Thursday, April 4, 2013

First Gig Outside the U.S. - Cherokee, N.C.

We left the country. We played a gig this week in Cherokee N.C., which is technically not in the U.S.

It's property owned by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, which also operates a massive Harrah's resort hotel and casino. It's a popular destination, near Gatlinburg, ski resorts, beautiful rivers, and the Smoky Mountains. 

We were hired to play at an employee "pep rally" for the Harrah's hotel and casino. Because the casino never closes, there are employees for every shift of the day. That meant two parties: one at 8 am, and the other at 8 pm. 

They had a sixties theme for their party, which meant in addition Beatles songs they wanted some other classic sixties songs. We were happy to work up songs like The Rascals' "Good Lovin'," The Kinks' "You Really Got Me," and Santana's "Oye Como Va." (Dennis couldn't resist giving that one a new Jewish title, calling it "Oy Vey Como Va.")

The parties were on Tuesday, so we we drove there Monday, and set up that afternoon and evening.

It took about 5 hours to get there from Nashville, in our WannaVan & trailer. Getting into town, we noticed that street signs are written in two languages: English, and some odd letters we didn't recognize. That turned out to be the Cherokee alphabet, one of the contributions from the famous Cherokee chief Sequoia about two centuries ago.

We saw a huge sign advertising an upcoming show by Reba in their event center. It was like a little slice of Vegas plopped down in these rolling Carolina mountains.

We were greeted by our contact Clayton, who explained that the entire hotel operation was run by Cherokee Indians. Their land is legally distinct from the U.S., run with its own laws and legislature. He took us by the security desk, where we traded in our driver's licenses for badges that were necessary as we loaded equipment through a secure area to get it to the room where we were playing. 

The hotel, we discovered, had recently undergone a $650 million renovation. So it was pretty impressive. 

Here's a cell phone photo of an unusual fireplace near the lobby, with flames coming out of small stones, under a rectangular canopy. 

Here's what the elaborate lighting in our bathroom looked like. 

Here's a view of the Soco Creek running along the property, under a bridge between two towers. 

To accent the sixties theme, they had tie-dye designs for table cloths, and peace signs all over the walls. The lava lamps on each table were a treat unto themselves, constantly changing colors, as you can see from this brief video. 

We were greatly assisted by our Harrah's crew, Matt Humke and Scott Howe, who helped us load the gear and ran a very nice sound system for us. Matt was a Belmont grad, so it was a bit of a Nashville homecoming to have him working with us. He had worked on lower Broadway for a while, and told us he was coming back to Nashville in a few weeks for the Black Keys/Flaming Lips show at Bridgestone arena.  

Here's a photo with Scott and Matt.

Another extra treat was the parody song which Dennis wrote for their general manager, Brooks. It was a take off on "Hey Jude" called "Hey Brooks," which had lines about his raising goats and chickens and keeping the employees in line. He turned out to be a very nice guy, appreciated by his employees. He gave a pep talk to the empolyees there, thanking them for helping set new records for the number of hundred dollar bills spent in a day at the resort. 

Our stay included two complimentary meal tickets, including the tip. (We had a discussion about whether that meant they paid the tip, and it actually did.) We used our meal tickets on Paula Deen's Kitchen for the morning. They opened at 7, and that meant ordering and eating a massive breakfast before being onstage for the 8 am show. 

In the late afternoon, we indulged at the Chef's Stage Buffet, which offers  dishes from a variety of cuisines, at sumptuous stations with names like Asian, Mexican, Italian, American Comfort, and Dessert. Dennis and David both raved about a broccoli cheese casserole, which sounds like an unusual object of delight when so many other fancy dishes were available, but there you have it.

Here we are in our civilian clothes, after dinner, on the bridge overlooking the creek.

It's a beautiful place, and we were glad to be there. Knowing that Cherokee is technically not in the U.S. makes us feel like we had a genuine getaway. 

And we didn't even need a passport.

Bloggin' Bryan, 4 April 2013

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