Sunday, October 17, 2010

Taylor Hicks at Epcot ~~ And the kid in all of us!

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Auerbach

I was taking my dust and going to Epcot Center to see Taylor Hicks.

Even airports are quiet and uncrowded at 3:30 in the morning. I’m not sure why I had to book a flight that LEFT at 5:00 a.m. That meant a 2:00 wake up! But 18 hours later, it would justify the “it’s-been-a-long-day” pomegranate and peach punch cocktail at dinnertime.

The sun coming up outside an airplane window is always beautiful especially when you are flying to the happiest place on earth. Even from way out West and with a connecting flight, it was clear that this flight was going to Disney World.

There were happy children everywhere! So many that they did not board those with children first. The hard-working airline counter person said, “They’ll be all over the place.” He needed more Starbucks.

Delta is not the only one. There was a delay in Houston on Continental! But it was short, and we were soon over the Gulf of Mexico and approaching the western coast of Florida.

Orlando is a town owned by the mouse. He’s on the busses and the favorite graphic everywhere is the pair of black circles—the famous ears! I remember the Mouseketeers! I was feeling good about myself when I stepped onto a crowded transportation bus that said “VIP” on the front. Apparently a lot of important people were going to my hotel.

I wanted to take pictures of Taylor in concert with my new fancy phone and send them out to the world, so I started practicing on the bus. As we passed a Disney World sign I snapped it and looked at the plain green bushes I had captured. I heard an uproarious laugh from the seat next to me. I turned around and this nice looking lady, who obviously had been watching my failed efforts, was laughing! I laughed too and told her, “That’s not very nice.” She said she guessed my camera wouldn’t take pictures from a moving object. No kidding. Well, how was I suppose to capture a moving Taylor target on stage? I did finally capture an Epcot sign and turned to the laughing lady who was now talking on her phone. I put my picture right in her face determined to show off my final success.

The Evening News doesn’t play here. I mean there is no sign of recession or cares of the world. This is like being dropped into the world’s most beautiful and happiest playground for the young and not so young. As I stood in line to check in, young, happy staff people were painting pink hearts on young faces. I swear, I thought about getting my face painted. I mean, why NOT? I was in Disney World!

After airport and airplane food, I was looking for something better when I ran into that pomegranate and peach punch. I knew “punch” would mean a tall, cool glass. It HAD been a long day. It also ENDED my long day quickly when I returned to a very comfortable hotel bed.

Pictures don’t do justice to the Epcot Experience. I knew with the Taylor Experience starting in the afternoon, I would only have time to see one park. On the first day we only made it as far as the American Experience, which was our destination anyway. There was a wonderful patriotic drum and fife corps presentation outside and a stage diorama inside depicting our nation’s history. In front of the American Gardens Theatre was the placard for “Eat to the Beat” concert series with “Taylor Hicks.”

I‘m not good at standing in lines except to get good seats at a Taylor Hicks concert. The food lines were endless in the international pavilions. I was delighted to find no line at the American Experience and inside, barbecued pork and iced tea! It was also a chance to sit down for a while. Then it was time for THE line. There are those who are always first in line for any Taylor Hicks concert, and they were. There is a “line culture” where you meet people for the first time and see others you haven’t since the last line. It was fun and a respite from the sun and heat of Epcot on this day. It was all worth it for front row seats near center at the first Saturday show.

Three shows take you from bright sunshine on the stage at first to bright stage lights after dark. It makes for interesting pictures with the changing light. Taylor did his Epcot leap onto stage made famous and captured last year in a memorable photo by hootiegal. I didn’t catch it! I scarcely caught a few good shots of the moving target for which I had so diligently practiced on the bus.

The theatre seated approximately 1,000 and was packed for all six shows. On Sunday evening they asked everyone to move to the center so that more people could be seated. We sat different places to get a different camera angle, but with my limited photography talent, it didn’t make much difference!

The minute that Taylor stepped off the stage from one show, and as quickly as we could politely push our way through the crowds, we headed back to the line for the next show.

