Friday, March 2, 2012

On the Road: Millennium Music Conference 2012

A couple of weeks ago, I was super fortunate to get the opportunity to play a showcase at the Millennium Music Conference. I haven't played outside of the five boroughs in over a year, so I was stoked to pack up the car and take the show on the road.

The day of the show (y'all), we were supposed to meet at my place in Harlem at 11. At about 11:15, the ringing of my door buzzer sent me flying down the stairs, no makeup on, two tote bags and a ukulele flopping everywhere.

Joe Wallace Oscar Rodriguez
Joe and Scar are ready to hit the road

Joe (Wallace, on the bass), Curtis (Becraft, on the rhythms) and Oscar Rodriguez (that's Scar to you, on the lead ax) were all waiting on the sidewalk with that happy, puffy, morning look about them. I was definitely sporting that look, too. A Tetris game of packing Curtis's sedan with all our gear and an obligatory stop at Dunkin' Donuts later, Angie Atkinson hit the road!

Well Packed Trunk
Listen, sometimes you just have to make it work.

We had a great drive to Harrisburg, PA. We watched the gorgeous pastoral Pennsylvania scenery go by while we listened to the soundboard audio from our last gig at Bar East (oh, hey, we have another one coming up March 7th!). We talked about music arrangements, shared fun gig anecdotes, and laughed about the dilemma of my horrid sinus infection and laryngitis. How was I going to sing through it? We all agreed that the best prescription would be lots of whiskey. Great minds...

Putting on Concealer
Yes, I put on my makeup in the car. No, I was not driving.

We were all starving, so we stopped to eat just outside of Harrisburg. We found this amazing truck stop, complete with kitschy gifts and delicious-looking cakes and pies under glass domes at the lunch counter that ran the length of the front half of this little slice of American heaven. We all ordered standard diner fare -- pork chops, cheeseburgers, patty melts, gravy fries, milk shakes -- and relished every delicious bite. The secret ingredient in places like this is love, my friends. We thought about dessert but were far too stuffed to make it happen.

Gravy Fries
Not quite poutine, but it'll do.

Shortly thereafter we arrived at the conference. At their base camp at the Radisson, we were greeted by a friendly staff and a lobby full of tables advertising various musician-related vendors. There was everything from guitar picks to custom built cigar-box guitars to recording studios. There were two panels in progress, teaching about the various ins and outs of the music industry, as well as a free dental cleaning clinic set up for us starving artists who can't afford regular dental care.

Angie Atkinson Millennium Music Conference
Yay, badge!

We got our badges, sniffed around the conference for awhile and grabbed a drink at the bar. We shook some hands and met a few people, but we were getting antsy and decided to head to the venue.

Double K Tavern

The Double K Tavern was the most perfect place I had ever seen.

Buried deep in a woodsy, residential corner of Harrisburg, this wood-paneled haven has a huge circular bar right up front, with a nice big stage and a listening room beyond that. And of course, there were pool tables and jukeboxes blasting my favorite Kenny Rogers tunes in the back. We made friends with owners/proprietors/bartenders Jim and Karen. There was something about Karen that triggered my Mississippi upbringing, and I couldn't resist calling her "Miss Karen." They were frickin' GREAT.

After the band and I had some hot wings and chatted it up with some of the amazing locals in the bar, we soaked up the the fierce first act, Nikki Sue And The Bad News. I drank a beer, took that medicinal shot of whiskey, took a medicinal shot of hot sauce (you heard, did that open up my sinuses) and Angie Atkinson took the stage.

We were definitely a little road-weary, and we were more than a little drunk, but we rocked the Double K down.

Angie Atkinson Double K Tavern

With an audience of everyone from chain-smoking grandmas to grizzly bikers, we knew we were playing to a tough crowd that had seen and done a lot of livin'. But I fell in love with them immediately, and I think they fell in love with us, too. I may live in the city and love it, but I grew up in the country, and I love it, too. These were MY people, the people that filled out the cast of characters of my youth and whose influence helped to shape me into the person I am today. These are people with nicknames like Tiny or Big Mike, people who may shout inappropriate things at you, but it's only because they love you so much they can't help it. These are people that you don't sing at or even sing to but sing with, because singing in front of them is like having a conversation.

Angie Atkinson Double K Tavern

We did a cover of Wild Horses, and a couple got up and danced. My heart almost exploded.

My poor rusty pipes were shot at the end of our fantastically fun set, but we stuck around and had a few more drinks with Jim, Miss Karen, Big Mike and the others. Drinks were bought for us. We watched and loved the following acts, including the fierce Koriander and the rockin' East Coast Turnaround. We made new friends and celebrated with old ones.

Angie Atkinson Band Double K Tavern
Joe, Me, Curtis and Aaron. It's okay, he's with the band.

A dear friend who lives in a neighboring town offered us his place as a crash pad, so after an exhausting but satisfying day, we made the hour-long trek to his house and promptly collapsed in his various rooms and on his various pieces of furniture.

Truck Stop Breakfast

Bright and early the next morning we dragged our bedraggled but happy tails out of my friend's house and back onto the road. We stopped a few miles out and ate at yet another heart-warmingly middle-American truck stop and enjoyed country fried steak, eggs, biscuits and gravy, and delicious pancakes. Full of food and feelin' fine, we piled back in the car, and Scar said, "Next stop: Annapolis!!" Oh, we wish. :)

I mean, maybe not this time, but....?

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