Jam To the World!

1150849_657241220953926_2104712487_n        10679539_10152980357526163_7634000306814407658_o I love jams – I love running them and I love playing at them. I love the people that go to jams, the professionals and the non-pros that are brave enough to get up on stage and play their hearts out. I love all the different instruments that come into a room – one of my favourite local jams has a guy who brings timpani drums – awesome! I love jams because of the moments you can’t rehearse which are created from some magical spontaneity and unity that appears only once and makes beautiful things happen. I love the unknown – the mystery – the lack of preparedness. I love the people that support the musicians and friends that want to try something new. I love when people tell me a song is on their bucket list, and we nail it together and get that feeling of ALRIGHT, life is GREAT!

526811_528554577196971_1545937535_nAbout five years ago, a tiny restaurant serving specialty Montreal smoked meat opened in front of our farm. We met the new owners and quickly developed a close friendship. We almost immediately suggested to them that they obtain a music license so we could help bring them business by running a small jam with our band once a week to introduce their new place to the community. The focus became on creating a community jam because they were a restaurant and not a bar, where most of the jams were held and kids could attend. We always started early so the younger ones could go to bed by second set when things got “more grown up” and loud.
We began seeing young people come in a play almost immediately – and holy cow could they play! I remember this nine year old boy who came in to play drums one time. His parents had asked me to choose a song he could drum with the band. I always try and find “homogeneous” music that people can play to – and there are standards that everyone can find a beat on like Born on the Bayou by CCR- for a new drummer, is a really good repetitive metronomic song. So, I suggest to the boy we do Bayou – and he says but looks at his feet a little forlorn.
So I say “What’s the matter? Did you have another song you’d like to do?”
Yes he smiles up at me brightly – In French he says “J’aimmerais faire The Ocean par Led Zeppelin SVP”

