This gig has always been a gas to play, for several reasons. It’s Symphony Hall, for one. and for two, as well, actually. It’s got a great sound system, a sophisticated audience and a collection of fellow Lehigh Valley musicians and friends in the house. I get to say hey to a lot of folks who are out playing the clubs, trying to make a living, as well as having the opportunity to play for them. (Unfortunately, quite a few of them don’t catch my brief set, which pisses me off.) But the backstage moments are quite priceless and personal. And there is food in the spacious green room upstairs. It’s a beautiful gig.

I emceed the early portion of the show; I enjoy getting my ‘work’ dues done early on. I had a few quips to offer, and the audience seemed to respond, though some of them aren’t quite sure. “A Vacation at Roadside America” mention worked, as did my “I wanna grow up to be a famous LV musician – but you can’t be both” to a murmur of recognition.  I was glad to shed the emcee job. I’d rather play.

Ironically, I was up directly after this job, and I was introduced by friends George Miller and Kate Scuffle. George picked up on the Roadside America riff, mentioning that I play there. Nice. Kris Kehr and I took the stage and launched into “Zat You, Santa?“. My Martin roared (my friend Phil on sound was another comfort zone). The audience picked up their part quickly (Zat You’s), I did a nice vocal trombone and passed it to the audience. After an interesting silence, the looser portion of the audience chipped in, and I had broken the plane (and the vast darkness in front of me) and connected. It’s a shame that they don’t video this show, so that I could experience what it’s like from the audience perspective. I only know what I hear from the stage. Kris was solid on bass, in spite of very little practice (next to none, though related to “Cerumen” and “Giants” from shared repertoires). It felt good, and in control. It worked well. Trust.

My good friend, Craig Thatcher was slated to follow me, so, before the show, I asked him to sit in with me and Kris for my second song, a nice rocking folk tune I learned from Bruce Cockburn, Mary Had a Baby, very gospel-esque, and a good, simple sing-along. I was able to trust in both my friends to launch into it, knowing that they would understand and respond to what I was laying down. I can lay it down. That I know how to do. Craig responded with some fine leads, I was able to physically move around to the music (a year removed from my hip replacement!!!), and the audience supported me with the choral responses. Upon reflection, I was able to create some good moments of live and genuine music on this Symphony Hall stage. That’s pretty cool.

I had two good friends with me tonight. Kris Kehr, from our Pavlov Dawgs days on bass, is solid, unfazed and supportive, giving me the opportunity to expand on my rhythm guitar chops, concentrate on the audience, the song, the arrangement and my vocals, and lead the band – create the piece. I don’t need a band with Kris. We chatted about this afterwards. We don’t need a drummer, actually, and our sonics cover quite a bit of ground. He is a friend.

Craig Thatcher is a brilliant player and a consummate performer on stage. He listens first, and second,…  and then plays. I am proud to have his respect on stage, knowing we can share our moments together and play off each other. You lead, I lead…. I got to play Symphony Hall with my friend, Craig. Very nice. Together with the audience, the three of us made some vibrant and authentic music tonight. Craig is a friend.

I skipped the finale, and, though I respect all my friends, I just can’t take this crowded stage, especially when it tips too much towards chaos. “We Are the World” isn’t my style. I slipped out a tad early. I guess  I treasure my solitude after a gig and enjoy parsing it on my way home… and here on this blog.

Miriam Huertas and Mike Krisukas put together an amazing run of concerts across Allentown over the years and they gave me the opportunity to play some amazing venues (Rodale Theater, 19th Street Theater and Allentown Symphony Hall) for some very sophisticated audiences in my home Lehigh Valley. I would not be the player I am today without theses opportunities. That’s pretty cool, too.


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