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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...


Originally posted to mrpiano on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 01:16 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You oughta (5+ / 0-)

    ask around about Lazy Bill Lucas (RIP) if you want to know about a good piano player. Minnesota has a lot of them, Tommy Ray, for example.
    Great trad jazz bands seem to thrive up there in the cold.

    I buy and sell well trained riding mules and American Mammoth Jack Stock.

    by old mule on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 04:19:46 PM PDT

  •  I'm so glad (9+ / 0-)

    my state made you feel so at home.

    Please come back sometime!

    "Much of movement conservatism is a con and the base is the marks." -- Chris Hayes

    by raptavio on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 05:06:32 PM PDT

  •  Shhh! Not so loud.... (10+ / 0-)

    We schedule those little glacial winters to drive all the riff raff to Florida. That's the real secret to 'Minnesota Nice.'

    I hope you return for an encore.

    Beware of Bad Bhadsha - Zn'rx Proverb

    by Jack Pine Savage on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 05:30:06 PM PDT

    •  Speaking of running off to Florida... (0+ / 0-)

      What' really funny about that is the chap I work for on the Barbary Coast Showband (the left-handed banjo player, yeah, that guy) winters in Naples, where I perform most of February.  

  •  One little nit to pick: (4+ / 0-)

    MN may be in the Subarctic for 6-7 months of the year, but not 9 or 10!  May through October are generally fairly decent, though this past May was a bit of an exception... Had our last snow on the 5th...  :-(  

    -7.13 / -6.97 "The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion." -- Edmund Burke

    by GulfExpat on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 06:31:54 PM PDT

    •  I was in Minneapolis a couple weeks ago and it was (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Phoenix Woman

      in the 90's.  This winter it was hardly colder than here in CT.

      Didn't used to be.

      Real plastic here; none of that new synthetic stuff made from chicken feathers. By the morning of 9/12/2001 the people of NYC had won the War on Terror.

      by triplepoint on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 09:08:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Global warming has really affected us (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mrpiano, SMWalt, kfred, bull8807

        Used to be that it was impossible to grow corn in Minnesota -- far too cold.  It took the development of "Minnesota 13" -- one of the first (if not the first) corn hybrids developed by the University of Minnesota -- to make Minnesota a corn-growing state, and even then we couldn't hold a candle to Iowa in that regard; wheat was our thing, especially in the west.

        Back in the early 1980s, the "sweet spot" for corn growth -- where all the variables (moisture, heat, daylight, etc.) were as good as possible -- was around Des Moines.  It's now near the Iowa-Minnesota border.

        That's right -- the "sweet spot" has moved 150 miles north in three decades.

        Visit for Minnesota news as it happens.

        by Phoenix Woman on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 10:26:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Temps have been all over the map (0+ / 0-)

        over the past couple, three weeks.  Highs over the past week or so haven't been over 70.  Right now, just before 5 pm CDT it's only 63.  

        -7.13 / -6.97 "The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion." -- Edmund Burke

        by GulfExpat on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 03:10:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Please try to remember... (0+ / 0-)

      that for Floridians, anything below 71F is chilly. (Unless you're talking movie theaters and malls, those are places we go to watch the tourists try to sooth their sunburns.)

  •  Hey Mr. Piano: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Phoenix Woman, ER Doc

    Any update on your complete Joplin rag project?

    •  Joplin Project (0+ / 0-)

      Finito!  Well, the piano-playing part anyway.  Now it's up to the engineers to get rid of ambient noise and bicker among themselves about reverb levels and stuff.  Be happy to send you some Soundcloud links...shoot me your email to and I'll send you what I've got.  Cheers, Bobby

  •  Awesome -- I'm also a pianist. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Phoenix Woman, ER Doc

    Freelance musician and piano teacher. I teach, accompany, and perform for anyone who will listen -- though the last is not, admittedly, all that lucrative. What sort of repertoire do you do mainly?

    "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

    by Eowyn9 on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 06:41:43 PM PDT

    •  Repertoire (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Mainly?  Stride and ragtime, jazz and bebop, classical, romantic and modern, show tunes and pop.  I rarely ask for requests, but I was playing a local event and did the 'anything anybody wants to hear' bit.  Some dipshit said "Play some Elton John" (nothing says 'I'm ignorant but want  some attention so I'll shout out something stupid' like "Play some Elton John) so I started "Tiny Dancer", which the dipshit promptly started crooning along with.  I quickly changed keys, and discovered (to my immense glee) that the opening sequence to 'Tiny Dancer' is 'Peg of my Heart' backwards, so I put together a little medley right on the spot.  The crowd loved it, the dipshit was confused, and I left the gig thinking "My work here is finished".  I play piano concertos and stuff with civic orchestras (hoping to do the Copland Piano Concerto next spring) and love working with students on shows (did the Addams Family Musical a couple months back).  Hope that answers your question.  

  •  Minnesota (5+ / 0-)

    is a great place to be from.  Wonderful people, beautiful public spaces, but damn, those winters...

    Of course, Florida has its own set of drawbacks, between the hurricanes, Gov. Skeletor and the crazy-ass legislature.

    I'm glad you enjoyed your time in MN, and received a 'Minnesota Nice' reception.

