East Coast & Back

The City Champs sophomore album, The Set-Up was released to the world on November 2nd and our label wanted us on the road.  Unfortunately, with the timing being as tight as it was, the booking agent wasn’t able to totally put together what we’d originally planned on, so what was supposed to be a two-week long tour, ended up being only 5 days, but we made the best of it and motored ahead. Gassed-up the van, we headed North.

First stop, Newark, Delaware at a quaint little club called Mojo Main and although everyone was pretty friendly to us (once they let their guard down), we probably should have been playing a different venue.  In short, it was a Ska bar. Yes, that’s what I said, so enough about that.  But we played well and even sold one record and I was overjoyed at that.

Champs ready to rock Delaware on one of the smallest stages we've ever been on.

After the set, we loaded out and had to wait for a couple of hours to get paid, which was a drag, but we met some nice folks and had a few drinks and all was right with the world.  Once we had our dough, we headed back to the hotel and noticed on the way that the streets were full of people partying their asses off and we passed by several clubs that seemed way more like the types of places we needed to be playing up there.  So, there you have it.  Lesson learned.

Philly and the North Star Bar.  Great venue, but a bit of a strange night.  We were thrown onto the bill at the very last minute and it didn’t seem like anyone was happy about it, especially the Headhunters, who were headlining alongside another group from NYC called, The Mumbles. One of my drumming heroes and drummer with the Headhunters for many years, Mike Clark is a really sweet man and someone I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for quite some time.  It was amazing to see him play again.  What a killin feel he has.

We only played a 30-min set cause that’s all the time that they had for us, but we did our thing, rocked our butts off and made it back to our wonderful Howard Johnson hotel in record time.  Oh yeah, almost forgot…the highlight of the day, big fat cheese steak sandwich from Jim’s on South Street.  It was so worth the hour-long wait that I forgot to take pics of my food, but there’s a million of them already on the web, so check ’em out.  Freakin d’lish.

In line outside Jim's on South Street in Philly. We waited nearly an hour.

My old buddy from San Diego, Devon E. Levins, who now lives in New York hosts an internet radio show called Morricone Youth on East Village Radio and had previously worked it out to have us on his show.  We were very excited because the show is geared toward film music and The Set-Up has such a strong thematic nature to it.  Perfect!  It’s a good thing we got on the road early because we’d totally forgotten that the New York Marathon was happening that day, so the traffic coming into the city was a bitch and we had to be on the radio by 2pm.  Timing was everything and there wasn’t much of a window for dawdling.

Try to get to the Holland TunnelFortunately, we made it and everything worked out great and even had time to sit at a fantastic coffee shop called, The Bean and enjoy a hot beverage.  I chose the Dirty Chai, which was Chai tea and a shot of espresso.  Damn Good.  EVR is located in a tiny glass storefront, right on a busy 1st Ave, with gorgeous models walking up and down the street, which was driving me crazy all day.  I must have fallen in love three or four times that afternoon.  It was nuts and we had a blast.  Thanks to Devon for having us on the show, for playing so much of our music, and to our esteemed guitarist, Joe Restivo for putting together such an awesome playlist of soundtrack tunes.  You can stream the entire Nov 7th segment here.

East Village Radio show...L to R, myself, Devon E. Levins, Joe Restivo & Al Gamble

That evening we did our show at the Rose in Brooklyn, which is a great little venue and everyone there was really cool… And speaking of, many thanks go out to Devon, John Castro, Brian Seeger and Scott Bourgeois for making the trek out to see the show and to our good friend Carter Mclean for being so kind as to put us up in your home for the evening.  You’re a gentleman and a scholar.  The next morning was colder’n hell and it actually started to hail, so after bagels & coffee from Murray’s, we shagged ass outta town, headed to Williamsport, PA and to the fabulous Bullfrog Brewery.  This is a great little town and the venue is pretty much the centerpiece of their live music scene.  There’s no stage, but the warm friendly environment made us feel quite at home.  The food is great and the beer they brew is fantastic.  We were sitting enjoying our lunch when Joe announces that he’d just received an email from our publicist telling us that the album had been reviewed in the Commercial Appeal, our local Memphis newspaper.  It was the first really good review and we were elated.  What a day we were having.  That is, until I looked up from my sandwich at lunch and saw our van getting towed down the street.  Yikes!  I guess we’d been parked in a private lot, which was owned by some douche-y high-powered lawyer who doesn’t take kindly to people parking in the spots that he pays for.  We sprinted out the door, the three of us, chasing our Sherrod down the street for fifteen blocks, only to find a $125.00 tow charge at the end of our journey, but the fine folks at the Bullfrog (Steve & Jody) were on our side and had dealt with this before.  They took care of the bill and we were thrilled.  Later, we had a stellar show and sold a few copies of the album to some very nice folks.  Thanks, y’all.

Next day, we had a two-hr trip down to Harrisburg and played a venue called the Abbey Pub.  Nothing to speak of really cause there were four people that showed up to see us and that was probably an accident, but we had one of the best musical nights as a band and it was a fantastic top-off to the trip.  All in all, good times were had, lots of great food, numerous stops at Dunkin Donuts (they rule the Northeast) and only one traffic ticket (thank you hard-to-understand parking sign in Philly…curse you!)  1000 miles and 15 hrs later, home sweet home.  I highly recommend anyone reading to take a couple of days off, get in your car and drive somewhere in this country because it’s absolutely beautiful.

I love my job.

Kentucky Sky

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