Um…seriously?
OK!
Well – the kid nailed it. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room as we all sat pretty astonished at his powerful rhythms. Awesome.
Later on more came – teenagers and kids who had been practicing in their bedrooms with their doors closed, Middle aged men dusted off their old axes. People were happy. Drummers came – djembe and we sat in semi circles mixing all of the music up together. Children played for the first time on stage with big wide half shy grins. The jam allowed for ALL kinds of music. 1800972_653911941334921_431909134_n
The first thing we did was to make sure that at least part of this jam, the beginning part, always began acoustic, for one hour. This gave a chance to the “softer” unplugged players, and very often original song writers to show their stuff without competing with a loud electric sound or the having the natural effect of a “dropped dynamic” causing a sort of downer feeling. There is a time and a place for every kind of music; you learn this very quickly and usually the hard way when you run jams. 10154219_754852437880760_8739167005207651450_n
A few young people began to put together bands, and today some of them are even recording albums and picking up speed on the larger pro musical circuit getting festival gigs and traveling to remote places to play their original stuff. This to me is SIMPLY AMAZING.
I do jams at other places as well. It was such an amazing thing to have been recently in Australia and really I learned everything about Australia through jams and the musicians I met. It was an incredibly open and loving place. I like to tell people that I was NEVER ONCE asked to play a cover, Janis or a blues tune while in Australia. Not once.
Why?
Australians LOVE their jams and they love spontaneity – they love to be surprised by the music – so they often ask for originals. It was fun to get to play new sounds and the added benefit was that if you made am mistake no one knew it  ha! 1383907_10152020292451662_71159953_n
Jams are awesome. But running jams – can be a real challenge. Take last night; I am at what we may consider a “pretty raucous bar” which often has jams that dissolve into frenzied guitar solos at ear shattering decibel levels. It serves as some form of therapy I suppose, for the frustrated normally male players – as most jams do. Whether here or in Australia, I encountered the same problem in every single jam I went to – this tendency to become over energized and focused on making as much noise as possible too early in the night.
Understandably, as an evening moves along and folks have a couple of drinks and loosen up- things get understandably more energetic and a good jam band will connect to this and allow music to get louder and harder. The increasing dynamic energy is one of the best parts of jamming – a great teacher for someone running a jam to learn how to stay connected to the energy of the musicians and spectators in the room.
Now the challenge for someone running a jam – namely often me 😦 is to find song for five virtual strangers, whose repertoire you are completely unaware of or how they play, what their play level is for difficulty of the song – it’s a real crap shoot. The first few notes are always a leap of faith for everyone. If it dissolves too late into the song to stop, then you all settle into trying to save a drowning song. Audiences are usually good natured about these “off ramp” spontaneity – and sometimes the “bad notes” can turn into a spectacular and spontaneous off the rails jam.
Ya just never know. 10247292_10152305921771163_902431890_n
Of course, there are certain songs we all rely on – sort of universal industry standards like mustang sally, Bobby McGee for women with a certain forceful voice who have smoked too much like me, pride and joy for exuberant guitar players, hoochie coochie man for anyone with a harmonica – and other songs carry us through jam nights. Most jammers, again whether here or in Australia use these songs, or open blues jam songs, to “feel each other out. Then once in while you get a lunatic like me who likes to pull out originals that no one has ever heard before and have people spontaneously add their feel into it, live. This is insanity – but sometimes you can just feel that the circumstances are right.
I really have massive respect for the musicians that jump into scary spontaneity with an open and willing heart – because very often, especially in the case of original tunes, you end of expanding the song in a really cool way. Someone will play an unexpected beat or a sound, and suddenly the entire song has taken a new direction or has an added dimension. Sometimes even a new riff or even a bridge can materialize where one didn’t exist before. Jamming is amazing for this – but it takes courage and an abject lack of ego – ie: willingness to sound like shit abnd that’s ok kind of attitude.1011209_10151934182206662_981450487_n
Those are the real players – I have discovered. The old school guys who are willing to make any kind of sound and find it inside themselves rather than relying on structure or the “way things always have been”. Those that brave the outside of the box and dabble in the alchemy of new combinations of sounds.
But’s running jams is not all roses – and I have never learned a thing in Disney Land – right?
Take last night…when I lost my mind.
I was running a tough jam at a place that has this history of difficulty – drunken patrons, hecklers, arguments between musicians and of course the unraveling of the decibel levels. So, I went in determined to keep the energy receptive and pretty acoustic for the first 3 or four songs, and then start to let up electric and drums and stuff. A gradual increase right? Makes sense. But anyone who knows me will tell you – I have never been able to follow a set list – so “planning’ for me is futile.
What ended up happening is that (unlike usual) no drummers showed up nor did any lead electric guitar players. So to continue the flow of the night I just had to keep playing, and playing and playing.
Some folks got up and it was simply great – we got some extraordinary sounds, and some real fun on old tunes like James Taylor stuff and some raunchy old acoustic blues.
The acoustic went on longer than I had anticipated – but again it’s a JAM – and anticipation is not all part of the formula. People with control issues – for example – don’t really enjoy jamming I have noticed. 🙂
Suddenly a man I know, a friend actually, comes up to me annoyed and says something like:
“Well I guess I brought a gun to a knife fight” or something like that weaving his electric guitar in the air a little at me.
I say “What do you mean?”, blank faced.
And he says “well – are you even going to have an electric jam??” He spits obviously irritated and angry. Bad timing.
I immediately have a completely unreasonable reaction to this poor man’s simple desire to play some loud guitar. Suddenly I am annoyed at ALL of the jams I have been to in ALL of the weird places around the world where I have seen one woman or acoustic player after another pushed off stage by guys that want to get their yaya’s off by playing screechingly loud music. 405936_607717759239606_392217611_n
OK I know – I enjoy some serious rock too! After all I am a rock singer. But there is a time and place for everything – and unfortunately I had forgotten to bring along the filter between my brain and mouth, so I say something horrible like:
“Oh for shit’s sake! I’m so tired of all you guys just wanting to hear your loud screechy crap on stage and not listen to people who just want to make music”.
I storm off to the bathroom and come out having taken a moment to laugh at myself in the mirror and find the poor man I had been so scathing with tattling on me to the bar owner. 🙂
“I am REALLY sorry”, I smile sweetly at the owner and say straight up –1530457_754852427880761_7784710413338773906_n
“Yup – he’s right” I say to the owner “I was totally nuts”, I pat the guy on the shoulder and smile going back inside the bar. I turned to look at them and they were speechlessly watching me walk back to the stage through he windows.
Sometimes you’re just human I figure. And let’s face it, jamming can sometimes be enough of a challenge to make you a little wacko. Luckily we all seem to accept that about each other and I wouldn’t give it up for the world. Watching it give a chance for people, even like the loud guy, to play and exert that energy outwards and express themselves, come together to make a beautiful thing – yes it is all always worth it.10687363_898476086830437_706725914266159721_o

World Peace Through Inner Peace

1480631_10154570029310230_2357686507537653468_nI arrive at the festival about 6 hours early. We have a sound check, sound check is cancelled. The band is in fine form – everyone happy in the park. I feel so lucky because my family is with me. My cousin and nephew. How unbelievably amazing that I am so lucky to have a family that likes each other so much that we want to hang out voluntarily outside of Christmas dinner and funerals.

