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Nice Work If You Can Get It

Jun 19 | Posted by: Rebecca Loebe |

I have a weird job. I get up on stage and tell people my most intimate secrets. For money. There’s also a lot of driving, emailing, travel coordination and gear maintenance among other chores. Every now and then I have trouble filling a night on tour and I’ll ask my community if anyone’s interested in hosting a house concert.

This weekend I’m in the northeast. I flew up here to open for Livingston Taylor at The Bull Run on Friday night and to open for Ellis Paul tonight at Caffe Lena. Both of these shows were great opportunities, but it quickly became clear that in order to make the trip work financially I would need to fill the date in between with a gig of my own. Plus, no touring musician wants to sit in a hotel room eating cheese doodles on a Saturday night (ok fine, maybe we want to do that a little bit but we know we shouldn’t).

I asked my longtime friend Carolyn McCreary if she would be interested in hosting me for a third time in her lovely backyard. She graciously punted — she said she’d be willing to if no one else wanted to, but suggested we ask her friend Terry, who she thought would be quite good at it. 

Terry was all over it. Within 16 seconds of setting up the booking she had organized a legion of volunteers to bring the event together. She asked very detailed questions and immediately began making plans. I noted the show in my calendar and made travel arrangements for the weekend, relieved that it would now make some sense for me financially.

Earlier this week my phone rang. Brittany with my management team had been advancing the weekend’s shows - exchanging emails with the host to make sure that we had all the details correct - and wanted to let me know how things were going. Specifically, she wanted to update me on the house concert. Terry had found a local band to open the show and play during intermission! They were bringing a sound system! There were 86 RSVPs so far and it was only Tuesday! The advance email also included what is undoubtedly my favorite sentence ever included in an advance email:

“We have a large hightop tent and 100 chairs, a sound system, the event is catered, we will have a bartender, we have built a stage, Christine will be parking cars, Amanda is collecting money for Becca, Senator Jamie Eldridge is giving a 5-10 minute speech on ‘Inclusion,’ given the rhetoric and horrific events that have recently happened. Nusrat (my partner) and I have had 10 portable flower beds made to auction off to raise more money for Becca. 

Our audience is made up of all religions, races and cultures, LBGT and straight. It is a perfect time to love, be loved and share the message of inclusion.”

I told Brittany that anytime I’m ever sad in the future, I want to call her and have her read me that email.

I pulled up to Terry and Nusrat’s beautiful home yesterday and it was a hive of activity. The driveway was taped off to indicate where people could and couldn’t park. Volunteers were busy setting up the merch table with the shirts I had shipped to the house. The band was setting up onstage, the chairs were lined up in rows under the tent. There was a long table with covered catering dishes and a bar tender in a little bow tie setting out glasses and white wine to chill. I wondered if I had tripped, hit my head and somehow forgotten that today was my wedding day. 

The evening was an absolute dream. State Senator Jamie Eldridge did indeed get up on stage and address the crowd before I played, speaking to recent horrific events and talking about how the people of Massachusetts can work to come together and create a better world for one another. I took the stage, unsure of how to tie my sad folk songs into the themes of love, peace and inclusion that we were working with. 

I talked more than usual throughout the show - I know, hard to believe, right? I told a lot of stories about people I have met while traveling. The kid from Chicago, my time working at a recording studio, how my dad’s guitar came into my life. I found myself talking about my grandmothers, both so ambitious, savvy and brave in a time when such qualities were not exactly celebrated in women. I talked about a man I met on the New Jersey turnpike. He was visiting from Iran, had spent years saving up money to travel the United States for six months and had seen more it than I have - Big Sur, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Mt. Rushmore… He was just coming from Niagara Falls when I met him and was heading south to Florida to spend the last month of his trip on the white sandy beaches he had heard so much about. The last thing he said to me was “When you meet the people you see the country.”

One of the great joys of doing what I do is the folks I meet along the way. The more people I meet, the stronger my faith in humanity grows. There are so many outrageously kind, loving people out there. It seems to me that most people - 99.9% - want what’s best for one another, want to help when they can and do what is right. I know that there are bad folks around but from what I can tell they are in the vast minority. 

I catch myself, afraid that I have gone on too long. I make a joke and dive back into sad love songs. 

The show started early - around six - and began to wind down after the sun was setting and dusk was making it hard to see faces clearly. I unplugged my guitar, stepped into the tent and sang one more song unplugged. Forever Young, the Bob Dylan tune. I’ve been playing it a lot lately. From the first line, there were audience members singing along, quietly, in harmony. 

Up close I saw everyone’s faces and could tell that every person in that tent was someone that I would have loved to be able to share a meal with, meet over coffee, really get to know. That is often the case, but the nature of the beast is that this is all we get; a one sided conversation in which I talk and sing and they laugh and clap. We visit during the break, but it’s hard to go deep when I’m also signing CDs and collecting cash. 

It was so nice to hear their voices singing along. They got louder as the song went on and by the third verse we sounded like a fairly well rehearsed choir (turns out we had several members of the local UU choir in attendance). Halfway through the final chorus, I got a lump in my throat. Kitty. “Forever young, forever young, may you stay forever young.” I miss the way her eyes sparked like a devious nine year old boy. Could anyone embody that sentiment more? I wished she was there to hear so many women - and a few men - singing at the top of their voices, embracing each other and pushing love out in all directions.

I felt silly, getting choked up during my own show, but then decided it was Dylan’s fault for writing such a poignant tune. 

Terry and Nusrat were sitting towards the front. I thanked them once again, wishing that there was anything I could say to communicate to them how much this evening had meant to me. How bowled over I was by their outrageous hospitality and the creativity with which they had tackled the task of hosting a backyard house concert for a troubadour in need.

I thanked the audience, in the spirit of love, peace and inclusivity. I hugged everyone goodnight, visited with my incredible hosts, packed the car and drove to my home for the evening. It's nice work if you can get it.

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MANAGEMENTRalph Jaccodine. rjaccodine@gmail.com (617.393.9800)

US CLUB & FESTIVAL BOOKING: Mary Granata. mary@granataagency.com (973.208.7291)

RECORD LABEL: Blue Corn Musicdaria@bluecornmusic.com

PUBLICITY: Nick Loss-Eaton. nick.losseaton@gmail.com

EMAIL REBECCA: rebecca@rebeccaloebe.com