Minnesota, it turns out, is a lovely (if not very warm) place. I'm certainly not shivering now, being back in the Florida Panhandle and aglow with the thought that some upstart college professor could unseat our chicken-farmer representative from Chumuckla. You know, the one who asked why the dinosaurs went extinct if there weren't any cars around at the time.
So after a visit with my Mom and Pop in Columbus, I pointed my rental car (a stripped down Celica, with no cruise control) north towards the Gopher State. I-65 to CHI, then I-94 through Milwaukee and up towards Minnesota. (Chicago wasn't an issue at all midday, just a little slowdown on 'Da Ryan', but I was enjoying gawking at the skyline so no loss). The wind farms became more frequent, the drivers more courteous, and I started feeling a curious sense of 'belonging', a thought quickly supplanted by a recollection from Geology 101 that this area was glaciated as recently as 10,000 years ago, and was still inhumanly cold 9 or 10 months a year.
I played six shows (two with the Barbary-Coast Show Band, two piano trio, and two solo piano) two rehearsals and a recording session, in 7 days. Not particularly brutal, the difficult part was having to be someplace by 0930 (which is WAY past my bedtime) 5 of those 7 days. Granted, one of those daytime activities was a game at Target Field, but still, my internal clock doesn't usually start ticking until about 1100.
Most folks don't 'get' my routine, I rarely eat before a concert (gotta keep that edge, ya know) so if I'm finished by 10 PM it's food glorious food time, followed by a swim at the hotel, followed by a ballgame on the internet, followed by a shower. My brain is usually off the rotisserie by about 2 AM, or enough so that I can get to sleep. "Why don't you just go to bed after the concert" isn't an option, even after 38 years I still get terribly excited performing, it just takes time to unwind. n.b.: I've been sober for about 24 years, so drinking myself into a coma isn't an option, either.
I've performed for many, many audiences in my career, some great, some not so great, some indifferent. But nothing could have prepared me for the welcome I got in Minneapolis. The audiences were large, diverse, attentive, and very VERY responsive. A couple of them enjoyed my little dog and pony show, in addition to my music I do some Irish Pub-ish stuff gleaned while performing on the Delta Queen Steamboats. But the rest wanted no part of the 'family fun' pablum, they wanted to listen to some piano music. Listen they did.
I played and played and played and played and they just kept applauding and asking for more. When I was a kid, I met Liberace and he told me something I carry into every concert I play. He said "Love your audience, and they will love you back". Man did these folks ever love me back.
So if you're in the Bloomington area next May, keep your eyes open for the Barbary-Coast Show Band, or just me with a trio. (I'd be remiss is I didn't mention bassist Steve Pikel and percussionist Tom Andrews. They played the show down cold with little more that a talk-through before the concert. True professionals.) Most of all, a heartfelt thank you to the good people of Minnesota. I've never experienced such warmth.
Now, if you could just do something about that weather...