I’ve done a LOT of benefits in my day; Benefit for the Cure, Benefit for the Northen Chautauqua Youth Hockey Organization, for my friend Kerry Peterson, for Tiffany Lindquist after she a car accident, to help the Mason boy get home, for the Silver Creek Flood Victims, for Second Harvest Food Bank, for the March of Dimes, for the Variety Club, etc…
I’ve done a lot of ‘em.
I don’t know WHY I expect them to be poorly organized…looking back at the ones I’ve participated in they’ve all been run pretty well, some better than others, none incompetently. I expect the sound (system) to be bad; looking back in my experience it’s usually pretty decent; If there’s a house band I expect them to be lame: thinking back on it most have been pretty okay, some even excellent. I expect turnout to be slim: that’s not usually the case..I’ve played early on the bill on a few that have been light in attendance but they always had a fair turnout over the day for the most part.
Still I have these prejudices, these reservations, these low expectations for anything I sign on to for free in the name of a cause.
Cause why? I have NO idea-thinking back now-yet I do.
So after having spent way too-late of a night revelling with my buds Bare Back Jack (see you all in rehab) Saturday (and having-to-drive I behave and it was weird to watch other people get hammered for once and holy shit, If I though WE could party, the BareBack guys have a leg up.
Be proud of that guys. That says something. I AM impressed.
So anyway, after spending a late Saturday in Erie watching Chris and Pete pass the tequila back and forth I get up Sunday and load up the SUV withn a small PA for my afternoon gig at the Lakeview and pack some merch for the St Judes Benefit and it’s a spectacular day to be driving through Amish country…blue skies and snow covered hills, but pretty warm and the roads are dry and I go to Olean thinking–expecting=-to play for a small handful of people at two-in-the-afternoon and that it might only be less than a handful later in the day at the Lakeview; after all; who want’s to be inside on a beautiful day like today and why would anybody come out tonight when the Academy Awards are on? My expectations are very, very low. I’m steeled against the thought of playing to the bar staff after being spoiled with weeks of sell-out crowds on the road w/ Eric Church. I’m okay with it. I almost feel like I deserve it: things have been too good lately, the other shoe must drop. I’m heading back to cover band hell with my head held high, but I’m expecting the journey to feel like work. Again.
I make my way up over the Hill on Route 83 past Blacks Corners, through Chicken Tavern (there really is a place called that–Jimmy-my-drummers -parents live there) through South Dayton and Little Valley, past Jeff Beckley’s house to the Allegheny Casino where I get on the I-86 and head west to Olean (pronounced Oh-Lee-Ann) NY. My GPS tells me to turn into a small industrial park after I get off the interstate and I’m thinking “oh No…” And the road winds around and the Magellan is going “approaching destination,” and lord-have-mercy the parking lot of the Premier Banquets Center is FULL. It’s FULL and it’s a BIG parking lot. I’m thinking maybe there folks who work at the mill-or-whatever-it is next door are parked here and I walk in and Woah! There’s a LOT of people here..It’s TWO in the afternoon, am I hallucinating? There’s a band on stage-and they sound great. The whole thing is running on schedule…
So-I had all these plans for what I’d play and what I’d say and they kind of get thrown out the window. I hurry to set up my merch table and get my guitar tuned (they’re ON schedule) and I’m introduced by Mark Thompson from WPIG Fm and I play “Honky Tonk Life” and introduce Myself to the audience which is mostly a lil older and I call out to any other musicians who are waiting to play that wouldn’t mind backing me up and I go into “Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down” and by the time I’m to the end of the song I have most of a band backing me up and I figure “older audience. play older songs,” and if you’re reading this and you didn’t know that I love the old school stuff, well I LOVE the old school stuff and after playing Merle I went into “Together Again” and these guys jamming with me know this stuff real well and I’m having too good of a time and as the story goes I have a Big Ole’ time playing Classic Country for an hour before I relinquish the stage and tell this awesome audience that I’ll be at the table by the door with CD’s and t-shirts and that I’m not just donating my time today, I’m donating half the take on merch to St. Judes….
And by the time I even make back to the table-which was tough ‘cause I got hounded for autographs all the way there-the line at the table is very long and that stack of CD’s I had to sell is GONE, as in SOLD OUT. Woah! And I sold and signed a ton of T-Shirts and Posters and when I finally had to sneak out the back to get to my next gig that “half of the take” amounted to several hundreds of dollars.
And I think it’s a fair assumption to say that my assumptions surrounding Benefits have had a paradigm shift in the wake of yesterdays events. My faith has been-if not restored-then established.
Thanks WPIG. Thanks Olean. Thank you St. Judes Childrens Hospital; it was an honor and a privilege.