Saturday, June 22, 2013

Floatin' the River w/ Keller Williams

One month ago, I embarked on a magical musical journey unlike anything else I've ever experienced. I was lucky enough to score a ticket to see Keller Williams on the Fredericksburg River Boat! A week after that, I went to Bonnaroo and had my mind blown all over again, but that story will come next. The River Boat cruise took place on June 1st, and it was a special occasion for me since that afternoon had technically been my last day as an active working employee for 909 Saloon.
All Aboard!
As I am nearing the date for my departure for Thailand, this was a great way to celebrate with friends and enjoy the funkilicious tunes of Keller... easily the best local musician Fredericksburg has ever produced. Getting the tickets to the show was made possible by +Brian Hyland, the owner of 909, who many years ago used to host Keller on a regular basis at his previous bar "The Irish Brigade" located in downtown Fredericksburg on the corner of Princess Anne St & William St, where the Otter House was most recently. (This was the ORIGINAL Irish Brigade... Colonial Tavern stole the name.) Keller would play there every Monday night. You could say that's where he got his "start." So needless to say, Keller tries to take care of Brian as much as possible, and when two tickets to the sold-out show became available... Brian and I were lucky enough to have first dibs on this nautical adventure. 
Brian, owner of the Original Irish Brigade and 909 Saloon
 The boat was scheduled to leave the City Docks on Sophia at 7 pm and return at 10 pm. "A three.. hour.. tour.." :) Since there were many friends of ours from 909 also joining us on the boat, Brian's old neighbor Mike (known simply as "Neighbor") invited us over to his house for a small cook-out and a few beers before boarding the boat... quite conveniently he lives only 2 blocks from the launch spot. This was an awesome start to the evening, and many friends were there including +Geoff Talbott who had accompanied Brian and I to see Keller at The National in Richmond back in December and is also an investor of 909. Of course he's absent in this photo.
The Crew- minus 2
Around 6:30 we grabbed our road beers and headed down to the dock. It was an absolutely gorgeous summer evening, and everyone was in great spirits. My roommate Bryn was lucky enough to score a ticket from one of the regulars at 909, so he and I were getting pumped together for our first voyage on the Fredericksburg River Boat.
Boarding the boat
One of our most loyal, kind, and knowledgeable regulars at 909... Geordy, was also lucky enough to score a ticket onto the boat as well. Brooks, Keller's stage manager, who's also a friend and a regular at 909 was there too of course... so needless to say, we were in good company.
Geordy is in the house! err.. Boat
The boat had two levels, with a dining area and kitchen greeting us when we first stepped aboard, as well as a full working kitchen. The dining area was surrounded by windows, so you could still enjoy the view if you chose to chill out on one of the chairs there. The head (bathroom) was also located on the first deck.
Gettin' the Royal treatment
Once on board, we grabbed ourselves a brew (or 2) from the bar upstairs and got into position to watch Keller do his thing. He was set up to play at the stern of the boat, and there was just enough space for a lil' movin' and groovin'.  The psychedelic rainbow of tie dye T-shirts on board created a very adventuresome and lively atmosphere, and while the slowly setting sun shined hazily in the background... the fans created a haze of their own. You can't ask for anything more!
The tie dye has spoken...
 The boat was a BUZZ of excitement... after all, it doesn't get much better than cruising down the gorgeous Rappahannock River listening to Keller's clever one man jam band show.
The Rappahannock River ... A sublime local treasure
Soon enough, Keller came waltzing through the crowd... calmly jamming away a midst a chorus of cheers and claps. The show had begun! The air was electric with all the energy shooting out of the end of Keller's fingertips. The boat began to slowly move away from the dock and spin around to point us towards the ocean. Like a salmon on a journey towards the sea... we were underway!
Bryn and me, eatin' the funk
Amusingly, as we pulled away from the dock... within the first couple hundred feet we must have snagged a sand bar, because as Keller rocked out the boat lazily spun in a circle, in clear view of the dock. As the fact that we were stuck became more and more evident, people began to laugh and joke about how we could have just stayed on shore and enjoyed the show for free. Ironically, Keller was performing a cover of Modest Mouse's Float On about the time that this happened. Of course, being Keller... he quickly modified the lyrics to poke fun at the situation.
Keller be jammin'
Eventually... after about 20 minutes of clownin' around, we broke free and started actually floating on. The city has very smartly prohibited development along the shores of Rappahannock, making for an absolutely stunning natural and scenic backdrop. Just a cruise on the river boat alone is an experience, but when you add a live Keller show to the mix... you've got yourself a far out trip.
....And we all float on
