Editor’s Notebook: ‘Coolerheads Prevail,’ if only for just the one lovely show

Five pros and a wannabe warbler were heard Saturday night in Hood River. Call it a huge birthday gift to yours truly.

Coolerheads Prevail, as we were known, performed four songs, two by Jimmy Buffett and one each made famous by Lyle Lovett and David Lindley, starting a little maudlin and working up to the fun Buffett words-to-live-by song, “Door Number Three.”

Yes, I put together a band for my birthday party. We performed following an amazing and humbling 80 minutes of stories told by 60 people. The goal was one minute per person from the 60 I asked, for a solid — and, I had planned, exactly — one hour of stories, to observe this writer’s 60th birthday. The time went over, but the humor and kind words were well received and I appreciated all the participants’ time and efforts in what was a truly fun and meaningful experiment.

Coolerheads Prevail then took the stage in the Hood River Hotel basement ballroom, having had one rehearsal three days earlier in Paul Blackburn’s living room, with Rod Steward providing cans of the collaborative 64 Oz. Taphouse (he’s a co-owner with Lorraine Lyons, who stepped in as one of the 60) and Backwoods Brewery IPA to wet our whistles, though I was the only one singing. (“Don’t drink over Grandma’s carpet,” Paul alerted us, and happily the only spills were the weird notes that escaped from my throat a few times.)

It’s got to be said, the parlor has been well-vibed by the many House Concerts that Paul and his wife, Kristen Dillon, have hosted over the years. I was honored to rehearse in that space used by so many talented musicians.

“Coolerheads” gave me the esteemed gift of learning the songs and teaching me how to front them and the toughest audition of my life turned out to be, well, a hoot.

My thanks go out to Paul on banjo, Rod on drums, Dustin Nilsen on bass, Rod Krehbiel on guitar and Bill Weiler on keyboards. Rod Steward and Dustin are Antonyms band-mates and Rod Krehbiel and Paul are the two founders of the long-standing, occasionally playing Red Haired Boys.

Two great band names, but I chose Coolerheads Prevail, because it was a band name I made up years ago (Big Toast, The Garajahs, and Jamazon are three others). I have seen the Bill, Paul, Dustin, and the two Rods in action and I knew the term cooler heads fit them all well. For the name, I compacted the first two words and, for the show, I resisted the temptation to create a hat made out of a Styrofoam picnic container and wear it on stage.

In the confusion of getting on stage after the storytelling, I forgot I had brought along a Buffet-esque straw hat to wear for “Tiki Torches at Twilight” (“… hula girls at the bar/all the guys from the office are pulling up in their cars/get to cooking a roast pig like it’s done in the book …”) and for the Monty Hall-tribute “Door Number Three”.

(“I’ll be back just wait and see/’cause my whole world lies waiting behind Door Number Three.”)

Whether Coolerheads Prevail ever perform again is an open question (Rod S. texted me, “I can’t get that damned hula song out of my head”), and blessedly the community will have many opportunities to see Bill, Paul, Dustin and the two Rods in other venues, including The Antonyms at local clubs and Rod K’s part in “Chicago” opening this week — see page A3. These guys are all real musicians, and if I had a bucket list — I do not, and that is perhaps another column — I could cross off “singing with a band I formed”.

Thanks for the music, guys, and to all of you storytellers, thank you for your words.



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