City: Warren, OH
Distance travelled: 548 miles
Theatre: Packard Music Hall
After our last show in Nashville we managed to squeeze in a quick drink before jumping on the bus and heading to Ohio. This was my first bus journey on tour and it felt surprisingly like being back on the ship, particularly the noise and rocking motion while I was sleeping.
By the time I woke up we were in Warren, Ohio at our hotel. I ducked inside and grabbed a shower then went to grab a bite to eat. I stumbled upon a diner which would become a regular spot for us over the next 3 days; ‘Saratoga Restaurant’. Chrisi Economos and her brother, Eric run the place alongside their father Jim and are the 3rd generation of the family to do so since they acquired it in 1935 although the restaurant itself has been open since 1916, 99 years!
The day we arrived in town was the day of the College Football Championships in which Ohio State was competing (and which they subsequently won) so everyone at the restaurant and everyone working was decked out in red, the colour of ‘The Buckeyes’. My accent raised a few eyebrows with the servers and the locals and they were all excited to know that the guys from Blue Man were hanging out at the restaurant. I ate nearly meal at the Saratoga while I was in Warren. The food was great, the hospitality was so warm and the decor was beautiful. Pretty much all of the fixtures of the establishment are original; the wooden booths, the counter and the stools. But despite the fact that the interior was very nearly 100 years old it did feel old fashioned or dated. It felt steeped in tradition and routine. The kind of tradition and routine that helps sustain a community.
I have always been a fan of small town America and it is places like this which make me realise why. Barely a person walked through the door while I was there, and there were many, who were not greeted by name by the servers. Often orders were not taken but confirmed before the customer had even looked at a menu and they remembered my name after the very first time I met them. It is this kind of long established personal service which I miss in chains and big cities.
Despite the bitterly cold weather I took a walk around the town to take a look at some of the old building and stores. The bank is one of the most beautiful I have ever been in and menswear store, Howard’s on the corner has been open 50 years.
We stopped by and it seems like news of our arrival in the town had preceded us as the owners there and some other of the people in the town came and introduced themselves to us and asked us if we were with the show. As I stopped to take a photo of a run-down but great looking building a passer by stopped me and informed me that. “That was Old Jackson’s place. We used to party up a storm in there.”
Myself, Tony our string player and Anthony our drummer managed to squeeze in a bit of an adventure on our last day when we rented a car and drove the short distance to Cleveland and went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I have been trying to make it here for years but never quite been able to make it. I am glad to say that it was completely worth the trip! I just wish we had the whole day instead of the few hours which we spent wandering around in awe of all the music memorabaelia. However we crammed in as much as we could.
The highlight for me was seeing hand written lyrics from Joni Mitchell for one of my favourite songs ‘My Old Man’ from the album Blue and Steve Cropper’s first guitar and lyrics for ‘Mr Pitiful’, which he wrote with Otis Redding.
The shows we played went really well. Despite a load-in which was not quite as smooth as the crew would have liked, mainly due to space constraints backstage, we all pulled together and the performances were a huge success. Both shows sold out and the atmosphere in the house was electric. We had heard from the people we spoke to before the show that people were looking forward to seeing the show and the reaction we got certainly backed that up.
After the show the folks at the theatre took care of us with some great food then it was back on the bus and off to Lima, OH for another sold out show.