Friday, Wine Café, Mankato.

There was peppery Greek red from Linda, bluesy harmonica from Billy on a J.J. Cale song, a big turnout (and Sam the sharp-dressed staffer afterward suggesting why — “you didn’t suck”), a request for a photo (never mind there was some joke behind it, it felt cool to be asked), Dan playing great stuff on the overhead when we finished (was it Dylan’s “Tell Tale Signs?” or were we just talking about that one again?), Carl cruising in on the last song and missing “Hydraulic” in which we name-drop Tune Town in the chorus, Jim sharing his pizza with me when we finished, the greatest slice of pizza ever. And again wondering how two hours feels like 15 minutes.

Returned later that night to catch a bit of Kit Kildahl’s CD release party. Got to enjoy a chat with Kit, who’s always been a kind and supportive guy, which is a rare trait among the super-talented. We talked loud and briefly about the honor it is to do music, the food it provides the soul and the value of staying positive.

Enjoyed watching Drew Lyon rightfully accept congratulations on his Free Press piece on Kit and Stevie “Boom Boom” Vonderharr, and got wowed by Steve Murphy joining the boys and sizzling away on blues guitar.

Saturday, Grand Kabaret, New Ulm.

We arrived to be greeted not only by a sound tech who remedied a buzzing acoustic amp pronto, but the Mankato Area Frye Percussion Collective already in place. These are friends who make the trek from Kato every time we play in New Ulm. And there were others, Curt, Suzanne and even former landlords of mine as well as some who caught us for the first time the night before and trekked to New Ulm to do it again.

All the ingredients that have made our previous shows at the Grand actually grand were there, namely the legendary attentiveness of the Grand’s audience and the pride Cassie, Topher and the rest of the staff have in working the place. Performance- wise there were challenges including the unease and then exhilaration of finger-picking “Vincent Black Lightening” and deciding to honor a request for “Blackbird” before recalling if I remembered the whole thing.

And then there was Ann’s beautiful reading of “Diamonds and Rust,” easily a highlight of the night if judged by a large group of people suddenly going completely quiet and rapt. We had a blast explaining the extraction of “Fish” from our name and then following it with what was probably our best-ever version of “Fish Fry.”

And, ultimately, the best part: Finishing three hours and realizing we’d used the Grand’s sound system. Meaning there was no PA and speakers etc. for us to tear down and haul into the pickup.

So we’ll consider that our vacation, with more “work” coming Thursday at Savoy and Saturday at Pub 500.

Saturday night

Eddie Money didn’t stroll in for a post-concert stint with a local band, but fortunately a lot of other people were with us from beginning to end at the Wine Café Saturday. This is getting to be a common complaint of mine, but it went by too fast.

A sore throat kept my prairie yelps and back-alley falsettos to a minimum, but the middle ground wound up blending nicely with what Ann was doing, which was taking control and saving our sound.

We recorded the first few tunes of the night, but the recorder clunked out somewhere during “Hydraulic,” and it’s a shame because we played a few led by Ann that we haven’t done in a while – “Favorite Ache,” “Blue” and “If Only.” Three songs from Konsbruck, recorded WWWSFF (When We Were Still Fish Frye).

And they were great. I’m not sure what I was thinking going with “Ohio” with a bummer throat, but it worked OK. Wish I could say the same for “Jackson.”  Funny how a bad throat will not affect a Neil Young tune but can seriously threaten Johnny Cash.


Six years ago, when we were playing Tuesday nights at McGoff’s, writer and poet Ron Gower and his wife Anne would drop by to see us on an almost-regular basis. And sometimes they were the audience. Anne enjoyed requesting songs – she really liked “Cardboard Boxes.” The encouragement we got from Anne and Ron helped us feel like we actually knew what we were doing, as though we could someday get people to come see us on a Saturday night.

Early in the evening last night, Ron came into the Wine Cafe and sat at a little table near us. He had a bottle of beer and took in about four or five songs before heading out. We’d all said goodbye to Anne in May of this year, at a celebration of her life that involved stories and songs. It was unforgettable, and we were touched to be invited and proud to provide a couple of tunes we hoped she’d like.

So last night we were of course proud that Ron dropped by. And we remain thankful.