Upon reflection, we must have done the Portland-Seattle circuit a couple times before completely losing control. The first year we went to Portland, Kelly Joe Phelps opened for Greg. Being second in line, we sat front and center. One of my young daughters asked if he was retarded. She was still too young to recognize how much music could be all consuming, although she has always been a natural dancer. Kelly Joe got a kick out that comment when we told him after the show. Neither he nor Greg were humored the next night when a lister friend flashed his camera at them near the end of their performance in Seattle. I still enjoy that framed photo though. That might have been the night my wife got her “Slow Soup” shirt autographed and decorated with a steaming pot drawing by Greg out in the street after the show.
The next year was Karen Savoca and Pete Heitzman’s virgin journey to the northwest. Like the previous year, I pried the kids out of the motel pool. Hours early in the venue neighborhood again, my wife decided to treat the girls to an ice cream. That may have been a lure to remove them from the pool, but I was getting antsy, transforming into that werewolf in anticipation of a concert. I saw Greg from the ice cream store window head into an Italian restaurant and challenged my girls to go say hello to him. They refused as they licked their cones like I had taught them. So as to avoid ruining the kids’ treat, I departed the parlor.
A couple doors down from the venue was a diner, tavern joint. To calm my nerves, I ordered a beer as I sat at the counter on one of those round stools from the old soda fountain days. As I was sipping my brew, a guy sat down next to me. I am kind of friendly and we started a conversation as he waited for his food. It turns out he was the sound guy for the show and was chowing down between the soundcheck and concert. Some years before, a kind hearted person on the list sent me a cassette of Greg’s performance at Strawberry Fest 1984. I treasured that gift even though it was probably recorded from the audience. This unlikely opportunity was before me, so I had to ask the sound man if he would record it for me. He said he would with permission from Greg, but I had to provide him with some blanks cassettes. Then he said there is a used record store just down the street and they probably sell them. As he chomped down his last bite and left, I wet my freaking pants. Sucked down the last of my beer and went to find the record store. I was leaving nothing to chance, I requested some advice from the tattooed, pierced staff as to the best quality tape they had. I also bought a couple used albums. It was time to get in line because I wanted to beat my Seattle friends this time, but I wanted to put the LPs in the car. As I rounded the corner, there was Greg walking towards me and the theater. I said something stupid like “Hi Greg”. He stopped and chatted for a few minutes. He highly recommended the Van vinyl I had bought, but was all thumbs down on the A Prairie Home Companion recording. Somehow, I had the wits about me to ask if I could record the show. He approved and headed off as I soiled my pants again. I deposited my records in the car and got first in line. My family joined me shortly thereafter as did many others.
When the doors opened, I sent the wife and kids to get prime seats. My mission was to connect with the sound man again. There he was accessible in the back of the theater. He took my blank cassettes and I rejoined my family in the front row. I readily admit I indoctrinated my girls with Greg Brown when they were young. It makes me smile when I am playing some music in the car with them even today, they will subconsciously break into a rendition of “Two Little Feet”. At the end of the show, the sound guy gave me the loaded cassettes. As a courtesy, I helped him pack his gear up. Kept checking my pocket to make sure I didn’t drop my treasures and aching to hear they were really full of that night’s music. Profuse thank you’s were sincerely conveyed and I headed back to the car and family. It was a special night capturing my first Greg show for future enjoyment.
Many others had recorded Greg’s music long before me. I am absolutely certain I had already received some by then. It was done with Greg’s benediction, but always handled under the radar on the list. That transformed into tape trees where a certain special someone would organize it and send a few copies to others who in turn copied and sent a few to others until everyone who wanted a copy got one. It worked well until a branch failed to feed their leaves. One time, I was near the top of the tree and many others were dependent on me to quickly make copies and share. Problem was my copy took eight weeks to be delivered. That is when I began to suspicion my mail carrier as borrowing the music. The postal system is pretty incredible, but once in a long spell, they drop the ball. The person who started the tree mailed me another copy before the original ever arrived, so I could feed my branches.
I was excited to share my first capture with other fans and have with all the other shows I would somehow be part of getting recorded. Each time was a different set of circumstances, but the results were always delicious and take me right back to that moment in time when I spin them now.