I was booked at Godfrey’s on Saturday night under false pretenses as Dave Fry and Friends with special guest Dina Hall. Gail Lehman, Dina’s partner and Back Door Bakeshop baker (Godfrey’s supplier of goodie’s), arranged to have Dina’s 50th birthday party at the club, and I was the sacrificial Judas goat.
It worked marvelously, though not without twists and turns for all of us, and especially Gail. she arrived at 6:30 for her sound check and walked into a room full of family and friends.
Dina really signed on to the event, working up a FB page, practicing her set and much, much more. She bugged me to promote ‘friends’ part, so I leaned on Kevin Soffera and Don Mayer from RockRoots to lent me their names for the promotion. (…guys, don’t come…) The FB promo was pretty classy, I must say.
I was the perfect foil for this scam in that I have very little audience draw for my work here at Godfrey’s and it still stings. It’s hard to be a such a ‘local legend’ that everyone has seen, but doesn’t quite feel moved to support consistently. It remains hard to prove that I am still growing as a performer and that each gig has its surprises and artistic value. So it goes.
Turns out, those few that did call for reservations were told of the unique situation and they understood. I was heartened by one lady who bitched that her son from Temple had circled this date for he and the family to come to see me. Thank you, ma’am. Also my good friend Bill Schachter showed up at 8 for the show. My people!
But it was for the all good. I am glad to have Dina as a friend in so many ways. She’s a fellow player, songwriter, DIY folk programmer, and now President of the Godfrey’s Board and I really enjoy being a mentor for her. I don’t mind being a mentor at this point in my life, and I have claimed her as my sister. Watch out!
After she arrived, folks hit the booze and the food and it was up to me to center folks for the formal festivities starting about 7:30. It’s what I do so well. I started out by asking people to turn their chairs toward the stage. For some folks, it was their first time at GD’s so they simply didn’t know that the stage IS what matters. I actually had to work on one lady to move her chair twice, comparing her to the fact that I had to deal with elementary students on Monday morning at 9 am in Jersey.
I got folks together and went into my anthem for the evening. Gail had asked my to start off with a song, and for some reason, I picked Helen Reddy’s ‘I am Woman’. Funny how my first instincts are usually the best. Other than Dina’s family present, there were quite a few lesbian friends and supporters in the room and this seemed a good way to unite, amuse and entertain the group.
Here’s what I learned.
1. “I am Woman” It’s a great song musically. It’s the first song I’ve heard that modulates DOWN a key. I love modulations in songs, but they usually go UP a tone. And the way musical craftspeople do it is always fascinating in a scientific way. The key (no pun intended) to this powerful device is to transition through a common chord. That’s cool, but to sing through that is a real bear. Big lesson there!
2. It was the first time I had to step out of gender, and it made me think about how many tunes women have to rearrange (frequently, I suppose), in order to re-present common songs in a way that is still personally meaningful. Another new age moment for me.
3. But the cool thing above all these wonderful cerebral artistic challenges, I had to connect with Dina’s life and the spirit of the event. I wrote a nice verse for her:
“I’ve raised two sons to be, men who are proud of me.
I play guitar, sing and write some mighty songs.
For Gail, I chop and peel, for the Bake Shop is the real deal,
Then there’s Godfrey’s, DIY, need I say more?”
I am strong, I am invincible, I am Woman.
I am proud to be friends with so many fine women, and learn from them all, every day of my life.
I sat in on one of Dina’s tunes on mandolin with some of her fellow and former musical band mates. I could feel their ears open up to the sound and the vibe. It was palpable and gratifying. New ears and new respect.
I reflected on this with Dina (and Gail) the next morning and she (they) remarked how some of her (their) lesbian friends don’t have the expansive artistic opportunity that we take for granted here at Godfrey’s. They have a narrower circle of musicians/artists to gauge and assess their creative space.
Playing on this stage continues to affect the players in some deep and emotional ways. It is the touchstone of what makes Godfrey’s such a gem. Inspire the artist in each of us, and everything will fall in place from there. That’s the power of what happens in this venue all the time.
Anyway, the event was wonderful, filled with much cheer and love. Many great moments evaporated into the ether and connected us all for all time. Not too shabby for a bunch of folks on a Saturday night in February.