I Blessed the Banjo Player

It had been a while since Tara and I had gone to a live music performance. Almost three months, to be exact, and considering we saw four concerts during a one-month span after she moved here, the drought seemed especially long. So when we saw that one of our favorite bands, The Moondoggies, were playing a bunch of shows in and around Portland in mid-August, we decided they were a must-see. Saturday night they were playing at the historic Hotel Oregon in downtown McMinnville. Now, McMinnville is quite a haul from where we live. It’s over an hour away, to be exact. But we love this band, and the show was free. We figured we’d make an evening of it with cocktails and food.

I’ve geeked out about these guys before. They’re a local band from Everett, Washington who play a hybrid of indie rock/folk, and are often compared to The Band, The Grateful Dead and Neil Young. It’s catchy, soulful, earnest rock ‘n roll with amazing harmonies. Really good stuff – you should check them out. The show didn’t start until 7:00, but we arrived around 5:30. Kicked back at a sidewalk table with cocktails and an appetizer and people-gazed. If Portland is Hipster Central, McMinnville is…I don’t know, Cowboy Central? Definitely a different breed of people there. I’m sure with our clothes and our attitudes, Tara and I stood out as “city folk.” I was even wearing my super cool plaid Vans, for crying out loud!

The band was playing in Mattie’s Room on the second floor, and soon after the doors opened at 6:00 we sidled in to snag a table as close to the stage as we could find. The band was warming up, which was cool because we got to see a bonus performance and witness their banter. Finally, a few minutes past 7 they took the stage, and commenced a rockin’ performance that lasted for three hours! When we saw them back in May their set was about half as long, but they were also playing with another group then. This time, it was All Moondoggies. I know they’re a pretty obscure band, but they played plenty of songs from both albums that Tara and I knew the words to, plus a good number of new tunes they’re trying out for an upcoming record. The music was great, their performance enthusiastic and bristling with energy. But the best part of the evening happened after the show ended.

The Moondoggies tearing it up in McMinnville.

It all started during their break. I went to use the restroom, and the banjo player followed. We were at the sinks, washing our hands, when he sneezed.

“Bless you,” I said.

“Thanks,” he replied.

And then, I couldn’t resist adding, “By the way, you guys are awesome. I love your music.”

“Thanks a lot, man!” he said, beaming.

That only whetted my appetite for more band interaction, so a few minutes later when Tara and I were perusing the merchandise table and the drummer asked how we were doing, I pounced. We introduced ourselves, shook hands, and struck up a conversation with him. Turns out Carl is a really nice guy!

“You’re turning into such a fan boy,” Tara remarked when we returned to our table.

“Am not.”

“Are, too. You want to meet Kevin, don’t you?”

“Maybe.”

Kevin Murphy is the lead singer for The Moondoggies. And hell yeah, I wanted to meet him! I think he’s incredibly talented and, let’s face it – saying gesundheit to the guy who shakes a tambourine onstage during half the set isn’t nearly as exciting. And nice as Carl was, he’s still…you know…a drummer. Don’t people make jokes about drummers all the time? (Which I’ve never understood. I think drummers are very talented, for the record. It’s a lot of work beating sticks for hours on end).

So when the second half of their set ended and the lights came up, we decided to approach Kevin. We shook his hand and raved over the performance. Told him we were big fans who had seen them before, owned their records, and drove all the way from Portland to catch the show. And then, Tara told him that I stole their handwritten set list from Mississippi Studios back in May.

Err…yeah. I guess that did happen. I didn’t expect her to tell him that, but luckily he laughed it off and said that was a great souvenir to have.

