Ha Ha Tonka (opening for Robert Randolph & the Family Band); October 14, 2011; First Ave, Minneapolis
The two questions I get asked most frequently at the merch table are "where are these guys from?" and "where's the bathroom?" Luckily I know the answer to both of them, the Ozarks in southern Missouri and upstairs. The venue is big, with lots of dark corners, and it isn't immediately obvious that the restrooms are up the stairs. First Avenue just may be the most famous mid-size venue in the country, forever associated with Prince and Purple Rain. The rumor was that Prince was going to show up tonight, though I guess that is probably the rumor every night. The sound guy gave him a 20% chance given that he is allegedly a Robert Randolph fan, but the purple one was a no-show, much to Lennon's disappointment. He'd spent the day deciding what he would say to Prince when he met him.
First Avenue is a cool venue, but it's even cooler when you have an All Access pass. I guess I should have been using it to explore the nooks and crannies of the venue, but instead I just used it to get past the not very threatening security guy blocking the way to backstage and the green room (which was actually green, that always makes me happy) where we'd been set up with a case of beer and a bottle of whiskey.
Ha Ha Tonka played a great set, and I sold a lot of CDs to folks who had never heard of them before. Tonight Randolph's set seemed even longer and jammier. The guy definitely rocks the pedal steel in a way I've never seen before, but I have to admit I got bored. Still it was fun and certainly worth driving myself to the Twin Cities and then getting up early for a wedding in Shawano the next day. Though let me just say, I much prefer riding in the van.
soundcheck, this place really is a barn
my sweet All Access pass
Ha Ha Tonka