Right about now, folks in a one-stoplight Michigan town are scratching their heads, wondering what the hell just went by on their sleepy little road. See, Ann Arbor boogie-woogie piano legend Mr. B (Mark Braun) has taken his piano on the road with him, on his bike.
Granted, it's not your average Schwinn. Mark enlisted Colorado custom bike badass Mark Nobilette to build a sturdy tricycle of sorts to haul his 352-pound piano and some gear from Lake Michigan to the Detroit River. Mr. B started his Joybox Express tour ("joybox" being an old name for a piano) July 2, in Saugatuck, and finishes more than 300 bicycle miles later in Detroit, for shows on July 13 and 14.
Mr. B has a tight band accompanying him on the way. Riding and playing along are drummer Pete Siers and guitarist Brian Delaney, who can attach their bikes on the back to help push the piano down the road while bassist Carl Hildebrandt is towing his bass with a custom trailer. The quartet is playing to support a host of nonprofit organizations en route, but they're also stopping in random spots when the spirit moves them to get down and blow a few minds.
There's something beautifully old-fashioned about the Joybox Express — it's more 1910 than 2010. Yet the joy of shaking it to a Jelly Roll Morton stomper — or, hell, the bliss of riding down a country road on a bike — will never be outdated. And let's face it: A band of bicycling minstrels is pretty awesome. Guitarist Brian Delaney says, "When bicyclists go by, they usually pump their chests or stick their fists up in the air in approval."
Mr. B's Joybox Express will perform at Ann Arbor's Top of the Park Sunday, July 11, at Detroit's Cliff Bell's on Tuesday, July 13, and at the Detroit's Scarab Club on Wednesday, July 14. For more concert or ride-along info, see mrbsjoyboxexpress.com.