You know how some musicians are stuck up and egotistical? Not Kevin Murphy. He was warm and friendly, and we talked for a good ten minutes. When he learned that I wrote a book, he asked if I had a copy – damn it for not carrying one on me at all times! – because he could use something to read. I gave him a card with my contact information and the book title on it, so you never know; maybe the lead singer from a band I love will end up ordering my book. Anyway, we discussed music and the recording process and the Portland area and it was a great, down to earth, interesting conversation. Tara got a picture of me and him together. I had to assure him I’m not a crazy stalker, I just really dig their music, and he laughed at that. He’s a humble, intelligent guy who gave us some insight into the last album and what to expect in the future. And, it turns out that not only is he a fan of another of our fave bands, Built To Spill, but his favorite song of theirs – “Goin’ Against Your Mind” – is also my favorite BTS song. How cool is that? After a while, sensing we had commanded enough of his time and attention – he had, after all, just played for three hours and was complaining of a sore throat and an ear infection – we excused ourselves. He then insisted on walking us out. We shook hands again outside the hotel while he lit up a cigarette, thanked him for his time, and said goodbye.

Most of the drive home consisted of oh-my-god-I-can’t-believe-we-met-the-band-and-had-a-lengthy-conversation-with-Kevin-Murphy. Hey, it was pretty exciting stuff!

I don’t know if The Moondoggies will ever break into the big time and amass a huge following. To be sure, they absolutely deserve any fame and fortune that comes their way, as their music is way better than 99% of the crap that makes up the Billboard Hot 100 chart. If they do, it’ll be exciting to say we knew them when. I’ll boast about the night we hung out with the band after their gig in a small Oregon town. And if not, well, I still got to meet a talented, awesome group of guys and let them know how passionate I am about their music.

I can’t think of anything more important than that.

Me and my new buddy, Kevin Murphy.
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16 thoughts on “I Blessed the Banjo Player

  1. I LOVE the photo, and I’m SO GLAD that you had an amazing experience! Look at you, rubbing elbows with rock stars. Heh!

    Seriously though, there’s nothing better then finding out the musicians you like are super nice, down to earth people who just happen to have a cool job. (I steal setlists all the time. No shame).

    (and I guess you are turning into me, hehe.)

    Seriously though – glad you had a blast – and if the Moondoggies ever hit it big, you can say you knew them when.

    To be sure, they absolutely deserve any fame and fortune that comes their way, as their music is way better than 99% of the crap that makes up the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

    This is the case with most Indie music. :D

    t’s a lot of work beating sticks for hours on end

    That’s what she said. ;) (Couldn’t resist)

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    1. I really did tell Tara halfway through the show that “I’m turning into Sarah.” And the funny thing is, she knew exactly who and what I was talking about! So, you would have stood apart from the McMinnville crowd, too. In a good way.

      And yes, you’re correct, that is the case with pretty much all indie music. I read Billboard every week (as part of my job!) and the chart action is just plain depressing. Carly Rae Jepsen, #1 for 9 weeks and counting? Really??

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    1. I doubt very much the coming week could ever top even the first half of this weekend, but my fingers are crossed that it somehow miraculously will. You never know!

      Have a good week yourself, Kathy.

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  2. “Most of the drive home consisted of oh-my-god-I-can’t-believe-we-met-the-band-and-had-a-lengthy-conversation-with-Kevin-Murphy. Hey, it was pretty exciting stuff!”

    Yes, how EXCITING!! I don’t even know of this band and yet, I feel so excited FOR you!

    And how COOL that you actually met and talked with, and THEN got a picture with Kevin!

    *two thumbs up*

    Sounds like you and Tara had an awesome weekend!

    Thanks for sharing, buddy!

    P.S. Btw, I LOVE Neil Young!

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    1. They did a couple of Crazy Horse covers last night, as well as one by The Byrds – mixed in with their own original stuff. I’m telling you Ron, these guys are good! I know you listened to them last time I talked them up, so I thank you for that.

      Hope your Monday doesn’t suck too badly!

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  3. I just love your brushes with fame!! I think it’s pretty cool that they are from up here and I noticed on their FB page that they are playing up around here too. You should plan a trip up here so you can see them again, and again and again.

    Oh wait….nevermind….if you do that then they really will think you are a crazed stalker….which we know you are not!!

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    1. We actually talked about that last night, Tracy. They’re always playing somewhere up there…the Showbox, Neptune, etc. Luckily, they also come down here quite a bit. The trick is to go to a few shows a year, just enough that they’ll recognize us by sight but not so often that they’ll call the cops and issue a restraining order.

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