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[Short Story] “You Know You’ve Made It”

2017 June 24
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by Mike Vial

After finishing my set at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, I said hello to friends by the corner of the stage.

Garret Potter, also a new dad–and the best, damn poet in Ann Arbor–came up to me and gave me a big hug.

“Garret, I saw your post on Facebook. Did you find a ride to the airport last week?” I asked.

“Oh, I drove myself.” he said. “I realized I’m an adult now, and I can just pay for parking!”

We laughed. Adulthood creeps up on you in the weirdest ways.

Then he said, “I finally got one your shirts.”

I had no shirts for sale at the merch tent. I sold my last shirt earlier in the year. I must have looked bewildered.

“You bought my shirt? Where?”

“The thrift store!”

“Wait, what?”

“Yeah! It was like brand new. Fits perfectly.”

“That’s hilarious!”

“Is that weird that one of your shirts was at the Ann Arbor thrift store?”

I considered how there are only 100 Mike Vial shirts. 50 are gray, and 50 are green.

They were great shirts, if I do say so myself. Really soft. Screen-printed locally by VGKids. My logo had a ship burning off in the distance. I sold them for $10. It took me three years to finally get rid of the last batch of smalls…

My dad owns two of them. (He insisted he keep two shirts for the grandkids.) My mom owns one and wears it to my gigs. My wife has one shirt. She wears it when she’s low on laundry.

So that leaves 96 Mike Vial shirts out in the wild. One made its way to the thrift store.

“It’s weird,” I said. “But Sherman Alexie’s father told him, ‘I knew you made it when I saw your book for sale at the Good Will!’ I feel like I’ve made it.”

Garret smiled. “I wish I would have worn it today.”

We said goodbye as the next musical act was starting her first song. Garret walked back to where his family and friends were sitting. He began to chase his toddler around the green.

Later that day, I sold two CDs at the festival. I’m almost sold out of those, too, but maybe you will find one of them at the local thrift store.



A2 Summer Fest Video & Setlist

2017 June 23
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by Mike Vial

Natalie somehow pulled it off and brought both tots to my Ann Arbor Summer Fest set. Alton slept through the entire show; Ginny ran around the entire top of the park. We are exhausted! Thanks to everyone who attended!

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Welcome the newest member of the family band!

2017 June 13
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by Mike Vial

Welcome the newest member of the family band!

Alton Maerle Burg Vial arrived June 9th. 6 pounds, 14 oz.


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Still waiting!

2017 June 3
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by Mike Vial

My last gig before Ginny's birth was at @mashannarbor, too. 🙂

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The best brewery in Ann Arbor

2017 May 30
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by Mike Vial

As Ann Arbor’s competitive beer industry expands to 11 breweries, I want to share why mash/Blue Tractor BBQ & Brewery is my favorite in town.

One, I really like their porter.

But the larger reason they stand out is because of how well they have treated me as a hired musician for the last four years.

Once, after a sudden snow storm hit Ann Arbor, they decided to close their two locations early, so their staff could get home safely.

I pulled up to the bar right when they made the decision. They paid me even though they had to cancel.

A manager handed me a check and said, “Leave your gear in the car and go home before the roads are treacherous!”

I’ve played at 370 different locations across the country over the last 10 years. This type of fairness in the bar industry is extremely rare.

I’m reminded of this rarity since a different bar just cancelled the summer gigs they booked with me back in February.

They contacted me; I agreed and held the dates. Now, I won’t be able to fill those holes in my summer gig schedule.

But I’ll get creative after my paternity leave; and I’ve learned to budget for 5-10 cancellations for every 100 gigs.

However, this isn’t an easy business. That’s why I feel a kinship with you other musicians handling the ups and downs of gigging, and staying at it.

This is also why I often request we stop by mash on a rare night off.