Parting is such sweet sorrow. This morning, we had to see Hank off back to Mantua, OH. He’ll be miss like crazy but, Seth and I will carry on and make him proud. He definitely made a lot of things happen out here.
Shifting gears, the next gig was on Halloween! Fancy fun times! We found ourselves in San Marcos, TX at the super good time factory known as Paper Bear. I knew Carol and Kathy(who run the place) were super fun people as soon as we rolled up. They had their costumes on and were already getting the party started. Thanking them in words doesn’t begin to express the gratitude they deserve for what they do in that community. They make it happen and it’s the coolest.
We had the demo up and running and before you knew it, things got REAL! Kyle Weems showed up and did some diaboloing, talked yoyo engineering and yoyoing along with us. The crowd grew. A young player named Sam MArtin shows up and blows the doors off the place with some high level play. The crowd grows more. Tom Cunningham shows up with quite possibly the best quality vintage duncan collection I have seen in years.(outside of lucky’s guiness record collection and the national yoyo museum). The crowd grows and gets ten times cooler. And then it all breaks loose when World Fixed Tip Spin Top Champion: Jorge Alcoz shows up. Nothing is bigger.
These guys really made the demo one of the most educational experiences any of us had seen. We traded ideas. We got to throw tangible history. We saw the work of masters and masters at work. It is the kind of thing that makes even the best/most accomplished players humbled.
After we wrapped the demo, we took as many as people as would come with us to lunch. We kept up with the sharing of tricks, tips and ideas and then we were joined by Austin/San Marcos, TX player Travis Owens. Another next level player that really should be respected by many if not all. It was just cool to be in that environment. I have to imagine that this is what it was like to be an artist during the golden age of paris or a psychedelic rocker during the high times at haight ashbury. I hope everyone everywhere is making the most of the yoyo scene that is bubbling under the surface. It’s way too fantastic not to.
Parting is such sweet sorrow. This morning, we had to see Hank off back to Mantua, OH. He’ll be miss like crazy but, Seth and I will carry on and make him proud. He definitely made a lot of things happen out here.
We found ourself with a little downtime and in close proximity to the golf coast so Marie, Hank, jack and I hopped in the van and headed to see the Golf.
We didn’t have much time, and when we got to the “beach” we soon realized it was be renovated. Bummer. So instead we hung out at a little playground right by where the beach would be. Now, I don’t know about anyone else, but it seems that once you get a yo-yoer on a playground the start doing apparatus on stuff. This time was no different. Sit back, relax and watch Jack throw some freehand while Hank does backflips off the swing set.
Momentum carries us through this thing and sometimes, we have no idea that it’s on our side. We got up for our second and final day in Houston super pumped from the previous day’s events. Sometimes, lightning strikes twice.
We got out of the hotel and ran off to pick up Marie again and then off to the gulf to show the mid-westerners the ocean. We did some interesting stuff with playground equipment(more on that later), Hank did a backflip from a swing and Marie took pictures of the Atlantic for the folks back home. It’s just so cool to have extended family around. A little bit of a woman’s presence in the van keeps things a little more civil as well. Besides, she is a really cool girl and we had an enlightening conversation about world events and history on the way to lunch and then to the gig. It’s not every day that we get that out of life.
We went on over to our next demo and it was instantly cool. We had been warned that The ladies at the Learning Express in Cypress TX had spirit in spades. The warnings were well deserved. I cannot begin to tell you the energy level that runs through that store. Enthusiasm, heart and excitement are easy to come by. We were welcomed by a reporter from the Houston Chronicle who interviewed us for an upcoming feature and one amped staff. They were soon joined by an equally rambunctious audience of kids and the demo was on fire. The store quickly sold out of their fanciest Duncan yo-yos and had to restock a few times to keep up. The excitement only set up the mood for bigger things and bigger things came for sure!
Now, not only does the Houston, TX area have one up and coming club, it has two. We discussed with the owners of the Cypress, TX Learning Express and the Cypress Yo-Yo Club was born. The ladies that run that shop have SERIOUS spirit and hopefully they will keep the home fires burning for yo-yos for years to come. So, yo-yo players, stop by this shop any time you can. They are all up for supporting the scene and they could easily become a destination for players from all around. DuncanCrew.org club finder is your friend.
