Summer 2015 Charlotte, N.C.
Charlotte, N.C., is a banking center, hosting the nation’s – if not the world’s – largest banks, very much a button-down white collar town. A point to reaffirm this status: the city sanitation crews are not above polishing the lamp posts, and when a large street event – like, say, a St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl with 15,000 drunks – is done, within hours the city is clean, swept, pressure-washed and back to normal. Most other cities are still thinking about cleaning up days later. Not Charlotte, where the business of commerce rolls on amongst flowers, clean streets and polished lamp posts.
Then there are spots like the Common Market, a patio attached to what is basically a hipster 7-11. Cold Craft Beers, refrigerator magnets, a grand selection of wine, wine coolers, wine openers, a deli with great sandwiches, and more beer. Everything you would expect from a hipster 7-11, with the bonus of the patio that hosts local and regional bands. Such as a mom and dad with their pre-teen and barely teenage kids rock ‘n’ roll band on a national tour. the RocknRoll HiFives.
I know it is not every Saturday you grab a Jalapeno Ginger Blueberry (JGB) craft beer, sit down mid-day and see an episode from “Glee,” however this Saturday I did. I sat there looking at the band performing on the patio stage at the Common Market, took another sip from my 14th JGB, then another (it took a second or two to sink in). Was the front person short and where was the drummer? I saw his drum kit, I could see drumsticks but could barely see him. The lead guitar and the bass player looked rock ‘n’ roll but…no way they just met and said, “Hey, gang, let’s form a band!”
My friend Tomeka sitting next to me saw my surprise and could see the wheels turning in my head. “Pete, they’re a family.”
Then Andrew sat down next to me. “Wow – it’s a family.”
Then I responded, showing my total command of the English language. “Cool.”
It now made sense. The lead singer wasn’t short and there was a kid behind the kit.
The rest of the crew joined us with various craft beers, national lite beers and a bag of chips. The afternoon was set – cocktails and hors-d’oeuvres. ‘Wow! It’s a rock ‘n’ roll family band’ was the general sentiment amongst the mid-day Saturday pre-party goers.
Enough of what nine pre-party goers were thinking after a day of imbibing – back to the band. At first I thought, ‘How cool! The family that plays together, literally.’ Then the fact that they were a family became overshadowed by the fact that they were good. Really good. The kid on the drums had the chops to be a class-A talent, Dad was no slouch on guitar and the daughter had remarkable stage presence for being just a teen. Mom kept them all in line with her thumping bass and the family/band was complete. All original songs, all sung with heart and feeling. Let’s just say, as the band and beer kicked in so did the applause, a few standing ovations and a lot of hoots and hollers. All kept to a PG level – after all, it was a family. At the reluctant end of the set, the kids had to do homework or something, we greeted the band.
Joe was the dad and lead guitarist and band manager and driver. The kids were way too young to drive. Mom played bass and kept the home and road rhythm going. The daughter getting ready for her last year of grade school was lead vocals and general personality of the band. The son was the kit master at all of 11 years old. Played like he started when he was pre-natal. I can only imagine what he is going to be like in six years – maybe the next Dave Grohl, who started playing with Nirvana at 17 and has never looked back. So I went ahead and got his autograph.
I started to talk to the dad about the travels and the band. They would end up going to 10 different venues traveling over 4,000 miles in 13 days, going as far as Miami from their Northeastern home. Mostly record stores, but a few stops like the CM with an eclectic crowd – a whirlwind summer tour.
Later on into the tour, I caught up with Joe via the Rock n Roll Hi Fives’ email and Facebook page. He was nursing a tick bite he got while hiking through the woods in North Carolina; a shot and Q-tip seem to do the trick. Since it was a shot of Scotch, the pain was minimal. Not sure what the Q-tip was used for. He told me that just four days before they left on tour the family decided to get an RV vs. a van to travel in. Dual purposes – a place to live and to safely store their equipment while on the road.
Most would think a family of four traveling with all of their band equipment (impressive drum kit, guitar amps, mixing board, more amps, mics and Scotch for medicinal purposes) would be cramped. It was, but not as bad as they thought it would be. Joe explained this was his Field of Dreams moment. His love of music and family all came together this summer in that RV.
Drive it and they will come. The kids were old enough and greatly talented enough to be on this journey. So they loaded up the RV and the dream began. Of course, every dream has a few bumps and bruises along the way. Besides the tick there was a trip through the Everglades with no AC, being sideswiped in Atlanta, a blown bass amp that had to be replaced somewhere in Florida, obnoxious drunks in Charlotte. The usual stuff that you read about in Rolling Stone about bands on tour.
What will be remembered is that the AC was fixed in short order in the Everglades, which all were very thankful for, and the dents and scratches will be there as a time post to remember the family hike in North Carolina that happened before the dent or swimming in the intercoastal, being greeted by dolphins in the Gulf, meeting up with family, learning about different lifestyles from folks they met along the way, experiences that happened a week or two after the dents. A guidepost for their memory.
Joe summed it all up. “As a band, we became really tight. As a family, we will have stories to share for a lifetime and experiences that will shape our lives for years to come.”
I am sure as the kids went back to grade school, more than ready when the teacher assigned the first essay: “What did you do on you summer vacation.”
The tour began as most do in our own backyard and before the summer was over the RocknRoll HiFives performed in 10 venues covering 4,000 miles. We met some very interesting people along the way, especially in Charlotte, N.C.…