Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hot ticket

Andy Frasco and the UN bring the heat to firefighters’ ball

Express Staff Writer

Andy Frasco burns up the highway nationwide taking his blues to the people. The young musician has been hailed by critics as the second generation of blues.
Courtesy photo

   When we last chatted with soul-shaker musician Andy Frasco, he was eating Greek food in his van, outside a house where his bandmates slept. This time, he was in Louisiana, bathing in Southern hospitality, soaking up all the Boudin and gumbo thrust at him while his signature “Jew fro”—as he put it—reacted to the humidity by making the young musician resemble Lionel Richie.
    After thousands of nights on the road, in venues across the nation, the Jewish kid from the California suburbs who started chasing a seemingly impossible dream is getting recognition to match his reputation as an artful lyricist with a boisterous jazz backdrop. He recently placed fourth in a worldwide blues competition in China.
    Frasco is returning to one of the places that figured into his popularity—Whiskey Jacques’ in Ketchum, where he will perform Saturday, Nov. 23, when the Ketchum/Sun Valley Volunteer Firefighters Association holds its annual (and only) fundraiser, the ever-popular Firefighters Ball.
    Tickets are $20 and must be purchased at Doors open at 9 p.m. and the music will start shortly thereafter.
    Tom McLean, president of the Ketchum/Sun Valley Volunteer Association, said the the ball is crucial to both the Fire Department and its volunteers, who had their mettle stressed to the max this summer with the Beaver Creek Fire.
    “Funds raised from the ball are used to make our jobs safer by providing extra training and allow us to equip our members for the multitude of rescues we perform throughout the year,” McLean said. “Most of our backcountry, technical rescue and wildland firefighting gear has been purchased exclusively with ball funds.”
    And the public drama of the Beaver Creek Fire wasn’t the only challenge firefighters faced this year. Last winter, the Ketchum/Sun Valley Backcountry Rescue Medical Team spent six hours retrieving an injured snowmobiler who was stranded while recreating in the Smoky Mountains.
    The rescue required snowmobiles, a support trailer and members’ safety gear, all of which had been purchased with funds raised from the ball over the years.
    “The extended snowmobile rescue last winter really proved to our team that our investments in equipment and training had been very well spent,” said backcountry team leader Miles Canfield. “Our snowmobiles gave us relatively quick access to a patient that needed our immediate help.”
    There are other costs as well. Due to the complexity of that rescue, some $35,000 in upgraded equipment had to be purchased last spring to restore and replace used gear for future operations.
    While raising monies for future equipment and training is a big part of the ball, it also provides a great opportunity for firefighters to say “thanks” to the public for its support.
    “Our job is made a lot easier due to the overwhelming support of this community,” McLean said.
    Now, back to the less-serious side of the ball.
    Andy Frasco and the UN resulted from Frasco’s energy as a 16-year-old music-promoter-turned-musician when he started playing the piano at 18. He gutted it out in Hollywood until he figured out the hype-town was limiting his creativity.
    The relentless touring and constant audience feedback inspired him to dig deep and he shared heartache and healing in songs such as “Love, You’re Just Too Expensive.” He hit the road and stays there most of the year, using three down months to promote and book the band.
    Frasco chatted about the upcoming concert here while plumping up in Lake Charles, La., a stop on his Fall Frodown Tour.

IME: You will be here in Idaho playing for the firefighters. They’ve had a big season around here. Had you followed the fires we had here in August?
    Yeah, they are the rock stars in my book. It’s been a tough year for them and I’m so honored to be asked to entertain them. It’s going to be a celebration for sure. Maybe I’ll crowd surf over the fire chief and give him a fist pound for all his hard work.

This, in part, appeared on your blog recently:
    “There’ll be a day when you’ll just want to throw in the towel and quit. Give up whatever you were fighting for just to have a little more sleep, a little more security and a little more companionship. I know you’re tired, I know everybody around you is pissing you off, you’re over worked, underpaid and nobody gives a &$%^. You can’t complain to anyone because they will call you selfish. It’s like being a triangle when you’re surrounded by cubicles. So this is life. You’re not the “normal”. A majority of the people won’t understand you. It’s going to get harder before it gets easier … it’s better to feel pain then nothing at all … always pick yourself up through the falls because you’re almost there. And wouldn’t you rather be almost there then starting over again?”

What was going on?
    We’ve been on the road for 7.5 months. 40 states, 65 cities and just got back from China, in which we came in fourth place in a World Wide Blues Competition. I was drained at the moment (probably from the sleeping in the van/Jaegermeister and McChicken diet), needed a pick-me-up so I started writing a letter to myself to keep my head up and never stop fighting for your dreams. Life can be tough sometimes when you’re not following the path that is normally taken, but never give up.

Your music is very empathic and infinitely relate-able. Whose music do you turn to for “support”?
    Lately, I’ve been really into all these black soul singers. Marvin Gaye, Etta James, Otis Redding, Donny Hathaway. I love soul. If they can sing from the bottom of their chest, I’ll be happy.

When the night ends, what’s your sign that you are on the right path?
    That every day when I wake up I can smile because I’m following my dreams. If you only get one chance at this life, you might as well make it a party.

Firefighters Ball
When: Saturday, Nov. 23—doors open
at 9 p.m.
Where: Whiskey Jacques’ in Ketchum.
For: Training and equipment for firefighters.
Cost: $20, sold through
Shuttle: Mountain Rides will provide a bus to and from the ball with the following schedule: Main and Oak in Bellevue, 8:10 p.m.; Bullion and River Park and Ride in Hailey, 8:25 p.m.; Main and Myrtle in Hailey, 8:30 p.m.; East Fork shelter at Highway 75 and East Fork Road, 8:38 p.m. Return trips from Ketchum will run at midnight and
2 a.m.


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