In my experience as Elmore’s festival coordinator I have seen, heard and met some of the greats in the music industry. Over the past two years or so, I have had the good fortune to meet Mavis Staples, Marcia Ball, Buddy Guy, Elvin Bishop, and the members of Little Feat and Hot Tuna, among others. Not bad for a former Special Education teacher from Long Island, NY.
As cool as this sounds, these are not the best of my experiences. Meeting and talking with celebrated artists is special and something I will always remember, yet it is the many lesser-known artists who have impressed me most. Big names usually are preceded by their reputations and in some cases these reputations can lead to disappointment. Not so with someone you may never have heard of. It is always a wonderful experience to listen to an individual or group for the first time and realize just how good they are. One perfect example was when I went to The Big Bull Falls Blues Festival in Wausau, Wisconsin. On the schedule was a band called Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Altar Boys. I was immediately interested, since we share the same name. I met with the Reverend and we came to the conclusion that we must be cousins from way back. I then went into the audience to listen as he went out and rocked the house, or in this case the tent. Not only did I get to listen to some fantastic music but it was an experience I will always remember.
As you have read in previous issues of Elmore, part of the live music experience is talking about it and comparing stories with other fans. Think about conversations that involved listening to a band for the first time. All musicians start out in obscurity, playing to an audience which had never heard of them. I was talking to a friend the other day who was regaling me with his concert stories, one of which was a show in a small Baltimore dive where he heard Jimi Hendrix. You may have a similar tale of a time you saw and heard a musician before their rise to fame, in just an ordinary venue.
I have been to festivals from Wausau to Syracuse, NY, and several places in between. On every occasion I have been introduced to an exciting new musical experience. So…go out and check out the new talent. Festivals are being put together all over the country, most aided by volunteers just crazy about the music. The ticket price on the more famous musicians’ shows is often out of sight. I hate to admit it but I paid $380 to see Cream. The cost to see and hear first-rate music at local festivals is affordable and there are generally more artists and styles of music. These venues are more fan-friendly and in most cases, the artist sticks around to sell and sign CDs. How great of a story would that be to tell? Not only do you get to see and hear these wonderful musicians, but you get to meet and talk to them too. So go out and support these festivals. Maybe I’ll see you there. E