We notice that the place is filled with extraordinary musicians from all over. No one knows us – we are the new kids on the block. I have a chance to talk to many people as the day unravels and one sound check is put off after another until we realize that there will be no sound check and we are just meant to enjoy the day.

As it went on, I had a chance to meet two people who gave me a great lesson I’d like to share.  The first was a man who, right away upon meeting me candidly admitted:

“I have been trying to be an artist my whole life and I don’t know what I am good at. I can’t paint, I can’t sing, I can’t play an instrument, I can’t write…I am lost”.

 

I don’t know – maybe its my hippie look but people like to get down to brass tacks right away with me and I really like that. They can tell I’m not much of a “talk-about-the-weather” kinda of gal.

So, I said to the man’

“Cool!  You’re a seeker”, I said smiling. He looked in my eyes and I could see he saw familiar recognition of someone else who had been in enough pain to do the hard work.   He told me more of his story – falling in love with a women, moving to Egypt, caught in the political uprising, converts to Islam, freaks out, comes back home.  Now shaken and still trying to find his answers in another person.

It’s all part of the trip we’ve all done it.  But at some point you realize that what you are seeking can’t be found outside yourself.

The man’s eyes fly open…”Yes!” he says. “Of course you understand – you’re an artist”.

Yes I am, and so are you.

Everyone is an artist and is seeking.  In fact it is our most important job in life to help others get their feet under them and do what it is they are meant to do. The best way to do that is to walk your talk and follow your heart.

Because the issue of depression has been top headlines lately, we have been talking allot about how to be responsible for our emotional state, which has led me to really see that people who “follow their hearts” may have troubles, may have “hard times”, may have challenges abounding – but they are happy. You have to wring every last drop of life out of this life – and we who are relegated to the classifications of “crazy artist, depressive, bi-polar” whatever – are the souls brave enough to step outside of the box and choose the unworn path.

I marvel when I meet someone who says to me that they are “not creative”.

What does this mean?  Did you stop breathing?

Everyone creates…all day all the time. When you got up this morning you made a choice…you got out of bed. This is where your “creativity” began. Every thought and choice you make after – is a separate creation. What you choose to do with it is entirely up to you.

We can create art, music, writing, food, wood working, architecture – those are obvious acts of creation.

We can create relationships, environments, situations, and futures. Having depression means being responsible for the emotions we bring into our lives. I don’t mean controlling the uncontrollable, but being aware when life is pulling your attention here and there is the key to a serene and amazing existence. In order be really responsible for our selves and our emotional health – it is important to know that every thought we have creates SOMETHING.

The ying and yang of it…

… resentment will CREATE heartache

…anger will CREATE turmoil

…violence will CREATE retribution

…Obsession with material gain will CREATE anxiety

…self absorption will CREATE loneliness

 

Everything you do say think and believe is an act of creation.

 

An act of Compassion will CREATE peace

…of Love will CREATE fellowship

…of faith will CREATE miracles

…of generosity will CREATE abundance

…selflessness will CREATE personal fulfillment

 

After I met the man who told me he could not find his “inner artist” I met a young boy only nine years old who had been blind since birth and was discovered by his camp councillors playing guitar on his lap. They videotaped him and put his song on Youtube and within a few days the video had gotten over 50,000 hits. So they invited him to play at the end of the set of the big headline act of the day.

Ego is all that holds back creativity.  The bad ego – the one that tells you everything is about YOU you you you you.

Imagine meeting an egoless being?  It is very rare.

But that’s what the little boy was in essence.  He child was the opposite of the creatively constipated man I had met earlier. He existed simply as unhinged creativity – music on legs…

No ego. No self – only music.

