Mr. B: On to Lansing with 'an outpouring of emotion'

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Pianist Mr. B, aka Mark Braun, and his band, the Joybox Express, are cycling and gigging — hauling Mark’s piano and a full band’s worth of equipment –  from Holland to Detroit, July 2-15th, with a finale at the Concert of Colors — and they’re sharing their adventures with MT blog readers.

A lot has happened since I checked in last. The 4th was a big day for us. After recovering from a strenuous 30 mile ride on the 3rd, we woke and rode 10 miles into downtown Grand Rapids. We led a group ride from Founder's Brewery; riders represented Tall Turf Camp For Kids and Heartside Music Together.

It was gratifying to see the process we envisioned work. The community responded to our invite in modest numbers, but real dollars were raised for two good causes.

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In the middle of the ride we surprised a few families picnicking together in the park we rode to. They were amazed when we pulled off our cover and played them a boogie boogie; they were so grateful and expressive -- you know you've made a gesture that has value. We love to do this.

Later on we played a concert that was really well received by the fans at Founders Brewery. We've received a lot of press coverage, and are surprised over and over by how many people know about us and want to encourage us in our efforts.

After the Founder's gig we packed up and rode the third time that day, an hour uphill to our hotel in the dark. We saw the single coolest car I've ever seen in my life, a beautifully cared for Cutlass, covered with images of Obama, the interior all furry, in red, white and blue! That's what gives me a lump in the throat on the 4th, absolutely, purely American.

We got short sleep that night, rose before dawn, and rode 54 miles to Grand Ledge over long, rolling hills.The boys rode strong, and picked each other up all day long. This is a uniquely satisfying adventure. People's filters are turned off when they see us. A guy stopped next to us at a light, leaned through his window, and exclaimed, "That's the coolest thing I've ever seen." He insisted on giving us a donation on the spot -- every reaction is amplified.

And how about this? We're rolling through the heart of Lansing on Pennsylvania Avenue in the center turn lane when we see a group of people huddled together on their porch stairs, avoiding the midday sun. We stopped then and there, and I started to play a blues. A man ran from the porch, right to us in the middle of the road, carrying his guitar. He started singing a Jimmy Reed blues at the top of his lungs, nothing held back, and I played with him as he spun and shook, giving a real performance, unimaginably redeeming and energizing.

We're on to something to elicit an outpouring of emotion. I'm amazed at it still. The music that binds us is immeasurably strong. The man chest-bumped me harder than any linebacker, in the middle of the road, in 88-degree weather, with traffic flowing around us at 45 mph.

We also played an unannounced set for the folks who present the Jazz and Blues festivals in Old Town. They came out and filmed us, astonished.

We need to rest, which we will tonight. We're staying with Chuck and Nadean Hillary, a couple in Lansing who have given more of themselves than anyone we've met in out travels. Nadean lavishes us with great meals, really wonderful food, we feel at home with them.

Tomorrow we conduct a group-ride from the MSU Bike Shop at 10:30 a.m., then play a concert outside of the MSU School of Music (central campus) at noon. From there we ride across town to play a concert with two charity partners: Playa del Carmen Health Project (providing surgical repairs for kids with cleft palates in Mexico) and the Metropolis of Detroit Summer Camp for kids.

I'm going to sign off and get some rest. Hope to see you along our route.

(For more, check past MT posts and joyboxexpress.com.)

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