dj​phillips

August 3rd, 2015

July 27 - August 2: Swamp Donkeys, Johnny Hallyday, Simple Minds, Il Volo & Julien Clerc

Well, friends, I am in Monaco until the middle of August. I’m back for a 2nd year, performing in the house band of the Monte-Carlo Summer Sporting Festival. We’ll be opening for an unbelievable slew of artists like: Santana, Sting, George Benson, George Ezra, Anastacia, Enrique Iglesias and more! I’ll be chronicling the adventures here when I can! The band is: me (guitar), Justin Caldwell (lead vocals, guitar, percussion), Courtney Jaye (lead vocals, guitar, percussion), Ian Miller (keyboards), Taylor Jones (bass) and Ross McReynolds (drums, percussion). Follow me on Instagram or Twitter for more timely posts.

July 27 - August 2: Swamp Donkeys, Johnny Hallyday, Simple Minds, Il Volo & Julien Clerc

So… things have calmed down quite a bit since the big Red Cross show with Sting. The events of the last week don’t really warrant a day-by-day breakdown (also, I don’t really want to do that), so here are the highlights:

New Orleans brass band the Swamp Donkeys were here for several days. It was cool to have some other people from the USA around and the band was absolutely phenomenal. We were all clamoring for ways to get them to Nashville. I’m sure we will see them down the line very soon.

New Orleans' own Swamp Donkeys tearing it up on the beach in Monte Carlo!

A video posted by DJ Phillips (@djphillipsmusic) on



While they were here we opened for the “French Elvis” Johnny Hallyday for two days. I didn’t catch much of his show, but the audience was into it and filled the place twice, so that’s good!

johnny hallyday

A photo posted by @taylorujones on



During the day Tuesday we received an information-packed guided tour of Les Grands Appartements of the Palace. We weren’t allowed to take photos, but it was a whirlwind of historic names and information and fancy rooms. I’m not sure I truly know any more Monegasque history than when I went in, but it was cool!

The following day we opened for 80s pop act Simple Minds. If you’re old like me, you may remember them as the band behind that one song from the Breakfast Club.

Opening for Simple Minds tonight. We will never forget. #thedowntownband

A photo posted by Justin Caldwell (@justincaldwellmusic) on

Somebody had to take the picture, you know.

It’s the one song!!!

A video posted by Justin Caldwell (@justincaldwellmusic) on



After that, we opened for Italian singers Il Volo:

il volo

A photo posted by @taylorujones on



And Julien Clerc:

julien clerc

A photo posted by @taylorujones on



As you can probably tell from my lack of information and enthusiasm, I didn’t stay to watch either of these acts.

Yesterday we got our penultimate day off and Taylor and I went to Antibes (a city to the west past Nice) to look around and have a short adventure. We took the train there and walked around the walled city, some cool modern art sculptures and Fort Carré, a 16th century garrison located on the coast on a peninsula. Fun side note: Fort Carré was used as the villain’s fortress in the James Bond film, Never Say Never Again.

 photo 2015-08-02 18.02.59.jpg Fort Carré

 photo 2015-08-02 18.21.50.jpg Cool giant soldier statue from behind the World War I Memorial at Fort Carré

Fort Carré in Antibes. Vive la France!

A photo posted by DJ Phillips (@djphillipsmusic) on



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“Go ahead, say that word in French without using a uvular fricative one more time.”

Tonight we open for a show called 100 Voices of Gospel and soundcheck sounded great!

July 27th, 2015

Monaco Journal July 24-26: Èze, Sting and Memories of the Wild West

Well, friends, I am in Monaco until the middle of August. I’m back for a 2nd year, performing in the house band of the Monte-Carlo Summer Sporting Festival. We’ll be opening for an unbelievable slew of artists like: Santana, Sting, George Benson, George Ezra, Anastacia, Enrique Iglesias and more! I’ll be chronicling the adventures here when I can! The band is: me (guitar), Justin Caldwell (lead vocals, guitar, percussion), Courtney Jaye (lead vocals, guitar, percussion), Ian Miller (keyboards), Taylor Jones (bass) and Ross McReynolds (drums, percussion). Follow me on Instagram or Twitter for more timely posts.

