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Every once in a while we’ll receive a press release from an unknown band, listen to that band and really like that band. It’s rare. That’s what happened with Keeps. The Nashville duo plays DC9 October 5, Webster Hall October 6, both with The Lighthouse and The Whaler. -ed.

We have certainly had our fair share of nightmare shows. Several come to mind off the bat. For one, house shows have almost always gone poorly. We’ve had the typical early band mini shows with small attendance, bad sound, whatever. But to this day, I don’t think any show has come close to our performance at Cleveland’s Brite Winter Festival.

Before I start, I want to make it very clear that the nightmare had nothing to do with the festival itself, the organizers or the venue we played. It had everything to do with us and our inability to handle cold weather. While some of us grew up in colder places like Indianapolis or Columbus, Gusti grew up in Houston. Brite Winter is a festival thrown in the colder months of the year that features local and regional bands and artists and holds many of its shows outside. But man, it was a cold winter. Even in Nashville we were freezing, so going 500 miles north was bound to bring something extraordinary.

We showed up in Cleveland after a day of preparation in Columbus to really get a feel for that Midwestern winter. We were feeling pretty confident and didn’t think the cold would get to us. So we hopped in the car, put on the new Juan Wauters record and made our way to our first ever music festival. Cleveland was cold. Real cold, man. However, the festival itself was beautiful. The streets of Cleveland were covered in great art, bright lights and beautiful music. We showed up early and hung out around the city and our hostel for a while, since our show was set for 11 p.m. We were scheduled to play a bar, which came as a relief as we were freezing to death. Upon further inspection of the bar, we learned that the stage would be outside. Sick.

We took refuge in the artist hospitality area where we were fed incredible food and given an assortment of local porters and stouts to keep us warm. Our drummer at the time was playing a set with his other band, COIN, two hours before our set, which we didn’t think much of until their set began. We hadn’t even thought about the potential of time overlapping between the two. As we continued to freeze in the ten-degree weather, we were going between both our venue and COIN’s venue to try and get all the kinks worked out. After their set, we rushed over to our show and set up super quick. At this point the sun had been down for a while and the Midwest nighttime winter was upon us. We kept our cool, sound checked and were thankful for the 80+ people who stayed outside to come see our set.

Our first song started and we were feeling good. The power of music, right? It can warm the hearts of so many people, but not your extremities. Slowly our fingers began to lose feeling. I looked to my left at our bassist at the time and he wasn’t looking so hot. He motioned something I couldn’t quite make out. Then he took off his bass mid-song and left the stage. The whole band looked at each other in disbelief. Where did he go? We weren’t sure. We weren’t sure for the remainder of the set that we played without a bassist. So the low end was out of the picture at this point and we were playing the sloppiest set of our lives. By the second song, none of us had any feeling in our fingers or feet. I legitimately couldn’t tell if I was putting any pressure onto my frets and couldn’t listen for it with my ears completely covered from the cold. I broke a string with no replacement guitar during the third song. It was all a mess. We ended up cutting two songs from our 45-minute set just to get our bodies out of the cold.

Miraculously, we still maintained the crowd we had before and they had a lot of grace for us and were the most encouraging, but we were not so stoked on our performance. We loaded out and turned on our car and thawed out for at least twenty minutes. We were defeated, but we also had to find our bassist. Our buddy who tagged along for the trip tracked him down and reported back to us that the cold made him so nauseous that he left the stage and got extremely sick. Poor guy. It was a hell of a night. Afterwards we went back to artist hospitality and drank more beer with the staff and had some good laughs about it all. Looking back, we loved every second of that trip. Sure, we didn’t play great and the cold was brutal, but it made us closer as friends and we often recall the night and look back on it with laughter. Mad respect to Brite Winter for putting on a great festival. Easily one the best events we’ve had the chance to play. Hopefully we get to play it again and redeem ourselves. We bought bigger coats now. I think they have down in them. Currently looking for a sponsorship with Burlington Coat Factory.

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