If it's not Mother Nature dumping snow and ice on us...it's Nasty Mr. Congestion hitting us with colds and flu. Not the most wonderful February for me personally as far as health and weather, so I'll admit to being relieved to have made it through to March.
However, there was a BIG bright spot this past weekend that made me feel like a carefree teenager again. A rock concert I've been excited about for months: The Mojo Daddies -- the most fab opening act EVER -- and the incomparable Dennis DeYoung performing the music of Styx unplugged!!! (I snapped most of the photos on the page, but I had help with a few. The picture to the left was taken by Randa during the pre-show sound check -- fascinating to watch. ;)
There's no doubt I'm a little bit biased when it comes to both bands. The husbands of my friends Sarah, Joyce and Carol are three of the talented members of The Mojo Daddies (a.k.a. TMD), and I've had the pleasure of seeing the guys perform a number of times before -- including last spring when they opened for Los Lobos! As for Mr. DeYoung, well...I've been a fan of Styx since the late 1970s and a few of his solo songs are amongst my favorites, too. (See my post on "Don't Wait for Heroes" -- a rock anthem for writers, if ever I heard one...)
The evening started when we all arrived at Governors State University, just outside of Chicago, and both bands got to do a quick sound check and rehearsal. Then, the TMD crew had a pizza party for the friends and family in attendance. (Note the incredibly awesome women pictured alongside of me to the left: Randa Anderson, Carol Dikelsy, Joyce Twardock, Sarah Pressly-James, me and Joyce Kveton.)
Since it was an all-acoustic evening, TMD's drummer Jim Campbell got to relax this time around, but the three other band members -- Rob Twardock, Craig James and Mike Dikelsy, pictured respectively to the right with their sound guy, Greg Kveton (far right) -- put on a fantastic opening show, playing all original songs that had our toes tapping.
(Here are Rob, Mike and Craig onstage to the left -- all on guitar for this song -- just wonderful!)
Adding to the fun was the fact that I was lucky enough to attend the concert with my brother Joe, who's always excellent company. (Love ya, Bro!) He and I have seen many fine musical performances together, and Saturday night added yet another memorable concert to our collection.
During the intermission between performances and, also, after the show, the TMD members, their wives and their kids helped sell/sign t-shirts and CDs. In this shot, Joyce, Mike and Craig display the must-have TMD items available for sale.
Then it was time for DeYoung and the gang to take the stage and, ohhh, the familiar and fabulous songs they played! From "Rockin' the Paradise," the opening number, to "Come Sail Away," the encore song that closed the show, it was a feast of musical memories for this '80s girl. (Those of you who've read my debut novel, According to Jane, might remember that I referenced Styx in the book. :) Other concert highlights included "Too Much Time on My Hands," "Foolin' Yourself," "Don't Let It End," "Mr. Roboto" and one other song I'll tell you about in a minute. (Pictured above: DeYoung and his band in the middle of the concert. L to R: His wife Suzanne, Craig Carter, Dennis on piano, Jimmy Leahey and August Zadra.)
One of the wildly exciting perks of being friends/family members of the performers is getting backstage privileges. (OMG!! It was totally like "Entourage"...) Just as we were fortunate to see the sound check prior to the show, we also got to join both sets of band members in a meet-and-greet room afterward. Thank you, TMD, for that exciting experience! Carol took this photo of Dennis DeYoung with Rob to the right -- a terrific shot.
Carol also took this one to the left of Dennis signing something for me -- proof that I'm a music geek from way, way back... What was it? Well, my favorite DeYoung song of the evening was "Desert Moon" from the 1984 album by the same name. You can't see this detail unless you click on the next photo and look closely at the upper right-hand corner, but it's a piece of paper dated October 21, 1984. For the record, I'm not a particularly skilled sight reader of music, and I'd only studied piano for a couple of years at that point, but I loved this song so much that I tried to figure out the notes and write them down when I was in high school.
Clearly, I did not get far, LOL. And for anyone who reads music, you'll recognize that it's pretty simplistic and not entirely accurate. But, nevertheless, I was proud of my attempt -- it was the best I could do back then. I tucked the sheet in a folder and kept it for all of these years with my songbooks. When I heard about the concert a few months ago, I dug it out and decided to bring it with me, not really expecting to get it autographed but thinking it would be really cool if I did... Here's proof that's exactly what happened!
And the best part of the story was this: When I pulled out the creased piece of paper this weekend and handed it to Dennis DeYoung himself, explaining how much I loved his songs and how I'd once tried to puzzle out the notes to "Desert Moon," I also said apologetically, "I know I got this wrong."
In an act of extreme generosity on his part, especially given how musically gifted he is (you should see the way this man's hands fly across the keyboard!), he actually read the notes I'd scratched on the page almost three decades ago. To him, it must've looked like the musical notation of a preschooler. Still, he studied it for a few long seconds and said very kindly, "The key is wrong. It should be in D and you've written it in C. But you got the rest of it right."
The teenager's heart, hiding deep inside my forty-something self, skipped a few beats in that moment. *grin*
In honor of the sheer joy music brings us, I'm giving away this "Notes" t-shirt and TMD's debut CD "Back to Champaign" to one random commenter on this blog post. I'll draw the winning name on Friday. Just answer this question: What's one of the best/most fun concerts you've ever attended? And have a marvelous week, all of you!