July 24-25: Èze, Sting and Memories of the Wild West

Another couple of INSANE days!

On Friday, Ross, Ian, Taylor and I decided to take the big hike up to the village of Éze and the cool château there much like we did last year. It’s the kind of hike where you tell local people that you did it and they say “Why would you do that?” I had some of the same thoughts climbing the trail in the 90ºF heat. But hike it we did! And “fun” wouldn’t be the word I’d use to describe it, but I’m glad I did it.

Checking out the château was very cool though. And it was good to revisit some of the beautiful vistas on the way up.

Had to climb a lot of stairs for this shot. Sigh, the sacrifices we make for Instagram.

A photo posted by DJ Phillips (@djphillipsmusic) on



We got back with plenty of time to take showers, throw our sweaty clothes in the garbage and rest for a bit before Courtney, Taylor and I went back to the Open Air Cinema to see Ant-Man. I had been told it was middling, but I actually loved it. Paul Rudd is great. Plus they had a French Droopy cartoon before the movie, and who can argue with that?

A video posted by @taylorujones on



Saturday was one of the craziest days so far. Sting was the headliner. Sting is one of my favorite artists of all time and he is Justin’s FOR REAL favorite artist of all time. We cover probably half a dozen Sting/Police songs regularly and he even had a Police cover band at one point. Needless to say, this was a big deal to us.

The even was a big deal all-around too as it was the annual Red Cross Ball hosted by the Prince and Princess. Lots of big-wigs people presumably with big big wallets. The evening began with everyone sauntering into the venue in their fanciest gowns and tuxedos to the amazing sounds of New Orleans' Swamp Donkeys. They created an fun and appropriately Gatsby-esque atmosphere as the guests entered the hall.

Before we went on, we got the chance to say hello to Sting and pose for pictures. He was nice and accommodating and even wondered aloud why we didn’t have any songs of his on our set list when he took it from Courtney’s hand (if only he knew).

We went on a while after and did our thing. The crowd was fairly receptive and started dancing when the Prince and Princess came to the floor to dance to “God Only Knows”. It was a fun, trippy experience as we tried to balance our desire to keep people dancing (it’s what we do!) with the instructions from off-stage to keep it mellow and get people to sit back down. We just kind of kept playing until they closed the curtain. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Then– fireworks!

We didn’t get to watch the fireworks because we were busy behind the curtain tearing down our stage. Normally we can keep things up each night, but DJ duo Cassius was scheduled to use our stage later in the evening after Sting played.

We caught most of Sting’s set from the side stage where his tech crew was kind enough to allow us to stand. He and his band did a no-frills set of classic tunes with a simple production set up. It was awesome.

Taylor captured me and Justin jamming to “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”

every little thing she does is magic

A video posted by @taylorujones on



After the set we got to say “good job” and shake Sting’s hand one more time as he left. I missed the rest of the band (who were all smokin' good) but I did get to say that I enjoyed the set to Vinnie Colaiuta, Sting’s drummer and one of the best of all-time. Among other things, he is responsible for the odd meter beats on Sting’s album Ten Summoner’s Tales and he is a legend. Very cool.

After the event, we were all feeling excited so we headed down to Tip Top where some crew members joined us to hang out and chat. We see those guys every day, but it’s nice to actually sit down and get to know them a little bit beyond “Hello” “How are you?” and the other 4 things I know how to say in French. Luckily, their English is 1000 better than my French so we could have real discussions and laughs.

We didn’t get to Tip Top until late and we stayed their for a good while, so today I just took it easy while some others went to the beach.

