show with extra guest performers. In the past, we've been joined by a youth orchestra, a juggling troupe, a string quartet, and an American Idol contestant.

This year we had a choir from Christ Presbyerian Academy and two trumpet players from the Brass Band of Nashville. 

This addition was largely due to WannaBeatle Nathan's work with CPA, having written custom arrangements for the choir and orchestra,  which had already been performed in a concert at the Ryman a few weeks ago. (Covered in the blog "CPA (and AJ) at the Ryman" May 20)

So we were all set for music to play.

Fortunately there are plenty of photos to tell the story. So here goes.

Crockett Park on a clear Sunday afternoon - Father's Day 2014
Our friend Lucy with Dennis check out Cardboard Paul at the Yellow Submarine installation- a new feature for our merch table, or "WannaBeatles Boutique"
WannaBeatle David shows off his muscles holding his drumsticks
          Members of "Vision" from CPA arrive for sound check
Awaiting their cue 

  Dennis with Vision director Lynn Jung prepare for choir setup
Buddy Burris and Brenda Morley from Brass Band of Nashville
              BC, Buddy and Brenda check out the horn charts
Our young friend Stanley Karr shooting more footage for a video
      WannaBeatle Bryan checks guitar sounds before the show
                      Vision getting into position for sound check

                   View from horn riser right before the show
Brentwood City Mayor Betsy Crossley announces the band as the show begins   (Thanks to for the photo) 

In this annual tradition, Mayor Crossley inserts as many Beatles song titles as possible into her introductory speech. This year, we counted 17 references. 
WannaBeatle David took this panoramic photo from his drum set  just before the show started.

Then we rocked!
                      Opening with "Magical Mystery Tour"
                              Dennis playing harmonica
                         David laying down that serious groove
                                    Nathan rockin' on bass
                      WannaBeatle Bryan in forward motion
   The group onstage in black and white, the crowd in colorful chairs and clothes
                             The crowd is rockin' - all ages
  Dennis and Bryan as twin guitar heroes during "Come Together"
            Nathan moving from keys to bass (or vice versa)
                                          And rockin' out!               

                                Dennis rockin' on acoustic
Bryan on electric
                                       Dennis and David
                   The crowd showing their lights during "Let It Be"
The photo is shaky, but the occasion was the first time I've ever taken a cell phone photo from the stage during a song. It was an inspiring sight during the second chorus of "Let It Be." 

I calculated I had enough time to pick up my phone, take a couple of shots, and put it back down in time for my guitar solo.

Call it multi-tasking. It's not for everyone.
              One more shot of the crowd displaying their lights

For our second set, we changed into our "Shea Stadium" shirts.
Here's a rough cell phone photo of us with our trumpet players Brenda and Buddy after the show.

There are more pictures from that night yet to circulate - but you get the picture. 

The WannaBeatles had a wonderful time rockin' at Crockett Park. We always look forward to it, and we seem to enjoy it more each year. 

It's a wonderful way for grownups to earn a living.

Bloggin Bryan 18June2014

Monday, June 9, 2014


Sunday morning, June 8, we met at our usual transportation hub, Casa de Burbank, to pack Nathan's van and leave for Chattanooga. Showing up were 3 WannaBeatles and our trusted pal Lucy who helps out with merchandise and photography.  

WannaBeatle David was in a separate car with his wife Alice. He works every Sunday morning as worship leader at a church in Mt. Juliet, and since he didn't have to take his drums on this gig, he could drive from there.

This was the big day, going to play Riverbend.

We got to Chattanooga first, checking in at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel for our passes, then driving through downtown to get to the Unum stage on the east end of the riverfront. David pulled up behind the stage a few minutes later. We both got parking places behind the stage and began to unload.

It wasn't the big stage we had imagined. But it was big enough.
          Nathan with Hofner on Unum stage, setting up
David & ALice - amor verdadero 
              Taylor, Brian and Bob - in the monitor tent

The stage was equipped with backline, meaning we didn't have to bring drums or amps. This allows bands to change quickly between sets. There were three bands scheduled to play on the Unum stage that night, with fifteen minutes between the end of one and the start of the next. That was a lot less time than we were used to.

