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If you’re following along, you now know how I managed to get to Manchester, England to perform at the GeoCoinfest Europe event.  Thanks to the previous 3 guest blogs from drummer Hans Dejonghe, you also know how he and 3 other musicians from Belgium who were going to perform with me managed to do the same.   And now it was showtime.

I had arrived the day before since I had an early set at 10:30 am.  Long days of travel and a bad case of jetlag had me fairly exhausted, so when the alarm went off at the hotel on September 7, I was bleary eyed and a little slow-moving.  But the excitement of my first ever performance in Europe (and a few cups of hotel coffee) got my feet moving, and so I hit the ground running.

My college roommate Bill decided to day trip to Liverpool during the event.  He’s not a geocacher and was planning to come to the pub gig later that evening, so he wanted to see the land of the Beatles across the Mersey.  We parted ways, and I caught a taxi over to the Convention Center where the event was taking place.  I found my way inside, and the happy cachers were already starting to line up and get their packets.

 A nice volunteer help direct me to the stage where I met Jon-Paul, Ian, Ledger, and Ian Grime!  As you would expect, they were in the thick of it.  Anyone who has worked in event management knows that despite all the planning in the world, event day is usually very hectic.  This event was no exception as they were all dealing with unforeseen emergencies and last-minute crises.  So, we didn’t have a ton of time to chat, just a quick “thank you” and “break a leg” and I was off to the races.

Having never performed at geocaching event like this, and not being involved with the sound logistics, I didn’t know what to expect.  Honestly, I was prepared to be pointed to a corner with a small amp and told to fend for myself.  What I found instead, was that Ian, Jon-Paul and Ian had really come through.   There was a full professional stage with monitors, PAs, a sound board, lights and a really nice guy named Rick who would be running sound during the shows.  Wow.  I just need to take another moment and thank these guys.  Getting a rig like that arranged is no small feat, and nothing makes you feel more appreciated and welcomed by a venue than seeing a professional sound system.  So, hats off guys!

I immediately took photos and texted them to Hans who was in route.  I can’t remember his exact response, but I do recall that he was as happy as I was.  Rick help me get set up and do a sound check.  Then I took a look around.  As with the sound stage, the event committee had done a bang-up job with everything, food, vendors, a VIP area and lots of wonderful volunteers helping folks out.  It looked to be a great GeoCoinfest.

One thing that I had done to add a little fun to the performance was that I made my Martin guitar a travel bug.  Ok, so I probably need to take another moment for those non-geocachers and explain what a travel bug is… especially since that’s the name of the band.

If you read my first few blogs in this series, I explained the basics of geocaching at a very high level.  A travel bug is usually a small object that you register with the geocaching website, assign a mission, and then put in a cache so it can be off on its way.  You receive a metal dog tag with a code so that as cachers find and move it, you can track it on the geocaching web site.

When my family and I started geocaching, we released a travel bug named “Max”.  It was a hard-plastic statue of the character max from the children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are”.  We gave him the mission to “Explore wild places around the world”, and then put him in a cache in Colorado.  Over the years, geocachers moved him from cache to cache, taking photos of him in wild places like at a Minnesota Wild hockey game, amongst the wild monkeys on the rock of Gibraltar, and a castle in Croatia.  We lived vicariously through this little guy for quite a while before he eventually disappeared.  I guess he finally made it somewhere where the wild things are.  

When I created my pseudonymous geoacaching band, I named them “The Travel Bugs”, and I released 7 actual travel bugs into the geocaching community.  Each travel bug was a small statue of an animal from one of the 7 continents, and I gave them the mission of getting to their respective continents.  At one point 5 of the 7 were on there continent!  The only ones that didn’t get “home” were the penguin (Antarctica) and the poison frog (South America).  If you are interested, you can read their BIOGRAPHIES on the Travel Bugs web site.

The First to Find “Steve’s Martin”

Anyhoo, as with everything in geocaching, cachers have come up with clever ways to create travel bugs.  I’ve even seen t-shirts with the travel bug symbol and a code so that people themselves are travel bugs.  I registered my Martin guitar as a travel bug and got a sticker to put on the case so cachers could log it.  I announced this before the event. Now the tricky part is that my guitar case is covered with stickers from all my travels, so you really have to look to see the travel bug sticker.  But within seconds of being on the stage a cacher came over and asked if anyone had “found” the guitar yet.  No one had so she was very pleased to be the first to log it. 

Speaking of travel bugs, the keyboard player Lee Muhr, a lemur from Africa and the only band member still accounted for, actually showed up at GeoCoinfest.  I hadn’t seen this little guy since Monday, 08 February 2010 when I first released him.  A blast from the past.

OK, so now it’s showtime.  When 10:30 am rolled around, I started.  My first song was “You Can Call Me Al” by Paul Simon, using my looper to add percussion, bassline and harmonies.  When I finished this song, I did take a moment and acknowledge to myself that I had officially played in the UK, or as I would tell my friends later “I’m huge in the UK!”.  I played a set of gentle acoustic covers as background music for the attendees. I played a couple of geocaching songs as a teaser for the upcoming show.  Everyone was so supportive and complimentary.  I got to meet several cachers with whom I had emailed over the years.  More people “found” my guitar, and I sold a few CDs.  A wonderful gig all around.

Then the Belgians stormed the place!  …Ok, so they actually arrived quite peaceably if not a little road-weary.  It was absolutely wonderful finally getting to meet the gang as we had collaborated so long over the Internet.  And might I say, they are some of the nicest folks I’ve had the pleasure to meet.  I wanna say again that I won the lottery having these guys agree to perform with me.

They set up their equipment, we got in band configuration and did another sound check.  Then the time came for the show to start.  I have to admit that they knew my music a little better than I did.  They had obviously practiced these songs a good bit whereas I had practiced with along to an MP3.  Also, I had 3 setlists in my head, Travel Bugs songs, cover tunes, and original family tunes (I had a family music show right after I got back).  I think my head was just too full.

Luckily, they are consummate musicians and could cover my mistakes.  Jan played extra solos and let me use his tablet for lyrics on “TFTC” which somehow, I was having trouble remembering even after much practice.  Having said this, I think we really did a great job, especially considering that we shook hands for the first time and then immediately played a gig together.  People seemed to enjoy the concert and we got great feedback.  Another wonderful gig.

After that, there was still some time, so they decided to perform some Bugsy Travels and Ammo boxes songs.  They ended up doing a whole set, and it was great.  As the volunteers got off duty, they all came over to listen, a good reward for a day of hard work.  The band performed a parody of an Oasis song, which was so cool since we were in Manchester.  It was great getting to see them play and enjoy their music.  I personally think they knocked it out of the park!

We agreed to meet at the Old Nag’s Head pub for the after party where we would be performing again.  I headed back to meet Bill and another friend who was coming from nearby Ilkley to visit.  We were all tired and happy… and we still had another gig to go!

…in the meantime I’ll leave you with this photo of unbelievably cute dogs I saw as I was leaving the conference center

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