with JD Malone and the Experts: Steel City Coffeehouse, Phoenixville PA

there’s something about knowing beforehand that you’re sold out that makes your blood pump just a little more rapidly than normal.

it had been quite some time since we’d played a full band show, and we were all chomping at the bit a little…although, if the truth be told, by the time the day of the show had rolled around, i just wasn’t feelin’ it. i don’t know why – i just couldn’t get pumped for this show. it happens sometimes…now and then, i have to really talk myself into just getting in the car and showing up – and it seldom has anything to do with the prestige of the gig, or who it is i’m playing with, or any of that…it’s just that sometimes i’d rather be doing anything else but play. it doesn’t happen terribly often, but it does happen, and it was happening this day…but as my buddy skip denenberg said to me once – “i didn’t feel like going, so i knew i had to be there.”

there’s a powerful sentiment, right there – and i’ve gotta say, i’ve found it to be true enough times that i believe it without question. if i have a strong enough sense of dread about going somewhere, then it usually means that it’s important that i show up.

plus, there’s that whole respect-for-your-bandmates, adult-responsibility thing that kinda dictates that you keep your commitments and do the right thing and all that jazz.

at any rate – i knew it would end up being a temporary mindset…that once i got there and settled in, that i’d be myself again and it’d all be good. i just had no idea how good good would end up being.

i was actually travelling pretty lightly for an experts show…i only brought the mandolin, the lap steel, and the baritone guitar. no banjo, no electric 12 string – and i set up on the opposite side of the stage from where i had normally set up. in the time since we’d played there last, there had been some overhauls with regard to the stage and the sound system, and they’d moved the mixing nest away from the side of the stage to a location just next to the bar itself, against the back wall – it made a world of difference, both in terms of the layout of the stage and the sound in the room as well. i wouldn’t say it was night and day, but it was a noticeable, substantial difference – in terms of the sound of the room that night and what i’d been accustomed to. so we got in a great soundcheck and went downstairs to relax before the show.

as the night went on, and the usual shenanigans were underway downstairs in the green room (avery being avery and the like), i began to notice that the sound of shuffling feet was a lot louder than normal above our heads…the room was full. when we went up the stairs to take the stage, it was literally shoulder to shoulder – and immensely energizing.

when we hit the stage and JD counted off silver from and the band slammed in behind him, it was obvious from that precise moment that this show was gonna be a notch higher than what we’ve become accustomed to…the energy in the room was pretty intense. i know how that probably sounds, but it was palpable. if you happened to be there, you know.

a lot of people believe passionately in the exchange of energy that goes on between the performer and the audience – i’ve certainly experienced it myself in the past, to varying degrees…but when it’s that obvious, it actually elevates my playing. i mean, the solo i did that night on emerald lake was easily the best one i’ve ever done…and the band actually shifted where i did, dynamically – built up when i did, dropped out when i did – it was pretty unbelieveable.

jayda was there, she came up and sang the harmony on black yodel…dean sciarra was there, and came down for a while before the show…john woolley was there, who drove in from point pleasant, NJ for the show and sat right in front of me with a buddy of his who’d come to the show with him.

when we did an encore, i leaned over and asked john if the bottle on his table was empty, to which he replied that it was…so when we went into my solo section, i dropped my lap steel on johns’ table, grabbed the bottle and played my solo with the bottle that was on his table…from my seat on stage. (it was that packed that night. seriously.)

JD was totally in his element that night, fronting the band and connecting with the audience – he was clearly feeling the energy in the room as well, and it showed.

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