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Have You Heard of the Astronaut Band?
They float on stage
Jeffrey and I had a date night. We went to see an astronaut band. (The Holy Grail for hubby who is a space freak and a musician.)
I’ll give you a minute.
If you’ve never heard of this, read further.
Here's my favorite response when I told people our plans.
Astronaut Band? That’s their name?
Nope. They’re retired astronauts who formed a band.
You mean like, space people, singing together?
Yep. Some were commanders on the ISS.
And they’re musical?
Yeah. They’re called Bandella.
“Bandella is an all-spacefarer music group founded in a basement bar in Star City, Russia in 2003 by NASA astronauts Chris Hadfield, Cady Coleman and Steve Robinson as they trained for their trip to the ISS. Bandella has been performing for over 18 years.”
Here is a link for more band info.
I’m on The Museum of Flight’s email list. When Bandella’s dates came up on my feed I slid into Jeffrey’s home/office, a la Tom Cruise in Risky Business, to tell him about this band. Unlike Tom Cruise, I crashed into the wall. I didn’t have to finish my sentence before Jeff said, “F-k, yeah. Get tickets.”
When Jeffrey was a kid, he dreamed of becoming an astronaut. The only problem was that he had motion sickness. G-d had other plans. His sister worked for NASA at Goddard so for a while he lived vicariously through her. At 62, he is still a space-o-file.
I bought tickets for the 6:30pm show. I considered the 8:30 show but that would mean it wouldn’t be over until at least 10, then traffic in the parking lot, not home until 11, dog would be holding in his pee for a really long time and might mess up the couch, heck I wouldn’t be in bed until midnight. (Do you calculate your plans this way too?) This must be why they don’t allow dogs on the ISS.
Turns out, Bandella is a talented group of singers, musicians, and ISS commanders, almost all of whom flew in space multiple times. A movie screen behind the band flashed photos, taken by the band members, from their time in space.
Remember Slide Shows?
If you grew up or heard stories from people who grew up in the 70’s you would know that anyone who went on a big vacay came home with ten rolls of film that were developed into slides. Yes, slides! If your parents were friends with one of these families, you were invited to a show featuring their blurry pictures projected on a flimsy fold-out screen from a “carousel” projector with a lengthy commentary on each of their 402 slides. By the tenth slide your parents would be guzzling their sixth rum and Coke, and you would be finishing off a can of cheese wiz directly into your mouth, since you ran out of Ritz crackers to spray it on and then mouthing to your sisters, “I’m bored.”
And how did your parents retaliate for this gruesome evening? They’d set a date for their own slide show of the Grand Canyon before booking flights. And when your parent’s slide show rolled around, as their spawn, you could not cry “tired” and disappear upstairs. You could, however, invite a friend, snigger in the back of the den (back then the “family room” was called a “den”) and quietly play Mad Libs with a flashlight. If music had accompanied any of these slides it may have been slightly more digestible than the Cheese Wiz.
Bandella was not your parents slide show
Instead of serving guests banana Jell-O while sitting on an orange tweed couch, the Museum of Flight offered beer, wine or water as we sat in an air-conditioned auditorium with decent acoustics.
Instead of your mom saying, “That’s me on a donkey,” one band mate didn’t have to say, “Here I am on the space shuttle,” because, well, there he was. And another band member also didn’t have to utter, “That’s me floating in space.“ The pictures were gasp-worthy.
I would have loved if they paused a bit longer between sets to not only take audience questions but also share a story. It would have gone like this:
“Chris, remember that time you slept through re-entry?”
“I was just resting my eyes, man.”
Even better, a conversation we wouldn’t understand at all.
“Hey Cady, did ground ever figure out why our SECO numbers were off by 3 tiks on that last launch?
Most of their songs were covers from other popular folk tunes about being on the road, being far away, as we, the audience watched in awe pictures of the flautist floating in space.
Bandella’s favorite ballad was Annie Lenox’ Lord of the Rings theme song. During the lyrics I jammed (not musically) my elbow into Jeffreys arm--
“…And dream of the ones who came before;
They are calling
From across the distant shore…”
“Jeff, get it? Across the distant shore? It’s a metaphor for earth.”
Chris Hadfield had his own version of Bowie’s, Space Oddity. Though he changed the lyrics so Major Tom doesn’t die in space. Nice touch.
“…I’m floating in my tin can.
A last glimpse of the world.
Planet earth is blue
And there’s a lot more to do…”
“Jeff, get it? It’s his last view before coming home. And there’s more to do instead of nothing to do?”
“I get it,” Jeff whispered back.
“I forgot for a sec who I was married to.”
The gal on the other side of me was quiet for the entire concert. It’s always strange when I’m thoroughly enjoying myself, WooHooing after every song and Miss Muffet next to me is silent as she recrosses her legs like her right one fell asleep. But maybe that’s how she expresses a fabulous time.
Chris Hadfield actually recorded the Bowie song in space on the ISS a few years ago and Bowie claimed it was, “Possibly the most poignant version of the song ever created.” Here's the link if you want to watch and read more. (Note: the lyric, “there’s more to do” was in the recent live version of the song not in this video.)
Toward the end Chris admitted that they have astronaut privilege. Before going into space, he was able to meet any celebrity his little astronaut’s heart desired. He chose “You Got a Friend” icon, James Taylor resulting in a video call with James where Chris showed him around the ISS. Okay choice in my book. I would have gone for Sir Richard Branson just so I could say, “Can I borrow a million dollars? I’ll pay you back tomorrow.” And see how he would respond. Jeff would have picked Branson for obvious, space nut reasons. He would have seriously asked, “Can I hitch a ride on your next flight to space? I promise I’ll take Dramamine.”
The concert was finished by 8pm. There wasn’t any traffic in the lot, or the road home and Apollo was a good boy.
1. Did G-d, the universe, source, have other plans for you?
2. Have you ever been to a slide show?
3. Who would you like to meet?
4. I’m hungry.
5. Fake conversations between astronauts provided by Jeffrey. Thanks, hun.