The magic began when he first arrived and he emerged from his limo that the festival had gotten for him to ride in, all beautiful and smiling. And immediately looking for something to play, body swaying rhythmically. I noticed he was holding a machine to his ear – music emerge from it as he rocked happily back and forth. He approached the table in front of the artists entrance, just a regular white plastic patio table. He couldn’t see the emerging crowd of curious spectators and artists were watching, now quiet, no one quite sure what to say or do. All these “big blues stars” – rendered momentarily mute and caught in rapt attention. The boy begins to bang on a plastic table finding a rhythm – rap tap tap bang rap tap tap bang …. The surrounding musicians couldn’t hold themselves back and soon one guy is singing beside him, another (my own drummer) is tapping out a complimenting double beat smiling widely beside the boy – looking like he might have at the same age. My owns hands found a big blue recycling bin and soon the best show was taking place outside the tent where the big bands were playing. Rollin and Tumblin, garbage cans, tapping feet, singing voices – and a boy smiling as wide as a crescent moon. He found his happy place – and brought us all along with him! This was transferred enlightened music – a real miracle.

 

I dubbed him little Blues Buddha.

 

I also realize that the man who had not yet found his creation – was also Buddha – a teacher. We need to be in both places to find where we want to stand.

 

I feel so lucky to have a chance in this life to completely be myself in all my creative weirdness. People think I am a great singer when they see us perform, but really what it is is I have been blessed with being surrounded by people who let me know clearly that I can do absolutely ANYTHING, and they will support me.   I think saying Im grateful is abit of an understatement.

 

Instead I will use gratitude as a verb and keep trying and doing and creating and moving forward. And if I am lucky, I will always keep in my mind the face of the Little Buddha who was all soul – as I trudge my own creative path.

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When we all find our creative space like this boy did – when people individually find peace inside themselves and a place to express through some form of creation (“making something new that has not been made before”) only THEN will the world experience global peace. One person and one life at a time – this is our responsibility and joyful obligation towards ourselves first – and each other.

Peace

 

 

 

 

 

The Math Of Music and Happiness

I think there is math in everything and so for fun, I am working on an easy to remember mathematical formula to understand why LIFE’S ups and DOWNS are completely necessary to your survival if you are a musician.

I CALL IT THE MUSIC-HAPPINESS FACTOR:

First please understand these meanings:

E(emotion)

L(life)

(G)M = great music

(B)M= bad music or bowel movement

Dr= depression

Cr= craziness

T = Truth therefore -T = dishonesty

Remember your high school algebra? Refresher rules…

  1. A number in FRONT of a letter makes the letter that much BIGGER!  for example 20B= 20 x B
  2. We always assume there is a 1 in front of the letter…it is invisible…but it is there…shhh…:) don’t argue.
  3. Is this getting weird? Is your brain bleeding? Did you know you use less than like 4% of it…hmmm

GM is made from an adequate amount of L which CAUSES  E which of course inspires the musician to create M. If the musician has (-)E then her ability to create M is actually increased and made positive since a negative carries though the function and resultingly, positive music is created…

for example, the universal formual for the Blues:

where…L+E=M

L+(-E) = -M

L-E=-M

WHERE -M = BLUES.

Which is actually the same as saying –E=M/-L

But we all know that music which is divided by LIFE becomes very hard to play.

If a musician does not have adequate +L and +E so L+E then she will become Cr because of Dr.

so

(-(L+E)=(Dr/Cr))= GM

This awesome breakthrough means that if the afflicted musicians can become aware of their Dr and Cr then they can switch it to the other side so the whole thing can result in GM.

this means that although Dr and CR can contribute to the creation of M they cant just stay where they are and expect a different result.

Awareness and shifting emotions – being accountable for how we feel – is how we are able to move –E TO –L AND CREATE A POSITIVE OUTCOME.

-E(-L) = M

In order to calculate what kind of music will result from having difficult life experiences which result in negative emotions, we must move LIFE over to EMOTIONS and let them be together so MUSIC can be positive.

By shifting and being aware of rebalancing difficult life experiences by moving them from one side of the equation or the other, for example, (-L) negative life experiences to the resulting (-E) challenging emotions (eg: anger, resentment, fear, etc) you cause a natural POSITIVE connection (good music)  between L+E since the double negatives render each other positive. Right?

I repeat – good music HAS NEVER come from sane people.

So we know that life can cause E which can make us all Cr and cause Dr but if you add M it will naturally  subtract Dr then you get G-D = Happiness.

