Here’s to Good Music, Close Friends, and Fresh Tomatoes

Just like Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia before me, I’ve got them old “U.S. Blues.” The multiple daily inanities, delusion, impetuous childishness, bullying, and hatred emanating from the most powerful office in the world has me stupefied, shocked, stymied, and generally bummed out.
     What’s a man to do? In my case, I’m counting on the midterms and 2020. I’ve got a slogan, “Foresight is 2020!” In the meantime, I’m sticking with what has always brought me solace, comfort, and joy, and that is music and community.
     Music is saving my psyche from the onslaught of insanity this summer. Much like when I started as an awkward preteen, music has been the thing that has carried me through the tough times and the thing that has made me laugh out loud. As a fan I have yelled and clapped and sung along in clubs, theaters, and arenas while my heroes bashed it out on stage to my delight. I once stood front row before Jimmy Page. When he started “Dazed and Confused” I fired something up to enhance the experience. He laughed at me. I imagine my teenaged grin looked pretty funny to him that night at the Nassau Coliseum. “Jimmy Page just laughed at me, man!” I have stood in line for tickets and camped overnight, and I bought the T-shirts and it was fun!
     As a sideman, that same energy goes into my playing these days. In these crazy times, I realize how valuable music is for all of us. It unites us, soothes us, excites us, connects us, and it’s really fun to dance to. It makes everything better. Cooking, cleaning, and many other household activities both ambulatory and otherwise are complemented with the right soundtrack. N’est pas?
     As you know from my last column, I’ve been covering some serious ground with a hard-hitting R&B outfit, with a movie to their credit. By the time you read this, I will have visited Germany, Russia, Japan, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, and Spain with these bad cats. It is an incredible experience to tear into tunes like “Soul Man” and “Green Onions” with these fine gentlemen. From my perspective, I feel incredibly lucky to be there. Playing those songs with the people who wrote and arranged them is a thrill that is hard to describe. Playing music that was making people dance before I was born and will continue to years after I’m gone is a very cool experience.
     That is the heart of the matter. This spring and summer have given me the keys for my soul’s survival. Whether it was the shows overseas, festival gigs with The Autumn Defense, or joining The Pisapia Love-In here in town, music has given me hope.
     Simply put, in all of these performances there has been one constant: joy. Live music is cocreated. The band and the audience inspire each other. It is not a give and take. At its best, it is a continuous circuit between everyone in the room. There is not much that can beat that feeling. All summer long, I’ve had the privilege of making music with incredible singers and musicians for audiences that were excited to hear it. They have danced and shouted and sung along. It’s the simplest thing in the world, and it gives me optimism for the future.
     “Why is that, Hags?” I’m glad you asked! The spirit of music is uplifting. Live performance brings people together and celebrates community. There ain’t no discord when you’re grooving to your favorite tune in a room full of people doing the same. What my musical travels have shown me this summer is that people are people wherever you go. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all is what I have witnessed in this summer of music in spite of world leaders that would seek those ideals for but a privileged few.
     In short, friends and neighbors, do what you do best. Be a community. Get out and get down at the Tomato Art Fest. Be of good cheer, and when it comes time for the voting booth, pull the lever with gusto.

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