Another Friday night at Johnny’s Pub and Grill in Rochester, where I am waiting anxiously for the next song from The Earthtones. The trio is standing on the stage under a street sign readling, ‘Penny Lane’; the owner Johnny loves The Beatles,
The opening notes to Landslide are heard over the roar of the happy hour crowd. Most of the bands I follow are all male, so I am enjoying Eva’s take on the classic Fleetwood Mac song. Brian Regan, Eva Regan, and Mike Walker are The Earthtones. Brian is a genius with both guitar and bass, Eva dazzles on the keyboards, and Mike is amazing on the drums and other percussion. They have playing together at least 14 years. I remember this because they came to Syracuse and played my 40th Birthday Bash at Highland Forest in 2001 (yes, I know, you can do the math, I am over 50).
I try and to see them as often as I can. It’s tricky driving to Rochester and trying to get there in a reasonable time for happy hour. During the winter months, about half of my planned trips are cancelled due to bad weather and snow. But when I do get there, it is so worth it!
I usually get there about six or seven songs in, so the crowd is in full swing. I grab a beer at the bar and while I wait I talk to whomever is next to me about how great the band is. Then I join my friends Lyn and Jesse at the front table, their usual spot with a great view of Lyn’s brother Mike, who is the reason I go every time. Mike is an old college friend (yes, ANOTHER old college friend of mine who is immensely talented and plays in a band).
Here’s a video from a recent performace with Mike, Brian, Eva, and Jon Kuppinger sitting in on bass:
The second set gets more colorful as new players are introduced. The band structures the playlist so that the songs with fuller sounds can take advantage of the sax their friend Mark Bradley plays. As they start Hey Jude, the crowd goes crazy, knowing Mark and his soulful vocals and powerful sax solo will hit the spot. By the end of the song the crowd is on their feet cheering.
As the second set draws to a close, the regulars anticipate one of the last songs, Gloria. Every second Friday of the month, Rusty shows up just to sing that song with them. When he grabs the mic, everyone knows they are in for a treat and flock to the dance floor. There are a few songs The Earthtones do that turn into audience participation pieces, like Hey Jude, but Gloria is the one that everyone waits for. Everyone is on the dance floor spelling out the title of the song, G-L-O-R-I-A!
As another happy hour at Johnny’s draws to a close, I fall into a role that I have enjoyed for 30 years now, being Mike’s roadie. It gives me a chance to tell him how much I loved the show and to catch up on what’s happening in his life. All too soon I head back toward the NYS Thruway, singing some of their greatest hits as I travel on home.