The heat of the day was sweltering this past Saturday at Rodney Strong – on the lawn – but it wasn’t as hot as the music…

And, what about that Mindi Abair? I didn’t know she was such a hot tamale. There something very empowering for all women (sorry guys), when a woman commands a saxophone that’s so glistening in the sun and sends lyrical vibrations right to your bone marrow… All while, Mindi’s looking like Miss America.

I can’t tell you how many times she’d say, after a number, “Peter White, Ladies and Gentlemen.” I kept waiting for Peter White to say, “And… Mindi Abair!” Not yet, though. I guess he’s never shared the stage with such a brilliant star before that he’s still star struck and can’t utter a single word in response. And, who can blame him? I didn’t realize that they’d be sharing the stage, either, but it all makes sense… Neither of them is an opening act any more.

Jose and I plunked down under the shade of an olive tree for the day. I kept a watchful eye for my friends Robert Larson (Rodney Strong’s PR person) and Amy Biege (we worked together at Ironstone), but it wasn’t in the cards to find them at first.

As we sat in this hot 90+ degree day, Jose asked me what I was going to be writing about. I wasn’t even sure, I was just  happy enough being there, and thinking about how I could keep from overheating. Then he brought up the Survival Guide aspects. Heck… I had just run my Road Warrior Survival Guide, and this blog entry took my readership over the top… I’ve never had so many people reading any one singular blog entry in the last three and a half years of blogging. I know it’s a hysterical story coming from somewhere deep inside my dark side of sarcasm…. But, people just seem to love that comedy. It reminds me of doing, “Why I want to be reborn as a yeast on a Chardonnay grape,” at Mondavi and having people do all they could from busting a gut in the wine cellar, as I delivered each line with perfect punctuality.

So, here I was, thinking about what I should do, and Jose brought up another survival guide. It could never be what my road warrior one was. I had been thinking about that one for about six years. But the concept certainly did have legs, because it was more relevant to that day. What to do, what to wear, what to bring, what not to bring… It all quickly came to me as I reached for anything to write on.

Also, keep in mind that not every performance is going to be enjoyed in this much heat… A morning with fog out here would make me think about these things less; but, regardless of heat, some of these things remain quite relevant:

What to do:

  • Arrive early, between 2:00 and 2:30 p.m., for a 5:00 p.m. show. (People begin to line up early, waiting under the shade of the trees that line the driveway to Rodney Strong and J Winery.)
  • Bring something to read, unless you have a Blackberry; or something to do, like knitting or writing.
  • If you come with friends, you’ll be talking. You’ll be talking even if you’re not with other friends, because people in this environment are quite friendly and chatty, regardless.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothes. (More than once I was thinking that I should have worn some kind of lose fitting dress. I think I’ll make one for the next performance I’m attending.)
  • Water check point: Make sure you go to the water coolers, when you need water. Rodney Strong is wanting to have more and more coolers available to eliminate more and more plastic bottles. (How green is that!)

What to bring:

  • Low chair with a low back. (High back chair will block the people behind you, because everyone else already got the “low back” memo.)
  • Umbrella for pre-show (It’s can’t be up during the performances, because you’ll be blocking people).
  • Cooler with food items and water for pre-show and before the food vendors are ready. (Once Rodney Strong gets in the groove – showtime – food vendors deliver all sorts of great items.)
  • Ice in the cooler (This ice is going to have lots of functions, including keeping you from experiencing heat prostration. I can’t tell you how many faces went beet red yesterday. Rodney Strong takes this so seriously that they have an emergency center waiting for anyone who doesn’t feel well.)
  • Sun Screen, sun screen, sun screen, sun screen… (I wonder how that blond lady feels today, whose back was as red as a lobster on Saturday? Can you say skin cancer, boys and girls?)
  • Squirt bottle with water in it. (The misting is awesome.)
  • Hats, for lots of reasons, all mentioned above (none of which include a fashion statement, but that works, too).
  • Hand fan (More than once I’d wished I’d brought one. Rodney Strong could have some made up with the season’s events. I’da bought one!)
  • Your own groove, because you’ll definitely get it goin’ on before you leave.

What not to bring:

  • Glass glasses. (Image a glass broken on their lawn, and someone barefootin’… nuf said.)
  • Anyone else’s wine. (Common folks, you’re at Rodney Strong.)

At the end of the concert, as we all exited to our cars, I came across this fabulous ’57 Chevy tricycle, the creation of Rick Hubbard of Newcastle, California, which Rick shares with his partner Pat. (I’m not sure if they’re married, but they’re definitely partners, as indicated on the business card that Rick gave to me.) While waiting for Rick and Pat to leave so I could capture the moment, I looked over and there were Robert Larson and Amy Biege. Amazing how these stories just evolve right back to the very beginning… Just at the right time, too, so I could thank him for his extreme hospitality on behalf of Rodney Strong Vineyards!

Mindi Abair and Peter White at Rodney Strong, August 27, 2009

When Mindi sang “Every Time,” she demonstrated such beautiful vocals.. Lots of times a sax will supplement for what vocal cords can hit for perfect human pitch, but this is definitely not the case for Mindi.

Peter White is Peter White… He’s got a signature style that can’t be mistaken for anyone else, and I love it.

During the show, Mindi – after the band was electrically blowing through equipment – took control in a moment of great improv. She announced to the crowd that she was about to perform a number that would be in a style that she calls, “Stadium Jazz.” This is when, under normal conditions, people just hold up a flame and sway back and forth to the music. Given the winery lawn circumstances and day light, guests were asked to sway their wine glasses. She called on drummer Jamie Tate, in order to stretch the time while equipment was repaired. She had Jamie (who has a masters degree in music) perform different jazz riffs; from modern, to classical, to smooth. Each type demonstrated Jamie’s unique ability in each genre.

Then… back to normal, as all was put back together again.

When Peter White performed “My Daddy Was a Rolling Stone,” I looked at Jose and said, “Jazz?” He responded, “I went to a Jazz concert and Rock broke out… on a slow song.” Then grinned. It was a brilliant performance. Who knew Peter White had that in him?

“Billie Jean” was “the” monster of performance of the day, though… regardless of what anyone thinks of Michael Jackson’s eccentric life. He was a master of music and dance, and that’s all that’s left to celebrate, and so we did. This was also a turning point for setting our spirits free. Dancing completely broke out, and there was no turning back.

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July 11
The Rippingtons and Craig Chaquico
Doors 4 p.m. – Showtime 5 p.m. Tickets: VIP $70 – GA $45

August 8
Guitars & Saxes 2009 featuring Euge Groove, Jeff Golub, Jeff Lorber and Jessy J
Doors 4 p.m. – Showtime 5 p.m. Tickets: VIP $70 – GA $45

August 22
The KRUSH Presents: Susan Tedeschi and JJ Grey & Mofro
Doors 4 p.m. – Showtime 5 p.m. Tickets: VIP $70 – GA $45

September 7
Daryl Hall & John Oates – Up Close and Personal Tour
In celebration of 50 Years making incredible wines, Rodney Strong Vineyards is proud to close it’s 19th Concert Season with an afternoon of timeless hits from Hall & Oates, including “Rich Girl,” “Maneater,” “Sara Smile,” “Kiss On My List,” and “One On One.”
Doors 3 p.m. Tickets: VIP $110 – GA $75