Sherry's Rockapella Trip Report
July 30-August 1, 2004: BB King Blues Club & Grill, New York City -- Elliott's Last Show
I was able to leave work a little early, so that I could get on to the 405 Freeway. For those of you non-Californians, the 405 Freeway is one of the busiest freeways in the L.A. area. On this particular day, it happened to be THE absolute busiest one. I mean, they even said so on the radio. Great. Well, at least I left early. Maximum of 20 MPH is not what I call a good time on the freeway. So I called a couple of people. When I called my best friend Michelle, she was actually in a van on the way tot he SAME airport! Too bad they were on a different freeway & going to a different terminal. Then Liz called, wondering where I was. Thankfully, I was near the exit ramp already, so I was nearby.
I was being idiotic and was halfway through the 1st security line when I realized that I should have obtained 2 boarding passes at the self-serve kiosk. Luckily, when I went back, someone had placed my pass on top of the kiosk. Thanks, whomever! I don't know why the 1st security guard didn't actually check my name, but it made me feel unsafe. I went to the gate, but Liz wasn't there. She was hungry, so I met up with her at the food court, where we munched out on California Pizza Kitchen & caught up on each other's crazy lives.
When we were about to board the plane, we noticed that they called groups 1 through 3 at the same time. Then why do they even bother with all those numbers?! Anyway, when we got to Phoenix, the flight attendant said something about 1/2 an hour, but we were talking and didn't really hear what he said. We never did figure it out. We were delayed, however, for a couple of hours because they had to install a partition on the plane. Why they had to do that before OUR flight, clearly the last one of the night, I don't know. We ended up sitting in back of one of the partitions, and didn't understand the necessity of it. Especially since they only hindered our leg room. The flight was quite restless, and we didn't sleep much.
Liz and I took the SuperShuttle to the hotel. I was nervous because the driver was dialing a phone that didn't work, then used another one, all while he was driving. Then there was a street fair on the streets where he had planned to go, so he was frustrated. Scariness.
We had trouble at the hotel, The Metropolitan. They were in the middle of remodeling rooms, and didn't have the room we reserved. After some...ahem...discussion, we ended up in one of the older rooms. The desk clerk was quite argumentative and didn't really want to give us that room, even though it was for the same price. Weird. We left our bags there since we were too early anyway, and walked around NYC.
We went into St. Patrick's Cathedral, which is huge & gorgeous & reminded me of my travels in Europe. We then went to Rockefeller Center, but I like to think of it as Rockapella Center, so we HAD to go there on Rockapella Day! We had breakfast at Dean & De Luca because it reminded me of "Felicity," and watched the Today Show set being struck. We then did some shopping and I bought some shoes at Aerosole to match my outfit. They were on sale, too! So I decided to worry later about how the shoes would fit in my luggage. Who cares? My shoes were fabulous, and I was following the New Shoes for Pella concert tradition. I took pictures of Radio City Music Hall, and we walked over to BB King to find out its location & scope out the place. It was only noon & somebody was already in line. We managed to get little postcards promoting the concert, but the picture was old (Barry was still in it). We then hoofed it back for more shopping, since Liz still needed to complete her outfit. She tried to get something at H&M, but there was only 1 fitting area on each floor, and a ton of people waiting in line. We went to the St. Pat's gift shop so that I could get a postcard, and asked the merchant where the Gap was located. So they mentioned a few places. The closest one ended up being Baby Gap & GapKids which was not helpful. We walked back & forth a little before finally getting a top at Ann Taylor Loft. Yay for AT, which didn't have the ridiculous prices that Express did. $40.00 is too much for a simple tank top, people!
We went back to the hotel, and they did have a room ready, even though we were still early for check-in. So we relaxed while and got all pretty for the show. The hotel doorman hailed a taxi for us & we were on our way, as the taxi driver made sure (about 4 times) that he was understanding the address correctly. Well, at least he was conscientious.
