flame lit for live music

WHEN THE FLAME IS LIT

In one of my first blogs called ‘When Sparks Fly’, I wrote about a moment that occurs when musicians capture the collective imaginations of an otherwise inattentive audience. When performers rise above the noise of daily club activity and become the focal point, they begin to be recognized for their artistry. But, when musical talent gains a following and performs in a setting of mostly exhilarant repeat fans, something else entirely occurs.

The other night I returned to ‘The Moonshine Café’ in Oakville, Ontario to see a group called ‘The Beat Heathens’ for the second time. The band’s leader, guitarist Wayne DeAdder, created a three part series of gigs involving a different featured artist for each performance. On this their third offering, their special guest was a guitar virtuoso named Mike Branton. On the heels of their previous two performances, this night sold out fairly quickly. Those fortunate enough to witness the jam session between these seasoned players, was nothing short of electrifying.

With brilliant simplicity DeAdder had created an event that would attract returning fans to ‘The Moonshine’, in anticipation of familiar sounds from an act they already knew, and the band did not disappoint. ‘The Beat Heathens’ played numbers from the past two shows, rearranged to feature their guest soloist’s unique talents. Mike added blues riffs from his own repertoire, including a tribute to Peter Green; founding member of Fleetwood Mac. The culmination was a whole new show, made all the more memorable by an appreciative audience. Primed and ready for more of The Beat Heathens’ unique style, an entire room of music lovers riveted their attention to the stage the entire night. Each successive offering was met with more encouragement from a music hungry crowd.

Fans were now insiders; part of the show, and anyone unaware of what was occurring on this night were outside, unable to get a seat. Imagine; a sellout show performed in front of returning fans. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Everyone left ‘The Moonshine Café’ happy that night. Live music lovers were delighted with the repeat performance from a band they love to follow. The club’s owner, John Marlatt enjoyed a packed house for his terrific venue, and each of the band’s members walked away stoked by the knowledge that loyalties were consummated in recognition of their craft. As people filed out that evening, it seemed more like the end of a family reunion than a club closing for the night.

None of this occurred by accident, of course. It’s not likely to happen at your local sports bar either, unless management is willing to shut off the televisions and focus on the music. The fun starts with an opportunity created in unison by the club, the band, and their initial followers. It grows into a lovefest for the best reason of all; GREAT LIVE MUSIC!
Live music lovers remind yourselves you have an equal and vital part in making special events like the one described happen. Let your club owners and your favourite bands know when they are on the right track. Done well, and with love for the event, everyone will benefit. From a spark comes a flame. You know what happens from there.

LOCAL LIVE MUSIC DOES MATTER!

Let’s make it happen more often.

check The Beat Heathens out on our YouTube channel

opportunity, persistence, optimism, Robin Williams

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS; PERSISTENCE HAMMERS!

It’s hard to fathom that three years have passed since Robin Williams left this earth. The great actor/comedian’s personal struggles have been well documented, but for me his legacy will always be a reminder of two simple concepts; optimism and hope. Throughout the body of Williams’ work runs this wide eyed, unquenchable belief that our futures are forever tied to our personal outlook on life. As Winston Churchill once famously said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Robin Williams was the embodiment of this phrase. As I look back on this man’s unparalleled talent, there is an unmistakable theme that threads through his film roles.

With every character’s struggle portrayed by Robin, the one constant was his ability to rise above seemingly insurmountable obstacles and thrive. Yes, for the most part all these men that Williams played were fictional, but his personal desire to bring each to life on screen was no accident. Perhaps taking a cue from a television comedy pioneer Milton Berle who once quipped, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door“, Robin selected roles that represented more than what immediately meets the eye. In his very first appearance on television as an alien misfit, he took a four line cameo appearance in a seventies’ sitcom, and turned the ‘Mork’ character into an iconic figure in a few short years. Looking back on that character as a lonely being just trying to fit in, we may have been given a very clear view of what made Robin Williams tick.

The true power of any artists’ performance begins with what they’re willing to give away of themselves. Better than any other, Williams gave us more than just a glimpse of his true self. Every moment in front of the camera for Robin was a lesson in how obstacles were merely tools of opportunity. Beginning with his interpretation of the very real Adrian Cronauer in ‘Good Morning Vietnam’, to his follow-up performance as Professor Keating in ‘Dead Poets Society’, Williams characters struggled with societal pressures and norms to find a place for one’s own uniqueness. As Keating would emphasize to his pupils; ‘Carpe Diem’ was more than some overused cliché. ‘Seize the day’; in fact the moment, would be the rallying point of almost every role in his illustrious career.

Remarkable characters he portrayed in films like ‘The Fisher King’, ‘Good Will Hunting’, ‘Awakenings’, and even the comedy theatrics of ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’, were reminders of who Williams really was as a human being. In an interview he once said, “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”  Robin believed in that sentiment enough to propel himself to artistic genius on his own terms. It takes more than mere words though to achieve excellence. Williams proved that by pouring his soul into every performance. The cost may have been high from our perspective, but oh what a legacy he left us.

Thomas Edison was quoted as saying, “We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.”  When we’re truly willing to roll up our sleeves and do the work necessary, there‘s no telling what heights can be achieved. Fear of the unknown is simply a part of human nature. When we approach the abyss though with optimism, hope and a willingness to learn from any experience, treasures may appear before never thought possible. Success is a place where preparation, optimism and opportunity collide. John Keating, Sean Maguire, Patch Adams, and Euphegenia Doubtfire knew that adage all too well. Let’s remember Robin Williams for those qualities and perhaps emulate them in ourselves.

Carpe Diem indeed.