Feature, Interview

The Gasoline Gypsies: Changing Seasons and Interview with Joe Makowski

By Kevin Alan Lamb

Dunes with a view in Holland, Michigan on 420, Earth Day, and tomorrow is Easter. I have the beach mostly to myself, lying in the slope nestled between two dunes. The sun is upon me, sky blue, and a pretty active north east gust. I’ve made myself an ample rum and green tea cocktail, told a few of my friends where they could find me, and am beginning to settle in. 

I took a photo of my view, was going to post it to Facebook but learned I have no service, took a deep breath, and smiled while exhaling, grateful for this solitude and slice of heaven on earth that I didn’t foresee happening until last night. It’s been years since I’ve unplugged to plug in this unique and improvisational way. 

We set sail from Gypsy HQ yesterday at 1:00 PM, en route to Grand Haven where they’d be making their debut at Grand Armory. I offered to drive, it was my first time driving with a trailer in tow. By the time I made to the M-5 connector I was pretty comfortable, and after my first three-lane change we were off to the races. 

Roughly three hours later we arrived in sunny Grand Haven, stoked as clouds parted and blue skies emerged. Cold temperatures were in the forecast in Detroit, so it felt fortuitous to be able to change scenery for a minute or two. Little did I know, by the time the show was reaching its glorious and graciously received, prolonged conclusion, it was revealed that a return trip home that evening with the Gypsies wasn’t in my fate. 

Had I departed I wouldn’t be lying six feet from Lake Michigan, with my head rested on the sand, gazing into the horizon of rolling white capped waves. I have always been called to the water. It has a unique way of putting things in perspective, speaking to my soul in a way I’m still learning to communicate back. What I have learned however, is that I’m happier when I spend more time near it, and grateful to live a life which allows my visits to be frequent, in a place where it is fresh, affordable, and readily available. 

You will begin to notice (if you haven’t already) the increasing frequency of the Gypsies playing in resort towns near the coast, and my accompaniment of such adventures. I hadn’t been to Grand Haven in three or four years, and was eager to experience the Armory in the flesh. I have been drinking their beers for years, and will always hold a special place in my heart for their production of “Tied Down”, a beer tribute to my favorite band, Greensky Bluegrass.

 

We arrived to the venue with hours until the show, bellied up to the bar for a beer, then made our way to Fisherman’s Beach. We tossed the frisbee Caleb procured from the Armory, then each took in the coast in our own way. It occurred to me that I had been to this beach before for wedding photos when my best friend Bryan Stratton married the love of his life, Amanda. I etched their initials in the sand with a stick and snapped a photo to let them know I was thinking of them. We’ve both let too many years go by without a visit, but we’re righting that reality in June. 

I pride myself on the quality and duration of meaningful relationships in my life, but somewhere along the way I let space and circumstance strip them from my grasp. Over the past eight months I’ve made it a priority to reconnect and prioritize my family of both blood, and love. Just remember, it’s never too late to call a good friend, have a chat, and make a recommitment to be in one another’s lives.

We snapped some photos on the beach, made our peace, and bid Lake Michigan adieu as we cruised back to the Armory for load in. There was a buzz passing through patrons coming in and out of the brewery, excited the Gypsies were doing their thang for a night, in their town. Neal eventually showed up, after the gear had been mostly loaded in – classic Neal. Way to keep Megan’s grandmother waiting… 

Vagabundos new and battle-tested began to trickle in, excitement building (in the building). The staff at the Armory made us feel like they were grateful to have us playing their establishment. The stage is three pieces, slightly raised, and in the far corner. It is a really cool space, with two floors, in a historic building. The fellas were on from eight to eleven that night, and it was their time to dig in. 

Caleb kicked off the occasion with some solo songs, as he continues to do more of. He warmed up the half attentive crowd with some covers and a few originals. I recall a noticeable difference in the feel of the room just a few songs in. There was a graceful shift in the audience’s attention, and by the time Caleb’s brothers in arms joined him on stage, the room was theirs for the taking. 

There’s an ever-growing sensation taking place wherever the Gypsies are playing. A common connection and understanding that we’re all experiencing something special that is lifting off the ground before our very eyes. The guys feel it more than anyone. Whether they’re walking around the Detroit Music Awards, playing a room for the first time, or getting asked to play the Dodgers’ Single A affiliate (Great Lakes Loons) in Midland, magic abounds, and it comes in waves; until one day people claim you an overnight success, 10 years into chasing the dream.  They’re getting better at crafting good fortune, creating and producing experiences and events to fuel the Vagabundos community, and feed the beating heart.

We have returned to present day, where I find myself revisiting these sentiments written in the end of May. It was a summer full of experiences I had often associated with dreams coming true, happening so fast it became difficult to process just what they meant. Summer is in the rearview, fall has taken stage, and I am enjoying these moments to breathe and process some of these glimpses, I hope to never surrender. 

I am grateful for my time with the Gypsies, and admire their ability to balance their inherent need to create, with structure, evaluation, and commitment to their collective dream, and life’s work. They have sold out Friday’s performance at Lexington Theatre, and will soon shift focus on the exciting shows they have curated for all of you in November and December. 

We spend holidays with family, and I’m excited to enjoy Gyps-Giving at Park Theatre in Holland with all of you, where this story began on a beach. Then we’ll find out who’s been naughty and who’s been nice when Santa Jack comes to town for a special holiday soiree at Otus Supply.  Stay tuned for what’s to come… Here’s a quick chat with your favorite drummer, host of Makowski’s Minute, Joe Makowski. 

 

Some personal highlights from 2019 this far?

Gypsy Fest was an amazing time. All those people floating down the river was great! Seeing Bishop Gunn play in Hell and all the work we’ve done with High Five Spirits/Gypsy Vodka.

Year of great transformation, tell us about the events and developments on the horizon for this fall and winter?

More music and videos coming out soon.

Tell us about these Carolina radio waves you’ve been surfing…

That Station 95.7FM Raleigh-Durham, The Palm 94.9 FM Columbia, SC 98.7 FM Modern Rock, Wilmington, NC. And Walkin Trouble was the #1 liked song on That Station app last month for about a week so we are all excited to get down there for some shows.

Recognize one or two venues / festivals who provided above and beyond hospitality.

I think Allegan, MI takes it. They gave us a little apartment above the bar and we rented bikes and road around town for two days going fishing. It was great. Beautiful town. Summer Bash in Indiana too! That’s always a great time.

Tell us about your relationship with Gypsy Vodka?

They make the best White Russian [laughing]. Awesome people, the whole crew! After going up to High Five Spirits in Petoskey, we’ve just collaborated on a few shows. Mike comes out to bartend, servin’ up awesome drinks and it’s always a great time. Looking forward to doing more with those guys!

Who are some of the bands you’ve most enjoyed working with this year?

Rocky Wallace, she’s great and we did a cover of Crazy On You by Heart. That woman can sing. And everybody that was at summer bash in Indiana. Always great to share a stage with The Native Howl.

2020 goals?

New music. New videos. New merch. New tour. The whole nine yards. We’re working hard and we’re not stopping anytime soon.

Just in case you were listening for one, This Is A Good Sound.

Fall / Winter Schedule 

October 18 – Lexington Village Theatre (Lexington)

November 9 – Trinity House Theatre (Livonia)

November 30 – Park Theatre (Holland)

December 20 – Otus Supply (Ferndale)

 

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