Hmmm...there was no line out front. So we went inside & were informed that we could sit in the restaurant area and they'd give us a number, so that we could still get into the club in the same order that we had arrived. So we sat down & had dinner. We shared a house salad, which had yummy balsamic vinegar dressing, and some popcorn shrimp. We wanted something sweet to balance it all, so Liz got a Godiva chocolate martini, and I got a really yummy glass of dessert wine. It didn't even taste like wine, more like Welch's Pear juice, so I pretty much downed that thing. Karla arrived with her bro (Jim) and Stacey. Liz had been telling Karla all week that there was no way she'd be able to go to the concert, so Karla was quite surprised when Liz tapped her on the shoulder and said, "Happy Birthday!" (Karla's birthday is on August 2nd). They joined us at our table & I showed them my fabulous shoes. Phil came over to say hi, and to make sure that we were being treated well. Thanks, Phil! Our numbers were then called in order to be seated for the show. They were irritated that we were not in line or in the bar area, but it was a bit too crowded to just charge on over to where they wanted us to stand. We got to our seats, though, in the middle, 3rd row of tables back. Nice view of center stage.
Of course, since this was a nightclub, we had to order more stuff. So I had another glass of that yummy wine, and Liz, hearing my rave review, had a glass of the same. OK, why aren't these glasses full in the concert area? I was annoyed by the clear rip-off. Karla & Jim were able to join us, and I also met our table-mates Tracy & Debbie. We looked around & saw various Pella members visiting with their families & friends. I made sure to find MJ & Ross to say hi. Karla asked me for some reason, if I was related to MJ, because bunch of people thought so, due to the fact that I've stayed with them when they lived in Nor Cal. Actually, we are not directly related (although I'm sure we are, somewhere in our ancestry). MJ was the 1st friend that I made while in line for a Rockapella concert. So she'll always have a special place in my heart. Hi, MJ! A baby kept walking back & forth beside us, and I hoped that he wouldn't do that during the show, 'cuz everyone was following him. Turned out that he was Jules.
After what seemed like an eternity, the show finally started. Rockapella 1987 got on stage: Sean Altman, Scott Keyes, Charlie Evett, and our dear Elliott Kermann. They were all wearing some combination of blue & orange shirts under their suit jackets. I can't stand that color combination. Blech. Anyway, they started off by singing "Hound Dog," and sounded great. I was very excited because I'd only heard it on CD, and not this Pella incarnation. El moved to center stage & told us that this was his last show w/Rockapella. People booed. he said, "Thank you." El's been with Pella for 18.5 years. Wow. It was George's idea that they have a Rockapella reunion concert, and El said it would be perfect to have the last show in NYC. He said that they started singing on the corner of 74th & Columbus, in front of Haagen Dazs, and didn't know how far they'd get. Apparently, they got as far as 32 blocks.
They then sang "Just My Imagination." Charlie said that he was going to sing a "Bizarre bass solo," and also informed us that he was wearing the Original Rockapella shoes from 1987. His solo was "North to Alaska," with El singing the Oom Pah Pah part. They followed up with "Crazy 'Bout an Automobile" -- cool! Sean then acknowledged that many people think that Rockapella won't exist anymore without Elliott. Then he showed that these people are right: without the letters "EL" in the word, "Rockapella" becomes "Rockapla." Sean was very proud of his visual aid poster.
They sang "Danny Boy," which they used to sing as The Hijinks when they were at Brown University. Sean advised that Gerard Brown was in the audience. This is the man whom discovered Rockapella, AKA "the Bar Mitzvah Kings of Island," and got hem on the "Do It A Capella" documentary. One of the songs that they sang for that project was "Flat Tire," which they sang for us. Steve's got a great high tenor voice still, and he's way cute. Is that a prerequisite or something? :) They then acknowledged other members from the Hi-Jinks & the Lemons, whom were in attendance.
Since Jules wouldn't be around for the next set due to his bedtime, El took the opportunity to thank his family for their support. He choked up & I was crying already. Then his wife Debbie, whom was seated at the table next to us with the boys, said, "We love you, too!" and I just lost it. OK, enough. El thanked all the guys & asked if Barry was there, although Bear had already told him that he most likely couldn't make it. El said that Barry is now the new voice (and only the 2nd voice) of Tony the Tiger. El joked that he would be the new voice of Cap'n Crunch. They sang "Baby, Walk Away," which was nice. They closed with "Workin' in a Coal Mine," which included the guys introducing themselves & giving their astrological signs. Chuck's was "Testes." Crazy Pella Boys.
We then had a short intermission. Let me tell you now that the food servers really annoyed me. Not just because I was trying to take pictures & they kept walking in front of me, but at various points of the show, they would actually just STAND in front of me while waiting for whatever at the other table. I can't tell you how many times I wanted to smack someone or push them out of the way, or just yell, "Move your (blankety-blank-blank)!!!" Aaauuugh! I did NOT come here to look at your backside! I was so incensed that I almost yelled at Ross, who was just trying to get to his good camera angle of El's family (He was wearing all black, like the waiters).
