Sunday, September 28, 2014

Bethesda and Beyond

We had a three day weekend that turned into a six day trip in August. 

It was centered on Saturday night, August 23, at the Bethesda Theater, in Bethesda, Maryland. Sunday afternoon was a show in Clifton Forge, Virginia, where we played last summer.

A third gig was a family deal: Doug Cumming, brother of WannaBeatle Bryan, cooperated with our schedule and hired us to play at his house in Lexington, Virginia on that Friday night. 

So we had those three days booked. It looked like a long day of driving the first day, three and a half hours from Lexington to Bethesda the next day, then about four hours to Clifton Forge for the next day. 

It was not ideal, but it was feasible.

Then we got creative, teaming up with a company in Washington DC, to help promote our show in Bethesda, which is just north of Washington.

They secured us a television spot on Fox 5 morning show that Friday at 10 am, to promote the Saturday night concert.

That was a great opportunity to reach thousands of people, but the only way to do it was to drive up on Thursday instead of Friday.

The next wrinkle came when David suggested that we look into playing at Walter Reed Hospital while we're there. It didn't seem like we could fit another performance into our travel schedule, but after speaking to Dr. Micah Sickel at the hospital who was receptive to the idea, we worked out a plan to leave Nashville a day earlier, on Wednesday, in order to play at Walter Reed on Thursday. 

Coordinated with this plan was Nathan's job of helping his daughter Eliza move back to her dorm room at American University, which meant taking her, with her furniture, along  with us into DC. 

So there were some logistics to work out. 

For stage clothing, we took four separate outfits, which were necessary because there was no time to clean clothes between shows.

The good news was that we could spend the first day driving, then get a good night's rest and have energy for the next day's work. But that plan got unexpectedly disrupted with an injury the first night we arrived.

We left Nashville Wednesday Aug. 20. In addition to our usual gear, and Eliza's dorm furniture, we were also carrying Dennis's small PA system, to use at the gig Friday night at Doug's house. 

Because Lexington, the site of our Friday night gig, is located right off of Interstate 81, it made sense to stop there, see Doug's house, unload the PA system, and figure out where in their rambling Victorian house to set up the band for their party.
Here's the brotherly reunion in their living room, 
where The WannaBeatles decided to set up. 

Then we continued up the road to Bethesda.

We pulled into the American Inn in Bethesda around 11 pm, tired and glad to get rooms. The van and trailer could be parked in a lot a block away. 

We were pleased to see that our show was being 
advertised with this poster on the desk in the hotel lobby.

Nathan's Injury

As part of our security plan, the WannaBeatles had purchased a wheel-locking mechanism which we could install on the wheel of the trailer for its overnight parking.

The device was still new in its package when we arrived. The plastic moulding around the device was extremely strong. 

Nathan, attempting to open the package by cutting through the plastic, used his Swiss Army knife, applying much of his strength to pull the blade towards his other hand. David, watching, was just about to yell out a warning about how unsafe that looked, when the knife slipped and cut into Nathan's left forefinger. 

We had an injury in the parking lot. With blood. Plenty of it. Nathan wrapped his finger to stop the bleeding, and considered his options: would a bandage would be enough to hold it or was a trip to the hospital necessary? Considering his role as keyboard player, it was wise to give his finger the best care available.

It was serious enough for the emergency room. Nathan's wife Sally is a doctor, and she confirmed on the phone the wisdom of that decision, along with a dry reminder of the expected financial impact: "Well, there goes your profit for the trip."

With a temporary bandage around his finger, Nathan went with David and Dennis to a local hospital, where he waited over an hour, before getting treated. He received three stitches and some pain medication.
Temporary bandage on the hurt finger
The injured finger 
Doctor Dennis takes the pulse and calms the patient

(Thanks to WannaBeatle David for photos from the hospital)

Fortunately, the injury would not prevent Nathan from playing. Hopefully, it reminded him to be more careful around knives.

So much for our good night's rest. Nathan and his stretcher bearers came in at 3 am.

The next day was our performance at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
The sign at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

The statue of Walter Reed, 1851-1902, Bacteriologist

The tower and the entrance to the America Building
Here's the entrance lobby, 
where our sound man was setting up for us to play
David setting up on the carpet in the lobby
David made friends with a veteran, 
whose name was George Lightfoot
 Here we are in the black shirts and red ties

 After our lobby show, we toured various floors to sing for patients, taking requests, and occasionally finding some spirited singers in the hospital rooms.
            WannaBeatles Dennis, David, and Bryan,
 ready to entertain in the hallways of Walter Reed

The WannaBeatles are grateful to Dr. Micah Sickel, director of Stages of Healing at Walter Reed, who organized the day for us, and secured us a fine lunch in the fancy cafeteria downstairs. 