Six lines, six shows, 48 hours—I’d do it again this weekend!

We got an earlier start on Sunday and made the circle around to all the international pavilions before the first concert. We had time to do some shopping and even got into France’s pavilion for lunch. The circular vision of Canada’s presentation was beautiful and breathtaking. It was as close as you could get to being a bird. The wares of Morocco were enticing, but I passed on the belly dancing attire. Too much bling.

Back in the concert line on Sunday, we happened to be behind a very nice couple from the area who were Taylor “first timers.” She had seen Taylor on American Idol and wanted to see him in concert. We gave them the Birmingham-Broadway-Epcot Taylor history as we chatted and waited for the first show and assured her that “this won’t be anything like American Idol!” The Taylor fans actually made up a small part of the crowds each night. He reached out to a large number of potential new fans in two evenings at Epcot. He entertained the park’s visitors on this holiday weekend with a new American Experience…and it wasn’t American Idol!

It was a fast, fun-filled forty eight hours! One more experience remained—the tradition of my friend who must always have a large—make that extra large—soft ice cream cone when she goes to Epcot. A late dinner place happened to offer soft ice cream. She ordered “extra large” and I went along with it. This was the largest ice cream cone I had seen since the last time I was at “Grease!” Ice-cream pimpin’ Teen Angel would have been proud!

Flavor of the night: the swirl!

A final reflection:
Taylor said after Epcot: “See you next year!” and many of us vowed to return. If Taylor is there and I possibly can, I will go back.

Life is fleeting…uncertain. We were reminded this week that each day should be lived!

Matt Kimbrell will always be a part of our Epcot experience, and although he can’t be there next year, we will remember his music.

It was fitting that his last performance was in the happiest place on earth. He was doing what made him happy. It is his legacy…

Do what makes you happy!

I should have gotten my face painted...


Thanks to Mouser and Wonder for the two stunning photos of Taylor at Epcot!

Here's my "Epcot Elvis" ...

For my take on the music of Epcot, see below, “Taylor Hicks at Epcot” Part 1.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

We Remember Matt Kimbrell...

Matt Kimbrell, percussionist with the Taylor Hicks Summer Tour Band, passed away early Thursday morning. He was only 51.

Matt Kimbrell brought 28 years of experience to the drum chair. He didn't learn his techniques overnight - his father: pianist, vocalist and arranger, Henry Kimbrell, gave Matt his first paying gig at the age of 12 and Matt never left the stage or studio. He fronted a couple of successful indie-rock bands in the 70s and 80s, Jim Bob and The Leisure Suits and The Ho-Ho Men. The Ho-Ho Men matured into Mambo Combo, a band that enjoyed 10 years of success in and around Birmingham, Alabama, during the late 80s and into the 90s. During that time Matt was a sideman in several new-wave, pop, roots, and party bands. These bands included: Tim Lee, The Sugar La-La's, Bud Green and The Hurlers. Working with these bands, Matt played in every state in the union and Canada.

Matt was involved with the band Levee Breaker for about a year and half and proved to be more than a reliable time-keeper for the band. Not only was he said to be the best meter in Birmingham, but he also had a terrific sense of melody and the ability to play great parts. Because Matt listened to great music, he played great music.

With the kick-off of Taylor Hicks’ Summer Tour in July, Matt joined the band in a 25-city tour from coast to coast. His final performance was this past weekend with Taylor and the Band in Orlando, Florida, at Epcot Center’s “Eat ToThe Beat” concert series Saturday and Sunday with three shows each evening.

It was my pleasure to watch Matt walk onto the stage with a smile and a wave to the crowd for each show at Epcot. He was an integral part of the immense musical talent and magic that bought down the American Gardens Theatre last weekend.

His drums rocked Epcot!

Matt Kimbrell did not go quietly into that dark night!!!

God speed, Matt Kimbrell. You will be greatly missed.

Our deepest sympathy go to Matt’s family and friends.
Our thoughts and prayers are with you all.

Thanks to RagsQueen for the great picture of Matt Kimbrell at Epcot!

