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Photo By Laura Roberts
Kimmet and Doug

KIMMET & DOUG: SOMEWHAT NEARLY FAMOUS

By Tim Roberts

It's like watching live split-screen action: different-but-related activity occurring simultaneously. Or one of those moments in a musical where two characters are singing verses of the same song, but on different areas of the stage.

On one side of this living split screen is Doug Florio, one half of the duo Kimmet and Doug, describing a time when Eddie Money (yes, he of late 1970s dorm-room rock who scored a chart-topper with "Baby, Hold on to Me" and, well, that's probably it) wanted to hire a whole band to back them up to record an album. The Money story was only one he and his cohort Kimmet Cantwell related about how several big-name music acts had gone arse-over-teakettle crazy about their music, only to have that enthusiasm fizzle out and disappoint like wet fireworks.

On the other side is a tall man, dressed in a dark shirt with colored pinstripes and black slacks. His entire spear-bald head, from the top of his skull to the narrow ridge of his chin, is engulfed in five-o-clock shadow. He stands close to Kimmet, speaking low, one hand holding a bottle of beer, the other attempting to make calming gestures toward her. There's a clear tension between them. Her hackles haven't come down since the dude entered the room. He's just offered her 400 dollars if the band will start their 11:00 p.m. set early. Like right now. Nearly two hours before they're scheduled to play.

Kimmet tells him, as politely as she can, that they can't right now. They're being interviewed for a story. He suddenly forgets about the concrete-thick tension between himself and Kimmet, introduces himself to me and my wife, then brags about a New Year's Eve party he's planning that would rival the Barnstable/Brown Derby Eve gala. He claims it will be huge, amazing. He leaves.

"Just as soon as he started talking, I remembered who he is," Kimmet said. "It's so funny. We were just talking about people promising us stuff. A few months back, we were playing at Bearno's by the Bridge and he called me over to his table. He gave me 200 dollars and says, ‘This girl next to me thinks you're wonderful. I'm going to give you this money as a deposit. I want you to play a party for me. I'll give you 2000 dollars. And if it makes her happy, I will fly you and anyone you want to anywhere in the world.' Then she starts going on and on about what a big deal he is. He'd just given me 200 bucks. That's fine. I'll listen to a certain about of bullshit for that."

That certain amount of bullshit quickly grew into a small mountain early the next day. Kimmet received a 7:00 a.m. call from the guy's assistant, confirming that she would, indeed, show up at the party to entertain. Kimmet already canceled a gig booked for that same date, and double-confirmed with the assistant that the party was still on. The calls between them went back and forth all day.

Then there was a the final call: the party had been canceled.

Kimmet and Doug

When the guy appeared during our interview and requested the duo play early, he said he'd forget about the $200 deposit he gave Kimmet for the party that never happened.

What? This guy who can peel off layers from a roll of bills big enough to choke a mastodon presumes he can forgive a deposit he clearly forfeited (and apparently never asked for it back to begin with) when he canceled his own party, and then bribe these two to start playing early? Even the Colossus of Rhodes didn't have cojones that big.

"Here? Tonight?" Doug asked. "What, is he dictating our gig now? What'd you say?"

"I didn't say anything," Kimmet replied.

"So there's no party I have to turn down?"

"That was weeks ago."

"So it's canceled? Forever?"

"Yes."

"Oh, good."

It was a cool night in mid November at Dutch's Tavern (Ye Olde, Since 1929), one of what used to be a famous trio of nightspots within a half mile of each other in St. Matthews. The other two were Gerstle's (still there, and still bragging "No Coils" on the neon sign over the door) and Maier's (now gone, replaced by an Irish pub called Brendan's). Inside, Dutch's still has a cigarette machine by the door. Five flat-panel TVs are mounted high on the walls (three over the bar, one in a corner, another over the small stage where bands perform). There are two rooms in the back. The first one is painted red and has a makeshift restroom with plywood walls in one corner. Its door is attached to a tight metal spring. When the door slams shut it sounds like a rifle shot. There's a jukebox that plays a song at random when things get too quiet, nagging you to feed it a few quarters.

In the room behind that, a Plexiglas sheet covers a collage of small flyers and posters for bands that have performed at Dutch's over the past decade or more. The Merediths, 9Volt Revolt, Fire the Saddle, others. Some are names long gone from the Louisville music scene.

The current roster of acts at Dutch's is painted in white on the windows facing the street. The last ones displayed, on the farthest right window, playing Sun. and Wed.: Kimmet and Doug.

Kimmet Cantwell and Doug Florio

"We've been at Dutch's a long time, says Kimmet Cantwell, vocalist, keyboardist, and sometime guitarist. "We get a good crowd here , we have good shows here. It's a good vibe. But we've played every place there is to play in Louisville."

While they've managed to bring their music to anywhere in town there might be a stage and a couple of speakers, their eight-year-long (by Kimmet's count) gig at Dutch's could be considered their anchor, the place where they've gotten the most frequent exposure. Oh, sure, there were other times and places where they performed that just might have gotten them a little more. Such as the time they opened for Cheap Trick at 4th Street Live! Or when Kimmet was invited to sing one of their songs onstage with Ian Anderson, where Anderson played Doug Florio's guitar part on the flute. Or even when they were part of the second iteration of Days of the New, joined by drummer Ray Rizzo and guitarist Craig Wagner, touring with Foo Fighters, Stone Temple Pilots, Creed, and 3 Doors Down. They appeared (separately and just for a couple of seconds apiece) in the video for "Enemy," from the "green" Days of the New album, shot at the Louisville Palace.

