Sherry's Rockapella Trip Report

Fowler Center at Arkansas State University--Jonesboro, AR

March 20-24, 2005

When I saw that Rockapella would be performing in Arkansas, I thought that it was the perfect opportunity to visit my aunt and grandmother in Little Rock.

I went to the Burbank airport on Sunday morning, thinking that it would be simple and quick, as usual. Wrong. The terminal was filled with confused people in long lines, partially due to Spring Break and also, I heard, due to the fact that it was a new flight for the airline, and they didn't expect that they'd need so much security on staff. They held the plane for all of us to get on, though, and had enough buffer for us to land timely. The in-flight movie was "The Incredibles" -- YAY! At the Atlanta airport, I couldn't believe that the Bath & Body Works store wasn't selling trial sizes. Don't you think they'd make more money selling a LOT of those to travelers, instead of selling the big sizes? Even if you give them as gifts, it's more reasonable to give small samples than a huge one that receiver might not like. What is up with that?

The flight to Little Rock was short. The Little Rock airport is small! I had expected it to be much bigger, but it reminded me of the airport in Flint, Michigan. My Auntie Milda (AM) waved to me and introduced me to 12-year-old Allison, whom was staying with her dad and AM at their house for Spring Break. My grandmother had insisted on coming to the airport, too, and I was very happy to see her. It's been over a year since she moved out to Arkansas, and I've missed seeing her on a weekly basis. AM informed me that she had booked a room for me in North Little Rock, even though she had previously said that I'd stay at their place. (I had offered to get my own room, but I guess that she kept changing her mind). After checking in, we had dinner at Dixie Cafe, because I wanted Southern food, especially hush puppies. So I had Cajun catfish, sweet potatoes and peach cobbler to complete the Southern dinner thing. They then dropped me off at the hotel & I settled in for the night.

On Monday morning, AM, Allison & my grandmother picked me up and we went to the Clinton Presidential Library, which was quite amazing and informative. There was so much to learn there that I plan on going back someday. My favorite part was the orientation film, wherein Bill Clinton talks about his life and how he became involved in politics. I liked that he came from humble beginnings and was influenced by the civil rights movement. After getting some souvenirs, we toured the Old State House, which had a Rock 'n' Roll museum and an exhibit of the Governors' wives' dresses, as well as an exhibit on Prohibition. We then had some Chinese food at Chi's and my fortune was "You will inherit money from an unexpected source." Ooh, cool! We then went to the Central High School Historical site, which marks the time at which racial integration into schools caused rioting and got the attention of the nation. My grandmother and I went back to the hotel to rest while AM and Allison took care of guitar lessons and family stuff. We had dinner with Allison's dad, Allen, at Shorty Smalls before they went home. I spent that evening listening to thunder and seeing flashes of lightning, while watching TV and monitoring the tornado warnings. Since I had no idea what county I was in, I was very concerned about our trip, as well as Rockapella's travel from Louisiana. It turns out that my county was safe, and so was the 'Pella.

AM & Allison picked me up on Tuesday morning and we drove about 3 hours through Boonville to get to Jonesboro. I didn't know that Arkansas is the 2nd highest producer of rice in the USA. We took a short tour of downtown Jonesboro, thanks to our making a wrong turn. We went to Arkansas State University to find out the venue location, then went to the row of hotels to book a room. The Holiday Inn Express was supposedly booked up -- on a Tuesday in Jonesboro where even the university nearby looked deserted -- hmmmm..... Anyway, we ended up at the Baymont Inn again. After checking in, we got a bite to eat and took a trip to the drugstore before returning to the hotel, where we watched more tornado warnings. Allison kept imagining that she was seeing funnel clouds, and I kept reminding her that she ate ice cream that day, so no tornado was going to hit us. (When Allison was 3, her request to go get ice cream saved her & her dad's lives because they were away when the tornado hit their home). AM realized that she had forgotten something, so we went back to the drugstore again and then she wisely decided to buy a couple of umbrellas. We got all pretty and the rain subsided exactly at the time that the tornado warning was scheduled to end. The clouds rolled away, too! The timing was amazing.

We went to the Fowler Center at ASU & picked up our tickets. The doors weren't open yet, so we checked out the Bradbury Gallery next door, which was showing the Art of Murry N De Pillars. What beautiful, vibrant colors!

As soon as we were allowed, we went into the auditorium and made our way down to our front row seats. YAY! I saw Fred setting up on stage and waved to him. He came down and we chatted for a bit. He told me that their drive from Louisiana was fine, and they were all there safe and sound, minus one. John's wife just had a baby, so he stayed home to be with them. Awww...congratulations, John!!!