Knowing that you’ve set some hearts ablaze with a love for Duncan and Yo-yos is the best send off a city could ever provide. We can’t thank the Houston area enough. Thank you thank you thank you.
Power up! We are big stars and now the entire greater Houston, TX area knows it. We started out our first full day there on the biggest morning show around there. Being on Great Day Houston! is an experience! KHOU knows how to throw a party.
It is often said that you can be judged by the company that you keep. If this is true, we are the cream of the crop. The episode of Great Day Houston that we were on started out with R&B singer, Eric Benet. For those that don’t know, he’s a huge deal and one of the biggest R&B/soul singers on the scene these days. After him, they led into a sequence with Tori Halbert, who was a finalist on the TV show Design Star. There were a few more pieces and then they led into us. Nothing proves that we are the baddest(bad meaning good) tour on the road like being the icing on that cake. Debbie Duncan(that’s right, just like the yoyo) was a gracious host and she conducted the interview like a champ. I can’t thank her enough although, we did our best by managing to provide the entire studio audience with yoyos. I know, I know, I know….you wish you were there. We wish you were too.
We had another super interesting and unexpected surprise right after our morning spot on KHOU, We got a phone call that looked like it was coming from the Czech Republic. Amazingly, it was coming from right there in Houston! As it turns out, Marie Kordovsky, sister of Duncan Crew Member Jan “korda” Kordovsky, just happened to be in Houston as a part of her foreign exchange program. Do the surprises ever stop? We got together with her and had lunch. It was cool to talk to her and find out a little about what was going down in the czech yoyo scene and how the family abroad is doing. We just couldn’t let her dine and dash so, we took her along to our demo at Toys R Us.
And what a great demo it turned out to be. We had a heap of old school(late 90’s) players come out as well as some great new young players. On the old school front, we had John and Patty McCann out there. The world hadn’t seen a glimpse of them playing yoyo in a good 5-7 years but, man oh man it was way too cool to see them getting their sea legs back and killing it with style. They reminded us of why it was that the late ’90s provided the world with such a passion for yoyos. They play was cool and their tricks are among the best. Too fancy for words. John’s wife, Jessica, also got in on it for the first time. She learned 5 tricks and all was right with the world.
From the old to the new, we then met some really cool new blood. Alvin Simon! that kid has it going on. He claims to be Hank Freeman’s biggest fan. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I am in fact Hank’s biggest fan but, I did teach him some new tricks and he sucked them up like a sponge. I love it when that happens.
Jameson Larkins also came out and proved once and for all that all it takes is a spark to start a fire. We traded tricks with all the kids and started talking about what it takes to build a scene. The unthinkable happened next.
Houston is well on its way to getting a new yoyo club! Jameson, Alvin, John and Patty are hype on the idea and they decided that it’s time to make big moves. At our demo they even made some. They’ll be getting together soon and everyone in the Houston area absolutely must be a part of it. Keep an eye on DuncanCrew.org and the club locater to see when it’s going down. You’ll want to be there to build the scene and to be one of the pioneers looking back.
And it bears repeating, Korda’s sister was there for it all!
I think it’s time that I admit that I want Austin, TX to be my new surrogate home. I have had great times here. I have great friends here and quite frankly, it has become one of my top 5 favourite places on earth in less than 24 hours.
We had an unexpected morning off. I would like to take a moment to wish all the health, happiness and speediest of recoveries to the patients at the Dell Childrens’ Hospital here in Austin. Due to concerns involving their health and welfare, we were unable to perform for them today. But, my hope is that after the flu season is over and infections are at a bare minimum, we can come back to Austin and bring a little more happiness into their days.
I instead found myself with a few hours to commune with my new home away from home. Of course, the thing I had to absorb with urgency was the music culture of the city. I was suggested by many to visit the Waterloo record shop. My friends here are the best and they didn’t let me down. Not only was the staff at Waterloo super knowledgeable, they were also hyper friendly. They have records, they have live music and the best part is it’s a record store that also, stocks Duncan Yoyos. It’s enough to make me melt. How many places on earth can you have a conversation about Son House and by a good yoyo? One that I know of. Big points won there.
