(The SwedeFest recap starts with a guest post from my good friend Josh. The recap will continue tomorrow.)
Somewhere along the way, I got the notion that I’d like to maybe get a couple bands to play for my 30th birthday. When I turned 28, Chango Malo – good friends and probably the band I’ve seen play more than any other – just happened to be booked that night at Sport’s on Congress, owned by Eli, my good friend and theirs. And I just happened to have been planning on celebrating all night there anyway.
Somewhere else along the way, I came up with the name SwedeFest, and from then on my 30th birthday celebration had its own brand name to live up to, and I knew I had better plan it out right.
I started talking it up months ago – asking Eli if Sport’s could host the celebration, and asking some bands if they could play. I went to Chango Malo first, then to my good friends in The Swim and then to Alaric “Honeysocks” Weber, a good friend and a hell of a folk musician. From the start I described it more or less as my-birthday-meets-The-Last-Waltz, and I encouraged covers and guest musicians and the like.
And somewhere else entirely along the way, I got the notion to be a surprise musical guest myself.
Once I’d confirmed the date and the bands (as best I could), I recruited my friend Jen to design a poster/logo, offering just the barest of outlines and a general request to make it look like an old poster from the Fillmore. And she absolutely hit it outta the damn park. I printed up the posters and got some shirts and stickers made and then it was on.
Not everything happened exactly as I would have liked, and there were some notable absences, but I have to say the night was top-to-bottom awesome.
I’d never played music in public before, and I’m not any good despite the minimal guitar knowledge that’s led to some fleeting rock n’ roll fantasies, but I figured I’d never have a better chance than at my own damn party. So I settled on three songs, recruited a secret out-of-town lead guitarist to play along and figured that everyone was gonna have to clap no matter what.
The Jeff Factor, a pal all the way back to freshman year of college and as steady a friend as you’ll ever find, was glad to jump in on guitar. But since he was driving down that day from Phoenix with his wife and little girl, we had to cram a sound check into the late afternoon as our only rehearsal. I had to clue in Eli (to get into the bar) and Al (to borrow his guitar because I needed an acoustic with a pickup), but I managed to keep the performance a surprise to everybody else.
Jeff and I plugged in, got the levels right with Eli running the sound, and then jumped into our practice: first up a song I wrote called “Throw My Ashes Over Wolf Creek Falls,” a bit of a downer, but an honest and decent song I figured I could introduce as my final will and testament in a neat little 30-years-old joke; Arlo Guthrie’s “Darkest Hour,” which is pretty much my favorite song of all time; and then “The Primary Colors Song,” written by my close (and temporarily ex-patriot) friend Cory for a party we threw years ago at the 505.
And that had to be it for practice, because all the time that was left was given over to a great dinner at nearby Maynard’s with Jeff, Lisa, Oli, Eric and Roland, and then a quick rush back to Sport’s to greet the early arrivers.