My left brain is now bleeding.

Peace!

 

 

 

In This Moment – With love and gratitude.

“It’s time to go”, my husband John quietly says.

I stand up automatically, put out my cigarette and gather my things to get into his car. I am like a robot on the outside and my mind feels like it has been through a blender; I’m pretty sure I can’t handle what’s about to happen.  I’m afraid I will just dissolve.

I notice John has vacuumed the carpets – a sign of respect for what we are about to do that I find sweet.  He has been my rock and the ground beneath my feet through this.  My daughter Sara and her boyfriend get into the car with us and we are all quiet. There is no request for music.  It is a respectful silence.  Everyone looks around, but not at each other.  I try the radio a couple of times and quickly give up.

My chest is tight and I can’t stop crying. I try not to let anyone see. My practice reminds me that I am not in any pain really – other than my thoughts.  I am so tired of being sad and crying – I want to do something different so I try and become more aware of what my mind is doing.

The pain I am feeling comes from remembering how it felt to bury my father and the distant long ago experience of burying my first mother – my grandmother it turns out. The past creeps up like dark air just waiting to swallow you up if you don’t stay conscious and aware of the games your mind plays.  I remind myself that I am just driving in a car right now. That right now nothing is really bad.

“It’s just that my mother is dead and I feel scared and alone and terribly terribly sad”

– my mind throws in a little reality check.

How do I balance this?

I wrestle with my mind on how to justify what I believe spiritually – which is that we are all connected, that death is illusory and that consciousness exists past physical life. But the feeling of something like an empty cavern in my chest where my heart has cracked open is obvious to me and the whole world.  I am unsure of what to believe anymore. But I can see the worry and love in the people around me. My wound is obvious. I try to keep my head together as the car rolls towards the funeral home.

I remember suddenly that it made me feel better to listen to Paul Simon’s “Graceland” on my way to my father’s funeral, so I load it onto my phone and sink into the music. My mind quiets.  I have so much fear of falling into pieces and being no use to my kids or my sisters who are in terrible pain.  Behind the scenes of my mind, thoughts of the day’s upcoming events unravel.  There will be allot of people and I have a last chance to be my mother’s daughter.  I will be present and make my family proud.  

We arrive on the heels of “Diamond’s on the Soles of Her Shoes”.  I turn off the music as my husband parks in front of the funeral home.  We unload musical gear.  I remind myself how absolutely unprepared I am for organizing the music and all the things that have to happen. I don’t feel nervous though.  I am suddenly aware of a feeling of quiet confidence that everything will be ok. I have faith in my mother, my friends and my family.

Let go and let God”, I hear her say in my mind.

I imagine all that she would say to me then.  “Easy does it”, “Breathe huny”, “Just do your best”…

I am there for her and the people who love her.  The pressure lifts.

I enter the funeral home and see a group of people in front of me, but I don’t know any of them. I didn’t realize there were two funerals.  Those can’t be our people – those people look very sad.

A sign points to upstairs indicating that there is a celebration of my mother’s life.  I go upstairs where only my immediate family is sitting.  The room is quiet as John and I descend upon the quiet scene with our immense family.  Our kid’s energy enters the room and things lighten up.

We set up the movie I have created of her and my family and her friends. It took me six long days and it was a grueling process of excavating not only physical pictures but a complete overview of my entire life and everyone who has ever been a significant part of it. During the process I half laughed with a good friend saying that if I hadn’t resolved my past after ALL this, than I was completely without hope.

The rest of my kids come in and we watch the movie together, as a family.  We criend and laughed together as we remembered all of the events that went with the 65 years of memories on the screen.  The memories that made us the people we are today.

Over the days between my mother dying and making the movie I laughed but mostly I cried.  I cried buckets and buckets of tears.  My eyes became swollen and infected and at the funeral I found myself looking slightly Quasimodo-ish.  One person asked me if I got punched.

The result of the movie was beautiful though. I didn’t know it would be like that. After the private family viewing people came in throngs, waves one after the other, all gathering around the screen and able to spend time with her and all the good memories in her life.

She had a special musical request right before her passing – that we play “It’s your Thing” by the Isley Brothers – so I added it to the video with as many silly pictures as I could find.  People were smiling and laughing because they so deeply understood what she was telling them.

