Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Confessions Of A Greg Brown Fan Part Nine

               Solid Heart 3 was open for business.  The attendees mobbed the concession stands and auction/raffle item displays.  One of the functions of a concert house manager is crowd control.  I dimmed the house lights three times to instruct all to find a seat.  Special touches were evident everywhere including the stage that included large, potted house plants.  Justin King, a youthful master of the guitar, was the first performer.  Then like the year before, Karen Savoca and Pete Heitzman did a set and also accompanied Greg during his performance.  Pete later told me the music was better this evening than the next, but I was just relieved that everything went smoothly. 
               The next morning, I missed the ceremonial ground breaking of the property that was supposed to be the first In Harmony neighborhood because I was doing last minute preparations for my Trivia game.  I did make it to the record shop appearance the performers attended to promote ticket sales of the last few seats available for that evening’s show.  Then I was off to Squirrels to host the first and only Trivial Greg contest.  Squirrels, located across the street from where Solid Heart was born, is a restaurant bar.  They donated their entire upstairs for this event.  Twenty-seven people signed up to play and it seemed like just as many just came to watch.  To get things started, I thanked everyone for coming and introduced myself.  Then I had everyone introduce themselves around the room.  Since I was the creator of the game and it had never been played before, I could make up the rules as I went.  I explained I needed some assistants.  A couple people in the audience offered to be my spotters as to who raised their hand first as I read the questions.  Another audience member offered to distribute tokens to the person who answered the question correctly.  I considered using fish eggs or worms as tokens, but went with candy corn since at least the corn part had an Iowan theme.
               I read the questions and my wife held the answer sheet to confirm the first correct response.  The candy corn was used to keep score.  I had amassed two-hundred Greg related questions.  Prepared to make part of the game a written contest, I suggested that concept at the halfway point.  This idea was vetoed by all in attendance, so it was completed orally.  There were only two protests during my one day game show host career.  Perhaps too much time was allowed for a contestant to correctly answer and the other issue was the syntax of whether it should be “who” or “what” was on the jammer in a lyric question.  In the end, a king and queen of stalkers were crowned.  The event raised $1,000 and everybody had a good time.  As I said before, the game can still be played on Greg’s website.
               Said goodbye to the Bob Barker role and put on my house manager hat as I drove back to the concert hall to reset and prep for the major event of the weekend.  Everything was scheduled to be bigger and better than the night before.  In addition to all festivities the night before, this show was going to be webcast with the capability of those listening to chat as it progressed.  Two wiz kid computer geniuses were setting things up in a back room.  These were definitely not the Oregon State University students who had upchucked in the parking lot a few years back.  The great bunch of volunteers all readied their stations for a repeat of the night before.  I was asked to delay the door opening as was originally planned because things were not quite in order somewhere internally.  I went outside and walked down the long line of ticket holders and told them the doors would be opened shortly.  And they were.  Once again, the omnipotent house manager had to dim the lights three times to coax all to get seated.  The performer line-up was the same, but interspersed with raffle and auction winner festivities.  At one point, things seemed to be calm on the main floor, so I went to check on the balcony.  I notice one empty seat and in between songs, I asked the guy next to it if I could sit there for a minute.  The guy turned out to be the high school janitor, taking a break too.  Greg’s next song was Wash My Eyes and all 1,199 people there were completely silent as he sang it sweetly.  The balcony was in perfect order, so after that song, I went back down to the main floor.  After a quick check on all stations, which were deserted, I went to see to the status of webcast room.  It was live streaming the concert online and people across the country were chatting away.  I sent a message or two out and headed back to the auditorium.  Inside, I planted myself up against the back wall.  It had been a long day.  That’s when Greg started a tune I didn’t recognize, which is rare.  When he uttered the first few syllables, Karen Savoca laughed into her microphone and the crowd hooted.  Now it was me washing my eyes and creating a wetland at my feet.  If not for the wall I was leaned upon, I’d have fallen over and drowned.  It has only been performed once and it went like this:

Glenn’s Birthday Blues (Wake Up Glenn)
Hey Glenn, wake up
I know you live in Seattle man
It can be a little rough I know
And a little cloudy
Kinda rainy, kinda misty
Not bad, it’s really, it’s beautiful, it’s great
Another misty, rainy, foggy
Kinda cloudy, cool day
Comes rolling in
And it’s your birthday

But you gotta wake up
Gotta wake up Glenn
You gotta get out of bed
You gotta get out of bed again
You gotta grab some coffee
It’s a little too early for gin
Another whole year rolled by
And it’s your birthday again
Wake up now Glenn, come on

Well now let me tell you about Glenn
He’s really done his part
He’s been all over the place
Trying to sell those Solid Hearts
He stands out in front of places
Where you and I would never go
He says, “Have you bought this Solid Heart CD yet?”
“I, I didn’t think so.”

Now Glenn is a bird
And he lives in his rainy nest
I think he’s got one of the biggest hearts
In the whole northwest
He’s got his shoulder to the wheel
And that’s OK
So this little blues Glenn
Is just to wish you a very happy birthday
Oh, play him a little birthday blues here now Pete
It’s hard getting old

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
To you, to you, to you
Happy Birthday Glenn

Dehydrated, delighted and delirious, I went outside for some air.  The best poet on the planet had just performed a song about and for me.  Best I could, I composed myself and went back inside to complete my duties.  A number of songs later, Greg wrapped up his long set.  The full house demanded an encore.  He reappeared with a banjo that had been loaned to him by a person on the list and invited the other three performers to join him on stage.  He started strumming another new song and the other musicians were as awestruck as the audience.  Nobody was joining in and the crowd was silent, except for one volunteer who nudged out into the lobby.  I was informed the school alarm system was set to go off at midnight if the facility was not all locked up by then.  Midnight was minutes away.  As Greg performed Lull It By  for the first time publicly, I was racing to the balcony hoping to find the janitor to disarm the system.  He was not there.  I went back downstairs and raced to his office where I found him.  We hurriedly got to the control panel and like an Ian Fleming novel, had 007 seconds to spare.
A very satisfied crowd exited orderly into the night.  As everyone was leaving, one attendee  overheard a conversation I was having and figured out I was the birthday boy and sang me a solo version of the traditional birthday song and went on her way.  With the crowd gone, it was now time to clean up the auditorium.  This was when I was grateful food and drink were not allowed into the area.  Little more than discarded programs scattered the floor.  As I was going aisle to aisle picking up debris, I discovered one of my former exchange student’s boyfriend helping out.  I had no idea he came to the show.  While we finished cleaning up, I asked him if he believed me now that Greg Brown knew me.
                There was one more function to attend, the volunteer appreciation party at a local deli.  We mingled in a room full of hugs and laughs and smiles.  Greg came up to me asked if his song was okay and I told him it was perfect.  Out of nowhere, a birthday cake showed up and everyone began to sing that familiar song.  Slowly, I turned in full circle to acknowledge everyone in the room as they sang.  It is rare to be surrounded by so many solid hearts.  What a great birthday and I bet there are very few who can say Greg has sang happy birthday to them twice on their natal anniversary, although technically the second time was long after midnight.                       


  1. In the list serve chatter build up to this momentous weekend, I met (online, oh my) Linda from Park City. We agreed to meet up & share a room to cut expenses. My good friend was left this world too soon, cancer. I believe her pic with GB is still up in the Yahoo group files.

  2. I remember Linda, she was a fine lady. We lost her a number of years ago. I believe she outbid everyone to win one of Greg's works of art in the auction.

  3. Wish I had been there! What a sweet story, you are a good man, Glenn.

  4. When given a chance, I can do good things.