There are certain vivid events that stand out in one’s memory as the years pass, whether they’re marked by happiness or sadness, trauma or celebration.
Reaching back in my memory isn’t always easy. I’ve forgotten a whole lot, and the rest is so muddy I couldn’t really decipher the fact from fiction of my own memoir. But, I do remember some things. In 2001, I was at an advertising awards gala and found myself sitting next to the then marketing director for ArtsQuest – parent company of Musikfest. After dinner, I shamelessly scurried to my car to get a demo cd, hoping that this would land in the hands of booking personnel. It did not.
For the next six years, I dutifully hand-delivered my press packet and demo cd to the ArtsQuest office. Still nothing. Finally, in the spring of 2008, I was booked for a very long set on Main Street. My beloved band (Jackknife Betty) had broken up just three weeks before Musikfest, but there was no way I was going to cancel. It took seven years to land that gig. I called my friend Regina Sayles, and we shared the set, backing each other on percussion and harmony vocals.
I’ve played the ‘fest every year since then – solo, duo, full band, every configuration possible – and with side players who were and still remain my dear friends. The opportunity for regional musicians to be a vital part of the festival is something to be admired and cherished. There are plenty of touring acts who could easily fill those slots. I personally appreciate the efforts to include the local component. But I digress.
Back to the memories. If you get booked for the sweet spot (and that often depends on the stage), you can find yourself playing to several hundred people from many different states, and they love your music and they buy your merch. Sometimes it rains, and nobody really wants to come to the show. Sometimes it’s just bloody hot, and nobody wants to sit in the blazing sun. But you can always count on your most loyal fans, even if that means only your immediate family is huddled under one giant umbrella, because they won’t let you do this all alone. We all have Musikfest stories.
In April 2015, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a full summer of gigs booked and nothing was going to get in the way of working. I strategically scheduled my surgery and chemo treatments so that I would be at my “chemo best” during Musikfest. I played four gigs during those ten days, bald and beautiful, but with a weakened vocal performance. And I’ll never forget sitting all alone on the steps of the Liederplatz stage, after everyone was gone for the night, eating an entire funnel cake and sipping from a flask of bourbon. Just like it was meant to be.
Our stories will be much different this year, because it’s a Virtual Musikfest. I haven’t played live to an audience in over four months, and this will be performed at a cable tv studio. I haven’t done that since the ’90s. I think I’m ready. There are only two questions, will there be funnel cake, and what song should I end with?
I’ll be on Thu. Aug. 6, 7:40pm, Service Electric Cable TV, and the full schedule is here. https://www.musikfest.org/lineup/schedule/