I see my family around me.  My brothers I hadn’t seen in the same room for so long only because of circumstance and not a lack of willingness. We all really love each other.  There is a loyalty and a pride in being family that we share. I sense the friendliness and a feeling of unity with all of us.  It feels good.

Our cleaning lady from many years ago arrives smiling. She looks beautiful.  People arrive more and more – we share stories and tears and hugs.  This is very healing.

Time has flown by and it’s time for the ceremony.

I am a little overwhelmed as we enter the chapel. I’m not quite sure what to do. Unbeknownst to me, the two friends who were supposed to sing and play the main song at the ceremony had still not yet arrived because they set up at the wrong funeral home and were sitting beside an unknown person whose name rhymed with my mom’s family name.

We enter the chapel; I make my way through more hugs and touches of support on my shoulder.  I look behind me quickly to see where my family is. My brother and his sons are beside my friends – I love that they are meeting.  My children are in the front clinging to their partners and friends.  I am grateful for the support the Universe has sent their way.  I see them quiet and dignified – this is their Nanny.  A very difficult loss for them.  My heart is washed with love and respect for their quiet courage.

I sit beside my sister – my mother’s identical twin sister. Her sadness is palpable and I wish I could take some of it away. But that won’t ever be possible.  She is beside my stepfather. I am overwhelmed with concern for them both and I once again release my fears to my Higher Power and pray that they get what they need and the comfort that only and act of Grace can bring.

The Archbishop is presiding over the services.  I like this man. I had met him as we were preparing the funeral arrangements. At first, I was wary of anyone who be of “high office” in any church or religion – it is arrogant of a person to claim they can talk to God or on God’s “behalf” better than we can for ourselves.  But he isn’t like this.

I asked him how we can all learn to become “Excellent”, because as the Archbishop he is referred to as “Your Excellency”. A challenge he handles with deference and humour –

“I don’t know, but as soon as I figure it out, I’ll letcha know”. He said with a gleam in his eye.

Very good.

We wanted some form of a Set list or organization for the music at the funeral, but I just knew in my heart that it was not something we could “organize”. It would be fine – I reassured him. God would take care of the music.  Imagine me saying that to an Archbishop?  He smiled-maybe at the irony- and nodded, writing a note or two on his pad.  I think I made him a little nervous with my “hippie ways”, but in the end, he had faith.

The ceremony begins…

Father Barry enters the church saying something about Celebrating the end of a life…we stand…we sit. He recites a passage from Ecclesiastes; “To every thing there is a time…”

The Bible’s long version reminder that everything is changing and that change is the nature of our existence. Yes. My mother would have said the same thing.

People are crying all around me. I like this. It means there were so many people that loved her that she is loved and missed.  I have never been to a funeral where I felt so much love.

It is time for the dedication speeches.  Jack gets up. He’s an Irish-New Yorker straight out of a Mario Puzzo movie. He always reminded me of my brothers in his funny sideways man-humour and gentle gruffness.  He has been very good to my mother and step father and has shown his love in so many tangible ways with his wife Louise. Our family is extended and huge.  His speech is brave and beautiful and ends with the Irish Prayer –

May the Road rise up to meet you

May the wind be at your back…

There is not a dry eye in the house when Jack is done.

Diane gets up next.    My mother’s dear friend over the past many years and someone she loved like a daughter.  Love and loyalty pour from her words and I smile at how I see the impression of my mother’s energy on her.  Her influence of wisdom and the guidance she gave her will not be lost because she will do what my mother did for her for another woman.  This is an awesome legacy – more than money or fame or power – for those things disappear instantly with your last breath.

Here is a little more from father Barry. He speaks from the heart about his own loss of the wife he loved last year- a woman who suffered with MS and then died of cancer. I respect his words because he speaks from his heart and I listen carefully because I know he speaks the truth.  He looks at me and gives me a smile to begin music.  I go up and realized that the friends doing the song are still not here, so I pick up my guitar unsure of what song to do.  I look at the Chapel filled beyond capacity and only feel love.  I like the quiet and I decide not to rush.  I play gently until something comes to me. Other musical friends I see are scrambling for their guitars and trying to figure out what I am playing. Suddenly I see Sonja and Roger come in.  I begin to sing Amazing Grace. George comes in wearing a top hat and a smile.  I hear Sonja’s voice. I don’t know the second verse – I realize only halfway through the first. I feel surrounded by angels and light and beautiful things.  I drop off and on cue, Sonjka picks up the second verse and brings the whole chapel back to singing the first together at the end.

