Some time ago, South Bend's The Rutabega joined me for an episode of the Anywhere The Needle Drops podcast. We talked about their excellent music (don't have brother the lights don't work? Get it. The smoky orange vinyl is a particularly good choice). We discussed the local music scene. The current world of art and music. And then there was this thing, almost barely a mention before it caught my ears. This thing called Thundersnow.
Essentially, this was my response..."you mean to tell me that a bunch of bands show up in the Upper Peninsula in the middle of February...to take over an inn and play a bunch of music?"
Yeah. That's exactly what they do.
At that moment, I wouldn't have bet on my making it to the event, even after Josh and Garth were kind enough to send me all of the weekend's info. As cool as it sounded, it seemed difficult...I didn't have a ton of cash, it'd be tough to get away from work for a long weekend, and...did I mention it was in February, the dead of Winter, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula?
But I remembered a couple of goals I'd recently set for myself; see more shows and grab a little more adventure.
Even still, after tickets were purchased, rooms were booked, and employment was left behind, I almost didn't get there.
Icy weather made for challenging roads and, as I moved carefully down the highway, I considered stopping, turning back, heading home. I thought of the things I could do instead...hit up the usual bar, binge watch some TV. That would all certainly be easier.
Kristin came to the rescue. She called to update me on her day and check in on the drive, just as I was considering turning off the road. As we chatted (hands free, of course) the temperature rose just enough for the ice to turn wet and the roads to clear. And before me, it was pretty clear:
To paraphrase a philosophy I've been honing as of late:
Always do the thing.
Seven hours, many podcasts, a volley of snow flakes, and a bag of Culver's Cheese Curds later, I rolled into Gladstone, Michigan.
After checking into my room, I walked nervously into the Terrace Bay Inn. I was alone, out of my element, unsure how any of this worked and in situations such as this, my old socially awkward self pops to the surface. But I quickly found the thing that can unite just about any people in any place: shared unfamiliarity and inexperience.
The folks in line in front of me were equally unsure how Thundersnow worked and, while being directed back and forth between two areas of the inn before finally being assisted by a compassionate, experienced concert-goer, we started to chat.
Turns out one of these guys, Nick, was in a band. And I just happen to have a podcast where I talk to bands. So we planned out an interview (see Anywhere The Needle Drops Episode 34 with guests Grounded). And, at various points throughout the weekend, we ran into each other and chatted about the performances.
And, man, the performances...from the spectacle that came with the first performer, Fake Limbs, to the awe forging following act (drums+tuba=Korean Jeans, coming soon to a Monday Music near you)...I realized I'd stumbled into something incredibly special and unique.
The rest of the weekend was no different. After all had recovered from the music and late night of Friday (debauchery at no extra charge), we, the Thundersnow populace, moseyed into the Terrace Bay Inn's banquet hall early Saturday afternoon for the staggering performance by Terminal Orchestra.
The twelve piece outfit awed early and consistently with their mesh of modern composition, folk, and rock flavors both modern & classic. The highlight of their performance was their tear generating tribute to The Rutabega, with a cover of out of the woods and into the light. Mind you, this was just the start, at around 2pm on Saturday with close to another twelve hours of music and fun to come. I don't suppose I'd want to be in the position of any of those musicians who followed that joy and tear inducing presentation, but they managed just fine.
I could go on about the schedule, but we'd be here all week as I list and gush over the bands on the schedule (though I will keep doing that each week on Monday Music).
For me, the finish came Saturday night (the show continued on into Sunday evening).
I dined together with musicians and fans alike before The Rutabega took the stage and awed the house as expected. Low took to the stage after and, as I sat cross legged on the floor, gazing up at the stage with the rest of the audience, I felt like we were a kindergarten class, our stories told to us in riffs and rhythm.
Sunday morning, I reluctantly made my exit, hitting the road for home.
The sun was shining, glinting off the ice of the frozen bay as I drove on. I felt stresses and weights of life and years molting off. I couldn't help but stop a number of times to take in the beauty, to feel the goosebumps, with The Rutebega's Turn On The Summer making the most appropriate of soundtracks...
Hi. My name is Justin. And I'm alive.
So, yeah, Thundersnow. A bunch of crazy music lovers sharing their passion, their artistry, and their love in a cold, little inn tucked in a bay in Michigan's Upper Penninsula. Check the thesaurus and you'll find one synonym:
Oh, and remember...
Always do the thing. Always.