Mr. B: Closing in on Detroit ... and Cliff Bell's tonight

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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 as part of the Concert of Colors — and they’re sharing their adventures with MT blog readers.

We're in metro Detroit now, having rolled through Canton, Plymouth, and into Livonia yesterday. We were joined by our friend and supporter, Phillis Engelbert. It was great to have her positive presence in our camp again.

We spent some time with Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra before and during the ride. She caught up with us in a park in Plymouth where we presented ourselves to a dozen or so 16-year-olds. This can be a tough audience, lots of bravado and wry wit on display.  ... We broke through with a blazin' boogie woogie, played just inches from them. They really dug it. I survived the remark about my shorts and accepted their positive reactions — this has been a constant, playing music in unexpected places, for unsuspecting people, leaving them a little amazed and uplifted.

Today we have some work to do on our rear wheels before we roll down Grand River into Detroit. Our guitarist, Brian ( Edison) Delaney, is our most able mechanic. He and I will get to the piano-bike early today to make the fix, at least good enough ( we hope) to get us into the city, where we hope to have the situation properly addressed before our Friday group ride.

We've all loved this year's edition, and its been both energizing and draining. It's no joke that haulin' a piano around on a bike will wear you out, but the reaction of the people we meet and play for picks you up too. We're all really excited to ride the home stretch into Detroit today. We're expecting to meet Stephen Clark, anchor at Channel 7, right as we begin to roll from the Trinity House Theater where we played a fun gig last night. We're hoping the word will get out, and lots of folks will join us on Friday for an unforgettable tour of the city, followed by our final concerts of the tour at the DIA.

We have dozens of people to thank for helping us out as we go; it's been an expanded team effort, and a blast at every turn. Everything we do now is a run up to our 2012 tour, every effort we make, every plan we make, all of it is laid in against the back drop of the huge journey ahead of us. Did I mention it yet? We're going to roll the entire length of the Mississippi River, from Lake Itasca, Minn., to New Orleans, La., in the fall of 2012. It will be a huge undertaking, but I'm already gassed at the possibilities after all we've experienced in our home state. We'll need a lot of advice, support, and well wishes to pull it off, but we're on it!

Please be with us in Detroit! Tonight (July 13) at Cliff Bell's, 7 p.m. where we'll be raising funds for a headstone for my friend and mentor, Boogie Woogie Red. An amazing piece of art will be on display, a pen-on-wood image of Red, created by Chelsea artist, John Pappas. There is a space left near the bottom where the name of tonight's largest donor will be included in the piece, along with today’s date. It is spectacular, and is worth the trip by itself!

Hoping to see you soon ...

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