I then stopped by South Austin Music because it’s hard to resist going into a guitar shop with a 4 meter tall Gretsch Chet Atkins model outside. Seriously, one of the coolest guitars the world has ever seen taller than you’ve ever seen it. Again, I was taken by the friendliness of the people of Austin. I can get picky and particular when it comes to things like this and the guys at South Austin Music were just pleasant as pie when I would have been annoyed by me. I also suppose that the friendliness of Austin rubbed off on Hank and Seth. They didn’t mind weathering my quirky requests and watching me play guitars and shop for records. I couldn’t ask to be on the road with two better people. They will be great friends of mine for life.
We then collectively decided that it was time to take the culture of Austin in a different way, we ate it up….literally! Over on South Congress Avenue, there is a three block section with cool Airstream trailers outfitted to be fantastic restaurants. If you get a chance, we ate at Hudson’s Mega Cone and we all highly recommend it. Besides, if you have a sweet tooth, Big Top Candy Store is right across the street and they are fantastic AND stock Duncan yoyos to boot. I am starting to think this town loves us as much as we have come to love it.
Eventually, we tore ourselves from the joys of Austin city culture and cool and got ourselves to a great gig at Terra Toys. Remalda runs the place and that lady has one great family working along side her. I had already made friends with some of them months ago, they made it feel like I was just visiting home. Honestly, I love them and I refuse to ever stop. Then, just when you think it can’t get more fun, KEYE news stops by and we do a live news spot right here to let the city know that we’re still here and still rocking the house.
Speaking of rocking the house years later, This demo yielded even more surprises and history. The kids and families were a fantastic audience. I am still constantly floored by how easily the kids pick up on intermediate level tricks. And only to sweeten the deal, we got further proof that it sticks with you forever. We met a regional sculptor and artists named Bob Wade. He is from Austin and shared some of his art from his 40 year old body of work. What makes him even more relevant? In the 1960’s Bob was a Duncan junior instructor. He can still bang out the basic ten and beyond. The guy is a regional treasure and it was so nice talking to him and hearing his stories of the “old school” of touring, instruction and yoyo demonstration. I hope I have kind of atmosphere about me 40 years from now.
As a major aside, we also were blessed to see Elliot Pemberton and his daughter Siri. Elliot is an employee of Duncan’s parent company, Flambeau. This only proves that there really is a family behind this thing. We might not be blood but, we are family. Elliot, you have a beautiful family.
After a while, the demo wrapped but, we just weren’t ready to leave our new family. So, we did a little shopping in Terra Toys, and tried out some of there more exotic toys. From there we went off to have drinks and dinner with Sam, Asia and Amy whom all work at the shop. How do they reward us? They took us to what was easily my favourite eatery of the entire year. Conan’s Pizza! Seriously, how can any human being not be excited, intrigued or both by a dining establishment that is entirely Conan the Barbarian themed. Holy Cow Times Ten! We swapped war stories of the toy trade and bonded over our inner nerds. D&D, comic books, cartoons, toys, video games and more were on the agenda. Of course, this meant that we needed to go to a legendary video arcade to end one heck of a day.
We rolled over to the UFO arcade and it was like walking deeper into some fantastic dream I have yet to have. Me, the boys and the Terra Toys gals all played some fighting games, some dance games, some tetris battle and had a great time. If you’ve seen videos from previous tours, you know that I fancy myself a good gamer, especially in fighting games. It is my pleasure to say that on this outing, I was humbled by the skills of another yoyo player and fellow gamer. Jonathan Begnaud, your kung fu is strong and I promise to practice hard until next we meet.
All in all, Austin now owns a big part of me and I hope we did it proud and can take a little of its good will with us. We’re moving on to Houston and beyond. I am sure that the rest of the tour with be beautiful but, Austin sets a very high bar for the rest of North America to rise to. All my thanks will never be enough.
Austin, Texas is a musical mecca. So much of what is modern american music owes it’s life to what happens here. Not only is it the place where so many greats have come to make their name but, it is a place that many come just to be inspired. From country, hip hop, bluegrass, and metal to indie rock, this city is a big part of it all. It really is the live music capital of the world.
Drawing on that and feeling good about touring the USA as a part of this brand, I’ve been thinking more and more about what feels uniquely “american”. I settled on the blues and I couldn’t help but come up with an arrangement of “throw duncan” that felt at home here in Austin and like a true extension of the tour. I hope I can do the heritage of this city proud and I hope you can dig it.
