Friday, March 28, 2014

BYOB & Ten Bucks, or Liquor In the Back

Musicians live a hard, misunderstood existence, travelling the country – the world – checking in, setting up, tearing down, practicing, performing, meeting and greeting, collecting (counting) the money, paying “the man,” rushing to the next place to do it all again. They write and record and promote and eat and sleep when they can fit it in, as in when they can afford to lose the time or the money. Every day is another struggle in an endless, grueling cycle. Unless they have a day job; then it’s worse.

With the strum of a six-string, the gentle tap of a key, a musician has the ability to turn silence into something unique and spectacular. It’s a gift many possess, few share, and even fewer truly excel at. Ask any of them how easy it is to make a living out of playing music, and – if they don’t tell you to bugger off – they’ll say there’s nothing “easy” about it. Centuries ago, musicians were mocked, tortured, and cruelly executed. Today, they’re merely overlooked, underpaid, and taken for granted. As a broke novelist, I understand their pain. Why, then, do they keep doing what they do? Whatever their reasons, I will be eternally grateful for their sacrifice.

Music isn’t everything to everyone, but it means something to most of us. My husband, Scott, loved (still loves) Sammy Hagar and Van Halen, and bands from the 80’s, like INXS and Boston, are his go-to when he needs a lift. My tastes evolve and expand – from Phil Collins to AC/DC – but I will forever refer to country music as my “comfort food.” In our 25 years together, Scott and I have been to countless concerts, music festivals, bars, backyard parties, hotel lobbies, and holes-in-the-wall of all shapes and sizes. Consequently, we’ve developed a fondness for live music and the musicians from all genres who share themselves with us. Sure, you can buy a CD or download recordings to your MP3 and possess music, but where’s the magic in that?

From intimate, acoustic shows in coffee rooms to massive auditoriums, I’m continually in awe at how music simply “appears” from nothing. One minute, there’s a stage, a few microphones, a couple guitars, a piano, and a drum set, and then people walk on, strike up their instruments, and suddenly … music. Sometimes all it takes is a chair, a guitar, and a voice. Or just a harmonica. But it’s not only the music, itself, that makes the experience memorable: the setting, the people, the atmosphere, and the weather all contribute to the ultimate “feeling” of a live performance. And that’s what really gets you. Imagine Willie Nelson crooning “Georgia On My Mind” under a full moon amid the trees along the banks of the Suwannee River; Kid Rock singing, “I’m goin’ down to New Orleans,” on the deck of a boat as the sun sets beyond the banks of the Mississippi; some random guy at a party who brought his guitar to the fire pit and started to play. I might be broke, but those images, and the peace that comes with them, will ALWAYS be with me.

When Scott and I purchased our first “real” home five years ago, turning the place into a concert venue was nowhere on our list of priorities. Not even at the bottom. And, don’t misunderstand me: it’s still not our intention. Friends and family who were here at the Campground for Scott’s Birthday in 2013 were witness to a turning point, however, when the F.O.G. Band rocked the East Ball Room on a chilly, rainy night in January. I think there were about 40 of us. We’re no strangers around here to late night dance parties, but the change in energy was undeniable.

There’s nothing like watching a live performance…until the performance takes place in your back yard. Imagine being surrounded by your friends, watching young men you used to call "kids" kill an acoustic set as Operative Me and listening to John Eddie belt out, “I’ve got a real big deck,” only steps away from your actual, real, deck. It’s possible, and it feels amazing. If you have the means and the inclination, I heartily encourage you to consider live entertainment for your next gathering. It doesn’t have to set you back a lot. Ask the chick who plays the bar you go to every Saturday night. You could be the opportunity she’s been waiting for. If you can’t host an event, at least attend a few. And invite friends, throw a few bucks in the tip jar, and tell them how much you appreciate them. It ain't easy, selling yourself and praying you’ll survive to do it again another day. Support live music. Any way you can.

~ Dawn

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