George then came into the auditorium and stopped in front of me. I smiled and said hi, then got up to hug him. He said, "I saw you sitting there!" I asked what they'd be doing without John. He said that they'd done a show without Elliott before, but I informed him that I didn't see that show. I asked if they'd be cutting out a bunch of songs, but no. Some other fans came up to talk to him, one of whom he was particularly looking for, so I went back to my seat.  The guys sitting next to me, Cody & Mason, were excited to be there and happy that they were able to get in the front row, too. I then saw Mo waving hi to me, and walked over to chat with her, Krik, Brendaly & Coleen.

Rockapella started their show with "Tonight," followed by "Dancin' In The Streets." Scott said that the sky was falling down in Jonesboro, referring to the tornadoes. He asked for a show of hands from those whom were at their 1st Pella concert, then received a lot more applause from the rest of us. He said that their concerts are well attended by "folks chasing us around the world," while staring straight at ME. He does that a lot. He then went on a tangent about the ASU mascot, the Razorback, and how the ladies teams probably don't like being named after that particular animal. He said that they learned a lot about Hogs and Nuns on their trip (the nuns were because they had passed a convent on the way to AR).

They sang "Off My Mind" and "Use Me." Somebody in the audience yelled, "Folger's Coffee Rules!" Kevin yelled back, "That's right, brutha!" Or did he say "bubba"? I can't read my notes. He then talked about the fact that he'd never seen cowboy hats at their concerts before. Why weren't any of the people at Texas A&M wearing cowboy hats?, I wonder.

To get us all in the mood for the next song, Kevin asked us to close our eyes and picture ourselves at the beach...and Scott heightened the mood by making the sound of a cow and then a razorback. Kevin looked for his Speedo victim, and found Cody and Mason, whom outed each other by pointing to one another as Speedo-wearers. So Kevin dedicated "Under the Boardwalk" to the 2 of them. Why I didn't get a picture of them, I don't know, 'cuz they were cute.

They sang "Have Faith" and then "Stand by Me' with Scott on lead due to John's absence. It was nice to hear Scott sing that again. It's not that I don't like John's rendition, but it's Scott's song. And Sherry's song with Scott and those guys...but I digress.

Then the song that I wanted to hear, what with all the crazy weather: "Here Comes the Sun." You can't blame this So Cal girl from wanting to hear this song. Through all the torrid storms in my hometown this winter, I needed to hear the song A LOT, in order not to go into a rain-induced depression.

They sat down on their stools and sang "A Change In My Life" and "Up A Lazy River," complete with Scott's muted trumpet. After "It's A Small World," Scott talked about their jobs before Rockapella. He said that when they were offered the gig at PBS, they "thought (they'd) be like a cool 'Barney'." Thank goodness they were nothing like that! After singing the Folger's theme, Scott described it as the "apex of Rockapella's meteoric career."

For "My Girl," Kevin chose Susie, whom was a roadie for the venue. her special song was "Susie, Susie the Techie Tech." Kevin's lyrics, as usual, were wacko, to which Scott sang, "That doesn't rhyme." Susie was wearing ponytails, with which Jeff just HAD to play. Susie was great during "Ain't too Proud to Beg," and almost bumped Scott off the stage. He called her "powerful," and said, "She popped me good!" I think it was Jeff that jokingly said, "She's shy." Susie was a riot. They calmed down well enough after that and sang "People Change."

George shared his vocal range by singing "Summertime" and "Old Man River," way opposite sides of the spectrum. AM loved their rendition of "Papa Was A Rolling Stone." The college people in back went just nuts when the guys sang Carmen. As they all walked off the stage, Scott pointed to me and said, "Hey!" I think I've sufficiently bugged him enough to notice me, yes? Jeff was really rockin' during his VP solo. I mean, WOW.

For the encore, they sang "Up On the Roof/Wonderful World" after everybody finally calmed down. For "Dance With Me," Scott took his turn shaking his butt and all of us in the front row went wild and almost keeled over from the excitement. OK, all of us people that like that kind of thing. Since John was missing, there was less Back to Back action, but they still managed just fine with their choreography. Or does John not do that, since he's on the riser with Jeff at that point? I need to see another show. ;) Kevin's Holiday Inn Express joke reminded me of the trouble we had earlier, and AM elbowed me in case I didn't remember. One guy was REALLY happy to see the guys and shook their hands a lot of times. The guys had fun knowing how excited he was about the show.

At the Meet & Greet, Phil blew by me and said, "Hi, Sherry." He remembered my name with no hints! So when he came back, I demanded a hug. Allison wanted to play photographer, so I had her go nuts with my digital camera. I introduced the guys to AM, the reason that I was in AR, besides them. I told them that she needed to witness the obsessiveness that is me and the Pella. Jeff said, "Aw, you're only mildly obsessive." OK, Jeff, don't encourage me now! Scott and I talked about the wackiness of the weather in So Cal. He couldn't believe it when I told him that our rainfall was actually higher than that of Seattle. I said hi again to George, and talked to Kevin a little bit about the girls at home. Allison, meanwhile, was trying to take some candids of the guys. AM realized that she wanted her liner notes signed, but was too shy to get back in line. So, naturally, I went for her and asked them to sign again. Scott asked how to spell her name and wrote "To Milda" on the liner notes. I think George may have smeared his signature a little bit. When I brought it back to AM, she was excited to see her name written by Scott.

