Copyright 2002 Linda Marcas - All Rights Reserved
Rokenrol Roadtrip, Part Two
For anyone who wondered, at the end of my last Crank I wasn't writing in Russian, just typing in my sleep!
What came out as "usplas Waverridrnbta" should have been "What an exciting life." But that's what happens
when I try to write after being on the road all day.
The Red Elvises had a couple of days off between the shows in Newark, NY and Berwyn, IL (a Chicago
suburb); we tried to talk them into stopping by North Baltimore, but they wanted to visit friends in the Chicago
area and rest for a day while trying to recover from head colds and sinus problems. The Big Red Van had been
making frequent stops at drugstores and groceries, replenishing the band's supply of decongestants,
antihistamines, vitamin C, and oranges, while every meal brought rounds of hot tea with lemon and honey.
Despite sometimes looking like death warmed over at breakfast, the guys never seemed slow or sick onstage;
they work really hard to keep their fans happy.
After 36 hours at home, doing laundry and packing some warmer clothes for the rest of the trip, we headed
off to Illinois for the show at Fitzgerald's, a club the band has played at several times before. A good crowd for a
Wednesday night, with several fans I've met before on earlier roadtrips and on the Internet in Red Chat (every
Tuesday night, 10 PM Eastern time, feel free to drop in, www.redelvises.com/fanclub/chat.html) and people
who'd never seen Red Elvises live and in person, but who left that night with a new Favorite Band.
The next day we all traipsed off to Grand Rapids, MI, where local alternative radio station WYCE often hosts
events featuring non-Top 40 artists. Ron and I played flies on the wall as the local cable-access TV channel
interviewed the band, then we went to the club they'd be playing that night and helped them unload their
equipment. I went around and put pencils on the ashtrays while the band did a sound check, then we all went to
dinner with Mike and Dagmar the radio folks. After a quick stop at the motel, where Ron and I were lucky to get
a room because of a last-minute cancellation, we headed back to the club to catch the opening band, a rockabilly
group called Dangerville.
The B.O.B. (Big Old Building) is an upscale nightspot in downtown Grand Rapids; it's really one business
with one security team (headset microphones and nice suits, just like G-Men, no black T-shirts for these guys!)
but the interior is "divided" into various restaurants, nightclubs, and a micro-brewery. The Red Elvises played in
Crush, a posh joint with art-deco club chairs, no draft beer, and bottles of champagne on ice behind the bar; it
looked better suited for some low-key jazz piano noodling on the house baby grand than for kick-a** rokenrol
from Siberia, but I needn't have worried. Thanks to airplay on WYCE, Red Elvises fans packed the place, eager
to see and hear their Favorite Band live for the first time. A local bellydancing troupe added color to the stage
during the ever-popular "I Wanna See You Bellydance," a couple of our friends made the 3-hour drive up from
Toledo, and everyone had a great time.
Friday, and back to Chicago and the Elbow Room, where RE are very popular. As part of the entertainment,
friends of the opening band staged one of the dumbest stunts I've ever seen: female barbeque sauce wrestling.
While RE were setting up their equipment onstage, these folks set up an inflatable kiddie pool on tarps on the
dance floor, poured in gallons of barbeque sauce, and proceeded to roll around in it. This was goofy and
disgusting enough, but, to make matters worse, no one had given any thought to the fact that the dance floor at the
Elbow room is in the basement, with no elevator, and it's easier to carry a pool and pails of sauce downstairs than
to carry the same pool upstairs once it's full of sauce. What a mess!
They managed to clean up the goo, but the smell lingered, the club was crowded and hot, and the Red Elvises
played two great sets anyway. Ron missed most of the first one; he was upstairs in the green room on the second
floor, prepping pizzas for the guys to wolf down between sets, because we hadn't had time to eat dinner before
the show. Luckily, our motel was next door to a Denny's, and 4:00 AM found us happily, finally, munching some
Following a big van in heavy traffic at high speed in the rain isn't the most fun driving we've ever done, but it's
not that far from Chicago to Milwaukee, and we all stopped at a Cracker Barrel for a late lunch (or early supper)
along the way. Picture a table full of Russians and friends, a couple of them with bright un-natural red hair,
chatting with a sweet little old lady and her friend who'd stopped to ask questions. The guys are really nice that
way, willing to sign autographs and pose for pictures; they have fun with it when people notice their accents and
ask them where they're from, answering, "California! .........but from Russia, before that."
Another motel, another club, another show; the Globe East in Milwaukee has a great sound system and a
variety of locally made specialty beers on tap (well, it is Milwaukee, after all!), and a nice balcony where one can
escape from the crush on the dance floor and still see and hear the band. Again, fans from Chicago drove up for
the show, so we had our own little cheering section with people who know all the words.
Sunday, and a short drive to Madison, WI, which was the last stop on the tour for Ron and me. I was
running low on pencils, but had enough for the show at The Inferno, a club with marvelous post-industrial decor
that the owners keep improving with the addition of curved, welded, and brushed stainless steel, specialty lighting,
and vintage furniture. Unlike most of the other clubs we'd been in, there was no opening band, so the guys started
playing a bit earlier and finished up before closing time, which allowed time for them to sign more autographs and
spend some "face time" with the fans who aren't lucky (or crazed) enough to chase them from city to city
We had a late breakfast with the guys at a local bagel shop, said our farewells, hugs all around, and finally
started the nine-hour drive home. There's a strange time-compression phenomenon that happens during a road
trip; despite long, boring hours in the car, we'd crammed so much activity into the rest of the time that we felt like
we'd been on vacation for a couple of months, even though it had really only been thirteen days. I've left out the
many after-hours and mealtime conversations, shopping for CDs, watching "Teletubbies" with Oleg on a motel
TV, nightly reviewing of digital photos, and too much other stuff to mention. We had 3,044 miles of fun, Harriet
ran great, we got home tired but happy and full of tales to tell. The Red Elvises will be playing in Pennsylvania
again in August, and you can be certain we'll be be making another rokenrol roadtrip then. Why? Because we
can. Red on!