Glo, my GPS unit in the Civic, guided me to the place effortlessly and I was plenty early - which was good, because I needed some dinner before I played. I ordered up an egg, cheese and English Muffin sandwich and in doing so was immediately greeted and welcomed by Erika who was working the counter. I told her I was a musician from New York City on tour for the summer, and Erika kindly set about teaching me all about her adopted home (she's originally from a small town a few hours from Seattle). I also met her coworker Julia, turns out it was their second day working at the place for both of them.
After finishing my sandwich and my first lesson on all things Seattle with Erika, it was time to tune up and play. Except that somehow my guitar had completely fallen apart! The socket I stick the instrument cable into to connect it to an amplifier on my Ovation acoustic had come apart and fallen inside the body of the guitar. So I had to run to the Civic, grab some tools, open up the guitar and fix the darn thing. Then I knocked one of my tuners on to the floor by accident and apparently killed it, so I had to run back to the Civic AGAIN to grab another tuner. Sheesh! Finally my Ovation was all fixed up and the strings were tuned. It was time to play.
I could not have asked for a nicer, more attentive audience, nor a more full-service emcee! With each song as I looked out, everyone in the crowd had their eyes fixed right on me. Perhaps I'm stating the obvious, but it is such a blessing to be a musician currently unknown to a particular town and have people there show up to actually listen to your music. I was so grateful. I really got into my songs, and had a great time performing. After I played "When I Fall," the chorus of which goes: "If the meaning of life is nothing at all/What will catch me when I fall?" someone in the audience shouted: "We will!" I asked in response, a bit confused: "You will...what?" "Catch you when you fall!" came the speedy and confident reply. WOW. Now THAT's a supportive audience, my friends!
At what I thought would be the end of my playing, I started "Beautiful Wanderer," and Linda Lee, the host of the evening, jumped up to the drum kit and began playing along with me, which gave the song an extra boost and really kicked it into overdrive. (By the way, Linda Lee introduced me as "a pretty cute guy from New York City," which endeared her to me instantly and forever.)
The other musicians playing before and after me were all extremely talented and wonderful to watch. The mother-daughter duo of Alecia and Simone particularly caught my attention. They each played separately but also did one number together. Their songs were all heart-achingly beautiful, with precious melodies, fantastic rhythms and sharp, original lyrics.
The rest of the night I continued to watch the other musicians, as well as hang out with Erika and Julia, and several of Julia's friends that had also shown up to hang out. Everyone was so friendly and kind to me - I felt like I was among friends I had known for years instead of strangers I had just barely met.
The final surprise of the evening came when Linda Lee asked me to take the stage again, this time with a full back-up band already on stage. Years ago I would have cringed in fear at such a spontaneous suggestion, but I'm getting to like such happy surprises more and more. I had at my disposal Michael on lead guitar, Max on drums, and Linda Lee first on keyboard and then on bass. I ripped through 4 songs, repeating only "Beautiful Wanderer" from my first set because I knew it would kickass with this band. The other 3 musicians were super-talented and clever enough to not just follow me, but add all sorts of cool things to each tune, making each one into a new and amazing thing I had never heard before! I only wished someone had been video- and/or audio-recording what was happening! I think the folks familiar with the tunes before hand would have particularly enjoyed these new versions created on the spot with 3 people I met only minutes before.
When my second set was over, it was time for me to drag my tired bag of bones back to my hotel for some shut-eye. I was careful to thank Erika, Julia, Linda Lee, Michael and Max before I left, and I do so again here. These wonderful people helped me have yet another amazing night of music on this incredible trip.
The set lists for the evening:
1st Set (Solo)
1. Home of Love
3. When I Fall
4. Beautiful Wanderer
2nd Set (with Michael on Lead Guitar, Max on Drums and Linda Lee on Keys/Bass)
5. Make the Escape
6. Toxic Tornado
7. Beautiful Wanderer (Reprise with Band)
8. The Door