"We were the first guys to replace the first guys," Doug explained. And the experience apparently still hasn't been cleansed from their psyches.

"Guys like Days of the New are very tough," he said. "They party. They're really rock-and-roll guys. Work for them and they'll keep you up for days. They're very serious about it."

Not that Kimmet and Doug aren't.

Hard not to be. They've both been playing music since their teen years growing up on Long Island (each word pronounced separately, not as "Lon Guyland," as it is sometimes mocked; "Don't know where that comes from," Kimmet said), where they've known each other since they were kids.

Kimmet took up the story. "Doug was moving to Louisville because he had a couple of friends who lived here. I ran into him and he asked if I wanted to do some gigs with him while he saved money to come to Louisville. I said sure. I thought we sounded good together. At that time in New York I was working a lot in a job I really didn't care for, making good money. I just wanted to play music. So I came to Louisville with Doug. I thought it was a charming city. And it was very inexpensive. And there was just music everywhere."

Cheap to live here. Lots of places to play music. Sounds like a good tag line for a brochure to recruit musicians to locate to town.

"I came here on a break that never ended," she said.

The two were involved romantically for several years. Their musical partnership held firm when they broke up. Kimmet got married and, with her husband, now owns and operates Highland Fitness. Doug is in a relationship and spends his free time lounging on his brown leather couch. And while they aren't lovers anymore, they still talk with each other as if they've been married for years. Doubt it? Just go re-read their earlier conversation about the guy wanting to give them 400 bucks to start playing early.

Physically, like many other partners (amorous or otherwise) they're a contrast. Kimmet is slender with long, straight honey-blonde hair. Doug is stout, muscular, shaved bald with a black goatee, dressed in a black shirt and black leather jacket. He looks as if he'd be the guy who would hang you upside down out the window by your ankles, telling you that Mr. Caldoloni is very, very unhappy that you're two months behind on your payments.

They are both living the aspiring musician's dream of being able to make music full-time and live comfortably while doing it.

But there's a trade off. A realistic one.

"We're literally booked forever now," Doug reported. "But things will change. I know where everybody's gonna be. We've got it all in order, but it's not gonna stay that way."

The constant gigging works well within their recording schedule, too. So far, Kimmet and Doug have released three CDs. The most recent one, Just Kimmet & Doug, is unlike the previous releases in that it features only the two of them, just as it is when they perform live throughout the city. They are recording tracks during their shows for a live album that is slated to be their next release.

They both confess that they love playing live instead of recording. "I like improvising," Doug said. "That's what I grew up doing all the time. If you can get away with it, of course. I hate recording."

"When you can see that everybody's really digging what you do," added Kimmet, "you get immediate feedback. And my favorite part of playing live is when the crowd is liking our music the most."

And therein lies irony: some people in the crowd loving their music so much that they make thrilling promises to fill Kimmet and Doug's pockets with cash, jet them off to anywhere in the world, put their names and faces and music in front of millions. They've had some success with that, to be sure (opening for Cheap Trick and performing with Ian Anderson). But there have been some disappointments, too.

"We've met everybody who is huge in this business," Doug states, "who's promised us something. They've all disappointed us. They come see us, make offers, give us money sometimes."

And one of those disappointments involves country music superstar Toby Keith.

"He was in here one night," Kimmet said, "when we played one of our songs [that has] sort of a country-ish kind of sound. The next day his booking agent called me and said, ‘Toby likes that song. Can you get it to us right away?' So I burned a copy of the song and overnighted it, and I get a call from his assistant the day after. They were on the bus with Toby, and the song wouldn't play in their CD player. I'd tested the frickin' thing before I sent it out! So I said I would immediately send another. He told me to call him and bug him to make sure he got it. I called the next day. They weren't back in the office yet. They were still out on the road. It was sitting on his desk.

"Well, things happen. It's a week or two later. I'm calling and now I'm suddenly a pain in the ass. It just fell apart. It was pretty devastating."

Doug added another story. "The lead guitar player and songwriter for Smash Mouth said he was gonna fly us out to his place in L.A. and record our new album. He wanted to produce it with us. We could stay with him. He never called me back. During our gig, he asked us if he could help us carry our equipment out to the van."

It was at this point in the conversation with Kimmet and Doug that Mr. 400 Bucks skulked in, as if telling those stories had some kind of magical power that summoned him from The Land of We've Heard This Crap Before. But the gig that night turned out to be a pretty profitable for Kimmet and Doug anyway. Kimmet later reported that a guy who loved their music gave her 300 dollars and put another 200 in their tip jar.

If you become successful in the music business, everyone wants a part of you. They'll give you money, book you for parties (that might never happen), offer to make your wildest dreams come true (and have you leaving messages in their voice mail boxes weeks later). There's always a catch, though: a small piece of you belongs to them. Some will treasure it, use it to form a connection to you and share it. Others might use that connection like a marionette string. When they pull, you move. So perhaps for Kimmet and Doug, there's a reason a lot of promises have fallen through, that some of those connections are severed before they're even fully made.

Doug best summarized it for himself:

"Maybe it's the Lord's way of keeping me from getting too rich and becoming a prick. I've had just enough success to be happy and be a good guy."

Make a good connection with them and visit www.kimmetanddougmusic.com.