You can also download the original here.
If ever there was a day that the media smiled on our tour, today was the day. Bright and early, we wrapped up our time in Dallas with a stop at WFAA channel 8 for an interview on “Good Morning Texas”. They put together a variety of pieces for us to be a part of. In addition to our interview and yoyo demonstration, they also featured country singer, Granger Smith and the Leeland High School Wranglers dance group. Rob and Paige greeted us and were fun people to guide us through our on air time. After we were done, it was revealed to us that the entire thing was shown on the huge screens attached to the American Airlines Center. The flattering moments out here just don’t seem to stop. Some days, you just feel hip.
Next up, we planned to drive straight on down to Waco for our next shows but, I just had to have the guys stop by a western wear outlet. It’s not every day that we are in Texas and the Wranglers just inspired me to want fancy cowboy shirts. So, I had Seth and Hank hang out whilst I tried on and subsequently purchased some SERIOUSLY cool cowboy threads. They really know how to embroider a shirt in Texas. So cool. So Texas.
Eventually, I was torn from the draw of hip western wear and we were off to our next shows in Waco. This is where things got a little interesting. It turned out that we were scheduled for a demo at Toys R Us and an on air appearance on Waco’s KWTX 10 at the same time. So, I opted to handle the show in the studio and meet up with the other fellas just after at the Toys R Us. The KWTX crew was fantastic. KC was cool enough to give me a ride to the studio and show me around and it seemed the entire staff was buzzing about the fact that I was there. I had no less than ten visitors to the green room to see me do a mini demo BEFORE I went on air to tell the entire Waco metropolitan area about the demo at Toys R Us. And the on air experience at KWTX was really cool. I had an interview with Gordon and he was just the coolest guy. He even took the time to rap with me a little about spin tops and juggling gear after the interview was wrapped. Talking with him and Megan really made me feel like they care about their stories and the people behind them.
I finished up with the studio and hustled on over to the Toys R Us where I found the demo picking up steam nicely. Department manager, Glynn, was helping hype the crowd and even getting involved himself by learning a few tricks himself. It was cool to see him show serious interest in the products/event and even have a little fun with it. There is just no way that working in a toy store can be all business all the time and Glynn definitely makes for a fun atmosphere in his store. We had some younger kids out there and it seemed they were all super committed to learning to throw. If Bradon, Jonathan(thanks for bringing him, Marie) and Hayden stick with it, Waco will have a solid yoyo scene in no time flat. We saw some evidence that at one point, Waco already did have a powerhouse yoyo scene. Hayden’s grandfather, Steven Uphair, came out and threw both bearing and fixed axle yoyos like an old pro. It was awesome. He said that he hadn’t played in years or decades but, he just drilled through the basic ten tricks as if he had practiced them for 10 hours yesterday. He learned a few newer moves from us and this only goes to show, you may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks but, Nobody Has To Be An Old Dog! You too can have fun forever and show the youngsters a thing or two at any age. So inspiring, So Texas!
Paul has been on tour long enough now its time to bring up some details about his life that unless you share a room with him every evening you may or may not be aware of.
Here it is folks,
But maybe snoring isn’t actually the right word. A discussion was held today about how we should re dub Jurassic Park raptor scenes with Paul’s snores. Then I believe Bride thought the Chainsaw Massacre would be more appropriate. Occasionally Paul’s restful actions are much akin to puppies chasing things in their dreams. Heavy panting, barking, squeaking, rumbling and making running motions.
Most notable about Paul’s snore however is his range. His vocabulary if you will. Mark Hayward saw it as truly astonishing, where in a world where snoring was a language, Paul would be a living dictionary.
So thus we applaud you Mr. Escolar for your vigilance, and your volume. We applaud you for what is indeed, an Epic Snore.
In other news…
Today’s Puzzle Zoo gig went well. We had all hands on deck (Seth, Brandon, Paul and Brian) which was great and there was decent foot traffic through out. From the demo we had a great dinner with some of the local players before heading to a small party a friend had planned to throw in our honor. For me personally the party was great because my big sister showed up! I haven’t seen my big sis in over a year so it was fabulous to have a chance to catch up in person and just chill out with a bunch of cool people. Definite props to Flip for having us, he and I used to throw parties all the time together and I don’t think he’s lost the touch.
