I was really pleased that I was invited to my local school/parish’s festival, a mere block away from my home. I have a decade long involvement with Holy Infancy School, and relished a nice, public celebration of this connection, especially on the new Greenway that connects our Southside community – a new, open green space, replacing an old railway that actually divided neighborhoods last century.
Since the larger parish of Holy Infancy (the school is a subset of this community) is a polyglot of mainly Hispanic and Portuguese heritage, it is an interesting community to be a genuine part of. The festival’s food and entertainment was ramped up because of the new availability of the Greenway. It was a superb night on our block.
My set at 7pm was relocated from this outside stage to the basement gym in the school. They booked a wonderful set of ethnic dance styles and it was a great idea.
I felt somewhat disappointed that I couldn’t celebrate my connection with the kids of Holy Infancy with the general public in my immediate neighborhood, a connection that I still look for with my music. (Who is this guy that walks down 4th St. daily with his guitar and mandolin?)
I set up my small PA earlier in the day, fighting off parking and unloading issues with festival folks who didn’t know me from Adam. I was able to walk from home to the gig with my gig bag, but I couldn’t find people to let me into the lower gym. I was not on anyone’s radar. At least one padre went looking for answers. I wasn’t sure if anyone would know I would be playing there.
I started in an empty, cavernous gym, disturbing the cosmos as I often do. And, in the process, kids started to filter down the steps into this echodrome, each a welcome sight. I now had the resources to knead my clay.
As the kids gathered, with a few adults viewing from above, I did my best to engage, connect with and play with these kids: some schools kids that knew me, four kids on a ‘first date’ (that was interesting…) and other kids and young parents. It was a small group but really satisfying anyway.
The brightest light was a young, curly topped kid that flipped out physically and vocally when I was engaging the Knock Knock song. When I did my intermittent stops in the freeze dance, he started to jump up and down while responding in a loud, celebratory giggle that was infectious to all around us, and, especially, to his mom behind him. He became the star for us all. It’s this transference of “the lead” that I try to be the centerpiece of what I do as an artist. It’s also when I am at my best as a community artist.
This moment marked for me my place here in my immediate neighborhood. It’s not by large public displays but by these very intimate moments that define my career. So it goes.
This is why I love to reflect on my gigs here on this space. I learn to expand beyond my narrow and immediate reactions to the larger philosophies that guide my ride through this life as a folk musician and human being.