Phonte, Me, Deborah Bond, Kush El-Amin & Sy Smith backstage after rockin’ Chene Park… Photo courtesy of Drake Phifer
Going back home to perform always seems to disturb my already dysfunctional “sleep-pattern”… I can never get enough rest the night before a Detroit performance – whether it’s a solo show or one with The Foreign Exchange. It’s actually very similar to preparing for a huge game…at home – YET it’s even more special than that because there’s a “we’ve missed you” factor on both sides that can be added into the equation now since I’m not living in the area anymore. As a matter of fact, the only sleep I participated in before this show occurred on the one hour-ten minute flight from Baltimore to Detroit. I was OUT and do not remember taking off at all.. But, I DO remember being awakened by that ridiculously hard ass landing executed by our pilot. I’m talking the type of landing that has been known to make you look extra crazy in public as your sudden waking up from a deep sleep while fighting the air tends to be accompanied by various random, yet well-placed expletives …..I’m not saying this happened to ME on this particular flight, but I’ve heard that’s how it goes down sometimes and you know, uhh… well…… ANYWAY, upon our arrival to DTW Airport, we were to be picked up and taken to the hotel located right along the Detroit Riverwalk. Kush El-Amin (bassist), Deborah Bond (vocalist) and I all walked off of the plane safely and randomly ran into Tim Scott Jr. (drummer) in the baggage claim area. We then caught up to our driver a few minutes later after letting the organizers know that we had arrived into town. The driver was cool as all hell and seemed to be a music head. He also began to hit us with a couple of hilarious quotables and stories… including the one explaining why he wasn’t allowed back on our hotel’s property. We were all in the van like, *crickets*….. But the brotha got us everywhere we needed to be on time… We just had a bit of a walk ahead of us when we were dropped off on the far side of that hotel damn near by the Jim Crow entrance.
Behind our hotel… The Detroit Riverwalk
After introducing Kush and Deborah to one of my most frequented sammich spots when I lived in MI, *sings* “Tubbyyyy’s Submariiiiiines,” the crew hit up soundcheck at our scheduled time and as I walked up to the stage I could immediately tell that it was about to be a reunion for me… The first person I ran into was Monica Blaire (featured on “MakeLuv2Me”) and right behind her was vocalist, L’Renee whom I hadn’t seen since I moved to Maryland at the beginning of 2006. Then up walked Dwele, who I’ve known since 2003 and would sometimes even jam out with him in Slum Village’s old stomping grounds, Barak Studios in Southfield, MI. He and I got to catch up a bit during his soundcheck… meanwhile, I realized that I knew a few people in his band including drummer Eric “Rain Man” Gaston, keyboardist Brandon “Showtime” Bland, background singer J. Tait, and saxophonist LaDarrel “Saxappeal” Johnson who has played alongside Sy Smith and I twice, at our Detroit (February ’12) and New York City (May ’12) shows. To say that I felt right back at home would be a huge understatement… Now when you’re around all of that talent, not only is there a strong sense of camaraderie but also a feeling of friendly competition as well, which as a former baseball player is something that I will probably never shy away from. It’s natural because you always want to sound your best in front of your peers. With that being said, we sounded our best for about 15 minutes because we were forced into knocking out one of the shortest soundchecks in life (Arrested Development, whose flight was severely delayed had arrived and was on the side of the stage waiting to check after us and the doors were due to open soon after). After our 15 minutes of fame during soundcheck, we made our way back to the hotel for about an hour of down time before it was time to head on back to Chene Park and hit the stage for real this time around.
As we rolled back to the venue in preparation for the night’s performance…let’s just say I was a tad bit beyond ready. Momma Zo! had already sent me a text saying that she, Pops Zo!, my sister and her boyfriend were already there and seated. Meanwhile, I was backstage in full out clown mode in order to distract myself from the fact that I was anxious as hell to get out there and murder this +FE set. My adrenaline was on 12 AND I had the nerve to be sipping on a can of Red Bull. Yeah, I know…But I told y’all, show preparation very much parallels getting ready for a big game. Aaaaand, then the time finally came for us to walk out on stage… I arrived at my keyboard rig and started to get everything set up… I then began hearing people start to call my name from the crowd…
“WE LOVE YOU ZO!!!”
Monica Blaire was there hosting the show along with Suga Rae stopped and said,
“Oh… Do we have some Zo fans in here?”
Adrenaline now on 14.
It was finally time to start up and with only 40 minutes to show our people a helluva time, we knew we had to be on level 10 fresh outta the gate……. And that’s exactly what happened. From the jump, the music felt really good, the crowd was with us the entire time, my hands felt loose on the keys, and the added bonus….. I received a standing ovation during our individual introductions, which just put the show over the top for me. Some of y’all have heard me talk some about hometown love and how unbelievable of a feeling it is to get it… This episode was no different. And the fact that my parents and sister were in the crowd both times that it has happened?… Maaaan, come on nah!!
After leaving the stage ablaze by playing what I thought was one of our best sets this year, I decided to try and head out into the crowd so that I could see my family and check out Dwele and Arrested Development’s shows. Man, I got into the crowd and was greeted by friends, fans, and even a few folks I went to high school with whom I had not seen since high school (’96 if ya nosy ass needed to know). Hell, those folks still know me as a baseball player! I found my family in the crowd via “text GPS” a/k/a “Where y’all at?! / We’re right here!!” guidance. My sister and Momma Zo! were rockin’ the crispy ciel blue Zo! T-shirts while Pops came with the suit and tie combo, per usual. ‘Twas all hugs and pictures as I was soon joined by Sy and Deborah not too long afterward. We proceeded to chop it up with my family and enjoy the remainder of the show…. But uhhh, one of the highlights and my personal favorite moments of the entire night was watching +FE’s Director of Operations, Aimee Flint hit the “Baba Oje dance” (skip to 3:36) in the stands with us at the end of Arrested Development’s “People Everyday”… And y’all know exactly what I’m talkin’ about too – the dance he does at the end of said video to accompany his chanting. She had the shit down PAT!!! We were loving it so much, we couldn’t do anything but join her…
Ok now… The post-show meal came in the form of one of my favorite Downtown Detroit spots…. Bucharest Grill. Phonte and Tim Scott Jr. became instant believers after I successfully put on to their famous chicken shawarmas. C’LAWD!!!!!! Those two brovahs damn near cleaned their plates by the time I had returned back to our table from the bar with drainks! The Bucharest meal accompanied by a strong rum & coke was an excellent ending to another near perfect day and performance by The Foreign Exchange. I’m always looking forward to the next one… Detroit, we love y’all and we’ll see you again in 2013…!!!
PHOTOS from +FE’s Performance at Chene Park