It’s hard not feel a bit reflective and nostalgic these last few days as parts of my life are reaching new, exciting eras while others are facing dramatic upheaval. As I’m here enjoying my time, I’m also missing a family reunion in Ohio and the 50th anniversary and Cast Reunion of the show in North Dakota where I played guitar for nine years.

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That patch had a lot of soul in it.

It’s hard to complain about “working” in South France instead of playing 100 nights a row in North Dakota, but I also absolutely loved my time there and the people I worked with. I miss them daily and I’m sad that I can’t celebrate the remarkable accomplishment of putting on that show for half a century with them. Congratulations, friends!

Next up we have a couple more days off, so who knows what’s going to happen!

July 25th, 2015

Monaco Journal July 20-23: George Benson, Spelunkadunking, Hiking, Caetano Veloso & Gilberto Gil

Well, friends, I am in Monaco until the middle of August. I’m back for a 2nd year, performing in the house band of the Monte-Carlo Summer Sporting Festival. We’ll be opening for an unbelievable slew of artists like: Santana, Sting, George Benson, George Ezra, Anastacia, Enrique Iglesias and more! I’ll be chronicling the adventures here when I can! The band is: me (guitar), Justin Caldwell (lead vocals, guitar, percussion), Courtney Jaye (lead vocals, guitar, percussion), Ian Miller (keyboards), Taylor Jones (bass) and Ross McReynolds (drums, percussion). Follow me on Instagram or Twitter for more timely posts.

July 20-23: George Benson, Spelunkadunking, Hiking, Caetano Veloso & Gilberto Gil

I have to start the recounting the last few days with a bit of a bummer. The Mika show I was so psyched about in the last post is now not happening. Well, it’s probably still happening but we are not involved. The powers-that-be were trying to move the show a couple of weeks later but it just didn’t work out for us to be in the mix. I’m a little bummed, but I also didn’t even know this opportunity existed until a few days ago so I’m trying to keep that in mind!

Aside from that small amount of bad news, it’s been a pretty bitchin' few days.

On Monday we opened for the legendary guitarist and vocalist George Benson. Even though some of his ballads can veer into the cheesy territory, he and his band did not disappoint. He’s an incredible musician all-around impressive performer.

George MFing Benson.

A video posted by DJ Phillips (@djphillipsmusic) on



He even gave me a pick!

Thanks, Mr. B!

A photo posted by DJ Phillips (@djphillipsmusic) on



Turns out the pick doesn’t make you magically play like him, though, so I still have to practice. Dumb.

George Ezra was originally scheduled to play on Tuesday, but he canceled a little while ago giving us a double day-off. DOUBLE DAY OFF.

To take advantage of this rare true “weekend,” we rented a car in Nice and used our apartments here as a home base for a couple of day trips! Luckily, Taylor is a Man For All Seasons and Cars and took charge of all vehicle handling.

ce fut ma balade autour France pour les quelques derniers jours. pas mal.

A photo posted by @taylorujones on



It was a lot of awesome adventuring in a short amount of time and I spent a vast majority of it at least a little bit nauseous.

The first day, Ross, Ian, Taylor and I went to an incredible spot with a clear river winding through wind-swept canyons called Pont de la Cerisé (or “Cherry Bridge”). On the way up, we stopped at nearest town – a quaint village called Gilette. Much to our chagrin, they did not hand out free razors at the town’s border.

We pulled over to take in the view and have a tasty lunch before heading the rest of the way to our swimmin' hole. We parked along the road and took a long, downhill path to the river. We caught breathtaking glimpses of the gorge and river from above on our way down.



I don’t have much photographic evidence from the rest of the day because it wasn’t what you’d call a phone-friendly environment. We spent the next couple of hours climbing barefoot over smooth, wet rocks, fighting mild river currents and jumping off of small cliffs into the clear water below. I should clarify that Taylor, Ross and Ian did all the jumping and I treaded water below shouting things like “BE CAREFUL GUYS!” We made it downstream to a wide clearing with a taller cliff and spent a good while chilling on rocks and jumping off the cliff with a family that had also made it back that way. Afterwards, we made our way upstream, swimming and climbing against the current and on the rocks alongside the river whenever possible. This was a bit more challenging. Once we made it back to the spot where we stashed our stuff, we rested on the smooth sunlit rocks for a while before taking the now-uphill trek back to the car. A storm rumbled in over head while we were about halfway up, but it it’s threat was for naught and I never felt a drop.