That afternoon we drove over to American University campus, where we helped Eliza move into her dorm room. She was secretly proud to be the only student with a team of men wearing matching black shirts to help her move in.

That evening we could relax. WannaBeatle Bryan visited his cousin Oliver, whose wife, daughter and son would be attending the Bethesda show. The other three WannaBeatles found a nice Thai restaurant and enjoyed the time off.

The next morning was our visit to Fox 5 TV for an appearance on "Good Day DC" morning show. 

David setting up his drums
 David ready to go
Nathan does the weather

We did a pretty good interview with their host and sounded pretty good on a brief medley of Sgt. Pepper and Little Help from My Friends. We also did a version of "Good Day Sunshine" substituting the name of their show, "Good Day DC" as the title, which was a serendipitous opportunity.

We also got to meet Brian Chofer and Skip Kelly from the agency/label that booked us on the show.
Skip, Dennis, Bryan, David, Brian, and Nathan

Then we loaded up to drive to Lexington. We arrived at Doug and Libby's house, and set up in their living room. After eating a barbecue supper they served, we had just enough time to drive to the local motel to change clothes (this time it was short sleeved black turtlenecks) before returning for our 8:00 start. 

Part of the fun of this evening was my brother Doug and me reuniting, since we used to have a band together back in the 60's, which was our own Georgia-based version of getting inspired by The Beatles. Doug was looking forward to this opportunity, not only to hear these songs again, but to "jam," to play together the same way we did back then.

And so our first set flowed naturally into a jam session, where Doug brought out his saxophone and we played the funky harmonized horn parts on "Watermelon Man," our signature song back in high school. 

In addition, Dennis, thinking ahead to this night and knowing my parents would be there, brought along our big band arrangement of "In The Mood," the classic Glenn Miller hit from the 40's. Doug joined me on sax for that one, and Mother and Daddy danced their socks off.

Doug also had some of his local bluegrass musicians join the fun, playing other classic songs during our break, with Doug and me joining in.

It was a very personal WannaBeatles show, and very enjoyable in that way.

Here's a little family portrait, 
Mother, Bryan, Doug and Daddy, 
taken at Doug's house two days later, 
on our way back to Clifton Forge.

Saturday we were up early to get back to Bethesda for our big show at the Bethesda Jazz & Supper Club. I say "big show" because Dennis had been talking for weeks about it, not only with the managers of the club but also with Brian and Skip from Entertainment DC, who were using the show as a way to introduce us to other folks in the area. 

And so, during the drive back to Bethesda, Dennis was on his laptop, analyzing the set list, and instructing us on ways to smooth out transition sections of the show. 

It was a rainy afternoon.
Putting up sign at Bethesda Theater in the rain.
And the marquis with lights later that evening

There were more family connections in Bethesda. Nathan's daughter Eliza brought several of her friends from American University.

I got to see my cousin Oliver, his wife Anne, and their daughter Elizabeth and son Andrew. And at the table next to theirs were Stephen and Mary Preston, with their daughter Julia (a huge Beatles fan). Stephen is my sister's brother-in-law, another relative in Washington.
Anne, Bryan, Oliver and Andrew 
Elizabeth in her WannaBeatles tee shirt

Elizabeth was our chief volunteer at the merch table in the lobby... 

where Dennis caught up with his dear old friend Nadine.

We learned some history of the theater from Rick Brown, its current owner. It was built in 1938, and hosted numerous musical stars like Count Basie during its early years. Rick Brown bought it a year and a half ago, and restored its classic musical identity, as a jazz supper club. 

Rick told us about his musician father and talented mother.
Here's the tribute to them he installed in the dressing room.

They served us a full meal in the dressing room, which was located down a small spiral staircase, connected to half a dozen other dressing rooms down the hall, like a classic old theater. These rooms emanated history - the accumulated show biz flavor of thousands of actors getting ready before their moment onstage.

Our show didn't go exactly the way we planned. What happened is that listeners gathered at the front of the stage and started dancing. And then they kept dancing, throughout the set. My energetic relatives Elizabeth and Julia were out there among them, bouncing most of the show.

