When I got an e-mail from DavidGray.com announcing the dates for David Gray’s Lost and Found Tour, I was upset. David Gray was coming to Chicago, but he was coming on Sunday February 27th, the night of the Academy Awards, a night I can’t miss, even for my favorite musician. So the choice was clear, I was going to drive up to Detroit to see David Gray the night before and rush back to get my house ready for the biggest turnout yet for my annual Oscar party.
It was surprisingly easy to find a driving partner and partner in crime for my one day mission to Detroit. My friend and ex-roommate Kevin is a huge D Gray fan, so the desire was there. As far as the logistics, it helped that Kevin is a professional poker player on a crazy-late sleep schedule so the idea of making the five hour drive back to Chicago at 11 o’clock at night was nothing for him. The drive to the event is always easy because of the anticipation and we made it even easier by listening to a bunch of David Gray and then finishing off the drive with two hours of The Ricky Gervais Podcast with me chiming in with a bunch of Karl Pilkington stories from his show An Idiot Abroad.
I keep hearing that Detroit doesn’t have a real downtown area, but whoever said that is dead wrong. We parked our car next to Comerica Park where the Tigers play and near the Fox Theatre where Ke$ha was performing that night, too. That must have been a real Sophie’s Choice moment for Detroit…David Gray or Ke$ha…hm. Our show was at the Detroit Opera House which was a beautiful venue, much smaller than the Chicago Theatre (where I’ve seen David Gray before), but with a similar ornate-movie-theater decor. I got screwed out of the pre-sale so Kevin and I bought 4th row broker tickets for well over face value, but they were definitely worth it. This was the closest I’d ever been to David Gray and it made for a really great show because in Detroit, he was especially expressive and interacted with the audience throughout the whole performance.
This was one of the best shows I’ve seen Gray put on and after we clapped our hands off and the lights went up in the Opera House, I told Kevin, “Let’s follow his bus to Chicago.”
He looked at me like I was nuts, “No way, he’s going to stay the night here and drive to Chicago tomorrow.”
“He can sleep on the bus. Let’s go.” I worked him and worked him and eventually Kevin broke down and we parked the car about thirty yards from the tour bus and waited and waited for them to leave. As we watched out the windows we saw a small group of teenage girls and middle aged men and women pool around outside the gates of the tourbuses and I started to realize that even better than following the bus, we might actually be able to get his autograph.
“Let’s go,” Kevin said, after another twenty minutes of waiting.
“No, wait, five more minutes.”
“Fine,” he said.
“Seven?” I asked.
Kevin shook his head and I knew I could only hold him for five more minutes. We nearly spent these five minutes when I saw the group of teenagers jump up and down and scream and I knew he was there. I grabbed a McDonald’s napkin and flew out the door. A few seconds later I was standing in front of David Gray when I had a total Ralphie-in-front-of-Santa-Claus moment from A Christmas Story. I totally froze.
“Who’s it to?” David asked me in his raspy voice. Um. Um. All I could hear was Kevin shouting the name of one of my favorite songs in my ear, ‘The Light! The Light!’ He repeated himself, “Who’s it to?”
I finally got it out, “Jordan,” I told him. Then I asked him about the song Kevin was yelling about (‘Football? Football? What’s a football?’ – Ralphie) “Do you ever play The Light in concert?”
He kept his head down writing and said, “Sometimes…sometimes. Occassionally.”
“I’ll just have to keep seeing you then,” I said. And then, “Not that I wasn’t happy with what you played tonight. Great set.” He just nodded and went on to sign the next autograph and the next and he stayed outside until everybody had a picture or signature. As he finished up he grabbed his bottle of Heinekin back from his manager and turned back to his bus. Right before he disappeared behind the gate I shouted out, “Thanks, David! Great show. Just great. Thanks!” He turned back and met my eye, and nodded with a small smile on his face.
Kevin and I got back in the car and we flew through Detroit to the outskirts, riding high on meeting our favorite musician, trying to find the safest place for our autographs in the road-trip-trashed front seats of his Corolla. As good as I knew David Gray would be in concert, I never expected to meet my absolute favorite musician of all time that night. My awesome girlfriend already framed the autograph (there’s nothing more dangerous than an autograph on a McDonald’s napkin, especially with my spring allergies on the way) and I just need to find the perfect spot for it in my house. It’s definitely not going up until after my Oscar party Sunday, I’m not taking any chances with this one. And here’s some advice if you ever meet your hero: Don’t pull a Ralphie. Have something ready to say, just in case. And check out The Light, it’s a great song. Here is a link for a David Gray concert review I wrote for LuminoMagazine.com back in 2005: http://www.luminomagazine.com/mw/content/view/704/10/