Rockapella 2004 finally arrived on stage, opening with "House of the Rising Sun." Scott said, "Welcome to the night of Elliott Kermann!" Ooh, I like Scott's facial hair/mustache/beard thing. Sexy! Anyway, Scott introduced the guys & said, "I am Elliott's faithful servant, Scott." This was at the beginning of "Moments of You." Ohmigosh, this song was hard on me. I love singing El's part on this song, and many times he's seen me doing so, and laughed at me. I thought to myself, "This is the last time I get to do this with him LIVE" and just cried through the song. Ah, those harmonies! I'm really going to miss that with El.
We were informed that the idea of a VP-only addition was a stolen idea from the group True Image. They actually tried to steal the group's guy, but he never came to rehearsal. Scott said that when the need for more percussion came up, he said, "Let's just get a drummer!"...which is why Scott is not allowed to make major decisions on his own. This led to the display of voice parts, by layering up "Off My Mind." Ooh, and they sang the whole song! It was such a tease before. Scott sang the line, "Nobody thinking about George," and George sang his solo directly to someone at his table. Oh my goodness, MELT the place down, why don't you?! Wow.
After "Dancin' in the Streets," most of the guys went for some water, and Scott went backstage. (Probably to eat some chips. I wish I could do that in the middle of Mass when I cantor). it was time for Elliott to talk/ramble. He talked about his "transition into the next life," referring to his jazz combo. He thanked more of his family & friends that were in attendance, including a couple from Japan, whom met over Rockapella. Apparently, the guy's pick-up line was "Have you ever heard Rockapella?" and it went from there. Jeff interjected, "that doesn't work for me." El retorted, "We can tell." Laughter ensued. Poor Jeff. El then sang "No Doubt At All," entirely to Debbie, for whom he had written the song. Too cute.
During "Use Me," Scott tried to hide form the spotlight. Too cute when he sang "My Brothers" & Kev & El were together. Kevin asked the audience about their summers. Someone said they came to NYC, and Kev said that we were at "the hottest ticket tonight in New York." He said that the European people go to the beach, wear Speedos, or sometimes they should be called "Speed No's," and mentioned the wonderful beaches in Florida. He then asked whom wore Speedos, & named a guy "Speedo Man," getting into Superhero stance. They then sang "Under the Boardwalk." Scott mentioned that the song was arranged by Sean, & Kev said that he threw in a couple of "Heh heh"s just for him. Scott talked about when he first joined the group. He was given a huge 8-track tape full of 400 songs that you can only listen to in the car. So he would listen to it with his wife and his part would actually be on Lisa's side of the car, which made it more difficult to learn. Poor Lisa.
Scott started "Have Faith" with "Here we go with El Kermann..." Scott and El took a really nice, long time with their duet during the bridge before the other guys joined in. Really cool. They then sang Folger's, Pella's "all-time most insufferably coy hit." El said, "What a blessing that Proctor & Gamble came along....", talking about various ads. Scott mentioned Sunglass Hut. El said that Dean Witter asked the guys to do a jingle for his little Sunglass Hut. (Dean is now the president of the company). Back then, they recorded the song in the back of Billy Strauss' truck at Brown. The jingle only aired twice, and by the time it got to air, they cut it so much that it ended up being just "Sunglass Hut Hut Hut." El said, "I could go on all night." Oh, El, we wish you would. He realized he was way off his usual spiel and said, "I've tied myself up in knots..." and "Carmen -- gotta love it." We all laughed, knowing that the didn't know how to segue into the next song. Ah, there it is. "This next song was originally done by The Penguins. "Don't Do It." He sang the last verse to Debbie. Oh, that's my fave El song. Sadness.
They sang "Long Cool Woman," then Kev walked around & brought Joanne on to the stage for "My Girl / Pretty woman." During the introductions, Jeff said to her, "I'm in Rockapella." Keep practicing, Jeff. Kev asked Joanna about her job. She said, "I'm about to retire." El said, "It's going around." Joanna is retiring from being a manager in software systems. Kev said, "So you're good with a 'puter. Can you fix my 'puter? I think I have a virus." OK, it sounded naughty to me, but mind you, I had imbibed on that wine. When they sang "Stand By Me," it was really cute to see Scott standing by Elliott, the way the smiled at each other and sang.
