When Chuck Ragan became a late addition to this tour line up, Caleigh said to me, “I don’t think we can do just one show”. She was right. We enjoyed the Freedom Hill show SO much, and I’m so glad we decided to make the jaunt to Cleveland the next day.
However, I will add that in our journey, we were fighting exhaustion, so we exited in Toledo to get gas and find a Starbucks. What we learned: never stop in Toledo. Getting gas was the easiest part- when searching for a nearby Starbucks, GPS brought us to an empty field. After a tour of some of the sketchier areas of Toledo, we finally found a McDonalds (in a basically abandoned plaza) and decided to get coffee there. Apparently my request for two milk/two sugar in my coffee was too outlandish for them to handle, because the girl at the drive-thru tried to hand me a tray containing Caleigh’s frappe, a coffee, two children’s bottles of milk, and a Happy Meal? Being as tired as we were, I didn’t even consider that I had probably paid for the milk, and that it wasn’t going to be in my coffee- thankfully I don’t mind a black coffee every now and again! It took us longer than I’d like to admit to get back onto the highway, mainly because every exit onto the highway was under construction. Toledo is the Bermuda Triangle of Ohio, and we quickly became convinced that anyone who lives there was probably a tourist who ended up there and couldn’t get back out.
The rest of the journey was a smooth one, and we ended up getting to the waterfront by about 2 or 2:30pm- perfect timing for a marathon line up session. We weren’t even the first ones there this time, and we had a tent as shelter for the impending rain, so all things considered, we were in great shape. Shortly after, we saw Chuck Ragan out speaking to a security guard, and as he glanced over to us, he waved and started to walk over. He took a moment to introduce himself, shake hands with the group of us in line and chat for a bit before heading back to the stage; further proving that the fabled stories of Chuck Ragan being one of the nicest men in music are indeed true. (Need further proof? Read about how he gave Dan Ozzi, a writer at VICE, the shoes off his feet here )
As it came closer to the time that doors were scheduled to open, another line began to form at a separate gate- there were to be two gates open at the same time. For those of us who had patiently waited in line for hours, it was frustrating to think that we could be denied prime barrier position. It was further compounded by the security on our side attempting to open a second line on our side, and bringing up people from the middle to back of the line to be at the front of this new line. Our new friends protested this development, and thankfully, we had a security guard on our side who agreed to scan our tickets and bag check the six of us first so that we could get a slight head start. We really had nothing to worry about, but there’s always that bit of anxiety when doors open and you prepare to sprint to your position. Either way, we were still front row and center.
Chuck opened this time with “Nothing Left to Prove” and “Meet You In the Middle”, and we made sure we contributed with Brian Fallon’s part in the latter, earning a smile and acknowledgement from Chuck. I was surprised with the number of people who were unfamiliar with his music, as his career as not only a solo artist but lead singer of Hot Water Music has been extensive, but judging from comments I heard later, it sounds like there will be a lot more Chuck Ragan fans out there thanks to this tour. Once again, he and Todd Beene (pedal steele, back up vocals) were flawless, and my only complaint is that his set wasn’t longer.
Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls were up next, and this set was even more fun since we were beside a few people who were long time fans seeing him for the first time. It’s really nice to meet fans and experience that excitement with them, no matter who is performing, but there’s always something special about a Frank Turner show. Although the previous night’s crowd in Michigan had been deemed a 5/10 by Frank (rated based on how loud the crowd was when asked if we were having fun), the Cleveland crowd surprised the band with their enthusiasm– we got promoted to a 6! The Cleveland crowd took a little while to get rowdy but at Frank’s direction, they began a circle pit towards the center of the crowd and the energy never wavered.
We decided to move again after Frank’s set, and took a run by merch to pick up some last minute Chuck Ragan items. This also gave us the opportunity to visit with Chuck and Todd, who were meeting fans during the break between Frank and Flogging Molly. Once again, I can’t stress how wonderfully sweet these men are. We were immediately greeted with hugs and thanked for participating in the set by singing and dancing. They were humble, gracious and took time to speak with anyone who requested their time, as well as autograph merchandise and take photos.
With that, we were off to join the rest of the crowd for Flogging Molly’s set, which we viewed from a little farther back as per the previous show. We felt again that it was only fair to give our spots at the barrier to people who were there specifically to see Flogging Molly, and were happy to have a little extra room to dance anyways. Flogging Molly really are one of the tightest bands I’ve seen, and they are definitely there having as good a time as anyone in the crowd. Playing similar set to the previous night, we danced to “Requiem for a Dying Song” and “Saints and Sinners”, and slowed it down to a sway for “Float” and “If I Ever Leave this World Alive”. Dave King is really a master entertainer, and I’m so appreciative that we were able to do two shows on this tour.
(Sorry for lack of quality/lack of photos in general- I truly did live in the moment this tour and my camera was put away for a majority of the show)