Navigating by a Humpback Moon
Robert Frost wrote:
“Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood,
and I– I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Tom Petty sung:
“Yeah runnin’ down a dream
That never would come to me
Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads
Runnin’ down a dream”
I am reporter of art and a writer of stories. I am also a booking agent and a struggling publicist. I am a promoter on a thread bare shoe string budget. Things never go as glorious as I dream. Often they go only as moderately well as I hope. Sometimes I cry in the bathroom or in my car, because it stabs my heart when people don’t come out to a show. Occasionally I scream at the sky and ask why do people beg and plead for an artist to play somewhere and then they don’t show up. The best time is when I forget about all that and I see and watch the magic on stage.
For it is magic. It’s always been that way for me. How can a metal or nylon string be plucked and it resonate a sound that is called a note that touches my jaded soul? How can the same air that I am breathing in the very same room that I occupy be pulled in and be sent back out as a note as part of word and that brings a tear to my tired eyes?
It has to be magic—like navigating the woods by a humpback moon. There’s light but there’s not quite enough to be sure of where you’re going. You trust your ears, you eyes, you nose, and YOUR GUT to show you the way. Once you’ve exited the woods and made the clearing you look back and shake your head. Someone always says, “Don’t know how you could tell where you were going. ” The journey one takes with the performer through their lyrics and melodies is often one of nearly blind faith. Where are they headed? Do you make the clearing? Do they weather the storm? Does the story end well or continue? Do you come away with a new prespective? Do you leave the show that much closer to understanding your own journey?
I know how music is created in all it’s various forms. I know all the work it takes to make it in the music industry, regardless of the level or the genre. I trust my senses. Yet I still stub my toe in the darkness and curse the stone.
Bruce Hornsby sung of ‘The Road Not Taken’:
” I see her in my mind and then
I go down the road not taken…again”
My father always said, “Pain builds character.” That ache in my heart from an empty room seems to strengthen my resolve to find my way.
I have a ritual before any show and it’s far worse when I attend.
I force myself not to pace by the door. I pick my smartphone up and sit it down countless times. I take deep breaths. I exhale slowly. I don’t allowing myself to drink myself numb. I don’t smoke as many cigarettes as I’d like to. I constantly dry my palms. I rub my temples. I find a corner away from everything and I talk my self out of jumping in front of a train.
At some point all that goes away and the magic happens…always.
Last night at the Hard Rock Cafe-Nashville ‘Shine’ by Fifth on the Floor delivered the magic. The song is about moonshine–as in corn liquor, the struggle with inner demons, and learning to laugh at yourself. The song was so on point that I actually howled.
And that line….”Moonshine, Moonshine shine on me.”
And it did. My path was lit and I knew my purpose. All this isn’t just about me running down my dream; it’s about helping other people reach theirs. It’s about connecting with another human being and sharing who and what you are so they know and feel they are not alone in their own struggle. Be that struggle a broken heart, addiction, or death. It’s about reliving joy and love and passion so your work provides hope.
Natalie Merchant delivers the line in “These Are the Days” with all that and it’s been a lyric I’ve clung to:
“these days you might feel a shaft of light
make its way across your face
and when you do
you’ll know how it was meant to be
see the signs and know their meaning”
Shortly after Fifth on the Floor put a smile on my face with ‘Shine’ they further illuminated the room with their version of Warren Hayes’ ‘Soul Shine’. My Jim Beam caught in my throat. I dropped my a head. I put down my smartphone. I said a prayer of thank you.
All I ever want is the magic. I want to share it. I want to prove to what seems like a world gone mad that it truly does exist.
There were four acts on that bill that night. Sara Jean Kelley reinforced by belief that Nashville does have a singer that doesn’t need an engineer to have true character vocally. Slithering Beast always is a life line for me because Nick Dittmeier is an outstanding songwriter who doesn’t have one qualm about saying it just like it is.
But….Fifth on the Floor gave me the magic. Shortly behind their performance came Kara Clark without her band–just her and David Walker. Having made the clearing, Kara’s words brought more light to guide my journey. I have heard her perform most of her work several times over, yet still occasionally she will deliver a line that is a lightening bolt. She can just knock you out of your chair and leave you dizzy.
I don’t understand why people don’t want to see the story in the eyes of the performer. Why don’t they want to share the laughter generated by a great front man? How do they not crave the electricity and energy generated in a crowd when an artist delivers and they are ‘right on’?
Everyone needs some magic in their life.
So I’ll continue to look up at the night sky and smile and be thankful of the light of the humpback moon.