On the Road with the Drunk Unks: Vegas/CA

I count myself a lucky girl. First, landing a plum assignment from the NSCA Education Foundation to help market the Drunk Unkles and then the chance to travel with two of the Legacy members of band – Steve Emspak of Shen Milsom Wilke and Felix Robinson of AVI-SPL. Our mission? To explore potential Vegas venues for the Drunk Unk InfoComm14 gig and to meet with manufacturers at the NAMM show in Ahaheim, California to solicit potential sponsors for their event. Gladly undertaken, and never too soon be forgotten.

With a pre-dawn flight and a looming snowstorm, the three of us got out of New York just in time to avoid the snow, ice and shoveling of the last storm. Note to self, Steve is not a morning person…being notoriously perky, I soon found out that it is better to keep my enthusiasm to myself before 7AM. Luckily after a bit of coffee and meeting up with Felix, Steve thawed out enough to volley conversation. Having known Steve for the last few years, but being relatively new to Felix, I was a bit reserved for the first hour of our trip. But after witnessing the early morning exchange between Felix and Steven, their easy humor and dead pan one-liners, I quickly found a place of comfort between them to enjoy their banter and to learn from their stories and experience.

They have a special way and “understanding” between them. At one point I even accused them of being an old married couple that could finish finishing each other’s sentences. Regardless of the final definition of their relationship, I enjoyed watching them as they effortlessly grooved between being movers and shakers and decision makers in their own businesses and being connoisseurs of fine scotches and tequilas. Of our day to day schedule, they were amazing at forgiving each other’s phone calls, and both understood when they needed to “drop out” of our group every so often to handle an important call, or when they needed to stay in the moment and vet an important detail about our venue for the InfoComm gig.

With a rich history of rock and roll between them (Steven was a songsmith for Aerosmith and Felix the celebrated bassist for the band Angel) I was surprised that our time together was thankfully devoid of drama. There were no demands for green M&M’s (although Steve likes his blue). These Unkles were laid back, low-pressure and it was a pleasure to work with them and tackle our assignment one venue at a time. We managed to work the strip from end to end as we toured six hotels and multiple venues within these hotels to locate the best choices for the June event.

Our evenings were filled with amazing, authentic Mexican food (highly recommend Lindo Michoacan on East Dessert Inn Road), dinners with ROCK STARS (as Felix’ band mate and Angel lead singer joined us at the hotel with his wife) and we even managed to get ourselves in the middle of a dive bar room brawl.

The Unks went from businessmen one moment to rockers the next, and all right before my eyes. On the road, Steven and Felix often switched roles. Each taking the lead depending upon where we were and what we needed to accomplish. They sometimes have a good cop, bad cop type of routine and definitely their share of divergent interests and networks. But together they balanced each other nicely and it was wonderful to see the mutual respect they share as colleagues and as friends. Both men are committed to the mission of the NSCA Education Foundation and they are adamant about keeping the brand longevity of the Drunk Unkles in order to continue the good work they began 9 years ago.

For Felix, NAMM was like coming home again and he ran into so many people he knew in his recording career – good people to know, like Bob Heil – look him up – you’ll be amazed. For Steven, he hunted down and found some great cross-over (for consumer and commercial based AV) manufacturers and offered them the first chance to be part of the sponsorships for the Drunk Unkle June event during InfoComm. From most people, our group received a warm reception and the equipment people wanted to share with us was literally flying off the shelves. Somewhere between what was discussed, promised and what we negotiated we walked away with some great manufacturers that are willing to be part of the June event. Thank you ElectroVoice, K & M, Magnatone, Vue and Shure!

On our way back to the airport at the end of our four day journey, I pronounced them both my favorite, new travel partners. I look forward to more time “on the road” with this band of AV brothers.

Stay tuned for my blog from band practice!