George said, "When I was a young cat, I used to sing high," and sang a little of "I Will Always Love You." His dad was in the audience. George said that his dad's voice was so low that George "didn't understand what he was sayin'." Then he said to his dad, "Hey, Dad, should I break one off for 'em?" and proceeded to sing "Papa." During the VP drumline portion, the other guys were doing so well that Jeff decided to take a seat & relax.
After Jeff's solo in "Carmen," El was introduced last. Awww...sweet. After "Up On The Roof / Wonderful World," they sang Happy Birthday to Laura. Scott said that one of his regrets is that he never arranged "Happy Birthday to You," so they're always just making it up. Then they sang Happy Birthday to Clara, and he said, "Not really better, is it?"
Scott said that his fave moment of El was as Elvis on "Carmen." El said that he was a city boy, having grown up on 58th & 1st streets on the East side, and was "blown away by nature across America." Scott said that El would have to look at the tall grass, and Scott would say to him, "You know, when there's a lot of it together, we call them 'fields'." Kev remembered taking El to his first Wal-Mart EVER. Jeff said that he will remember El's dietary restrictions, and told El that it was his job "to confuse you morally on your diet." He "hypnotized him into going to Haagen Dazs in Tokyo." So El gave all that up and said, "Give me a cheeseburger every day." George remembered his audition process, which was at Scott's house. El said to George with his eyes, "Yeah, you better bring it!" He also said that El's "Let's Get Away" hook is priceless. Agreed.
El then realized that he'd be singing the song for the last time. "let's Get Away." Scott's scat included the word "cheeseburger." Afterward, El thanked the guys for their years together & the amazing music they made together. Scott said that he learned so much from El, and he has left an indelible mark on Rockapella. El said that he had told them, "Make sure you find another bald guy...who wears speedos." He then welcomed John Brown to the stage, and El walked off. My heart sank. I was, like, "Don't go yet!" John took the stage & they sang "A Change In My Life." Since I know El's part well from having learned it to sing in a recital, I was really able to hear John's voice & his blend. He's great. But I'm not ready yet. It's still El's group. At least for tonight.
El took the stage again & I was happy again. A bittersweet happy, knowing that it was ending soon. They sang "Kingdom of Shy," the song that Sean had written for him, which had become his signature song. Ah, to hear it again, knowing that it was the last time. OK, I'm getting teary again.
Their encore was "Shambala," for which I was hoping that Sean would join, but no. Afterward, though, they decided to bring Rockapellas 1987 & 2004 together, for "Zombie Jamboree." Ohmigosh, all those Pella Butts! An excited buzz filled the crowd, & Steve said, "How do you know what song it is? It might not even BE that song!" George's intro seemed to be even longer, talking about the island having "many, many people, and when the light changes, many, many people go again...they turn buckets upside down & bang on them." It was amazing to see all of them, on stage at once. At one point, Karla told me later, Steve had turned the wrong way & his back was to El's front, whose back was to George's back. Scott allowed Steve to go under the microphone limbo cord before him. Kev & Sean traded verses. Sean had his crazy hypnotic glasses from the old days. It was awesome. They all hugged afterward, then 1987 (except El) left the stage.
El said that his past week, they had traveled to Pittsburgh & back, which reminded him of all their old tours. Kev interjected, "in the back of a van, down by the river..." a la Chris Farley on SNL. El said that he'll remember the drive through the Midwest. he had never seen corn & wheat before, or a Harvest Moon. He's loved the Spike Lee project & Carmen, and ultimately the live shows. Scott said thank you to El and that "maybe we can open for you someday." They closed with "Keep on Smilin'." Much standing ovation ensued. Some crying, too.
The BB King staff pretty much yelled at everyone to get out. We thought that maybe they had to clean up for the next show, but there wasn't another show there that night. They were rude about it. I went upstairs to buy a bunch of CDs, then got in line to have Sean sign his. While we were in line, George came by & signed our CDs, because I guess he wasn't going to be hanging out on the sidewalk with the other guys. I told Sean that I first saw Pella on his farewell tour as he signed my CD.
We then went outside, where the guys were doing their meet & greet. Oh, Liz had insisted that she needed hugs from all the guys because she traveled all this way & had been drinking. So I played hug agent & told all of them individually that she deserved a hug. so she got them.
