Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wake-Up Call

Category:  Personal

To call me a "music junkie" is to minimize how I feel about music.  You should’ve known me in my wild and crazy 20’s and 30’s.  I worked primarily to support my music habit.  There were months where I spent more on Bear Family box sets than my mortgage.  And concerts?  I went more places than Hank Snow to see shows.  "Vacation days" were planned around concerts, and my weekends (I worked a goofy shift, so my "weekends" were usually Tuesday and Wednesday) were spent going to shows.  I would probably have my mortgage paid off three times over if it weren't for music -- not that I'm complaining.  A house without music is not a home; and nobody should consider "living to pay the mortgage" a "life."

It wasn’t a mid-life crisis that put the brakes on my concert-going (after all, 40 is the new 30, or so they say); rather, my mom’s illness.  Once emphysema tied my mom to an oxygen machine and a bottomless bottle of prednisone I didn't dare venture too far from home.  The last thing I wanted was to get a dreaded phone call while I was 1,100 miles away in Texas seeing a concert (and yes, I've driven 1,100 miles to Texas to see concerts).  So, I stayed home and basically stopped going to shows.  Not completely, but I fell asleep, so to speak, with the same old concerts every year (again, not that I'm complaining, because if I didn't like the acts I wouldn't see them repeatedly).  I would occasionally venture down to Nashville (a safe 2½ -hour drive), but with my mom sick my fire for music -- more specifically, live music -- was generally doused.  

After her death in 2007 I forgot to resume the concert spree, still seeing those two or three trusted regulars every year.  Even people that I wanted to see couldn't coax me out of my house.  Chalk that up to mourning, middle age, or anything you want.  I just know that music was passing me by, and I was content to let it.

That all changed one year ago.  A long time ago a friend of mine told me that if I had to crawl through a swarm of angry fire ants while covered in honey to see the legendary folk-rock singer/songwriter/guitarist Richard Thompson, especially solo acoustic, I should do it.  Thompson played in Bloomington, Indiana on September 18 and I went.  Two nights later, Deke Dickerson, a man I had been trying to see for nearly two years, came to Louisville and I finally got to see him.

Chris "Sugarballs" Sprague defying gravity during the Deke
Dickerson & the Ecco-Fonics show on September 20, 2012
c.2013 K.F. Raizor

Talk about a wake-up call.  I was out until 2 AM having my head knocked off my shoulders by Deke and his first-rate group the Ecco-Fonics...just 48 hours after Richard Thompson put my chin on the floor with his astonishing solo concert.  To say the very least, the alarm clock rang loudly (sounding remarkably like Dickerson's guitar).  Unlike the alarm that wakes me for work, however, I did not hit the snooze button then roll over and go back to sleep.  After seeing those two shows in such close proximity to each other the joys of youth came flooding back.  I felt half my age, and it felt great.

In the five years prior to my awakening I saw a total of fourteen concerts.  Most were either in Louisville or Nashville.  In the past twelve months, however, I have walked through the doors of concert venues twenty one times (in chronological order:  Richard Thompson; Deke Dickerson & the Ecco-Fonics; Wanda Jackson; Iris DeMent; Dailey & Vincent; Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver; Robbie Fulks & Don Stiernberg; Don Stiernberg & Trio Brasileiro; Robbie Fulks & Nora O'Connor; Dale Watson; Alan Munde, Greg Cahill & Don Stiernberg; Dale Watson; Marshall Crenshaw & the Bottle Rockets; the Old 97's & Robbie Fulks; Justin Trevino; Dale Watson & Amber Digby; Kathy Copas & the John Simon Band; Reverend Horton Heat, Deke Dickerson & Wayne Hancock; Dale Watson; Robbie Fulks; and Donna the Buffalo) in five states (Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio).  PLUS...I have three more Dale Watson shows (I could literally see that man every night), Wayne Hancock (this time as a headlining act), Webb Wilder, two more Deke Dickerson shows, and two more Robbie Fulks gigs (I figure it's high time I see him outside of Illinois) scheduled in the next five weeks. 

I offer my thanks to Richard and especially Deke for the wake-up call.  Thank you, too (though that feels terribly insufficient), to the men and women who make the music that is worth going to see -- and (as I told Bottle Rockets drummer Mark Ortmann) worth traveling to see.  It's good to be back home in music clubs.

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