Riding on the high of a very successful and well-received performance with Mike Glabicki of Rusted Root, we were ecstatic and extremely honored to have been chosen to be a part of Kevin Kinney’s Rocket Shop Variety Show. While the Mike Glabicki show was a truly amazing experience, what made this Kevn Kinney appearance so special was that he literally picked us himself to perform. I mean, Kevn literally texted me and said, “Hey, Don de Leaumont. I want you and your band to play as part of my show!” Ok, at this point this is where I was pinching myself. This guy who I look to as my mentor, my biggest inspiration, a guy I’ve been a fan of since I was 14 was now inviting my band to perform with him and other artists as equals. Equals; peers of Kevn Kinney. Yeah, it still doesn’t register.
The show was absolutely magic. The moment we arrived at the venue, we went backstage and we were greeting by Kevn himself, the legendary Stevie Tombstone, Anna Kramer, and David Franklin. Everyone was just hanging out backstage eating hummus, meat, and drinking really nice craft beer and we all just started talking and getting to know each other. I was sitting in this room and trying to keep my composure about Stevie and Kevn but a part of my fanboy had to come out and I told Stevie how I had been a fan of his for many, many years and that it was an honor to play with him. He smiled and put his arm around me and said, “Don, you’re a cool guy. This is gonna be a fun night.”
When Kevn took the stage opening with a couple of his own songs, he went on to tell the crowd how the evening was going to roll. He stated that he had handpicked each and every act performing this night because we were all unique and that were all a big part of his own story. “I’d like to introduce my friend Don de Leaumont and his new/old band, Collins Drive. Don is one of my favorite people and he’s a great songwriter.” I literally choked up in the wings of the stage as I made my way with my band to the stage.
First off, I couldn’t even imagine sharing this evening with two better people. Mike, Allison, and I have been together through thick and thin for going on 4 years now and they both know what a huge influence Kevn Kinney is to me so it definitely made this show just as exciting and important to them as it was to me. We kicked our set off with “Rest Stop For the Lonely” which definitely had every smiling and nodding their heads but once again it was “Lady of the Lake” that seemed to be the show stopper. The people reacted so awesomely to this song. So much in fact that during setbreak a guy grabbed my arm and said, “That song “Lady of the Lake” was the best song I heard tonight! While I didn’t quite agree, I smiled and let him know how much I appreciated it. We closed things out with “Ghost Town” which, as always, seemed like the perfect way to close things out with a band and left everyone seeing just what we are capable of.
The rest of the night was filled with great performances by Anna Kramer, David Franklin, Bryan Malone, and the remarkable Stevie Tombstone playing an outstanding set before Kevn Kinney. Stevie T. really grabbed me with his no frills performance accompanied by only an upright bassist. His material was beautifully haunting and I felt a real connection to his material. After his awesome set, Kevn Kinney took the stage and played a great set of songs and stories before calling everyone up to participate in his finale.
Allison and I made our way to the stage (Mike hung back and took it all in from the audience) along with the other musicians of the night and all of the sudden I was living a dream. Kevn went into “Straight to Hell” and the crowd went nuts. There I was, on stage watching Kevn Kinney sing “Straight to Hell” while Stevie Tombstone and I shared a microphone on backing vocals while Allison held it down on the bass. I realized that the amp I was playing through for some reason wasn’t coming out in the house PA so when Kevn called for me to take a guitar solo, I couldn’t do anything so after he covered for me I channeled my inner Bert Wray, whipped out my G harmonica, and I let loose a harp jam that made me proud. While on stage, I looked out at the audience fixated on Kevn, singing along with every word, and every now and then spotting some folks catching my eye and giving me a thumbs up. This was me living a dream. A boy on stage with his hero. That doesn’t happen every day and before I knew it, it was all over.
After the show was over, the artists all hung around talking with each other, hugging, congratulating each other on their awesome sets, and posing for selfies for our respective Instagram and/or Facebook accounts. I looked around and Kevn was nowhere to be seen. I went out to take my gear to my car and I saw Kevn & a few folks drive off in his big white van and like that… he was gone. No selfies, no hashtags, no schmoozing. It was almost as if this was his endgame; to get some of his friends, musicians he admired, together for an evening and have us share our music with people.
This night wasn’t about Kevn at all. It was about us musicians yet at the same time we all managed to pay a fair amount of homage and respect to Kevn even though it wasn’t expected. There’s not to many artists that I can even think of who lack ego so much that a guy like Kevn (who’s a living legend) would stage a series events as a way to showcase the talents of his friends. To be among those chosen is something I will never forget or ever take for granted. That 15 year old kid standing in the rain watching Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ at Six Flags over Georgia dreaming of a day when I might be able to do that someday got his dream come true and then some.