Spiritual Rez

Spiritual Rez performed at the Bottleneck in Lawrence, Kansas, July 21, 2009.

Spiritual Rez performed at the Bottleneck in Lawrence, Kansas, July 21, 2009.

I could hardly hear my daughter on the phone over the music.

She was at a concert, listening to friends in a touring reggae band.  Finally I made out what she was repeating.  “Can the band spend the night at your house?”

I swallowed hard.   “Uh, uh.  Sure.”  Where would we put them? We’d just had some rooms remodeled in the basement, and everything was messier and junkier than usual.  The band members were friends of my daughter and her boyfriend from their alma mater, the Berklee College of Music.  Had I been thinking ahead, I would have known they’d be sleeping in our basement.  Another touring band — friends of theirs — crashed in our basement earlier in the summer.  (Do people still use the word crash for camping out in someone’s house at the last minute?) 

Spiritual Rez and friends.

Spiritual Rez and friends.

I made my daughter promise they’d be quiet. My husband and I are old fogies, and we need our beauty rest.  I never heard a thing, and in the morning I wondered whether they’d even come.  I looked out the front window and saw a van and equipment trailer parked out front.  Later, I found out that they’d played music on the driveway, and I’d slept through that.

I got out the boxes of cereal, bowls and made coffee, and one by one they appeared.   They introduced themselves and settled in, happy, they said, to be in an actual home rather than a hotel or a motel, some of which weren’t the homiest of places.

Ian “Meat” Miller,  who is the band’s manager, its drummer and one of the two van’s two drivers, fired up his laptop to look for the next places to stay as they continued on the road.  He uses priceline.com, which sometimes produced great places at reasonable rates.  (This isn’t a paid product placement, ha, ha.) The band has a lot of expenses.  It’s not cheap fueling a van pulling a trailer and feeding and housing six people across the country.  The bandmembers describe themselves as “a reggae horn funk dance party energetically touring the country.”

Spiritual Rez at the Bottleneck, Lawrence, Kansas, on July 21, 2009.

Spiritual Rez at the Bottleneck, Lawrence, Kansas, on July 21, 2009.


They were such a cheerful, fun crew, that my husband and I invited them to return after their show that night in Kearney, Nebraska, about a five-hour drive north.  They’d stay the night in Kearney and return to Kansas City before their next stop in Lawrence, Kansas.   

When they returned on Sunday, they greeted me with “Hi, Mom.”  I did want to adopt them all.  They were full of stories about their evening in Kearney, where they played in a bar. A fight broke out.  As bystanders but too close for comfort, they dodged punches.  The police came. Kind of like the old west. 

As they talked, I thought about what it would be like to always be on the road, performing in new places all of the time.  They seemed to love it.  They were different personalities, but somehow made it work.  They read a lot and talked about some of the books they were reading.  One said he was reading “Dante’s Inferno,” which he said was written as a poem. I confess I never read it myself.  Coincidentally, a question about Dante was the Final Jeopardy question that afternoon.  Would I have gotten the answer without Spiritual Rez’ guidance?

Miller and Toft Willingham, the lead singer, recognized Mt. Cook in one of my New Zealand photographs, which both had seen on a tour of New Zealand visiting Willingham’s brother James who was working at Peter Jackson’s WETA Digital on James Cameron’s “Avatar”.  They made the trip on their annual winter break, when they stop touring for a short while.

More Spiritual Rez.

More Spiritual Rez.

The band was happy that Lawrence was barely an hour away.  They set out on a Monday on a rare day off, which they spent exploring the city and the University of Kansas campus, they said.  Their concert was on Tuesday night (July 21) at the Bottleneck.  Willingham told the crowd that Kansas was the 32nd state they’d performed in.

They really were an energetic reggae horn funk dance party.  It was a beautiful night.  Even my old creaky bones were moving.

After Lawrence, they set out for Colorado.  Miller said he loved watching the Rocky Mountains rise out of the plains.  At this writing, they’re in New York state. They post their activities and schedule on MySpace and facebook, for those who want to find out when they’ll be in your neighborhood.   

The band was formed in 2003 at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where the band is based, although the core members come from Hawaii, Rhode Island, Chicago and Florida. Others have joined the group on and off.   The band members we saw: Toft Willingham – Vocals; Van Gordon Martin – Lead Guitar; Jesse Shaternick – Bass; Ian “Meat” Miller – Drums; Bryan House – Trombone; Nick Romer – Trumpet.

You can buy and hear more music on their website Spiritual Rez and MySpace.com/SpiritualRez.  You can also find their music on archive.org, which is a great site.  Below is a slide show I made of their performance at the Bottleneck in Lawrence, including their jam session with the Rubblebucket Orchestra.  The music ran out out before the photographs.  Oops!  It’s my first time adding music.  I don’t have the audio editing talent in the family. That belongs to my awesome daughter.  So listen and prepare to get up and dance!  Check out the dozens of videos of Spiritual Rez videos on You Tube.



Filed under Entertainment, Music

3 responses to “Spiritual Rez

  1. Jay and Linda Willingham

    We are Toft and James Willingham’s parents. Thank you so much for so excellently sharing your experiences and for your kindness and hospitality to the good ship Spiritual Rez! You and your family all are champions in our book! God bless you!

    It was a joy to have Toft and the other band members in our home, and we’d be pleased to have them stay here again! Cathy


  2. What a great story! A band just crashed at our neighbor’s house and we enjoyed great old-time bluegrass for a couple of nights. Doug and I play music – maybe if we tour we’ll ask for a night in your basement too. 🙂 Sounds nice!


  3. this is an awesome story. thank you for sharing, I live in boston and love Spiritual Rez.


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