The following day, Ross, Ian and Courtney stayed home while Taylor, Justin and I made our way up into the foothills of the Alps to visit two historic villages.

The first was Sainte-Agnès, a small commune with interesting remnants of two very different ages. Most famously, Sainte-Agnès is home to the Fort Maginot de Sainte Agnès, which is a large bunker built into the mountain between 1932 and 1938 when I think France may have been having some small disagreements with Italy. The complex of tunnels, barracks & artillery is now a museum and it was really cool both literally and figuratively.

At the top of the same large peak is the ruins of a 12th century castle (parts of which apparently even date back to the 10th century!). It was fascinating to walk around and check out the crumbling remains.

Taylor captured a nice collage of the visit.

le fort sainte-agnès

A photo posted by @taylorujones on



Taylor the Redeemer

View from the castle

Panorama Saint-Agnès from the top of the hill

We then zipped around the winding mountain roads to the village of Peille.

Zippin' through them Alps like…

A video posted by DJ Phillips (@djphillipsmusic) on

Zipping around the winding mountain roads to the village of Peille.

Peille itself is a beautiful village perched on the rocks and overlooking a mountain gorge. There is also a crazy-ass rickety ol' bridge that you can cross if you’re a lunatic.

Village of Peille

Climbing around the French Alps today. Incredibly charming medieval village Peille.

A photo posted by Justin Caldwell (@justincaldwellmusic) on

Crazy-ass bridge replete with lunatics

We made it back alive and then back home to Monaco. They had to pretty much pry the rental car out of Taylor’s hands the next day when he returned it.

On Thursday we opened for Brazilian bossa nova legends Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. I have never heard of them but Courtney was extremely pumped about it. They were a little too mellow for my tastes but I can deny that they were some smooth dudes. And who can dislike someone whose stage set up looks like this?

Opening for two legends of Brazilian music tonight Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. This is all legends need onstage.

A photo posted by Justin Caldwell (@justincaldwellmusic) on



Yesterday, we had an amazing Èze hiking adventure, but tonight we open for Sting and I’ve gotta go get ready (I should make a collection of ridiculous sentences that I am typing about this gig)! More soon!

July 20th, 2015

Monaco Journal July 19: Royal Thai, Magic Mike & MIKA

Well, friends, I am in Monaco until the middle of August. I’m back for a 2nd year, performing in the house band of the Monte-Carlo Summer Sporting Festival. We’ll be opening for an unbelievable slew of artists like: Santana, Sting, George Benson, George Ezra, Anastacia, Enrique Iglesias and more! I’ll be chronicling the adventures here when I can! The band is: me (guitar), Justin Caldwell (lead vocals, guitar, percussion), Courtney Jaye (lead vocals, guitar, percussion), Ian Miller (keyboards), Taylor Jones (bass) and Ross McReynolds (drums, percussion). Follow me on Instagram or Twitter for more timely posts.

July 19: Royal Thai, Magic Mike & MIKA

We had our first full day off yesterday and it was as magical as expected. I had a pretty normal evening before just doing a little reading and TV watching after the show. The other fellas will have to fill you in on their adventures with the Blues Brothers cast. Seems like there was some late night/early morning revelry. And you all know by now how I feel about revelry.

Old Man Phillips says “Tsk.”

I made myself a tasty pasta lunch (still can’t get over that kitchen!) and then tried my hand at some songwriting. It’s been a while and I’m a little rusty, but we’ll see if anything useful comes out of it.

