Monday, July 22, 2013

Day 71 - Having a House Concert

I have never hosted a house concert. As someone lucky enough to have several friends that are incredibly talented professional musicians, having a concert at my house has been something I’ve wanted to do for some time. The very thought of having some of my favorite people and artists performing before a crowd in my backyard just has just always had a certain draw to me. Despite those aspirations, I never pursued the idea as a result of the planning, organizing, and uncertain turnout that would likely accompany such an idea. Basically, the desire for a backyard concert was there, but the motivation was not.

That perspective remained until I recently floated the idea to my friend Jimmie during a recent conversation about my “I have never...” journey. Excited by the idea, Jimmie readily offered to have his band, Daniel and the Lion, perform at my house during a leg of their summer tour. Realizing I couldn’t forego such an opportunity, I happily accepted the offer and set to work planning for my first backyard concert. To my surprise, interest in the event picked up relatively quickly after I started notifying people of the event, which bolstered my effort to try to make it a night to remember. Everything seemed to be pointing to another dream of mine becoming reality as a result of my “I have never…” idea. I just needed the weather to cooperate to make the event a success.

Moving forward to the night of the event, I found myself driving home from work to the sight of gathering clouds and the pending threat of scattered storms. Despite the weather, Daniel and Jimmie arrived to my house around 6:00 pm in high spirits, ready to set up for the event. Waiting for some signal from the weather, we sat in the backyard and caught up for a while. We talked about their tour, their forthcoming music, and my “I have never…” journey for some time with no clear indication from the weather. We remained in a tentative yet optimistic state until about one hour from the show’s scheduled start time. Knowing it was time to make a decision, Daniel and I started planning for the PA setup and laid out a cable spread for the audio system. Then the rain came.

As if on cue the clouds opened, sending heavy rain down onto space around us. Although it wasn’t necessarily unexpected, the strength of the storm caught us by surprise. In response, Daniel, Jimmie, Rachael, and I moved into a flurry of activity gathering equipment and party supplies to move indoors. We rushed past one another with armloads of cables, boxes, coolers, and other items until the backyard was left only with the remnants of a party that never occurred. With the stacks of goods now indoors, the first set of concert goers arrived. Uncertain as to whether the concert would occur, I ushered them into the house and asked them to gather around the dining room table. Daniel, Jimmie, Rachael and I followed suit, and immediately pulled up multiple weather radars to gauge to likelihood of an outdoor event. With three screens before us we looked back and forth at the same moving images of greens, yellows, and reds closing in on Madison. We were 30 minutes away from the start of the concert, and things didn’t look good.

The preshow hangout

Nervousness washed over me as I stared at the weather radar loop in front me. I watched over and over again, hoping the image would miraculously change and save my first backyard concert. Minutes passed as I refreshed the image and watched, silent among the jovial group around me. Acknowledging my disturbed state, Jimmie ultimately pulled me away from the computer images and wrapped his arm over my shoulder. “Don’t worry, man. If we have to, we move it inside. You’ve never had a house concert before, right?” I immediately recognized the truth in his words, which put me at ease and rekindled some hope in me. “You’re right. I haven’t, but I don’t want the crowd to scare off” I said with a sense of unease. “What’s a show without people?” I continued looking out the windows at the rain. Jimmie was quick to offer me a few words of assurance and give me a pat on the back. He reminded me this certainly wasn’t his first experience planning a show around the weather, and that he would ensure we had a night to remember. I nodded my head in response to his words, but still had a heavy heart at the thought of the concert being a bust. Regardless, I knew I had to put my trust in Jimmie and Daniel. I knew if anyone could make the concert a success it was them. I just had to play my part, and that meant getting people to brave the weather and come to the show.

Over the next 30 minutes I fielded text messages and posted show updates online to encourage anyone and everyone I could to make it to the concert. In my efforts I barely noticed Jimmie and Daniel had already begun the process of rearranging my living room to prepare for an indoor show. In turn, I hopped to my feet and quickly helped them move furniture and setup equipment as email and text message responses started flooding my phone. Pausing briefly, I reviewed all of the messages and was surprised to find mostly positive responses and renewed commitments to attend the show. Although my backyard concert had turned into a house concert, it appeared there would be more than enough people to make the show a success.

With setup continuing, groups of people started to file into our house over the next 15 minutes. My spirits lifted, I happily greeted familiar faces and made introductions with those that were unfamiliar. Rachael helped guide people through the house, pointing out the food and drinks and pointing out open seating for the show. With the pieces coming together, it appeared my first attempt at a house concert just might be a success. The only thing left to do was to get people to their seats and let Jimmie and Daniel take the floor. In response, I called the attention of the group and asked them to take their seats so Daniel and the Lion could play a show… in my living room.

In anticipation of the performance, the crowd was quick to stack into the living room and dining room of my house, each taking a position to permit the best view possible of a band they had been waiting to see. Once settled I introduced the band and fielded a few questions with Jimmie that explained our history as friends and artists. A few minutes later, I departed from Jimmie’s side to give him the chance to start the show. Jimmie was quick to take to the audience, giving them background on the band, their tour, and their catalogue. Once finished, he gave a brief introduction to the first song, which prompted Jimmie and Daniel to fill the air with the sounds of “Death Head” from their recent full length effort. The sounds of the acoustic guitar, Daniel’s piano, and Jimmie’s unamplified voice filled the air and consumed the attention of every person in the house. There was power and beauty in the sound, which made it apparent we were in for a very special treat.

The living room crowd
Over the next hour and a half Jimmie and Daniel played through many of their songs in the intimate setting of my living room. With more people showing up as the performance progressed, I felt content in the turnout in the face of the unplanned change in events. Eventually, some 30 people wrapped through my house, listening intently to the band as they played and interacting with Jimmie’s banter between songs. About midway through the set I took time to look over the crowd of people around me and gauge the success of the event. With each passing glance I only saw engaged, happy faces fixed on the talented duo that had made the evening possible. With Jimmie’s melodic voice in the background, I briefly struggled to contain my emotion in response to the sight before me. In that moment I only thought of how lucky I was to have such people in my life. In one sweep across my house I saw the love of my friends, the kinship of those closest to me, and the talents of two of the best people I know intertwined in an unforgettable moment. Turning back to Jimmie and Daniel I looked on as Jimmie belted out a note in the middle of “Black Diamond.” I knew I could never find the words to tell them how grateful I was for their friendship, for their music, and for helping me make the house concert possible; yet something told me they already knew.

The show
In time, Jimmie wrapped up the set with a rendition of a song he and I worked on years prior, “Flash Flood.” He explained my role in helping make the song what it is today, and surprised me with a quick bit of news on the song. Looking at me Jimmie stated, “You know, Adam Duritz recently helped me tighten up the lyrics, so that basically means you have co-written with the lead singer of the Counting Crows.” A smile shot across his face as the sentence trailed into the air. I smiled in return, flattered by the recognition and by Jimmie’s grace. Following the remarks, Jimmie and Daniel played through the song and concluded their set, which left in its wake a crowd of astounded and grateful concert goers.

For some time after the performance Daniel and Jimmie stayed and chatted with people as the crowd dwindled. Then with the final group of people making their exit, the three of us packed up the Daniel and the Lion van and said our goodbyes. Still struggling to absorb the night’s experience, I gave the duo a quick wave as they backed out my driveway. As they pulled away into the night I thought how special the evening had been, how unique it was to have such talented artists perform in my house. “You have some amazing friends, Caleb,” I said out loud as I walked back into my house. “This will be one to remember...”

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