That meant that slower songs and specialty numbers, like our Simon and Garfunkel parody, were not needed. We stayed with the uptempo energetic songs, and everybody was happy.
WannaBeatles onstage, dancers up front

Brian and Skip from Entertainment DC were pleased with the turnout and response. They said we could probably come back in another six months and do another show there.That sounded great.

The next day we drove back through Lexington to play our second annual concert at nearby Clifton Forge, Va.

In Clifton Forge, we were treated to another Italian meal at Vic's, presented by resident New Yorker Steve Greenblatt, who impressed us last year with his expert touch with authentic Italian pizza and pasta.
WannaBeatles David and Nathan talking with Steve

Steve showing his muscle at the door

We were back at the uniquely designed Masonic Amphitheater.
David setting up at Masonic Amphitheater

Nathan setting up
Dennis setting up merchandise
WannaBeatle Bryan's setlist, lyrics & music

It was a treat to have family there.
Doug (who played clarinet with us on "When I'm 64"),
his wife Libby, their friend Sharon Massie, our Daddy, 
our cousin Janet, and our illustrious Mama

The WannaBeatles were delighted to stay again at the nearby Red Lantern Inn, where our host JoAnn even ironed our shirts.

Three WannaBeatles on the steps of the Red Lantern Inn
just before the show

It was another fine time in Clifton Forge, and then back home to Nashville the next morning - having survived our longest short summer tour.

-Bloggin' Bryan 26 Sept 2014

Monday, September 8, 2014


The WannaBeatles love playing the Library. It's a beautiful place, and a beautiful setting, bringing music to the lunch time crowd downtown in the open air plaza nestled onto the second floor of the Library. 

We usually draw about 700 people, and that includes infants with moms, and kids playing in the fountain.

This year, we can tell the story in pictures, thanks to photographer Ray Jones, who gave us access to his disc.
Here's Elaine Wood, who books us at the Library, reaching into the box to pull out a winning ticket for the day, assisted by her loyal volunteer Judy.
Announcing the winner

And here we are, singing in our "Shea Stadium" shirts.

Here's another front shot with Nathan on bass.
And another with Dennis on acoustic guitar...

This shot was probably during "You Can't Do That"

Here's David singing at the drums, side view.

And the front view, including his arsenal: 
a small keyboard and two bottles of water.

Dennis and Nathan sharing the mic.

Here's Dennis on maracas, 
which would have been during "Let It Be" 

Here's Dennis looking left, with a view of the trees 
next to our "stage," making our "Shea Stadium" shirts 
look more like safari suits.

In this picture we know Dennis is being funny 
because David's laughing. The song is probably 
"Creme Brulee," our parody of "Yesterday."

Here's Dennis on acoustic guitar... 

and on harmonica 

and rockin' with two-fisted percussion

One extra treat for the day, for us as well as the entire audience, was the appearance of Evelyn Ford, who played the part of the Betty White lookalike in our "Oh Betty!" video. She's a great sport.

Evelyn with her Betty fan, and Nathan singing "Oh Betty"

Dennis, Betty, and Evelyn, all smiles

There's also a sax solo in "Oh Betty."

Thanks to Evelyn for making "Oh Betty" such a fun song.

Here's our WannaBeatles flute section, 
during "Fool on the Hill"

The song also includes a penny whistle solo, 
played on the recorder

Here's david's lovely daughter Gabrielle 
at our merch table, explaining the CD label.

Here's another wild guitar solo.
And another 
(do not try to reorient the photo...)

Here's Nathan at his keyboard. 

and on bass

and rocking at the keyboard 
while wearing the bass like a gunslinger

Here are Bryan and Dennis 
doing their background parts 
on the chorus of "Hello Goodbye" 

This is not trick photography. 
There really was a tree branch right next to my head.
(This is probably during "When I Get Home.")

Here's our lovely audience. 

Here's a view that includes the red umbrellas in the plaza

And another view with more greenery
And another view toward the side 

Here we are, just rocking

The whole day was made even more pleasant because of the skill and support we received from Matt Coxey and the audio team. They even helped load in our gear from the parking garage - that's way beyond the call of duty.

Thanks to Elaine for treating us so well and making the Library such a great event, and thanks to Ray Jones for all the photographs, and thanks to all our friends who came out to see us!

We had a great time. 

Bloggin' Bryan 8sept2014