Courtney, Taylor, Justin and I went out for some tasty dinner at Royal Thai where we all shared the the stories of our respective evenings. “I finished reading Jurassic Park, you guys! I actually like the movie way better!” I said, sparking much dinner table controversy. Ian and Ross decided to stay in and be productive and frugal or something. Kids!

After the delicious meal (Panang Curry!), the four of us went up to the Monaco Open Air Cinema. I neglected to take a picture this time, but here’s what it looks like from last year’s snap.



Really cool place to take in a flick. …even if that flick is Magic Mike XXL… I never saw the first one, so I had no true barometer on whether I’d like the movie or not but I had a feeling I would not. That Chans Tates is alright. Seems like a charming fellow. The movie was OK, honestly. Courtney opted for a more expensive, comfier chair, so the three of us dudes ended up watching the movie together. BUT I DON’T BUY INTO YOUR HETERONORMATIVE STEREOTYPES so it was fine. There was a fair amount of barely-clothes-thrusting-into-faces which was slightly uncomfortable.

We were all talking after the movie (Courtney, Taylor, Justin and I, not Channing Tatum, he wasn’t there.) and we noted how it was funny how a movie about male strippers still managed to objectify women just as much if not more than men. Not to go all Internet Social Justice Warrior on ya, just a stray observation.

Moving on from Channing Tatum’s private parts… we also got some great news confirmed recently! The band has been asked to stay a few extra days and open for MIKA at the Casino Square on August 19th! Many of you may not be familiar with Mika, but he is one of my favorite pop artists of the decade thus far so I am beyond pumped! This will be another opportunity for us to actually turn up and perform like a band too!

One of my favorite Mika tunes:

Lauren’s favorite:


She said she promises she’s not sending me a secret message with her love for this song.

Tonight is George Benson and we’re all pretty pumped! À tout à l'heure, mes amis!

July 18th, 2015

Monaco Journal July 14-18: Beach, Blues Brothers and Birthdays

Well, friends, I am in Monaco until the middle of August. I’m back for a 2nd year, performing in the house band of the Monte-Carlo Summer Sporting Festival. We’ll be opening for an unbelievable slew of artists like: Santana, Sting, George Benson, George Ezra, Anastacia, Enrique Iglesias and more! I’ll be chronicling the adventures here when I can! The band is: me (guitar), Justin Caldwell (lead vocals, guitar, percussion), Courtney Jaye (lead vocals, guitar, percussion), Ian Miller (keyboards), Taylor Jones (bass) and Ross McReynolds (drums, percussion). Follow me on Instagram or Twitter for more timely posts.

July 14-18: Beach, Blues Brothers and Birthdays

This has been the week of really settling into the routine. Luckily, the routine includes copious amounts of sunshine, some trips to the beach, lots of delicious food and playing music every night.

Day 8. Still surviving somehow.

A photo posted by DJ Phillips (@djphillipsmusic) on



Wednesday was Justin’s birthday, so we went one train stop west over to Plage Mala at Cap D'Ail and had a gorgeous beach day. It was an expensive endeavor, but thanks to the current exchange rate– not so bad! Courtney and Justin both opted for individual massages given by the in-house masseuse. Pretty rough life. After a few hours there, we made our way back home.

Plage Mala

take a picture, it’ll last longer.

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The gang waiting for the train. I’m the one in purple.

A photo posted by DJ Phillips (@djphillipsmusic) on



Last night was Ross' birthday (as well as my lovely lady’s – hi Lauren!) so we went back to our favorite place, Tip Top, where revelry was once again had.

happy birthday

A photo posted by @taylorujones on

Revelry.

Some of the group went out for extended revelry, but this old sober man can only take so much revelry.

Tonight is the last night of the Blues Brothers show. The people are very nice and it’s been surreal to have brief hallway chats with Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper. It’s been a good show!

But we are also excited for the next venture. Tomorrow we have our first full day off since we got here, so the daytime fun could conceivably continue straight into nighttime. We’ll see how that shakes out.

Monday is George Benson and I’m super pumped for that!