We share more about Matt here:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Taylor Hicks at Epcot!!!

Taylor Hicks knows he has a good band behind him. He just didn’t know HOW good until Sunday night when they brought down the house—literally.

As the band’s energy and vibes on “Hold On To Your Love” hit the stratrosphere, the three plexiglass panels around Drummer Leif Bondarenko toppled forward and hit the floor. A stunned audience saw Taylor’s shiny red guitar knocked over and buried, but breathed relief as the plexis just missed Taylor who was front stage at the mic.

Brian Less laughed, but the band played on and never missed a beat. As if freed from his cage, Drummer Leif continued his “I-can-drum-my-way-out-of-here” solo. An unaware Taylor finished the number, then turned around and stepped back to gawk for a moment. The usually glib but stunned Taylor quipped, “How about this band!!!” An astute fan yelled out, “You brought the house down!”

Mickey, the entertainment icon, had met his match! The mouse had been whomped!

When I remember Epcot, I have to remember the music first. The American Gardens Theatre was packed for every performance. Visitors to Epcot joined the throng of Taylor fans and the American Experience at Epcot took on a whole new meaning!

If someone told Taylor that there were many fans there that would stand in line for one show and then rush out to stand in line for the next show for SIX times, he listened. He made every show different except for appropriately repeating “19” as a tribute to the troops. It always received a standing ovation.

The varied setlist seemed like a thoughtful gift for those returning for six shows in 48 hours.

There was another present—a brand new song on the Sunday night setlist, “Scarlet Begonias,” a Grateful Dead song from 1974.

“She wore scarlet begonias tucked into her curls.”

One fan appropriately reviewed it with: “Scarlet Begonias kicked ass. Well done.” I listened to the Grateful Dead version in the airport on the way home and have to say that Taylor and the band do covers better than the original! But we already knew that, didn’t we—Takin’ It To The Streets, Love the One You’re With…Bulletproof!!!

My favorite musical moment (besides the ever-memorable “Bulletproof” which he introduced by saying he wasn’t going to, but someone offered him $100 to do it. And then, “I’m still THAT guy!”) was a tag of “Running on Empty.” It is a stunning change inside the ever-raucous “Seven Mile Breakdown.” Suddenly, you are taken away from roadhouse honky tonk with the beautiful lyrics of Jackson Browne…

Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
Looking back at the years gone by like so many summer fields
In sixty-five I was seventeen and running up one-o-one
I don’t know where I’m running now, I’m just running on

Running on - running on empty
Running on - running blind
Running on - running into the sun
But I’m running behind…”

“Gotta do what you can just to keep your love alive
Trying not to confuse it with what you do to survive
In sixty-nine I was twenty-one and I called the road my own
I don’t know when that road turned onto the road I’m on

Running on - running on empty
Running on - running blind
Running on - running into the sun
But I’m running behind

Everyone I know, everywhere I go
People need some reason to believe
I don’t know about anyone but me
If it takes all night, that’ll be all right
If I can get you to smile before I leave

Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
I don’t know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels
I look around for the friends that I used to turn to to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too

Running on - running on empty
Running on - running blind
Running on - running into the sun
But I’m running behind

Honey you really tempt me
You know the way you look so kind
I’d love to stick around but I’m running behind
You know I don’t even know what I’m hoping to find
Running into the sun but I’m running behind

I was mesmerized. Taylor has called them little “songs within a song.” The tags are another layer of the amazing music that makes up the Taylor Hicks live show. “Running on Empty” would be a great cover—not just a tag.

Taylor also remembered the passing on Sunday of Solomon Burke with a tribute tag of “Cry To Me.” He gave accolades to Rod Stewart as a “mentor” in introducing Sunday night’s closer, “Stay With Me.”

It is always all about the music! And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thank you for the music, Taylor, Brian, Brandon, Leif, Matt, Jeff and Sam!!!

You truly do keep raising the standard for what the live performance is all about. And we are lucky enough to be a part of it.

You brought down the house in more ways than one!

Until the next Epcot… or Workplay…

You didn’t think I was finished, did you?

