In February an American Express email delivered unexpected and utterly delightful news: Madonna Louise Ciccone, known globally by her first name, MADONNA, was coming to Seattle in October…OMG…I’d never seen Madonna and was hell-bent on making sure I was “in the House” for her October 3 show. Within seconds I dispatched my intrepid executive assistant, Celeste, to purchase tickets. Despite an almost 30 year age difference, Celeste too is a huge Madonna fan and also bought tickets. We’re set. Celeste took care of everything and I even had an email confirmation to prove it.
Between February and October however several things intervened to set the stage for what happened at KeyArena minutes before Madonna took the stage. First, I retired and no longer had Celeste to help navigate life’s logistics puzzles. Second, in the hubbub between retiring, vacationing and volunteering, I somehow lost the Ticketmaster email detailing and confirming the precious prize. Third, I forgot how many tickets I’d actually ordered. So when I contacted Ticketmaster to replace my tickets and they sent an email containing FOUR, my response was “sweet, I must have ordered FOUR!” There’s this great young couple, Erik and Amy for whom my partner and I had yet to get a wedding gift. They LOVE Madonna…so we’re off to the races and it’ll be a great evening.
At first all was well. We scan into the arena and on the way to our seats I spot Celeste and another woman who used to work for me. We hug and everyone’s so excited. The Arena is electric and a massive sea of diversity. Young folks dressed in Madonna garb sashay along the corridor ring just outside where the show will take place. Amy and Erik decide to find our seats as we continue entertaining ourselves with people watching. After about 10 minutes of this we spot Amy and Erik coming our way and their looks foretell bad news. “What’s wrong?” Amy speaks first, “your assistant and friends have the SAME SEATS we have…” WHAT? How could that be!!! Where’s Celeste? My heart begins beating double-time as my face turns flush and …in a fog really because now Celeste has joined and is saying something about first using my credit card for her tickets and mine and then paying with hers for hers…. the words rush by as if she’s speaking a foreign language. WE HAVE NO TICKETS!
Next? Celeste springs to action, “I will see this through,” she says and the rest of us follow. First we go to the Information Booth and they send us to a ticket window. The lady at the ticket window prints out my actual tickets…BUT there are only TWO of them and the clock it ticking! So we give these tickets to Amy and Erik and are told tickets are still available -- we assume in the nosebleed section – though we’ll need to scan out, buy the tickets outside the Arena, and then scan in with the new ones. So we find the scanner lady at the entranceway, explain our situation and then something miraculous happens: the scanner lady tells us someone just gave her TWO FREE TICKETS…we examine them…they are in the exact same row as Celeste’s…just one section over…and she GIVES them to us! We’re saved!! Everyone has great seats and we’re just in time for a once in a lifetime show. Earlier that day my partner gave a downtown homeless person twenty bucks. Yes, karma is a beautiful thing!
Dear friend since 8th grade asked if I'd perform an original song @ his wedding...and so I will on 8/30... It's called "The Curving Line" and begins with "Night breaks from its mooring to reveal your smiling face/ as I get down on my knees to pray for God's abiding grace/ in bringing you into my life and nesting a great love./ A tear crosses my grateful eye, a kiss from God above." Congrats to Garth & Keiko!
From Sunday until yesterday I attended the Crown of Continent Guitar Workshop and Festival in Big Fork, MT, on the northeast end of phenomenally beautiful and clean Flathead Lake. Though I started in an acoustic guitar class taught by Portland-based guitar virtuoso Doug Smith, I switched to the songwriting class offered upon learning Patty Larkin would be a guest teacher. It was the right move. Patty was amazing; Nashville hit songwriter (and Montana native) Tim Ryan was our main teacher, and I really loved the collaborative songwriting process we used for much of the week.
One could not script a more perfect setting. Flathead Lodge, the workshop's headquarters, sits right on the water and guitar gods like Lee Ritenour and slide guitar maestro Sonny Landreth interacted casually and openly with students from around the globe. Several youngsters, some as young as 15, attended on scholarship and there were many of us "young at heart" folks there too. Each day was filled with lessons, Master Classes, practice time, lots of good food, networking and killer shows -- e.g. with Patty Larkin, classical guitarist Dennis Koster, Lee Ritenour, etc. -- each evening.
I also took advantage of this rare natural setting whenever possible. Tuesday presented an opportunity to bicycle to Echo Lake and back...about 18 miles roundtrip, Wednesday I walked to and through nearby Wayfarer's Park and Thursday morning I ran to "downtown" Big Fork and along beautiful and ever winding Swan River.
