Monday, June 6, 2011

Confessions Of A Greg Brown Fan Part Eight

Burned out from constant touring, Greg announced his intentions to take a sabbatical.  His last performance would be at the Century Ballroom in downtown Portland.  To show love and appreciation, a fan or two organized the creation of a community quilt.  Those with the talent of crafts produced a square and the organizer put it all together.  After the performance, this thing of beauty was presented and it left the man of so many wise words speechless.  Prior to our departure for this farewell show, this Seattle nut was asked to transport Bo Ramsey to the airport in Seattle the morning after the show.  Of course, I said yes.  My previous interactions with him indicated he was the man of few words.  We packed a hundred hours of music in anticipation of filling the silent air on the two-and-half hour road trip. 
In front of his hotel, I saw Greg and him exchange the firmest hug two individuals can make.  There was a true respect and love for each other.  My spouse, Bo and I climbed into the van and I started driving.  My wife started showing Bo various CDs and he selected something.  Before I got to the freeway, a conversation erupted that would only end upon arrival at the airport.  It’s all about the music.  Bo goes beyond just saying it, he lives it.  That’s how the conversation started, but we talked about a thousand other things too.  It was so tender to hear his end of a conversation when his cell phone rang.  It was his son, Ben, who called to warn him of snow storms in Iowa.  Bo ended up being stranded in Colorado when his flight there was canceled due to weather.  I had a new, real good friend and it turns out, a customer.  He bought a few road cases for his amplifiers and that led to some more case orders we built for Lucinda Williams.  All I can say is that was the shortest and most enjoyable cruise between Portland and Seattle I ever had.
Even though Greg intended to take some time off, he agreed to do a couple more back-to-back benefit concerts for In Harmony.  Solid Heart 3 was set in motion.  Organizing a concert is much more elaborate than most attendees realize, as I discovered when I put a benefit concert together in my own backyard.  But, Solid Heart 3 was destined to be a gala on a much larger magnitude.  Besides the concerts, plans were put in place to include an auction, raffle, refreshment stand, webcast and videotaping with multiple cameras.  Massive amounts of volunteers would be needed to pull it all off.  But, the In Harmony army had multiplied making everything seem doable.  The pixel farmer, like he had done the previous year, donated his graphics skills to create posters and tickets.  The master of Greg’s website was again supremely supportive, spreading the word and feeding the fire.  Auction and raffle items came from near and far.  Baskets of live recordings, professional 8 X 10 glossy photos, charcoal drawings twice that size, were a few of the items received from fans.  Greg donated a few of his pieces of art, a handwritten version of some of his song lyrics, a railroad cap, a worn shirt, and a mystery pair of autographed underwear. 
Midst all this prep work buffoonery, I decided to let Greg keep his Scrabble crown, questionable as it may have been, and created a new fund-raiser game for this occasion.  I put together a couple hundred trivia questions about the man and his music.  Ten years later, there is still a link to it on his website.  My Corvallis contacts set up a meeting place to conduct this event and I was set.  This was going to be a weekend to remember.  Packed the car, left my high school aged kids at home and cruised on down the road.
The Peter Principle was alive and well when somehow I was anointed the title of house manager for the concerts.  The morning of the first one, we checked in early at the In Harmony office.  Lots of volunteers came and all pitched in to deal with last minute details.  I answered the phone and took ticket sale orders.  When I answered once, an unmistakable voice was on the other end.  Greg asked what I was doing there and I told him it was my job.  Shortly after, he arrived at the office to sign the auction and raffle memorabilia.  Before he put the cap on his Sharpie, somebody suggested he autograph my brown, Slant 6 Mind t-shirt that I was wearing because tomorrow would be my birthday.  Along with his signature, he wrote “Happy Birthday Boy”.  That shirt has never been worn again and is proudly displayed in my museum with many other artifacts.
There was much work to do moving into the old Corvallis High School auditorium for the next couple nights.  Teams of volunteers each had a mission.  Although nobody had really done much of this before, everyone took charge and just got it done.  The refreshment stand, sound equipment, auction and raffle ticket table set-up, video cameras, concession table with the new Solid Heart sleeveless t-shirts designed by Greg himself, ticket takers all just came together.  For the next two nights, a line formed in the shape of a slithering snake outside the doors of this 1,200 seat theater anxiously waiting to get in.  When all the stations confirmed they were ready, I opened the doors and fans poured in like a raging river.     

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