In Epcot~~Part 2, I’ll share more of my own journey from the promegrante peach punch cocktail on arrival to the Sunday finale with an enormous ice cream cone that would make any ice cream pimpin’ Teen Angel proud! I had a blast!

For the complete setlists from all six shows visit our tour forum at:

For more information about “Scarlet Begonias” and The Grateful Dead’s version:

Quote: “Scarlet Begonias” kicked ass. Well Done.” By WonderSOS via twitter.
Thanks to Mouser for her prompt research on “Scarlet Begonias” and diligent notes during concerts for the setlists.
Photos from Epcot by San.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Taylor Hicks ~~ Trip Around the Sun

Taylor Hicks began this past “trip around the sun” the same place he will begin the next one—Epcot Center in Orlando, FL.

Minnie Mouse should start bringing him a birthday cake.

One of the projects that TTHC created and has maintained for the last four years is a log—Taylor’s Journey~~The Timeline. Starting with his audition in Las Vegas in 2005, it chronicles the milestones along the way.

Here's our latest additions to The Timeline as Taylor's journey continued—starting at Epcot!

November 1-2, 2009 – Entertaining the visitors at EPCOT CENTER in Disney World – Orlando at the "Eat to the Beat" concert series

November 11 – Remembering our veterans by providing a free download of "Nineteen" on the Alabama Veterans Affairs, The LA Red Cross, and Soldiers’ Angels web sites.

December 6 – Honoring our country by singing the National Anthem at the Panthers/Bucs game in Charlotte, NC

December 11 – Taking the stage for an acoustic performance at The High Noon Saloon in Madison, WI

December 29 – Ending this DECADE with "Do I Make You Proud" being in the #39 spot on the Singles Sales chart

January 6-7, 2010 – Entertaining at the Pep Rally and enjoying the festivities at the BCS National Championship Game between Texas and Alabama

January 16 – Attending the Adoption Exchange Karaoke Benefit in St. Louis with other “Grease” cast members

March 18 – Building a house for the Habitat for Humanity Project in Birmingham, Alabama

April 11 - Singing the National Anthem at the Inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

April 19 – Recording "Save My Body, Save My Soul" for the SOS Children's Villages charity tour

May 11 – Opening the NBA Playoff Game 5 between the Cleveland Cavs and the Boston Celtics to sing the National Anthem

May 13 – Teeing off at the Region's Charity Golf Tournament at Ross Bridge, Hoover, AL

May 21 – Judging and performing at the "Sing Your Way to 100 K" Talent Contest at The Windstar Casino in AL


May 26 – Appearing on the Red Carpet and onstage at the American Idol Season 9 Finale with all previous Idols singing a tribute to the departing Simon Cowell

June 4 – Giving a private performance at closing night at a Golf Event in the Bahamas.

June 9 – Lending his voice to support the Alabama Department of Tourism by taping advertisements inviting people to "Come on Down" to Alabama to vacation

June 13 – Previewing the Summer Tour and new music with a concert with full band in tow at the Syracuse Balloonfest at Jamesville Beach Park

June 18 – Voicing his support for the Gulf Coast in an appearance on MSNBC with Chris Jansing talking about the effects of the Gulf Oil Spill

June 21 – Writing a piece for Larry King Live's Blog about the Gulf Oil Spill, pointing out ALL the issues and encouraging people, especially the media, to see the relief effort through until the problems are solved

June 25 – Jamming on the harmonica with Ivan Neville and the jam artists at the Rocky Mountain Power Jam in Denver, CO ~”Love the One You’re With” debuts!

June 29 – Releasing Genevieve Rose's song "Save my Body, Save my Soul," on which Taylor performed the vocals, at and iTunes for the international charity, SOS Children's Villages.


July 25 – Waking up early for Sunday morning with Fox & Friends, New York City, introducing the Tour Band and performing live outside the studio.

July 25 – Opening Summer Tour 2010 playing to a sold-out crowd at The Highline Ballroom in New York City with tour bus waiting ~”Bulletproof” debuts!

