Destination Buffalo Lake, Minnesota. That’s about a 16 hour drive from where I was staying in Tennessee. I don’t like to drive more than ten hours in a day if I can help it because of safety reasons. Driving tired is a terrible idea. Luckily, a friend let me stay at their home in Galesburg, Illinois the night of August 11th, cutting that trip almost in half. On the 12th I made it to “The Drama Free Zone.”
Sean Lindahl owns a sprawling piece of property with a two-story farm house and various outbuildings fenced on either side by acres of corn. His house is currently in a state of flux with some rooms finished to a fine degree of craftsmanship while most are lucky to have wallboards and are stripped down to the 2x4s. Sean works on other people’s houses for a living so he gets to his own when he can.
When I arrived at his home others were pulling in as well, wearing shirts from the previous years’ Seanfires. (The shirts feature the Seanfire logo along with a fire character. This year’s shirt also had my logo and the fire guy was strumming a ukulele.) Some folks were family, others just really good friends. Sheri, Sean’s girlfriend, was there as was her dad who joked irreverently with his best friend all night long. There were some young ‘uns and various dogs. Most of the eating and drinking activity centered around a shed as crockpots and foil containers were stacked around on shelves and beer was available in coolers. I could not believe it but they had spelled out my name on a smaller shed with lights.
After settling in and meeting everybody, I set up and played for about two hours while the revelers hung out. It was a party so some listened while others flowed back to the shed for more Grain Belt and other beers, delicious barbecue (cooked by Sean the day before on his handmade grill pit), many side dishes and other beverages. A shot ski was employed with four imbibers shooting Fireball and “apple pie” moonshine. On the bottom of the shot ski, seen as it was tilted back, was painted the words “So Dumb.” As I got close to my final song, “I Like It Hot,” the fire starter was cued and a plume of flame shot up behind me. Seanfire.
It was a great party. Some folks saw the sun rise while I hit the hay about 2am. I had a gig the next day in New Germany, an hour away and wanted to be somewhat fresh. The night was peaceful and Dave the Cat slept with me for awhile. The morning was chilly, only about 56 degrees. I came downstairs to see if anyone was awake. Sean appeared, trying to find his cell phone and shirt, both of which had separated from him during the night. Someone sprawled on the couch, others camped outside in tents and campers. Breakfast was an awesome casserole, coffee and light hearted conversation.
The next show was at Jill’s Down South Bar in New Germany. Owned by Jilann Paehlke, the bar is a fun atmosphere to make you feel like you’ve escaped to the tropics. The decor is colorful and very reminiscent of south Florida inside and out. At the bar you can order a variety of macro as well as micro brews. Out in the courtyard are fun tiki heads, beach themed furniture and a covered stage for entertainment. This particular Sunday they were hosting an open jam run by singer-songwriter Bill Litzau and friends.
While on stage I was surprised by the arrival of singer songwriter and musician extraordinaire Donny Brewer along with his wife Michelle and Radio Trop Rock’s owners Eric and Gina Babin. They had played a house concert venue not too far away just the night before. We caught up while some other folks jammed on stage. Also in the yard were friends John Sherwin, Patrick Petersen, Linda Robb and John Ritter plus Sean, Sheri and more friend from the previous night’s party arrived. I think they found their new favorite hang out.
Donny and I got up to do a few tunes and the crowd was having a blast. Donny is an accomplished guitarist and a joy to listen to. He’s great at getting the audience involved. Later, one of the patrons handed him a vintage Stratocaster guitar and he wailed on Jimi Hendrix’s song “Little Wing.”
We parted company later on in the evening. Donny and company were on their way to Pennsylvania and the next day I would be heading to Kansas. Sheri and I enjoyed a delicious pizza at Jill’s Bar, then headed back to Sean’s house to chill with friends, the dogs and Dave the Cat.
The following morning I packed the car and bid farewell to my dear friends and hit the road south. Next stop, Valley Center, KS, just north of Wichita.
Driving through states I’d never travelled through before was fun. Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, all farming states with quaint towns. I enjoyed the approximately ten hour drive and was putting some serious mileage on the car. The house concert venue in Valley Center is called The Backyard and is at the home of Bill and Debbie Haas. I had pretty much introduced Bill to Trop Rock music when he heard my song “TropiGal” and contacted me on Facebook to find out more. Years later he and Debbie have their own house concert space. The yard is comfy and spacious with a small stage and pop up tents with chairs underneath. Of course it’s decorated tropically in true Parrot Head fashion and is a nice place to play beneath the trees.
After I arrived and met some of the family I did my best to befriend the cats, especially the black cat, Marley. I really felt at home. The next morning we went to breakfast and Bill and Debbie drove me around to do a couple of errands. Afterwards I worked on some music and prepared for the show. Again, it was a “school” night so we had a small but mighty group of friends. I decided to do “Wichita Lineman” instead of “Rhinestone Cowboy” this time. It seemed apropos. I played mostly original music and told stories and had fun. A train could be heard coming through nearby several times which made an interesting background to some of my songs.
The next morning came all too soon and it was time to begin the trek East towards Philippi, WV. The fun part was, my friend Kirstin would be joining me for a few days so I headed towards St. Louis Lambert International Airport to pick her up.
Part 3 is next…