It was a sterling day, cool breeze, wonderful clouds and a ‘great day in the morning’, as they used to say down south. John Christie and I set up outside on the outdoor stage and as showtime approached, the plaza filled with families, kids, parents, grandparents for this Fourth of July weekend event.
There was some sort of TV filming going on and the cameraman had asked me to do some “patriotic” tunes for the spot, so, after our Peanut Butter opener, we did Yankee Doodle, You’re a Grand Old Flag and Yankee Doodle Dandy, tunes I hadn’t thought about for a while. It was good to exercise them for me and the audience. I surprised myself. After that I rolled through my good stuff, kids’ tackling instruments, parents taking pix and videos of their kids in action. The TV guy had good instincts to focus on these wonderful, small interactions in very intimate family situations. I pick up on these things when I play.
Again, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate John’s addition to my set with his guitar work on my songs. Having raised three sons and a granddaughter on my music, John knows my material intimately, and that knowledge alone gives me the opportunity to concentrate on the audience in front of me and my set. Great trust and confidence. He also has great chops.
After the gig, John posted on FB that the sound man had said, “You’re the best rock guitarist I ever heard doing kids’ concerts!” And, come to think of it, he is. His instincts are spot on, his tone (….what a wah-wah!) and volume is exactly right for the situation. Again, he gives me the freedom to work the audience, extend the songs musically when the kids are dancing and the parents are listening and helps me create a much richer family performance for us all. Professional.
I often lose my place in these situations. Having the best seat in the house, I’m in a unique vantage point, in control (supposedly..) of this amazing vista of people, families, sound, weather, stage, band, etc, and I’m supposed to remember the words to songs?! This is very tough work. And, as usual, I had a couple of spots of lyrics/mind freeze, but having John’s leads ready at hand, a strong groove we’ve set up and the support of the crowd, no one knows but John and myself (hopefully…), the song tipped but regained equilibrium. I knew it would.
I have never, ever, done a perfect performance. I’ve come close, but it remains a creative leap I attempt every show that grounds me (interesting analogy). And it’s at the essence of what makes me an artist and a human being. ….Let’s see if I can fly this kite right now. I trust in the wind, my flight instruments, and my crew. Let’s see what I can do in this moment to create community and take fight together. It usually works – not perfectly – but it flies. Not bad for a beautiful July Saturday afternoon in my home town.