July 27 – Performing for another sold-out venue in Ogunquit, ME

July 29 – Rolling with the “kick ass” band and new music into the Birchmere in Alexandria, VA

July 30 – Rocking it out at the Crocodile Rock Cafe, Allentown, PA

July 31 – Mixing it up at the Mexicali Live - Teaneck , NJ

August 3 – Streaming webchat for fans and sharing his thoughts on the inspiration behind his music.

August 3 – Enjoying the stage at the Ram's Head On Stage, Annapolis, MD

August 6 – Taking the band and bus to the Fat Fish Blue, for a great evening of music in Cleveland, OH

August 7 – Sampling the wonderful food and performing at Veterans' Memorial Park -Bay City, MI

August 9 – Rocking at the big city’s Reggies’ Rock Club, Chicago, IL

August 10 – Singing in the Heartland at the Sangamon Auditorium, Springfield, Il

August 11 – Taylorizing his music set to fit the bluesy atmosphere of the Dakota Jazz Club, Minneapolis, MN

August 12 – Entertaining the intimate crowd at The Annex, Madison, WI

August 14 – Giving the sold-out crowd at Knuckleheads in Kansas City, MO a night to remember

August 15 – Unveiling of his Alabama Tourism PSA debuted at the Governor's Conference by Lee Sentel, Director of Alabama Department of Tourism with ads now airing in the Gulf area .

August 17 – Appearing on stage for taping of a Free Concert at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum for Gulf Relief airing on August 25th on the CW Network.

August 19 – Traveling west for a scenic concert at the Mesa Theatre Grand Junction, CO.

August 21 – Burning up the stage for a large enthusiastic crowd at the Aquarius Casino on the river in Laughlin , NV ~ Rick Carter guests on “The Weight”

August 22 – Hitting the West Coast with a critically acclaimed show at The Anthology in San Diego, CA.

August 24 – Brewing up a memorable experience for concert goers at the Downtown Brewing Company in San Luis Obispo, CA

August 25 – Dazzling the dinner guests and music lovers in the elegant Rrazz Room at Hotel Nico in San Francisco, CA

August 26 – Answering questions for enthusiastic fans with a pre-concert USStream Web Chat

August 26 – Striking gold for music lovers in the beautiful foothills of Yosemite on stage at the Chukchansi Gold Casino, Coarsegold, CA

August 27 – Airing of the Mississippi Coast Coliseum Concert on CW Network with rebroadcasting on September 1 and throughout the year

August 28 – Honoring veterans at the Ft. Walton Veteran's Appreciation Day Celebration at the "Bull Ridgon" Fairground in Ft. Walton , FL.

September 11 – Lending his talent and charm to the charity gala for LIFE CHANGING LIVES in Laguna Niguel, CA, benefiting Wounded Warriors and The Susan G. Komen Foundation

September 14 – Talking it up on the Wendy Williams Show and singing "Seven Mile Breakdown"

September 15 – Returning to the East for a ramped up popular show at the Infinity Music Hall and Bistro in Norfolk, Ct.

September 16 – Presenting his usual 150% performance in Tarrytown New York at the Tarrytown Music Hall & Bistro

September 17 – Excelling with vocals and doing it all at The Boulton YMCA Performance Hall in Bay Shore, NY

September 18 – Sporting Vermont plaid and owning the stage at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland , VT.

September 20 – Shooting his segment for the American Idol Season 10 TV Show in Birmingham with Golareh Safarian

September 25 – Gifting his fans with a grand performance at the 7 Cedars Casino in Sequim, WA

I have always wondered if Taylor were choosing a few milestones each year for a Timeline, what would they be?

I’m not going to speculate.


We wish you many more “kick ass” years like this one!!!

A wonderful birthday video was created in 2008 by KarinP, a great fan from Canada:

Taylor's Trip Around the Sun 2007-2008 from KarinP on Vimeo.

Have a great birthday!

See you at Epcot!!!

Thank you, KarinP for Trip Around the Sun and Mouser for The Timeline 2009-2010!