“Dude, I think we got the gig!”, Dave told me and it felt like we gave high fives over the phone. I was so proud and happy to have helped initiate the first gig together with these two groups of amazing musicians and friends. Then and there I knew that our New Year's Eve plans were set.
I was talking with one of my best friends Dave Fowler who is the principle song writer & keyboardist for Echo Movement discussing the New Year's Eve show in Jacksonville,Florida with Donavon Frankenreiter & band.
The day we arrived in Florida, my buddy Eric Brigmond (Donavon's keyboardist and Trumpet player) extended the invitation for dinner and brewskies at a local pizza joint called Cabo's. We got there to a warm welcome from the guys. It was so nice to all have time to catch up outside of the stress and commotion of the normal backstage and show chaos.
We ended up at another great hang in Jax, called ‘The Mellow Mushroom' where Pete Winders (Donavon's lead guitarist) was playing a side gig. With it's groovy hippie inspired decor and chill vibes, it was an ideal setting to have the drinks stacking up. The voices got louder, the smiles widened and soon Donavon and the fella's decided to get up for an impromptu set. The locals that were there picked the right place to go randomly go out to that night.
The next day was New Year's eve, the day of the big show, we met up with our good friends Kevin & Yvette for some sushi and drinks and then made our way to the venue. It was a massive, green field reminiscent of Woodstock, right on the water and we got there to meet up with Echo Movement who was just about to go on as one of the opening acts. Our good buddies Mark Longnecker and Jimmy South, both epic Tattoo artists from Endless Summer Tattoo in Cocoa Beach came up to celebrate with us and our friend Jess from Jersey drove down as well. It was a surreal moment, celebrating multiple circles of friends overlapping as the last moments of 2009 were brought to an end.
After Echo's set we went backstage which became party central. Friends, friends of friends, musicians and significant others united with a feeling of oneness and love. Soon though it was almost showtime and the dressing room was cleared of everyone except the band, their wives and Chelsea and I. Donny put his hand out in the center of us, as to prompt us all to overlap hands for a group moment before 2010 arrived. Each person gathered in a circle placing a hand upon Donavon's as he made a heartfelt speech directed at us which I will always cherish.
The show was insane, as always and we all gathered close by to watch them perform. Towards the end of the show during the song “If It Don't Matter” our friend Dave from Echo Movement went missing. Or so we thought, until my arm got grabbed and I heard, “Dave is on keys with Donavon!” I looked to my right to see my friend Dave, who often feels like a little brother to us, on keyboards for Donavon as per Eric's invite as he trumpeted. As we proudly smiled and sang along we looked towards center stage where Donavon was waving us on stage to come out and join him.
We all gathered on stage 10 feet or so behind the band and sand along. Apparently I was a bit more intoxicated that I thought because I ended up breakdancing on stage behind Donny which I am hoping to find on YouTube one of these days. As the song's solo was blazing, Donavon came back and gave me a big hug and we exchanged words of mutual brotherly love and respect.
After the show we met up at Echo Movement's bus and all grabbed one of the their longboard skateboards and cruised around the parking lot. It was a magical night and I couldn't think of a better way to bring the New Year.
The next day we met up with the guys for bagels before heading out to the gulf coast for the next show. On the way to St. Petersberg, Donavon stoked me out with a sneak preview to his unreleased Recycled Recipes 2 album and the upcoming rerelease of his first album in Hawaiian style. Let me just tell you, that when these albums come out, GO GET THEM! They are so super sick that we listened to them on repeat for a couple of hours.
Thank goodness for Priceline, we scored a super sick hotel resort room and lived like royalty with sunset views on the gulf before meeting the crew at a fancy shmancy Italian restaurant up the street from the venue. I am not even close to being a big drinker, but it's hard to decline Margarita's with Petrone. The food was absolutely incredible too and as our blood alcohol content got higher, the silliness and goofball behavior amongst us started to increase as well.
To top it all off, at the end of our meal, I turned around to see a birthday candle on a platter of fresh fruit as everyone started to sing to me Happy Birthday. Now, I should note that normally I am not too into that typical singing Happy Birthday in the middle of a restaurant thing that Applebees or Friday's does, but umm..it was freaking Donavon and his band singing to me…like how many people get that sorta' treatment ? I'm not going to try and hide it, I was stoked.
Annnnd…Off to the pub we go across the street. Somehow our friend Cat got talked into eating this nasty ass liquor soaked egg from a jar. We all did jack and cokes for my almost-birthday and what was buzzed Jay, became drunken Jay rather quickly. The next thing I know we made out way back across the street to the venue and the festivities continued. It was another mind-blowing show and a fantastic sequel to the night before.
By the next day Chelsea completely surprised me and got us a suite at The Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando. I still chuckle when I say the name of that place 🙂 This resort was unreal and it was perfect time because we needed some R&R. The hotel is totally huge built around a tropical atrium with Palm trees, stone castle walls, a giant boat restaurant floating on an indoor lake. Each section had it's own theme and there was even an indoor marsh with a boardwalk bridge. It was so nice to just relax.
I woke up on my birthday to an email from my brother. He attached a video from my beautiful nieces singing me happy birthday and it was the cutest thing ever. We spent the evening of my birthday at Epcot and relived our childhoods a bit and found some great vegan restaurants in town to fill our bellies. I don't see how this week could have been any better!