The four of us left Fort Wayne around 8 Friday morning and drove through the now-empty cornfields of Indiana into Illinois. We stopped for a couple of hours at my parents house, and then headed down to Bloomington. None of us were very familiar with the town, but we had no trouble finding the place. The Castle is conveniently located, they have a huge sign out front, and there's plenty of free parking. Once inside there is a nice stage, great open standing area with lots of leaning rails, very cool balcony, plenty of bar space, and fairly nice restrooms.
We arrived around 7:30 for an advertised start time of 8 pm. We immediately started seeing familiar faces from our past. This was a homecoming of sorts for Jason. He/we grew up only 90 minutes away, so this was like Bureau County night in Bloomington. Several of our high school teachers were there, friends we knew, friends we'd forgotten about, and even Jason's mom was in attendance. She is such a sweet, sweet lady, and it's always great to see her.
At any rate, I was busy visiting with old friends, and around 8:20 I saw Pontus Snibb, Al Collins and Warner E. Hodges come onstage. I thought maybe they were going to back Stacie Collins as the opening act. But then, low and behold, here comes Jason! Like he even needed to say it, he shouts, "Howdy folks, we're Jason & the Scorchers," and they were off and rockin. Stacie ended up belting out a few tunes here and there, but this was truly a Scorcher night. Jason was his usual bouncing-around-twirling-mic-stands self, and nobody plays a telecaster like Warner. Pontus and Al keep things grounded, and there are times you forget decades have passed since this trail was first set ablaze. In fact, I think Jason's voice is as good as it's ever been - though he seemed to let Stacie do most of the harmonica playing.
I didn't do a very good job keeping track of songs. I had a mental list of the ones I wanted to hear - most of which they did before the night was over. I know they did a few off the new album (Halcyon Times) - Mona Lee, Gettin' Nowhere Fast, maybe Land of the Free - and by the time Warner took his turn at the mic singing "...it don't get better than this"... he was preachin' to the choir. The new songs fit in nicely; but to be honest, it was great to sing along with so many of their classic hits from over the years. It was perhaps topped off by their unique version of John Denver's "Country Roads" as the third encore before they finally called it a night. And what a night it was. I spent most of it close to the front of the stage - listening, singing, laughing, crying, and grinning from ear to ear the whole time with a host of other happy fans (old and new). The crowd was good on this night, my friends; but the show was even better.
I don't honestly remember how long they played. This was not a night for keeping score. The victory was all mine regardless. And I don't know if Jason had them play all Neil Young music after the show just for me or not, but I wouldn't be surprised. Anyway, we stuck around afterward and I chatted with Deb, Warner, Al, Stacie, Pontus, and of course, Jason. I even had Jane take a picture of me with most of them. They are all just very nice, down-to-earth people. Warner went on and on about how great their fans are. Jason and I spoke about faith, family and ministry. Only someone like this would have their mother up on stage to give her a birthday cake and have the entire place sing happy birthday to her. To top it off they supplied cupcakes for everyone in the crowd out in the hallway. I swear, if there is a nicer person on the face of the earth than Jason Ringenberg, then I don't know 'em.
We finally made our way down the street to Denny's for a late night/early morning snack (I think it was around 1 am). We arrived back at my parents house right about 3 am (central time). So that meant I had been up 22 hours straight. Normally that would have done me in. But with Jason & the Scorchers, and my wife and kids along... it doesn't get better than this.
Here are a few random pics from the night (click on the pic to enlarge it):
The band: Warner, Pontus, Jason and Al.