Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I Am Your River: Part 2

(Continued from Part 1…)

From the west coast, the jam band Displace started making their way through the storm from Tampa. They were scheduled to go on at 4:00, but they didn’t make it. We’d decided to move the stage upstairs to the back house, where the equipment would be safer, and we’d still have enough room for a band and 60 or more spectators, depending on the weather. We had unplugged everything before the lightning started, and had secured the cover, thinking we were good. But, water got in, anyway. I found the microphones in a bag, sitting atop a rain-soaked rug. The speakers got a little spray, and every electrical cord and power strip we’d gathered and saved over the past two years got wet. Guests pitched in and brought everything inside. I blew on the microphones with the cool setting of a hair dryer for 30 minutes. We all prayed for sunshine.

We were expecting over 100 people Saturday night, and had anticipated collecting $2,000 or more. Instead, the rain changed everything; we started an hour and a half late, lost more than half our crowd, and spent almost zero time outside, enjoying the yard, playground, and stage we’d worked so hard to make just right. Everyone was discouraged, including Josh, whose band mates had deserted him. And then, after we fed five starving boys from Tampa and scrounged two dry power strips, the first band played.

Displace (and guest)

I met Displace and their manager in my yard in the middle of the night when the neighbors brought them home following a gig at Guanabanas. (Driving out here with strangers, to the dark back end of our neighborhood, they were surely terrified.) It was a no brainer to invite them. It was a thrill to watch them play for almost two hours in what was essentially our living room. (Loved their “GAS MONEY” jar.) Josh grabbed a stool and a guitar after the boys loaded up and headed west, and he entertained the small, intimate crowd of 30-40 for another hour or so. Again, the atmosphere was electric – magical – and we all sensed we were participating in something very rare and special.

Josh Hayden of Operative Me

Also victims of the weather, along with a grueling “Driving 95 South” tour, John Eddie and the guys arrived exhausted and three hours late. Not spying Kenny in the group, I inquired and learned about his family’s recent loss. My heart sunk, both for him and for the band as they’d be boarding the Kid Rock cruise without him. (His replacement, bassist Ethan Pilzer, played with Big & Rich and Jewel.) While guests helped carry gear upstairs, I welcomed everyone and filled them in on the changes from previous years. It wasn’t what they’d signed up for, but I hoped it would suffice, like it had for the previous bands. When the equipment was inspected, and it was determined the setup wasn’t adequate, we feared JE wouldn’t play at all.

But, he did. And it was the definition of rare and special. Among the twenty or more Kid Rock cruisers in attendance to witness the acoustic set he and P.K. performed were a half dozen or so dedicated souls who’d followed JE and the guys all the way from Jersey. Everyone sang along, and Laura knew every word to every song. She even brought a huge “who the hell is john eddie?” banner for us to hang before the show and a huger tray of hamburger cookies, with a side of chocolate and butterscotch guitars (can you say, mmmm?!). The next day, she sent me this note:

Thank you so much for having us at your party and into your home. I know the weather did not cooperate, but we had an awesome time. It was such a blessing to hear John’s real singing voice without electronics. It was truly a unique experience. Thank you again.

John Eddie and P.K. Lavengood

"John Eddie Unplugged"

Josh and Displace, like the prior bands, walked away happy with tips they never expected. Having agreed to play for donations like everyone else, JE didn’t roll on to Boca to “entertain the poor people” with much more than gas money, either. But, I was impressed he stepped up, anyway, and gave us a glimpse of himself that few are privileged to see. He also walked away with the satisfaction of knowing he’d made it possible for us to promote interaction between local musicians, help build their fan bases, expose diverse musical genres to a new audience, and support Florida musicians who, more often than not, still sleep in the van. I can’t thank him enough and am very proud to have been a part of it.

All that said, the highlight of my roller coaster weekend happened shortly after the music started on Saturday afternoon. Peanut’s daddy brought her over for a couple hours, so she could see music played for real. Her first musical love was Old MacDonald. By the time she reached the ripe age of six months, she was into James Brown and Donna Summer. Three months ago, she was mesmerized by Dorothy’s rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Lately, she loves First Kiss, but her new favorite is I Am a River by the Foo Fighters; she sings it all the time and often passes out instruments, so everyone can be in the band.

The band from Tampa had just started their set inside, in front of the bay window. Peanut was perched on her daddy’s shoulders as he hustled through the drizzle, ascended the stairs, crossed the deck, and entered the room. Her little blue eyes were transfixed. For several seconds, she didn’t move, only stared at the boys playing all those instruments in her house. Then her arms started to wiggle and her toes started to tap. When she looked down at me, still with a bewildered look on her face, I held out her blue and pink light sticks (gifts from a friend who attended Wanee with us last year). She took one in each hand and started waving them around. Her eyes twinkled, and she gave me a big grin and a tickled laugh. Then she wriggled to get down. And that was the end of that.

She spent almost the entire two-hour set dancing, singing, and playing with the band. And by that, I mean directly in front of the band (scroll up to the Displace photo). If we had allowed her past the extension cords, I’m sure she’d have crawled on top of Tucker’s base drum. She gazed, she studied, and she hysterically mimicked their “in the zone” faces (she seemed to really like Sam). I uncovered her ukulele, lighted tambourine, maracas, and princess keyboard, so she and the other two, only slightly older girls could join in. When she wasn’t front and center, she was dancing outside on the deck, or handing instruments to random people. It was priceless. We literally watched the river flow from the boys to the little girls.

I’ve always known it, subconsciously, but Dave Grohl helped me find the words: We are all connected by an invisible, underground river of music – every kind of music. My grandfather played jazz saxophone; Dad sang silly country songs whenever the mood struck, and Mom sang along with Dionne Warwick in the car; I played classical piano, sax, and percussion, with a little vocals thrown in (and I still sing in the car); my siblings played drums, trumpet, and trombone; my son plays guitar. Everyone in my family and circle of friends loves music. We turn each other on to new artists and sounds all the time, and I have met some of the finest people through those connections. And one person continuously leads me to the next. Whether we play, produce, promote, or just listen, sing, and share, music binds us and carries along its current, on to the next connection. At one and a half, our peanut has already firmly grasped hold of the raft. That makes me the happiest grandma on earth.

When the party was over and the final guests had departed, Scott cleaned out the last of our belongings from the motorhome, climbed into the cockpit, and set a course for Lorida. I followed some thirty minutes later, tired, sore, hoarse, and almost wishing I hadn’t had so much fun over the previous two weeks. On the hour and a half drive, I had time to watch the sun set and reflect. To be honest, I haven’t been this proud of myself in a while; I not only (FINALLY!) found a way to pay Josh Hayden a performance fee – he won’t take our money – we supported live, local music, made new friends, witnessed an amazing transition in our peanut, and overcame some of the most unexpected and bizarre hurdles the Campground’s ever encountered. And we did it with style.

Everything happens for a reason. I don’t know why it rained, but nothing would have been the same if it hadn’t. I don’t know why the same equipment we used last year didn’t work this year, but the evening wouldn’t have turned out like it did if it had. And, I don’t know how that beer got from the top of the table to the top of Canada’s luggage, tucked safely underneath, but…well, I guess there’s no silver lining to that one. Point is, I believe everything happened as it was supposed to; good, bad, or indifferent. And, I am a river. Just like Peanut. Just like you. And I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let a few rapids get in the way of flowing on to the next connection.

Listen. Play. Sing. Dance. Pass it on.

~ Dawn

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