Back in June of 2004, I moved 2,782 miles from Ithaca, NY to the Portland, OR area to attend School of Piano Technology for the Blind (formerly the Emil Fries School of Piano Tuning and Technology), colloquially known as the Piano Hospital, in Vancouver, WA.
Full disclosure: I am not blind or visually impaired (my stylin’ Ray Bans are not strong enough to place me in either category); I happened to attend the school during a time when the student body was made up of a mix of both sighted and the visually impaired.
A year later in 2005, in what is to this day one of the wackiest coincidences of my life, Casey Harris made the same journey from Ithaca, NY and joined me as a fellow piano tech student.
Now a bona fide rock star as the keyboard player for the hit band the X Ambassadors, Casey no longer tunes pianos for a living, but is on the road for what seems to be 362 out of 365 days of the year, touring and performing with his band. This past weekend, in Portland for a show headlining the Widmer Brothers Oktoberfest in downtown Portland, Casey and his brother Sam, the lead singer of the band, generously detoured (ha! puns) to the ‘Couve for a few hours to perform as part of a benefit show for the Piano Hospital.
I of course could absolutely not miss this opportunity to see Casey, with whom I had shared many lunches and laughs not only during our time together as students, but also through the next year after I graduated when he occasionally came to tune pianos at Classic Pianos, where I worked in the service department. I even heard a rumor that the school tried to implement a “no laughing in the workroom” rule after I left due to our shenanigans, which at one point involved my having to jump out of the window of my work area because the door had mysteriously gotten blocked by a large upright piano.
Held at the beautiful home of late Vancouver philanthropists Ed and Dollie Lynch, the benefit was conveniently located a mere 10 minute walk from my own home. My husband, our Tiny Human and I headed over to the venue early Saturday afternoon to enjoy an awesome afternoon of reuniting with old friends and some good old acoustic alt-rock (Billboard’s label of the X Ambassadors music, not mine).
Luckily, we arrived early enough that I was able to chat with Casey and Sam for a bit before they went on. We managed to cram a LOT of catching up (Sam and I have not conversed since he was 17) into fifteen minutes.
(Imagine a conversation between Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. Then imagine that Lorelai and Rory had for some bizarre reason not spoken for ten years. It basically went like that.)
Then, without further ado, it was time for Casey and Sam to go on. In what appeared to be a massive revolt against rock show norms, the show actually started promptly at the advertised time of 1pm. They opened with one of my favorites from their album VHS, Lowlife.
They then segued into the song that no X Ambassadors show would be complete without. No, not that one. THIS one. Unsteady.
Finally, Casey and Sam closed with their rousing anthem that you’ve probably all heard even if you didn’t know who the band behind the music was, Renegades. Don’t they sound great with a freshly tuned Steinway & Sons grand piano?
After the performance, Casey and Sam were kind enough to participate in a meet and greet with the concert attendees. In my excitement to introduce Casey to my daughter, who he had not yet met, I accidentally cut in line as a couple of who I’m sure are lovely fans were about to get their photo taken. If you were a victim of my cutting, I sincerely apologize. I swear that I am generally not that rude or inconsiderate (at least I try very hard not to be).
Yep, you read that caption right. We celebrated my toddler’s birthday by attending an X Ambassadors: Unplugged show. Hey, some parents throw parties at Chuck E. Cheese for their kids; my husband and I prefer to give the gift of awesome live music. Potatoes/Po-tah-toes, y’all.
When the meet and greet concluded, Casey and Sam were whisked away by their assistant tour manager (whose name I cannot for the life of me remember but was SO nice and helpful) and headed across the bridge to Portland to gear up for their show with the rest of the band later that evening.