    There is no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast.

    by puzzled on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 07:38:02 PM PDT

  •  MN culture was set by Germans, Scandis, Irish... (4+ / 0-)

    ...all of whom love a good tune or two.  Or eight.  

    If you want to get a taste of where we're coming from, pick up a Nordic Roots sampler, to hear Scandinavian musicians playing old (and new) folk tunes and mixing it up a little bit, and invariably with sharp, precise chops and timing that would make James Brown weep.

    And we pride ourselves on avoiding pablum.  

    Go to most any Irish place in town (my old favorite used to be the Half Time Rec in Saint Paul, especially whenever the Irish Brigade were in town), and you'll notice that you're much more likely to hear "Follow Me Up To Carlow" than "Danny Boy".

    Visit for Minnesota news as it happens.

    by Phoenix Woman on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 07:46:31 PM PDT

  •  I agree with you: after all these years (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Phoenix Woman, Eowyn9

    I still get high on performing.


    by commonmass on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 08:00:06 PM PDT

  •  Glad you enjoyed MN and Target Field (3+ / 0-)

    It's a great place, just don't tell anyone.

  •  Like Target Field? StubHub is your friend (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ER Doc

    You can get Legends Club tickets, normally $60 a pop, for under $20 if you are diligent.

    Visit for Minnesota news as it happens.

    by Phoenix Woman on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 08:55:55 PM PDT

  •  I heard Minnesota audiences were considered... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Phoenix Woman, SMWalt

    ...unsophisticated and noisy by some east coast person who claims to know better.  Can't recall where I read it.  But he claimed that we give too many standing ovations and cough and nose blow throughout performances.  I have to agree.  But we like us some live music.

    Government works when you elect those who want it to. --askyron (2013)

    by Simul Iustus et Peccator on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 10:04:57 AM PDT

    •  Depends on the music. (4+ / 0-)

      If it's a long and uninspiring retread of Brahms at Orchestra Hall, then, yeah, we cough a lot.  (Especially if it's a work night and we're tired.)

      If it's something involving, like a performance of Shostakovich, a piano bar chorus of "Cry Me A River" or watching most anything done by Jack White, we don't cough.

      Visit for Minnesota news as it happens.

      by Phoenix Woman on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 10:31:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's funny (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Simul Iustus et Peccator

        Yeah, 'Cry me a Shostakovitch' usually gets my attention too.  When we played the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts (groovy piano, BTW) the crowd hooted along with the uptempo stuff, and during the quiet moments, you could hear a pin drop.  They seemed to know what they were listening to, and sopped it up.  A great evening, all around.  

    •  Amen to that (0+ / 0-)

      Operas are horrifying.  The crackle of cellophane is a constant accompaniment.  I've only been to the Opera in Saint Paul and Adelaide, but we're looking forward to seeing a performance at the Met one of these years.  The Australians dressed down a bit, but were FAR better behaved.

  •  thanks for this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Nice report. I'm a native Floridian myself, but there was a gene mixup; I hate heat and humidity, and after visiting Minneapolis on business once I set a goal to move there. Made it 8 years later--that was 1976, and I'm pretty much retired now but wouldn't move out of state for anything I can think of. So I came for the weather but stayed for the politics, you could say.

    Your Joplin project sounds like a great idea. I'd buy that. Any more info available??

    We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term. --Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

    by uffdalib on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 06:21:53 PM PDT

    •  omigosh (0+ / 0-)

      I just read your diary from last August about starting the Joplin project. We have a 1980 C7! It's my wife's piano, sitting 15 feet away in the living room. Our adult son is not really a musician but after forced piano lessons as a young kid he autodidacted his way through a couple of rags because he loves Scott Joplin. He would love to hear your work.

      We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term. --Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

      by uffdalib on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 06:32:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I used to hear the Barbary Coast in NH (0+ / 0-)

    I was a student at Dartmouth for a while.  Got to hear the Barbary Coast band frequently.  It was always a treat.

    I play piano myself, and love piano jazz (and blues).  I  occasionally do public performances (or train-wrecks depending on how well you can know good piano-playing), and I can't sleep after a performance either.

    Your Feet's Too Big, baby!!

    "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

    by Hugh Jim Bissell on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 07:01:31 AM PDT

  •  Thank you for coming! (0+ / 0-)

    I will have to remember to catch your next performance in Bloomington. Minnesotans love live music and theater, always have. We are delighted by anyone who takes the time to come here and I would not be satisfied with us if we didn't give you a warm welcome.

    Our local food scene has really taken off too, did you have a chance to sample some of the non-chain fare? If not I will send you a list of great little places for next time.

    Is fheàrr fheuchainn na bhith san dùil

    by bull8807 on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 07:50:09 AM PDT

  •  Glad that you had a good reception (0+ / 0-)

    I went to a house Jazz Jam party that had me pinching myself because it was so good. Yes, we love good music in many forms.

    We also love our cold. It keeps out riff raff. It gives us a reason to have warm coffee and snuggle in front of a fireplace. We get to feel so bold in warm jacket going from heated house to heated car to heated office to heated large indoor shopping malls. Shhhh, it is so terrible here.  

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