Now, I can't resist interrupting this story with an interesting anecdote about the last time I had actually seen the Fredericksburg river boat. I was on my way to the Bahamas (This story will be told in full eventually) with a good buddy of mine Jeff Armor who runs a program for middle school to college age kids known as Different Drum Sailing Adventures.  I was helping him take his Morgan sailboat down south when we encountered the Fredericksburg River Boat passing us in one of the canal locks in Norfolk, VA. Quite an interesting sight to see the boat so far from it's home turf! Apparently they take it south to Palm Beach, FL every winter to protect it from the cold weather.
The Riverboat... heading south!
Anyhow... back to the original story... the dopers were just beginning to make their way downstream, when suddenly everything went .. .. AWESOME. Bryn and I took a moment to explore the different parts of the boat and enjoy the spectacular scenery... all the while continuing to enjoy the melodic groovy-ness of Keller's guitar.
Give Peace a chance... Man
As we cruised further down the river, the views only got better. Of course like any good adventurer, I took a bunch of pictures... so that you all may enjoy how wonderful it was too.
.... Just around the river bend... 
After a fair amount of relaxing and watching the river banks slide past us, Bryn and I moseyed back to the action to get our groove on. This time I managed to get a spot on the front lines thanks to no one really wanting to be near by while I was dancing (just doin my thing!).
The journey is the destination
Keller must have an ability to sense the future... because he chose to play one of my favorite Tom Petty tunes, "You don't know how it feels" ... right as I was beginning to think about how no matter how many pictures or videos I took, those who weren't on the boat just couldn't really fully appreciate how awesome this felt. Ironically, I was going to see Tom the next week at Bonnaroo, which made it that much more appropriate. Some times I think to myself about how truly no one else really feels exactly what I'm feeling, especially as I prepare for the biggest adventure of my life, but while singing along with everyone else on that boat... I felt anything but alone. So let's get to the point... Here's a glimpse of that moment of my life...
As I celebrated the end of the day alongside a few members of what I can only describe as my Fredericksburg family, I truly felt at home. I have grown of age in this small town, learning valuable lessons from the time I was a freshman at UMW to becoming Manager Dude at 909, and the 'burg will definitely always have a place in my heart. I felt extremely lucky to feel so connected to those around me. The people here are kind, welcoming, and fun... always willing to lend a hand. The atmosphere is relaxing and down-to-earth... and while the historic connection to the past is never lost, the community is constantly evolving.
Surrounded by Neighbors
Throughout the show, Keller had been sipping on some Apple pie moonshine out of a mason jar, which indirectly seemed to be making everyone a little looser. As the sun went down, the moon shined on :) and the music only seemed to heat up, as Keller rarely took a break for more than a few seconds just to snag a swig or switch guitars.
The sun and the moon.... Strange pair those two... 
 As we rolled down the river watching the sun disappear, I felt transported to another world... where life was much simpler and the joys of the world were always around. It reminded me of how I imagined steamboat trips down the Mississippi might have been in the 1800's. Everyone was happily along for the journey and if the river went on forever, that would be alright with me.
Oh black water, keep on rollin'.... 
Of course the river didn't go on forever, but we made sure to make the most of the time we had. After all life is short, and when it comes down to it... spending time with friends is one of the most important things you can do. Or at least I've certainly used that philosophy to justify procrastinating preparing to leave the country for 4 months. Even now I should be packing, but I felt writing this was equally as important.
"Keep your eyes on the sky, and your feet on the ground" -Teddy Roosevelt
Crazily enough, as the sun went down and the sky turned black... so did the boat for a little while. Somehow how the power went down and even crazier, Bryn and I had no idea that the lights went out until Brooks told us this story the next day. We were way too wrapped up in the moment, and then suddenly Keller jumped into the middle of the crowd and began rocking out acoustically. I thought at the time that it was just Keller being Keller and doing something funky... which it was, but that was just his method of dealing with the power outage that lasted only a few minutes.
Keller being Keller
Eventually, the boat began to return to shore... and we realized that as with all good things, this enchanting journey was coming to an end. Once the boat docked, Keller stationed himself downstairs in the dining area to sign autographs and take pictures. I brought my Bass album with me, which Keller released in 2011 when I first started at 909, to have him sign and then Geordy and I quickly posed for a picture with the man of the hour.
As the evening on the boat drew to a close... Geordy and I headed to J Brian's for a beer as the rest of the crew split off in separate directions. Eventually I reunited with Bryn and Brian at Neighbor's house for an end of the night beer, and then we all moseyed back to my place laughing and reminiscing about the awesome night. Until next time... I will miss all you Fredericksburgers and that funky lil town. I promise to return with many more stories, and I expect to hear just as many in return.
Peace Out!

No comments:

Post a Comment