If you’re a sports fan in the state of Ohio, you’ve been pre-programmed to dislike that school to the north; the one they call Big Blue. Over the years there have been some unforgettable moments to fuel that rivalry, like those games between legendary coaches Woody Hayes and Bo Schembeckler back in the late 60’s & 70’s.
While my dislike for everything blue has kept me from visiting Michigan much in the past, I recently hitched a ride to the Wolverine State to witness first hand a classic match-up of north and south when Dayton’s High 5 Riot met up with Michigan’s own Red Stone Souls at the Bachelor One Ballroom in Keego Harbor, MI about 35 mile outside of Detroit. The journey was intense. The fun was 1st-class, and the people were legendary!
Our journey began about 10am on Saturday morning when the Riot’s Mike Stacy (press agent and father of band member Ashley Stacy) rolled into Middletown to pick me up.
Mike pulled into the parking lot of Bob Evans, and l hopped into the vehicle. After exchanging pleasantries, I noticed Mike has a portable diagnostic machine plugged into the Dodge Durango. Now I’m no mechanic, but I figured it can’t be good. Over the next several minutes Mike relived his terrifying trip down I-75 and all the trouble he has had with the SUV since purchasing it last year. While listening to the horror story of Mike’s adventures, I was thinking to myself, “now this is not the way you want to start a road trip,” but Mike assured me we would make it as long as we could keep the pedal to the metal so to speak. We had to get to the highway first though, and after stalling on the ramp to I-75, we were on our way. Luckily we only had to make it as far as Dayton in the Durango; a quick vehicle change and we were off to meet the band.
I don’t know how he did it, but Mike got us to Scott Uzzel’s (booking agent and father of band member Andy Uzzel) right on time.
The band loaded up the gear in the trailer. We all piled in the rented 15 passenger van, and we were on our way to Michigan. As we settled in for the 4 hour expedition up north, it was obvious that this was gonna be an unforgettable experience. Mike drove the first leg of the trip, and Scott was co-pilot up front, leaving the rest of the van to band members: Ashley Stacy (Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar), Austin Labig (Lead Guitar, Vocals), Aaron Noble (Keys, Vocals), Andy Uzzel (Bass, Vocals), Sean McGrath (Drums), Riot crew member Jim Streck, and myself.
While the grownups navigated us up the highway, the rest of us were engaged in some very serious conversations that included my introduction to cake farting. Yep you read that right, cake farting; it’s really a thing. I’m just glad it was only a YouTube video and not a live demonstration!
A little over halfway to our first destination we made a pit stop to fuel up, grab a quick bite, and stretch our legs. Aaron decided to take the wheel for the next leg of our journey. I was taking the last few hits off my smoke when I heard him fire up the van. Oh no! I’ve heard that noise before; sounded like the starter. After some debate, it was unanimous. The starter was going out on our rental van. Much to the delight of us all though, the van did fire back up soon, and we hit the road again.
Our first objective was the home of Beau Felix of Red Stone Souls and his wife, Nicole.
I first met Beau and the guys from Red Stone Souls a couple of years ago when they were rolling through Ohio on the last leg of a nearly month long tour, at their last stop at Middletown’s Old Crow Bar. After an amazing show and a grueling tour, the guys looked spent, so we invited them to stay the night. Once at the house, the guys and I enjoyed some of Lisa’s famous chili and several nightcaps. We had a great time and have been friends ever since.
When we turned off the main road to get to Beau’s though, we noticed a slight change in terrain. Our nice paved road was replaced by a much narrower dirt/gravel road. Now, if you’ve ever ridden in a passenger van, you know it’s no Cadillac. Riding in one down a Michigan side road after a winter of abuse though, you are in for a bumpy ride; nonetheless, we made it to Beau’s in one piece. Still leery of the starter, some of the guys opted to hang out and keep the van running while the rest of us went in for a tour of the house. I enjoyed a quick beer and kept the couples little dachshunds occupied for a few while Mike and Ashley got the lowdown on some places to grab a bite before the big show.
