That’s my friend Howard on the left. He’s the frontman for the rock band the Coal Palace Kings. They get it on every Black Friday, this year at the Hangar on the Hudson, a cavernous, spartan venue in Troy, NY.
If you miss the Black Friday performance, you don’t get to see the Coal Palace Kings. They perform once, maybe twice a year, these oldish guys who’ve been loving and playing music all their lives. They have day jobs, of course. Howard and Mary own a fun restaurant and bar called Nighthawks. He’s owned and managed a number of music clubs and bars over the years and is locally known and admired throughout the music and restaurant scene.
Howard and I have talked about his early days, when he was in another band, and then another, and another, and touring all over the Eastern Seaboard and the South, playing one gig, packing the van, driving to the next gig in the next bar the next night. The sleepless, partying lifestyle of the musician on the road. Maybe that was back when the dream was still vivid: a recording contract, recognition, fans. Why not? We’re talking about a talented, passionate musician and performer.
When the Coal Palace Kings perform, you can see not only the talent and passion on display but also the long hours of rehearsal work—all for one gig. This year, they played in front of about forty or fifty of their closest friends and family members. They performed hard-rocking and melodic originals, a couple of covers (Neil Young’s “Powderfinger” was special), and because they’re kicking off the holiday season we were treated to “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel” and “Feliz Navidad.”
Every time the Coal Palace Kinds perform, at some point Howard’s wife Mary climbs up on stage and joins in the singing and encourages her friends to get dancing and we do. You know it’s going to happen, closer to the end of the set than the beginning.
There are so many talented, committed artists in the world—musicians, painters, writers, sculptors. Young and old. Recognized and obscure. Who just keep going because it’s what they do.
When the set ended, I removed my earplugs (required protection). I found Howard and told him, “Better than ever, my friend.” Mary was standing there too. Out of nowhere, she said, “I loved The Culling.”
I hadn’t known she read my most recent novel. She said it was her favorite of all my books, exactly the kind of novel she loves to read: speculative, dystopian, but with a ray of hope. She said it was Stephen King’s The Stand which she read when younger that got her into this kind of fiction.
I’m so appreciative of her words. There’s nothing like friends and family night.
Watch on Facebook the Coal Palace Kings covering “Powderfinger.”