The outside world is often far more harsh than my loving and ever-growing Greg community. The economy took a downturn and the opposite spectrum of human behavior was exposed with the greed and demise of Enron. Generous donors of In Harmony took a step back. With a new administration in the White House, funding assistance for projects that could fix a broken system evaporated, even though the solution was more cost effective. Bombs were indispensable, children at risk weren’t. In Harmony was doomed. It literally broke the heart of the director and her dream to make the world a better place. I was among many in tearful grieving. News sources today report crimes committed by former foster kids because for some reason that sells advertising. Heaven forbid they broadcast worthy, viable solutions to our society’s problems. Shame on all of us for priorities gone amok.
Even though the dream was never realized, I had learned much. The rewards of volunteerism are immense and come in unexpected ways. There was a continual affirmation that many good, decent people exist. I made countless new friends. Given a chance, I can do good things, sometimes in very unconventional ways. Perhaps fate, maybe all random, but this significant part of my life was the result of being a fan of Greg Brown’s music.
I kept buying Greg’s studio recordings and going to his concerts. It makes a difference what kind of venue he plays in. Sterile locations seem to make the audience more reserved, while venues with some character loosen up the crowd. Greg seems to be able to feel the crowd vibe and translate it into his performance. Half the fun of going to a concert was reuniting with old friends and making new ones. Perhaps it’s best to save the confessions of those escapades for another time.
There have been numerous times I have had the chance to talk to Greg before or after a concert. We bumped into him and Bo at a record store one time. They both gave me a warm welcome behind the stage at the zoo concert in Seattle before performing. Ran into him before one show in downtown Seattle. He was heading to the venue, so I went to greet him. I told him I just celebrated my thirtieth wedding anniversary. He asked if I had a song request. When he had asked me this question before, I always said play what you feel like playing. But, this time I suggested Goodnight Maureen, since that is my wife’s name. He got a good laugh out of that one. On stage, he dedicated Band of Gold to us instead. It was total coincidence that we lodged in the same hotels multiple times on road trips. When he was scheduled to perform in a town again where we had been before, I called the hotel we had stayed in to make a reservation. On the phone, I turned on all my charm and played violins to explain my sad financial condition to negotiate the best rate could I get as I told the desk clerk how important it was to go to Greg’s concert. The clerk looked up the date and said there were two rooms in his name and would I like to be in booked in the room between them? I thought it was a ploy to close the sale, but I agreed. It turned out to be true and although I never saw Greg, I had a nice conversation with his booking manager the next morning and got that night’s show recorded.
Like Bo had said, it’s all about the music. That’s what drew me in, especially the lyrics. I was so in tune at one point, I recognized a song in the first three notes with extreme accuracy. One night, I amazed a fan and friend with this ability at a concert. There were many more superb musicians I discovered on this journey who played with or opened for Greg. My collection of CDs grew accordingly, but far and away, the bulk of mine are Greg recordings.
Recently, the Harvard Radio Broadcasting station played thirty-something hours of Greg’s music over two days without repeating one single cut. Their library is dwarfed by mine if you count live recordings. However, they had one record I didn’t, Greg’s first. I found out about this orgy, as the station called it, after it had begun and since they broadcast them in chronological order, I missed hearing that rare missing vinyl from my collection. While the program progressed, many from the list were commenting. I joined in with a comment and innocently lamented missing the beginning. Shortly after, another long time member of the list offered to gift me their LP if I accepted graciously so as to not spoil their pleasure of giving. Well, I had received posters and souvenirs from the Midwest and even the autographed BVDs a friend won at the Solid Heart auction, but this present was the grand prize. Twenty years I yearned for this and a few days later it was spinning on my turntable. The original price tag is still on it, a whopping $5.98 and it was marked down to $5.29.
I have more true friends through the community Greg’s music produced than any other single aspect of my life. There are plenty more stories where these came from and more to be made, since I have tickets for a show four months away. Choose your path carefully, follow it passionately, fill your heart with music and keep your lip corners up.