But it worked out fine, because we had a great sound company attending to the details of our setup, helping us with move gear, and providing secure space on the side of the stage for us to keep our gear and instruments ready to plug and play.

After sound check, we took a stroll through the festival and parts of downtown Chattanooga. The Unum stage is located just under a pedestrian walkway that connects the contemporary Hunter Museum to downtown. 

                               Hunter Museum
            Another view (the building itself is a sculpture)
                  Yellow beam sculpture outside museum
                    Cartoonish sculpture outside museum
                  Horse sculpture outside museum
                   Hunter Museum viewed from below

As we strolled down the road toward the center of the festival, we came upon a series of incredible sand sculptures being constructed.
                     Sand sculptors at work
                   Wizard of Oz characters in sand 
  Carving the images of the CocaCola Stage headliners  - 
   Buddy Guy already completed, Toby Mac in progress. 

We picked a nice riverfront restaurant called BLue Plate Diner to eat, where we were served by an enthusiastic waitress named Maddie. After dinner, we serenaded some of the other wait staff by singing "Nowhere Man" in harmony a cappella. 

Then back at the stage area, we had a trailer for a changing room and place to rest. There I got to meet some members of the Rusty Wright Band, the first band on the bill. They're from Flint, Michigan, already well-established in the Great Lakes region, currently touring the south to spread their name --"plowing the field," as the agents call it. 

Rusty is the leader, a big blues man with a grey beard and long white hair, and his wife Laurie plays rhythm guitar and sings.  They have their own label and have released four CDs. They also did an hour long DVD for a a PBS station at a college in Michigan, which gets played on PBS stations around the country, stimulating interest in those other areas. 

As Rusty explains, Flint, Michigan is so rough it makes Mississippi look like a resort. One of his songs is called "I Ain't From Mississippi." The band is tight, well-seasoned from the road and festival gigs. They play strong blues grooves, and use tight figures for seamless transitions between songs. Rusty plays great blues guitar.

                             Rusty playing blues
                         Rusty wailing on his Epiphone

The second act on the bill was Clare Dunn. She's a 
no-nonsense tall blonde woman with an aqua telecaster and a big soulful voice. Her band was a simple trio, mostly playing the modern rock that passes for country these days. At her sound check, her song of choice was "People Get Ready," and she sounded fine. Her songs are tightly constructed and radio friendly, with hot guitar solos woven in. 

With her stage presence, confident singing and playing, tight band, commercial songs, and strong rock sensibility, she comes across like a female Keith Urban. It was no surprise to hear that they were from Nashville. It was a very polished professional act.
                         Clare Dunn at Riverbend
                     Clare with Alex on his Epiphone

It was interesting that both bands that went on before us had a woman playing a Telecaster. And they both had guitarists who played a black Epiphone Sheraton. That's the same guitar I played in the WannaBeatles until last summer when I replaced it with a blond Epiphone Dot, which is basically the same guitar in a different color.

So I bonded with Rusty and Alex over our Epiphones.  

Hanging out back in the trailer, Dennis asked David for help tweaking some guitar sounds for his GR-55. That part was not so interesting for Alice.

At about 8 pm, we got dressed for the show and met Bob Payne, the man who booked us at Riverbend. Bob is quite a music guy in Chattanooga. He writes music reviews for, one of the oldest and most successful online city newspapers. He was recently made entertainment editor.
        WannaBeatles with our Riverbend patron, Bob Payne

So we did our 90 minute set, with only a few glitches, and lots of good crowd energy. By the time we ended with "Hey Jude," they were singing along loud enough to remind us of why Paul wrote that ending in the first place. 

Then at the merch table afterward, we met lots of fans who loved us. We were inundated with friends of Maddie, the waitress we'd met at Blue Plate Diner that afternoon. 
    Maddie and her friends and their excitement for the show 

We were overwhelmed by the response. After we packed up, we continued to be blessed by new messages on Facebook which we read in the car on the way back to Nashville - like one that said "AWESOME-AWESOME AWESOME."

The day was over, and what an awesome day it was for us! We can't wait to go back. Thanks Chattanooga, and Riverbend for a great place, great time, and great show.

Bloggin' Bryan 9jun2014