Dustin and I started this party band with a group of buddies back in 2009. Shoutout to TG and GRM, et al. We were thrilled to play sweaty Greek parties and backyard weddings. We once played a 70th birthday party in a scrap yard. Had gig? We would rock ‘yer party…
Flash forward to a couple weekends ago. The Shakedown is on a flight to Mexico to play a wedding outside of San Miguel de Allende, a place I had never heard of 6 month ago. It turns out that sometimes $100 in cash will get first class seats for 6 people if you know the right flight attendant. Shoutout to Mr. Tampa Bay and the rest of the crew for keeping the drinks coming. We landed in Leon/Guanajuato Airport in the middle of a lightning storm, completely floored to be visiting a new country. A prearranged van picked us up and whisked us into the rainy night. When you haven’t travelled abroad for a while it’s surreal to land somewhere in the night and drive down backroads through tiny, unknown towns. I looked out at folks passing time in quiet, dimly-lit tiendas as we rolled towards our destination. “How did we get here?”, I kept thinking. A few things jumped out to me immediately. The Mexican high country that surrounds San Miguel is absolutely beautiful. Mexico also loves its speed bumps, dogs are welcome in convenience stores and it seems to be no problem to drive at night without lights.
Ten hours after taking off from RDU we arrived at Rancho Las Sabinas. The staff whipped up quesadillas and guacamole as Nick and I dusted off our college Spanish. “Muchas gracias. Mas, por favor?” They couldn’t have made us feel more at home without saying a word. You can feel such immense gratitude as a traveler when you arrive at your destination and someone you’ve never met makes you a home cooked meal. We took a midnight dip in the pool and wound the night down with some games of “Head’s Up.” Keenan needed a little work on his pop music catalogue but he made up for it on the movie trivia section.
The next morning we ran into Eric, the owner of the ranch, and he took us on a tour of the grounds. In the daylight we could see the overwhelming attention to detail he took on the masonry and landscaping of Rancho Las Sabinas. Each section of rock, every tree had a story. He’s the kind of guy you come across who you sense has figured it all out. He’s opened up his home for people to have idyllic, once-in-a-lifetime celebrations. He does this with grace, while clearly supporting a local community with meaningful work. A sort of “Most Interesting Man In World” in the making.
Torrential rain had knocked down the reception tent so there was some catchup to be done on preparing for the party. We headed into San Miguel to squeeze in some tourist time. Travel + Leisure readers ranked San Miguel as the “World’s Top City” in 2017. For four hours we were able to soak in some Mexican culture. We listened to some Banda in the street. Watched dancers perform in front of La Parroquia de San Miquel Arcangel. Darion finally found some maracas. It was hard to say which was better at Quince, the margaritas or the view of the city. All of this while with The Shakedown. You stick at something long enough, you really give a shit about doing something special and you may find yourself walking the streets of a town thousands of miles from home, taking in new adventures with your friends. We know how lucky we were to be there.
Ah, but work beckons! After downing the last round of margaritas, we hailed cabs back to the ranch. Executing backline setup for a show in Mexico needed a little troubleshooting, but we all got through it and were set for #ShakedownDestruction. I still get the I’m-freaking-out,-can-I-do-this,-why-are-they-paying-me-to-sing nerves before every first dance. Kimberly Richmond from Runaway Bride Destination Weddings was tasked with planning the wedding, which she crushed. One of her many, great touches was to have the guests light sparklers during the first dance. I was moved by this spectacle even having sung 100+ first dances. Prior to performing our dance set we enjoyed a wonderful dinner from Stewart Haverlack at Zumo. The chipotle crusted tuna steaks were spot on, especially with a few glasses of the tinto. We quickly bonded with wedding guest Gene Dunn, proprietor of Gorat’s Steak House in Omaha, who joined us to hang out prior to the dance party. We may have to play a wedding in Nebraska next…
Anyways, I’m really fortunate to play with the cast of characters in The Shakedown. Dustin Miller, Nick Baglio, Darion Alexander, Keenan McKenzie and Nick Venable joined me in Mexico to bring our dance set to this party. We start our dance set and time melts. I guess that’s what they refer to as being in a state of “flow” because I look up and three hours have gone by. Steam is billowing off my shoulders. I perform with outstanding musicians while I bring energy, if nothing else. We’ve played many of these songs countless times, but these folks haven’t heard these songs played like this. I guess that’s why eventually we end up in Mexico making a wedding reception lose its collective mind, if only for a few hours.
Most American weddings end at 11 or midnight and the staff scrambles to account for every bottle of alcohol left from the party. It seems Mexican weddings go until 3 or 4 and after midnight the event staff is right there partying alongside the guests. Or maybe just this party, but it was a nice change of pace. Shoutout to DJ Dulce for keeping the party rolling until the last drop from the bar. It’s always great to work with dedicated, professional staff at events and everyone throughout the weekend fit that description.
I have to hand it to bride and groom Jake and Alex for an incredible experience. They a took a significant chance on bringing us down to Mexico. I hope our performance honored the occasion. From what I saw, there was something for everyone at that wedding. We were treated like guests as opposed to vendors. We met wonderful people in a new country and had a blast for an entire weekend. I’d do that again.