We were all super excited when Knox College in Galesburg, IL booked us to play their Lincoln Fest a couple of weeks ago. The gig almost sounded too good to be true — generous compensation, dinner, a double hotel room for each of us and a nice road trip. And it very nearly WAS too good to be true.
We packed all our gear and our bodies into Tom’s well-loved minivan, Seabiscuit, and began our trip at about 2:45pm. JUST as Friday rush hour was starting. Oh Good! Luckily we’d forecast heavy traffic and allowed ourselves enough time that it wouldn’t be a problem and we’d still get to Knox as scheduled. We were barely out of the city on I-290, when Tom noticed an unfamiliar, and ominous, illumination on the dashboard. It was the “Engine Overheating” light. Fantastic! We had no sooner left for a 3.5 hour drive and the van is overheating in bumper to bumper traffic.
We made it to a gas station, Tom got on the phone with his ex-mechanic Father In Law for guidance, and Mike had a list of nearby car rental places pulled up on his phone. It was a tough call: There was still a chance that with the proper fluids and ventilation Seabiscuit could make it through our trip, but there was also a good chance that she wouldn’t, or at least she’d overheat again and we’d lose more time — Time that we hadn’t counted on using for cooling the van or waiting for a tow truck.
TO BE CONTINUED….
We decided to rent a van. This was one of the few times when I’ve been convinced of the usefulness of the iPhone; Mike found an Enterprise with a van available just a few blocks away and navigated us to it. We were given the keys to a nice new Dodge Caravan, unloaded Seabiscuit, loaded the rental, and we were off again… Off into still-rush-hour traffic.
It was 4pm by now, we were supposed to be at Knox between 7 and 8. We had at least three hours to go and traffic was not in our favor, so we called our contact at Knox and they kindly pushed our set back to closer to 8:45, so we still had a chance to make it. We made only one hurried stop at a gas station in a tiny town off the highway, where our certain brand of lovingly graphic homo- and hetro-erotic humor thoroughly confused/appalled the Jr. High or High School-aged girls in line for the bathroom. We tend to forget that there are innocent bystanders around when we go out in public.
After all the craziness of Seabiscuit overheating, it was nice to sit back and enjoy the view of all the nothingness that Central Illinois has to offer from the captains chairs of a new and fully-functioning vehicle. That is, it was nice until we realized we were in Iowa. The Bermuda Triangle of I-80, I-88, and I-74 near the Illinois/Iowa border had claimed yet another vessel and its bewildered passengers. We realized the mistake with enough time to turn ourselves around and get back on track, but then we missed our exit AGAIN. Some advice to other bands who might have to make this same trip: Don’t decide to make your set list while navigating in this area. You’ll need all of your concentration and brain power to NOT GET LOST. By the time we got on the right highway, going the right direction, and in the right state, we were again cutting it really close on time. It looked like we’d be pulling up to the concert area and have to unload, set up, and play immediately. Not an ideal scenario, but at least we could still make the show.
TO BE CONTINUED…
We found the site of Lincoln Fest at Knox College without further incident and as soon as we got out of the van, students came to help us unload our gear and put it behind the stage. The show was already in full swing, but they had pushed our set back even farther to 9pm, so we had about a half hour before we had to set up or do anything besides hang out in the lounge area and graze on the buffet of hummus, veggies, apples, brie and Oreos.
The show was outside and rather colder and windier than we’d expected. Most of the audience was sitting on the ground and huddled in blankets, until after a couple of songs we pointed out that they’d be a lot warmer if they got up, came closer to the stage and danced. AND IT WORKED! Everyone wrapped their blankets around their shoulders and danced or just jumped up and down for the rest of our set. It was great! The compensation and accommodations Knox provided to us were all well and good, but there’s nothing like an enthusiastic crowd to make a white-knuckled four hour trip worth it.
The crowd wasn’t even deterred when the power kept going out during our set. At random intervals the lights and vocal mics would go out, but we kept on playing anyway and they’d eventually come back on. It added an air of excitement and unpredictability to our set, I think. Speaking of excitement and unpredictability, during this show we unveiled our new audience participation activity: The Shake Weight Race. Before playing Boston & Alone, we selected one member of the audience to come up on stage; if he could keep the Shake Weight going for the entirety of the song he would receive a free CD. The lucky participant danced and Shake Weighted (Shake Wought??) all over the stage successfully for the entire song and hence collected his prize and is now known to most of Knox College as being good at the Shake Weight. Aaahh, to be a Shake Weight Champion is both a blessing and a curse.
TO BE CONTINUED… OR NOT!