Fiery performer returns to Glenwood Springs
Leonard Bernstein never stayed in the Roosevelt Suite at the Hotel Colorado drinking Courvoisier and eating lobster tails. He also never woke up three days later, still in the suite, with razor scratches all over his body, not knowing what happened. But, a guy named Michael On Fire, who thought he would turn out just exactly like Bernstein, did. “When I was a kid I wanted to be Leonard Bernstein,” said the performer, whose real name is Michael Colone. But, “when I was in college I was playing (guitar) every night of the week … and I just kept going and going.” On Tuesday afternoon Michael On Fire was still going, driving from Detroit to Glenwood Springs. He was just pulling into Chicago at 5 p.m. It was rush hour, and he was answering cell phone calls from reporters and promoters. He yelled through a bad connection that this trip was just like the hundreds of others he had taken on a road tour that has lasted most of the last 30 years. “When you live out on the road you get to see a lot of things that people who are dug in someplace don’t see,” he yelled, distracted from either the road or the interview by the other. Stories of what Michael On Fire has seen in 30 years of touring show up regularly in his music.His audiences hear stories about “band housing” in Driggs, Idaho, where Michael walked into his room to find two wolverines mating on his bed. Or band housing in Mackinaw Island, Mich. – a place with “probably more bats … than anywhere else in the United States” – where Michael woke up with a bat on his face. And at The Summit Coffeehouse tonight, which booked Michael for a solo gig, the audience will likely here a strange tale about Glenwood Springs. “There’s a place there called the Hotel Colorado,” Michael explained. “Many years ago I came through there with this smuggler.” The smuggler was a BMW-driving friend Michael hitched a ride with, looking to get to California. The two stopped at the Hotel Colorado, and Michael’s friend asked for the best room in the place. “This guy had beaucoup dollars,” he said. The staff put Michael and his friend up in the Roosevelt Suite. They put up their bags, ate lobster tail, drank Courvoisier in their suite, and that’s the last thing Michael remembers; until three days later. “I don’t know what happened,” he said.He woke up with scratches from a razor all over his body. “I lost three days of my life in the Hotel Colorado, up in the Roosevelt Suite,” he said.”That doesn’t happen to normal people.” Nope. But normal people also don’t end a gig in Seattle at 4 a.m. on a Thursday, then drive 2,562 miles to a Friday-night gig in Huntsville, Ala. “I do really stupid things ’cause I’m not rich and famous,” he said.And though he isn’t rich and famous, “He is an absolutely phenomenal musician,” said Becky Spagnolo, who booked Michael for tonight’s show.Spagnolo booked him many times when she managed the Central nightclub in Los Angeles, which is now Johnny Depp’s Viper Room. Michael was so good, Spagnolo said, that even on nights off, when seeing a show was the last thing she wanted to do, she’d go see Michael play other venues. “He’s a little social-political, but he’s also a lot of fun,” she said. “He’s very interested in the world.”Michael’s whirlwind life and stories fit his personality. He is energetic and charismatic, and bounces the conversation off the walls. “I started out as a kid, I was going to be Bob Dylan – this is before I was going to be Leonard Bernstein – but I sounded like (freaking) Donny Osmond on steroids.” Musically, what to expect from a Michael On Fire show is hard to say without hearing his music. It won’t be Bernstein, but audiences will hear guitar, harmonica and stories, “which are mostly all true,” Michael said.It won’t be Bernstein, but audiences will hear guitar, harmonica and stories, “which are mostly all true,” Michael said.
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