Things started to get more organized (kinda) and people waited in line to take pictures with the guys. Allison wanted to be our photographer, so AM & I waited our turn. When we got up there, Scott said, "Come over here, Milda," which made her very happy because he remembered her name from 10 minutes before. He's so good at that! Jeff called me over, and George was distracted. For some reason, Allison wasn't ready to take the shot. I went to help her, but when she got distracted again by George not paying attention, she got freaked out a little. Jeff tried to comfort me, noting my anxiety and impatience. OK, he can do that all day if he wants! Allison couldn't overcome her stage fright, so Phil was summoned. As Phil took the picture, Jeff tickled me, I guess in an effort to make sure that I'd smile. So I giggled and tickled him back. Fun stuff, man! Then I playfully pinched his arm and said bye. Ooh, I needed some air after that exchange! ;)

We went back to the car and I was happy, of course. AM was impressed, but Allison not so much. She said that they should be a comedy group and thought the music was boring. Well, she's 12, and much more into hard rock and prefers to hear guitars, which she didn't get tonight. Somebody needs to teach this gal some culture. ;) She didn't understand why they were called "Rockapella," when it was actually "pop," not "rock." I advised her that much of their music was actually considered to be rock ' n' roll before the whole Hard Rock thang. Ah, youth.

I called Liz while we were on the way to IHOP, the only sit-down place open late in Jonesboro. YAY -- breakfast! When we returned to the hotel, AM & Allison got ready for bed and I called Angela to talk 'Pella.

The next day, we checked out of our hotel and drove to Memphis. There was a light drizzle, but thankfully, no funnel clouds. I was relieved because I knew that the guys were flying out that morning. Of course, this wouldn't be a Sherry trip without getting lost, so we went the wrong way for a bit, even going to the Memphis airport (Hey--the Fed Ex hub! Castaway!) before reaching our destination: GRACELAND! Yes, I listened to the Paul Simon song before coming over here, and it was in my head at times.

We took a tour of the mansion. The walking tour is very well done, because it allows you to go at your own pace. I learned that Elvis once had a horse named Rising Sun, and he named the barn "House of Rising Sun." This fact, of course, immediately had me singing "House of the Rising Sun." I miss 'Pella opening their show with that, but at least I have the Live in Japan CD to reminisce. I've decided that I want the DVD of the 1968 Elvis TV special, wherein Elvis was wearing that black leather outfit. It was way expensive, though, so I got a cute shirt with a logo of that show.

We then went took the long way (OK, the LOST way) to Beale Street, and were immediately asked for money by some guy who tried to help us with the parking meter. It was cold and there weren't many people on Beale St, much less any musicians playing outside, so we didn't stay very long. When we got back to AR, we picked up Allen and visited with AM's boss, also named Allen, whom couldn't think of any reason that the Jonesboro Holiday Inn Express would be booked up this week, or any normal week for that matter. I have issues, I know.

We then visited Allen's hilarious parents before eating dinner at Grampa's, where I had the yummiest hush puppies EVER! Allen & AM raved about his mom's recipe being even better, so you know what I'll be requesting when I go back to AR. I stayed that night at their place by the Old River.

In the morning, after Allen decided he'd rather hang out with me than work, he and I sat out on their private dock and he told me about hunting and fishing around the area. He threw out a line, and his friends Denny, Vern & Shorty came by to chat for a spell. Apparently, none of them felt like going to work that day. Must be nice. My southern drawl came out to play and I really enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere, chatting about boat propellers and docks. OK, so I didn't have much to contribute to that particular conversation, but it was still nice. For about a week after this trip, I thought of moving out to AR, then I realized that I'd be away from my beloved So Cal, and that wasn't going to happen without some drastic event. I was shown the beautiful mansions by the lake, though, and realized that I could sell my modest house for one of those huge ones. They showed me the house that they're building, and I'm eager to see the finished product. Alas, it's not on the river, but I hope that they still keep their river place as a weekend retreat.  I want to go back and sit on that dock again.  Yes, I'm hearing "'Dock of the Bay" in my head, too.

On my flight from Little Rock to Atlanta, I was seated beside a gal named Beth, whom worked at Heifer, Int'l in Little Rock, which had me thinking of how great it would be to work with such a great organization, and living in that mansion by the lake. I think that the thought of the mosquitoes in the summer snapped me back into reality, though. I watched "Finding Neverland" on the flight to Burbank. It's so nice to see Johnny Depp between naps, don't you think? Ahh, home. It may not be a mansion by the lake, but I still love it here.

Until next time, y'all...

--Sherry

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