I finally decided to start my vacation last Friday, December 15th, 2012. I get 4 weeks a year and for some reason, I’m always struggling to take advantage of this benefit before losing them, but I guess my obsession with work leaves little time for play.

That wasn’t the case this past weekend.

Despite the fact I was fighting a raging cold/flu symptoms, my good friends with Folk Soul Revival invited me to share the stage again on two stages in Bristol and Roanoke. The congregation were out celebrating the season this year too – but despite the crowds – some things were a bit different for the band.

A few days before the 620 State Street show, Charles Fontaine sent me notice he was retiring from the band. After four years of positioning himself as one of the best band managers to ever come fromt the Tri-Cities, he decided it was time to do something new.

The recent signing of the band with Austin based booking agent left Charles to reconsider his future and now he’s signed up for a Culinery Class in Bristol. He’s also on the music committee for Bristol Rhythm and Roots – helping them to secure Deer Tick for the 2013 festival. I’m sure we’ve hardly heard the last from Charles and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

As for the band, they had some new challenges before them this weekend, but the saying is always the same in entertainment – the show must go on and it did at that.

I arrived at 620 on Friday night and the mood was festive. There were large crowds of friends huddling in the restaurant while couples were decked out in holiday dresses and suits carrying holiday dishes to Christmas parties upstairs at The Foundation.

The guys arrived early and we got setup quickly and we left the stage to go to the back of the restaurant to eat some terrific sushi from the 620 staff.

Mandi Davis, wife of Daniel Davis was with us tonight. She’s a delightful compliment to any occasion and was dressed in gold leggings, a fashionable knitted cap and always sporting the best fashion. Her wit is wonderful too and when Daniel talks about her, he always says, “I married up.” I always enjoy sharing stories with her and watching her work the room.

By the time the opening act, A Great Disaster had finished their set, the congregation was at capacity at 620 State and they were ready too. When we walked on the stage, it was rowdy for the rest of the night and TriCities Nights has the photos to prove it. We started the set around 11pm and played up til 1.00 with a strong crowd still swelling at the club.

I got home a little after 2.30am on Saturday morning and after a restless night of coughing and sniffling, I got up Saturday with a quick read and brunch at Perkins. I hadn’t unpacked the car the night before and since the weather was warm, I decided it was time to head to Roanoke.

The guys were planning on meeting at Best Buy in the Average White Van at 4.30, but I was eager to get to Roanoke to meet up with my good friend and journalist Tad Dickens.

It was dark when I passed the Virginia Tech exit. The glow of my iPhone was lighting up the Jeep as I tried to focus my eyes on the mapping software helping me to locate Schooners in downtown Roanoke.

Driving up the door, I wasn’t sure what to expect. This small strip mall has a Goodwill, a church, a mexican restaraunt, a Smart Clips hair salon and a seafood restaurant.

Inside the door, there were a handful of people gathered around in a Sports Bar. They were a couple of groups eating food and a couple of folks gathered around the bar.

“Sexy Brian” (as he was referred to as the woman sitting next to me called him) was friendly in the door and when I told him I was with the band, he mentioned, “I’ve had seventy people call me asking about the band.” He seemed impressed with that notion and even citing a couple coming in from Indiana for the Folk Soul Show.

He also worried me a little talking about a bar fight the night before, but I guess that’s to be expected where there’s alcohol. The only other oddity noted was the fact this place still allows smoking inside – almost a memory now with our laws in Tennessee.

Tad showed up shortly after I finished a bowl of chili and we sat together and told stories about this past Mike Mahaffey benefit. He was working for the Roanoke Times tonight, had a new camera to test and we drank a few beers and enjoyed our time together once again.

The band showed up about 8.00 and started to setup their sound system. That’s not a usual duty for Folk Soul as their equipment is usually part of the contract, but after a few trial and errors, the guys had the speakers ready and the crowds started to arrive.

One of the things Tad told me later in the night was that Schooners is usually a pretty rowdy crowd of older patrons early. Live music starts at 7, continues to 9 and then the DJ begins. That’s when he said things would get rowdy.

Tonight though, he mentioned that tonight was the most “sorority girls” he’d ever seen at Schooners.

It was interesting to see the crowds swell in Roanoke too. Early on there were plenty of loyal Folk Soul fans singing the songs well into the night. And then there were the musicians…

I guess it’s something I’ve always noticed playing music from the stage. You can also spot the other players. They usually stand in the band, in groups, with their arms crossed and watching with a skeptical scowl. Nevertheless, the music played on.

The rain was falling and the weather had turned a little colder by the time we were packing the van. It was close to 2am before I started back to Kingsport and what a long strange trip that was. My cold was settling in and I suspect I must have coughed 500 or more times before I finally arrived back home. By then it was close to 4.30am.

It was a long night though, but I must say that given my options of sitting at home watching television or trapped to my computer, playing music in front of the congregation with the Folk Soul band is probably one of my most enjoyable musical moments of the year. I appreciate their talent, their honest and love to share the tales with these guys as they continue to build their fan base across the South.

Can’t wait to see what the new year will hold for these guys. I will confess though…Daniel Davis kids me about forming and Elton John tribute band. Daniel…I’m ready when you are!