Once we heard Buffalo Wild Wings was close to the venue, the decision was easy. It was B-Dub’s for dinner! We also decided to take the chance and turn the van off thinking maybe if it cooled off it would be alright; we’ve been lucky so far. We terrorized the good folks at B-Dub’s for an hour or so and had an excellent meal. Actually, we were all on our best behavior and functioned as the professionals that we pretend to be. We stuffed our faces to the point of no return, piled back in the van and much to our surprise she fired right up. We arrived at our next destination just in time for load-in.
The exterior of the B One Ballroom has a rustic log cabin look, and inside is room for about 400 music lovers and fun seekers. The stage isn’t huge, but it has plenty of room for a five piece band to feel more than comfortable. Add in the state of the art sound system, lights, and a great staff behind the bar, and you have an incredible room for live music.
There was a lot of excitement building as the members of High 5 Riot began their sound check. Singer Ashley Stacey has relatives in the area, some of who were on hand to catch Stacey and the band’s first out-of-state gig. If there was any tension or anxiety about playing in a strange venue or to an unfamiliar crowd, it didn’t show. The band seemed poised to confirm that they can play on any stage; they were confident and ready to rock the house.
On stage, High 5 Riot was tight as hell, but not at all stiff. They really let loose, and you could tell they were having a great time on stage. The band introduced the Michigan faithful to songs from the band’s debut CD called Crowd Control, and they unleashed a couple of great new tunes: one called “Heartless” and the other, “Halle” short for “Hallelujah”. The roar of approval from the crowd could be heard from the parking lot, and by the end of the set the band had acquired a couple hundred new Riot fans. I was proud as hell every time I would hear someone in the crowd say how much they enjoyed the Riot set, and that they would welcome them back anytime. The band definitely represented Ohio and the Dayton music scene well; it was great to watch!
The change over gave patrons just enough time to catch their breath and snatch up a cold drink before the birthday boy and his partners in grime would raid the B One stage. The packed house erupted as Red Stone Souls began their assault on the hometown crowd. The band wasted no time getting things started and quickly worked the B One crowd into a frenzy; with fists in the air, the crowd banged their heads in unison with every heavy beat. I gracefully maneuvered my way to the front of the stage to grab a few pics (okay stumbled) and got caught up in the melee of humanity that had taken over the dance floor. The guys ripped off tunes from their CD, The Slow Haze Sessions, including one of my favorites called “Phases” and a juicy new one called “Twenty Seven Moons”. By the end of the set, everyone was spent, but the party wasn’t over yet; the birthday boy was just getting started as friends presented Travis with a tasty cake that went well with the ice cold PBR.
The High 5 Riot crew and I had such a great time hanging out with Red Stone Souls and all the good folks that we met at the B One Ballroom, but you know what they say – “all good things must end,” so we said our goodbyes and headed back on the road. The ride home was much more subdued, I think everyone was exhausted and ready to kick back. We arrived in Tipp City about 4am or so, where we unhitched the trailer and said farewell to a great adventure. Everyone went their separate ways as Mike and I still had one last task; return the rental van. We stopped by the shop to retrieve Mike’s car, and then I followed him to the gas station. The last words Mike said before we headed back out was “don’t turn the van off.” So what’s the first thing I do when we go to fuel up? You guessed it; I turn the damn thing off. With fingers and toes crossed, I go to turn over the engine, and at first there was nothing. Then it whined and whimpered until finally, it fired up. We couldn’t wait to get rid of this thing and call it a night! Crazy!
Seriously though, I had an amazing time with High 5 Riot and thank them all so much for letting me tag along. This was an amazing journey, and one I will never forget! Thanks also to Red Stone Souls and the good folks of Keego Harbor, MI for their fantastic hospitality. We can’t wait to return the favor when High 5 Riot welcomes Red Stone Souls back to the Gem City for “Urban Chaos” at Gilly’s on Saturday, April 25.