oh i have been a lucky girl this last month... let me tell you why:
i got back from europe at the end of october with november stretching out ahead of me, blank and open. originally i was thinking i would mix my new record during this time, but thats been put off a bit (no worries, its all for very good reason). what would i do with all this time? i think the lesson is that when i let go, good things happen, and they happen with good reason.
it turned out that this was the best possible time for me to be off the road. i was home and not working when i got the last minute opportunity to open for shawn colvin here in northampton. perhaps i ought to have my singer-songwriter card revoked for this, but i had never seen her before and wasnt that familiar with any of her music besides her bigger hits. let me tell you, this lady was bad-ass. firstly, she didnt soundcheck, which always impresses me that someone is that confident or busy or anything to skip that part of the day. she strolled in at 8pm, right as i was going onstage. we said hello in the hallway, and i went out and did my set. then promptly at 9, she took the stage. plugged her guitar straight into her DI and proceeded to play and sing impeccably for the next hour or so. she had said she was under the weather, but i have experienced that enough to sift out the song and the delivery. i was blown away. simple. confident. bulletproof songs. amazing guitar playing. warm and real onstage. may i be so lucky to do this long enough to experience that ease. i want to say, "shawn colvin, who knew?" except that thousands of people totally know already. i'm just late to the party.
a party i am not late to is amy ray. like a lot of other ladies my age, indigo girls were the soundtrack to my life age 14-18. i remember sitting in my tiny blue pick-up truck, alone in the highschool parking lot after a senior night awards ceremony-thing, listening to "nomads indians and saints" in its entirety. and just crying. i dont know why exactly i was crying. maybe saying goodbye to being a kid. maybe i was embarassed by my highschool awards. maybe something i cant name, but there the indigo girls were, with me. a couple years ago i got the amazing opportunity to join amy, emily, ani difranco, actor james cromwell, activist winona laduke, and others for a lobby day on capital hill... i wrote a long blog about it thats still up on myspace. i look back on that day as the beginning of my political consciousness. up to then, maybe i was sympathetic or supportive, but that experience inspired me to get educated, to get articulate and be articulate about being a citizen.
the next night after shawn came to town, amy ray came to town with her FUCKING AMAZING BAND. i dont think i can cuss enough to tell you how tight and rocking they were. amy's solo songs are po-litical, for sure. but they are also highly theatrical. hedwig meets the entirety of the 90's, in a good way. amy is blunt, but always with an ear for the poetry of being honest. after the show, i was catching up with the band, and amy invited me to join them in new york later the next week to play guitar on a tune of hers called "laramie". what a song. go look it up on youtube to see her play it in asheville. it was the last song of the set at the bowery ballroom, and i hopped up, borrowed amy's guitar and joined in. as i was playing, i felt enveloped by the depth of the music around me. i think thats what i took away most from that night... if you put all you have into your songs, and everytime you play them you put all you have into the performance, and you're joined by musicians who give all they have to give, the sum is something else. community is the next spiritual movement. and we arent granted it, it isnt discovered, it is made. by us. we have the tools!
whew! i feel a little carried away when i think about how i felt that night... and yet, my month kept getting better. because i was home and not working, when i got a last minute opportunity to open for ani difranco, i was able to take it. that tour is like family to me, i have been in and around it for so many years, always having huge fun and experiencing big emotions. i did a pair of shows: wilkes-barre PA and boston MA. here is "every state line" from wilkes-barre and "overlap" from boston.
photo by my bud desdemona "bunty" burgin
my father's entire family lives in wilkes-barre, so my 87 year old grandfather got to see me play for the first time. he loved it and i loved that he loved it. our grandparents sometimes only know us through the portal of our parents. to them, all they know is that we are tiny versions of their children, but to side-step that generation and get to hang with my grandfather directly, to have him see me and what i do directly, what an experience. AND he's a big rachel maddow fan. enough said.
so really, how can i sum up the gifts i have been given this month? by one more experience. i spent thanksgiving with about a 100 people of all kinds at the guthrie center in great barrington MA. the center is in the church made famous by the arlo guthrie song "alice's restaurant". arlo bought the church years ago and used to live there. now, its a performing arts center that plays host to a thanksgiving dinner that couldnt be beat. anyone from the community is welcome, and they make a real effort to include members without families or experiencing hard times. it was a beautiful collection of people. this was better than any tedious version of thanksgiving i have ever experienced. no one was going through the motions here, probably because everyone in that room, for one reason or another, was truly aware of the gratitude part of thanksgiving, not the emphatic consumption the holiday usually brings. how powerful, a room a people who were truly grateful.
i am in a deeply searching place right now in my life, and what i am finding i am most hungry for right now is community. i feel most satisfied when i am working to create it. i feel the most love when i sit right in the middle of it. i truly believe that its where we will heal ourselves (and our country). and as i said, we dont have to wait for it to be given. the tools are time, love, and willingness. thats it! now go!
PS: see the movie "rachel getting married".