There are many meccas in this world, but, to music-lovers like myself, none is more important than the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’ve dreamed about walking the halls, experiencing the formation and progression of modern music, and being a mere glass pane width away from inanimate objects that were present at pivotal moments in history. I recently got that chance to make my dreams a reality thanks to a corporate client who planned their annual sales awards banquet in those very hallowed halls. Following is a recap of my epic pilgrimage.
After several months of collaborating with dynamite event planners, Crystal and Caitlin, at Amazae Events, researching entertainment options, hustling and long hours, it was finally time to put boots on the ground for this annual corporate event. I hit the ground running for an early morning flight from Richmond to Dulles to Cleveland. After scooping up a rental car, I headed for my downtown Cleveland hotel. I’m mostly oblivious to pro basketball or football, but it was hard to miss the multi-story banners touting the accomplishments of Lebron and his boys. I checked into my hotel and was excited to find a 180-degree view of the riverfront and FirstEnergy Stadium – home of the Browns! There was little time for rest as I headed over to Vault, a century-old bank vault beneath the Cleveland Trust Rotunda that has been restored and converted into a speakeasy-style cocktail lounge.
Later that evening as guests exited their awards dinner, they were greeted by two models in 1920’s flapper attire and two cigar girls passing out signature cocktails. They were shown down into the vault where they enjoyed hors d’oeuvres, drinks and an atmosphere like none other! As they made their way through the vault, they discovered a quartet playing upbeat jazz/swing. The female vocalist was decked out in a Gatsby-era headdress and pearls with the guys looking sharp in black tuxes. At the end of their tour, guests were met with brick wall – both literally and figuratively. Guarding the only closed door in the place was a Capone-era gangster who required a password for entry into the speakeasy room. The flappers had been dropping hints all night and the guests who were smart enough to put it all together were granted access to Vegas-quality blackjack and roulette tables complete with green visor wearing dealers and a private bar. Fingers were crossed that the party didn’t get raided by the men in blue!
As the laughter died down and the desserts dwindled, we called it a night and I headed back to the room for some much need sleep. The next day’s events were at the Hall of Fame. It was almost like Christmas Eve!
The big day arrived! I sprung out of bed and raced to the valet to get my rental car. After a small hiccup where the valet couldn’t find my car (for 45+ minutes!), I drove a few short blocks to the gleaming, all glass Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I entered through the “VIP” entrance and began my solo walking tour. I passed under the CBGB awning and strolled past historic stage outfits, artist contracts from events like Woodstock, a motorcycle owned by Elvis, and so much more. I spent close to 30 minutes soaking in the energy from the Beatles exhibit. One of my favorite bands!
Soon enough, it was time to get down to business. I watched as Simply Irresistible’ s bus pulled into the parking lot. There couldn’t be a match more made in heaven than a tour bus full of eleven musicians and crew unloading in front of the memorial to all that is rock ‘n roll. We shared warm greetings and high fives as they loaded in, set up and sound checked.
In addition to Simply Irresistible, the evening’s entertainment featured a surprise special guest vocalist to join the band in the middle of the set to sing three hit songs. Who was this mystery guest? None other than Mark McGrath of the massively successful 90’s rock band, Sugar Ray. When he popped on stage during sound check, the entire museum lit up. A crowd of quiet strollers and school-aged children were treated to a living rock legend in the flesh! Only in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame could an unexpected surprise like that be possible.
While Simply Irresistible finished setting up, I headed outside as attendees arrived to find a heated tent with a bar, four food trucks and local musician, Nate Jones, on acoustic guitar. He mixed hits of every decade with hometown hero songs from bands like the Black Keys. Just as the attendees’ hands started to turn numb, we opened the doors to the Hall of Fame and Simply Irresistible kicked in.
Inside, attendees were treated to two floors of food, multiple bars, Hall of Fame exhibits and one of the top party bands in the nation! Simply Irresistible played three hours of continuous Motown, R&B, classic rock, and Top 40 hits. Vocalists moved constantly across the stage and the band put everything they had into the performance. Their trumpet player blew notes until he passed out! That’s commitment.
Midway through the night, the band paused to announce the surprise special guest. As Mark McGrath bounded on stage, the crowd went wild! People who were resting their sore dancing feet streamed to the stage from all corners of the venue. Simply Irresistible performed like they had been playing with Mark McGrath for years despite meeting him only hours before! The rock star belted out favorites “Fly,” Someday,” and “Every Morning” to a roaring crowd.
Around 11pm, the band announced their final song. Once wrapped, tired attendees headed for their shuttles. I hugged the members of Simply Irresistible and gave Mark McGrath a ride back to his hotel. I passed out in my bed around midnight.
This event was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. I have absolute respect for the ballrooms of the world, but a chance to produce an event in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with one of the nation’s most elite party bands, a true rock legend, and a client who trusted me to create an unforgettable entertainment experience was mind-blowing!
Rock on, fellow music lovers!