Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Unexpected Night at Kulak's.

Something unexpected happened last night at Kulak's.

I got there about 25 minutes early. Berington was doing sound. He was talking to two people who I think I've met before, but forgot to reintroduce myself. They were engaged in conversation. We all said hello and I went back to the fridge to get some water, said hello to Duane who was helping put out the coffee, and noticed that no one else was there. The scheduled artist for the evening had not arrived.

I went back to the control room to speak with Paul. Lorraine was there. She keeps the MySpace page and she was trying to explain to him the difference between Facebook and MySpace.

Were they in an accident?

And also why no audience? It was downright spooky.

So, I thought, well, I have this concert coming up next week and I need to rehease my songs. I find it tedious to rehearse material alone. I'll get on the piano and just start singing.

I pulled out the bench, sat down -- quite comfortably*, I might add -- and said to Berington, "I think we should test this mic." *I'll explain this in a later post.

I started singing, we did an adjustment, and he turned back to his friends as I sat there rehearsing one number after the other. Duane was on the couch. I got into "War By Default" and forgot the lyrics to the last verse, but I plowed ahead. And playing that song made me think of another song, which led to another song. Which, I realize is exactly how my concert next week in Olympia is going to go no matter how much I might try to plan it out.

What else did I sing? Right. Gabi's Song. Oh, and just as I started "Reluctant Soldier" two people, an older couple, arrived. They sat right down in the little front row theatre seats in front of camera three. (These seats are hard, but there are pillows in them.)

So, I thought, should I just finish the song as if I'm performing tonight? It's already past 8. They probably assume I'm the artist. (There is no cover charge or waitress or formal door host at Kulak's.)

Why not.

So, I go for it. I'm singing up a storm, wishing I had a little more echo on the vocal, but not wanting to spoil the moment by calling for a technical adjustment. By now there were three more people and Duane had fallen asleep on the bed.

Big finish. Excellent applause.

"Thank you. Thank you. Tonight, for some reason, the act hasn't shown up. I'm your volunteer host and operator of camera three."

I took a huge theatrical bow (to much laughter). Exit stage left.

I went back to the control room for a few minutes when we suddenly heard Berington singing. It was a Neil Young song. "Tell Me Why." Oh, god, I love that song. And Berington was singing the hell out of it. We three filed back into the room.

I'm sitting on the couch singing along, when Berington calls me up to the mic. Now arrived are a couple of guys over on the wall, an attractive woman with long, brunette hair on the couch, another guy who I think is a musician, and everyone is singing "Tell Me Why."

I'm in heaven.

I haven't played with anyone else in so long. I love being in a band.

We finish and they want more Neil Young. Berington looks at me. No problem. One of the first songs I ever learned.

"Lover, there will be another one
Who'll hover over you beneath the sun"

Birds. I love the song, Birds. And it's really easy to play. Simple chords.

Now, suddenly everyone wants Beatles.

Brunette lady loves the Beatles. Fortunately, Berington is in a Beatles cover band, The Beatunes (not a Beatles imitation band, but a band that plays Beatle songs because they love them) so I get on the piano and he and I play Beatle songs. We're forgetting lyrics and missing chords, but it doesn't matter. Everyone starts singing along.

I sing "Let It Be." He sings "Something." (Here is a link to James Brown singing it.) Then he does one of his originals, grabs a bass, and now we're starting to pop a little. Berrington is one of those players who has an instinctual ability to follow along with what you're doing. So, I said, "Okay, I have a Beatles-related story."

And I proceeded to tell them the story of the day Gabi Clayton called me on the phone and said, "George Michael wants to fly you up to Olympia to play John Lennon's IMAGINE Piano. Do you want to go?" Unfortunately, this story has a lot of detail.

Berrington sat down as I was talking.

(Note to self: Speak less.) But then, the two of us began playing "Gabi's Song," his bass gently finding its way to all the right notes. He followed all the changes from minor to major as if he'd been playing the song all his life. (I've already asked him if he would play with me at Kulak's on May 22 when I do my half hour set with Paul Zollo. He thinks he has rehearsal, but we'll see.)

Toward the end of the night, I started telling this room of Beatles fanatics about the actual physical experience of playing that piano. I talked about how sound is so much a part of music, and how the "sweet spot" of an instrument can bring a song out of me, and that to be playing "Imagine" on the piano that created it is to hear it from the source.

We all sang Imagine together, almost communally. I said, isn't it amazing how you can play the opening set of notes and everyone around you just goes, "Ahhhh." (Which led to me talking about New World Waking, which led to "My Thanksgiving Prayer.")

It was really a nice moment. We did other stuff, and then around 9:30, we hit "Get Back," with him on bass, both of us jamming out, passing solos back and forth. God, I haven't done that in years.

Meanwhile, in the booth, Lorraine was working the cameras because she's been training on the switcher.

Paul came out and said, "You know. This is what I wish I could do. I wish I could just sit down at an instrument and make music and sing songs."

And that's why he created Kulak's Woodshed in the first place. Because he loves music. It reminds me of a reputed quote by Emerson, when asked about why he writes, expecting a philosophical answer like "to save the world" or something.

But the answer was, "Because I like words."

I do, indeed, feel blessed that I can sit and play and sing music. I thank my mom every day for "making" me take lessons long after I had stopped wanting them. Because that simple act of love made last night possible. And next week in Olympia. And next month back in Florida.

Hey, I just realized it's nearly mother's day and I just thanked my mom. And why not? Thanks, mom.


Linda Romanelli Leahy said...

Hey Steve, what a great evening that turned out to be. I always think that those kind of happenings are "magic".

Good luck in Washington.

When will you be in Florida? If we rent, we'll be there too.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful experience, wonderful post! Thank you for sharing. *beam*

Mage said...

...and thanks Steve. :)

Steve Schalchlin said...

Linda, we open on June 6th and will run for two weeks.

murrday, I'm glad you enjoyed the post. It was fun reliving the night.

And thanks, Maggie!