The highlight for me though came on Wednesday afternoon as I strummed my Gibson J-45 guitar in an Adirondack chair on the porch right outside my log cabin cottage. A couple walked up with a guy carrying their bags. As they entered the cabin next door, the guy says to me, "you've got new neighbors, The Hillmans!" His words start to register, you mean Chris Hillman of The Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers and Manassas...that Hillman? Yeah, THAT Hillman!!
As I go through a mental gymnastics exercise, Chris came out, walked over and said "hello." I introduced myself and hoped the words coming from my mouth didn't sound too weird as I gushed about how much I love the music and bands he's been in.
Chris admired my Gibson and offered to jam with his mandolin. Though we never got to do that -- I had to return to Seattle yesterday -- I'll never forget this brief encounter with folk-rock greatness!
For those living outside Seattle or who can't attend our 30 min. Songwriter's Showcase set this Sat. 8/18, 8:30-9PM PST @ Redmond's (WA,USA) SoulFood Books, watch it streamed live @ www.soultribetv.com or later on the SoulTribe TV YouTube Channel dedicated to Songwriters in Seattle (SiS): http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8E65A72ACA1C79EE
A Buddha State of Mind, published 8/10/12 in Huffington Post
Last night I had the pleasure, yes pleasure, of going to a Robert Earl Keen show @ Joe's Sports Bar in Chicago. Here's a guy who's been writing master storytelling songs, touring and living life by his own terms for over 30 years. It was inspiring. He was totally in the moment, the crowd LOVED him, many knew every word to every song he sang and I was only about 15 feet away from him and his wonderful band. I'd never heard of Keen until I moved to Austin 15 years ago. And though I suspect there are still a lot of folks who've never heard of Keen, to me, what I experienced last night is all I could ever hope for with my own music. Keen is the real deal...that's what I strive for!
It's redeye time, after 11pm, as I board the JetBlue flying from Seattle to Boston. Approaching my aisle seat I'm slightly miffed the middle seat is taken but looking upward, a guitar case and one that might hold a banjo peer back at me. So I smile and ask the passenger next to me if he's carrying a banjo. My mistake; both cases house guitars but the question leads to an interesting conversation about the risks of traveling with guitars while touring. I mention my SKB traveling case and J-45 Gibson and my seatmate is impressed.
He then introduces me to the young man seated to his right, who's only slightly awake, and tells me they're both musicians headed to Boston where the son will attend summer school at Berklee. I'm impressed by that and somehow we then start talking about gigging, touring and recording.
The middle seater asks about my style of music and after describing it as "jazzy, bluesy, folk-rock" I hand him my card with band URL and urge him to listen and decide for himself. When I ask him for his, he says, "I don't have one but I'm easy to find online. My name's David Raitt." I look at him closely and then say, "Raitt, as in Bonnie Raitt!!!???" to which he replies, "yeh, Bonnie's my sister and he's her nephew!" I exclaim "I LOVE her!!" which of course I do. David has played with Bonnie over the years and will soon tour with his own band in the Northwest. Moral of the story, I'm so glad I got out of my head, looked around and was open to having a conversation with the guy in the middle seat.
Happy July and Summer (that is if you're N of the equator!) It's only ~65 ℉ (~18 ℃) here in Seattle so cooler than many places in the USA -- ahh!
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The drive on North I-5 from Eugene to Portland was smooth and beautiful with high 70s temps, sun, low traffic but also friendly fellow travelers at the Salem area reststop. Check-in at the Heathman, my favorite Portland hotel with Andy Warhol originals donning every floor, was painfree and cordial. So I get to my room, unpack a few things and decide to check out the workout room a couple floors down. The elevator door opens and a man and woman are already inside and my eyes hook on the woman, she's familiar, very familiar as I go through a mental rolodex that within seconds serves and compels me to blurt out, "I love GLEE!!" to which the tall, elegant woman responds, "thanks so much!" -- yes, I've just shared a two floor ride with the incomparable Jane Lynch aka "Sue Sylvester" who I later find out is in Portland to give a talk and read from her new book...pretty cool.
Had the most amazing day @ NPR's offices today! I got to meet Michel Martin of "Tell Me More" and was there for a live interview. I also met Bob Boilen and Anya Grundmann of NPR Music and saw the Tiny Desks studio. Amazingly, I also performed impromptu "A Buddha State of Mind" for a tour group from Texas and New Mexico...the NPR team handed me a Gibson guitar and I was off to the races...LOL!! As a member of listener-supported KEXP family, someone who's performed at World Cafe Live! and LONG-TIME NPR listener and supporter, being at the mother-ship was a dream come true.