I told Scott that I really liked his scruffy look because it was very sexy. Then Lisa came up to him to tell him where they would be waiting. I was all embarrassed. But anyway, maybe she didn't hear me. Scott was appreciative anyway, and happy to see that we had made the trek. We then lined up to talk to Jeff and he was pleasantly surprised to see us. I asked Kev to verify my statement about the humidity in Florida to Liz. He aid that yes, it does rain in Orlando every day in August at 3 or 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Liz, whom was going to WDW in 2 days, was not pleased by this information.
Then we greeted Elliott. I said to him, "Don't leave me!" He said that he wasn't leaving me, that I could see him with the new group. I said that then I'd have to go to New York more. He said that it was a good thing, then. I agreed. I asked him to sign a picture frame for me and he said, "How do you spell your name?" I said, "It's Sherry. S-h-e-r-r-y." He said, "I know it's Sherry I just didn't want to spell it wrong. I told him that I wasn't sure if he was just trying to trick me into saying my name. Well, he could have just been polite, you know. We had to take 2 pictures because he said that he was thinking about something else during the first one. It still looked really cute, though! I gave him a couple of little gifts and hugged him goodbye. We talked to briefly to Scott again before leaving, and we waved by to El.
Karla, Jim, Liz and I walked through Times Square so that Jim could get on to the live web cam, and to take pics of the area at night. We passed by the guy playing drums on buckets, which enlightened me to the meaning of George's Zombie intro. Liz and I wanted to go home because we had somehow missed the webcam. so, we left Karla & Jim there, and hoofed it home. At one point, my feet hurt so much that I took off my shoes & walked a block while barefoot. I made sure that it was one of the clean sidewalks in the financial district, which didn't last very long, because then there weren't enough people around & we wanted to get away from a scary-looking guy.
So we got back to the hotel safely & the guy at the front desk was arguing with someone on the phone over the type of room available, much like the person that Liz had talked to in the morning. These people have a bad attitude and it's their fault anyway. We went upstairs and realized that we were too late for room service. I tried to call downstairs to ask for a wake-up call, but nobody answered the phone, so I guess the guy was still arguing on the other line. So I changed my shoes & went back out to find something to eat.
When we got to the lobby, the guy was finally off the phone. I asked if we could request a wake-up call. he said that we could call from our room. I told him that we tried, but nobody answered after at least 10 rings. So he set it up for us. He said that there weren't any places open nearby, but we could order from a pizza place, for which he had menus. So we decided to do that. Jim & Karla arrived, but they didn't want to eat any of our HUGE pizza, so we had a ton left over. After telling more Pella stories, Jim & Karla left. Liz & I took a nap for about an hour or so before getting up to go to the airport.
Liz had confirmed three times that Super Shuttle would pick us up at 7AM. So we were going downstairs at 6:50 and I realized that I had left my sweater in the room. So I went back to get it, and when I came downstairs, Liz wasn't in the lobby. She was already in the shuttle. The shuttle driver looked at me and teased, "You're late." Dude, it's only 6:58. Apparently, he had gotten there so early that he left & picked up everybody else before coming back. We went to La Guardia airport, and Liz & I were surprised that we were making this stop. I realized that I had left my cel phone in the hotel. CRAP! The shuttle driver was having a discussion outside that was taking forever, so Liz called the 800# to complain that not only were we making this extra stop, but the driver was already outside for 5 minutes, arguing about a fare. he came back in just as the company was calling him. So Liz was brilliant & decided that Karla could pick up my cel phone & bring it back with her to CA. Thankfully, all parties were in agreement.
We arrived at the airport, did the self-service kiosk, and were proud of ourselves for bypassing the really long line. We were great, in fact, until our plane was delayed. I realized that the delay would affect our connecting flight & quickly remedied that. Great timing, too -- the attendant bumped us up to First Class for the oh-so-long (NOT) Phoenix to LAX flight. Only problem was that I couldn't call my friends to tell them that I'd be late for dinner, because my numbers were IN the cell phone. Well, I thought that was the only problem. When I got on the delayed flight plane, somebody was in my seat. Turns out that the plane at our gate, which had delayed us in the first place, was combined with our plane & the seating was all screwy because we were reserved for seats on a different-sized plane. So I ended up sitting far away from Liz for the long flight.
When we go to Phoenix, we called Ang to tell her about the concert, then we got to our First Class seats. That was nice, after this trying ordeal. I ended up being an hour late for dinner, but my friends were happy that I was alive and well. And Happy. Thanks for the memories, El. Seeing you was definitely worth the crazy trip. I'll miss you.