In the morning we head down to San Diego/La Jolla area for our gig at Totally Thomas from 4-6pm. Should be a blast, join us if you’re in the area.
So this was my first time at the National Yo-yo competition, and I have to say that despite being really tired from our crazy schedule this past week I really enjoyed it. Top notch, truly.
Hank Freeman is the 3A National Champ
Jeff Coons is the 3rd best offstring player in the Nation
Hung out with all the cool people I already knew
Met TONS of awesome people I didn’t know
Mongu Hoodies… so good.
In terms of promoting yo-yo, and the players, and just overall as an event; Nationals really rocked. I was pretty impressed.
So now what? Well we took off from Chico, CA after a couple gigs today and are now hanging out in Sacramento for a couple days. I’ve got Paul Escolar and Mark Hayward with me now and as I’ve found all Duncan Crew to be, these guys are nothing buy 24/7 entertainment. If you’re in the area make sure to come check us out.
P.S. I accidentally shot everything this weekend in Raw… might take me a little bit to get these up. :-/
If you thought Duncan Crew were hard core, then just wait ’til you read this. The truth is, there shouldn’t even be a dash between day 33-34 because for us they were one and the same!
Our “day” started off with a demo from 11-3 at a TRU in Westminster. We had the full crew of Colorado demonstrators with us, and even some extra players (Jen’s brother and walkins) who came to hang out. There were so many people with yo-yos that even when traffic lulled we had a good crowd and enough teachers for any kid to get some individual attention.
From TRU we went to one of the most impressive toy stores I have ever seen. The Wizard’s Chest is a legend among toy stores. Nate’s heard of it working at A-Z in North Hampton, and I vaguely remember hearing about several years ago while working at Red Dragon Toys in Brunswick, ME. Its a crazy store, but most notable for us is their massive yo-yo club. John Gate’s actually runs the club, so we took his lead and after a while of hanging out he and I MCed an informal show for everyone. It was extremely well received and we had a lot of fun. I was really impressed with the caliber of players (both yo-yos and tops I might ad) that were there. We took a TON of video and photos as well, so much so that processing them takes time we haven’t had since then!
–We’re processing everything tonight, so check back later or in the morning for photos and such–
But here is where the story gets interesting. We managed to land a spot on one of the biggest regional morning shows in the country which is based in Fox 13 news in West Valley, UT. The only time they could fit us in by the time I spoke to them was 5:30am the following morning. For those of you unaware, this is 8.5 hours by car away from Denver, CO…. It was a loooooong night. Trading off drivers, working as a team to keep energetic and awake, stopping frequently to jump around and such. It took us 10.5 hours total to complete the drive from when we finished eating dinner from our gig at the Wizard’s Chest at 7:30pm.
Because of the time difference we pulled in at about 4:30am, and deliriously spent the following hour making sure we had found the right location, booking a hotel, etc. By some magic we met up with Big Buddah of Fox 13 (perhaps the coolest news caster EVER of all time) and spent about 3 hours shooting various segments. We may have been delirious, but had a great time doing what we’re best at!
Alas, the story does not end there. ::GASP:: We finished with Big Buddah just in time to run off to our first gig of the day at the Brigham Young bookstore in Provo, UT. We managed to grab a lightening breakfast before the demo, and jumped in full force with a couple local players who showed up! Big thanks to them as it really helped drive traffic and kept us energetic.
From here we had one more gig to finish the day, and heading about an hour North to Park City we spent a few hours at J.W. Allen Toy Store. This little privately owned shop is right next to the Olympic village from 2002 and is a pretty rad little store. We had a ton of people show up in the end, and were even blessed with the legendary presence of Dale Myrberg. This dude is awesome. A player for 60 years and a full professional entertainer for 15(?) this dude knows what he’s talking about, loves to share, and is more energetic than most 5 year-olds. It was great to have him come out and we look forward to seeing him again at Nationals!
The demo was so busy we went long, but finally we headed to dinner with a couple players and then headed off to our hotel. Finally at and around or 36th hour, on a total of 3 hours of sleep each, we went to bed. And oh how good it was.