I knew it would be ok.  We would will all just fall into step with each other like people who have walked a long road for a long time do.  I hear David pick up the small bongo’s and a steady beat keeps me moving forward. That’s what friends do. They keep the beat going.

I am singing. I hear myself. I can’t believe it. Just a few hours ago I was trying to figure out how I would even just be in the building and be able to speak to people.  But, in this moment, I am feeling JOY…I mean, my heart is filling up past capacity!  I hear all the other voices, Sonja and roger and the other guitars come in with the heartfelt timing of angels. I look around to make sure my brother can hear because this is beautiful music and I really want him to feel it. He is standing up at the top balcony and I can see smiling.

I don’t feel sad.  I feel my mother – so happy with us.  Smiling and I know that THIS is exactly what she would want. We ALL know it.

So we are happy and sad all at once – together. And that’s ok too.

The ceremony goes on, I give my eulogy and I feel the words and thoughts come easily from the written version to words from my heart.  I had been careful only to write my eulogy once. I didn’t edit or draft it. I just wrote it.

I wanted everyone to remember what she would want us to remember.

Her last word of Love…

I let her speak through my heart and I stepped out of the way. It felt good.

My eldest daughter Meagan gets up and surprises me. She speaks of love for her grandmother and on behalf of her brother and sister, with whom she has a tumultuous and loving relationship.   She is smiling when she sits down. It helps to tell everyone how much you loved someone when they pass away.

We had a final song set up but I wasn’t sure when to do it, but it didn’t matter.  I would follow father Barry. But when he gave me the sign to set up a final song, I changed my mind suddenly from my original “plan” and announced “set list change” to my friends. They all laughed – big surprise. I have never been able to follow a set list in my life. Why should now be any different?   They were prepared J and did “In My life” by the Beatles.   A special request I felt from on high.

We laid her to rest in a beautiful illuminated cubby hole in the Chapel wall.  We can go and visit her ashes any time we want. And the funeral director told me I could bring my guitar and take advantage of the awesome sound in that place.  I love that we can go and be with her and focus on her like this.  It’s a beautiful ending to a beautiful life.

I woke this morning feeling “in my body” for the first time in a week.  I know this is not going to be easy. After a funeral and death there is a long process of understanding how to be in the world again without the physical presence of someone you loved.

Yesterday, when people would ask me how I was, I would do a quick check and answer honestly;

“In this moment, I am well”, because, whenever I remind myself of where I am standing in this moment – really, I am well.   I will have to do that allot in the next while I know.

I speak to my mother all day. I hear her answers clearly in my mind and heart. I don’t doubt her voice, because I came from her and she taught me well.

She is continuing to be a good friend and I feel the love right now, in this moment.  But when have those hard moments where I feel only the loss, I will have the celebration of her life and the feeling of extraordinary love and togetherness that came from that day to bring me back to myself.

In love and gratitude.

 

About Drunks in Bars…

bridge starsWas it a CRAZY moon this weekend? I know the full moon has an effect on folks, although science says that’s not true one day we will find out that once again, “science” was wrong.   This weekend was definite proof of insanity caused by the moon.

As a singer, I see lots of different kinds of people. When I go to work, I usually meet drunk people, sober people – and mostly all very kind people.  Then again – I rarely work in the big city.

Friday night I had a big gig with myt friend Bill at a restaurant/bar/microbrewery where it seems that everyone was under 20.

The people were almost as beautiful as their cars. Everything was shiny and smelled like an onslight of perfume too expensive for a 20 year old.   Full moon or friday night can be blamed maybe for the level of drunkeness in the place.  It seems it is popular there to have your birthday and then drink to the point of vomiting. Sounds like fun?

Friday was bad. First I was accosted by a drunken teenage girl, who was apparently celebrating her birthday but a the rate that she was drinking would probably not see a ton more.  After slinking around the stage a few times looking for attention, she launched herself unceremoniously onto the stage and began talking in the musician’s faces. I had to make it clear to her that her night would go very badly if she didn’t get off my stage and stop bothering everyone.  It made me angry and annoyed. I stepped forward towards her, she continued arguing. She looked younger than my kids, so I bent down and got “motherly” with her.  I suggested that she stop behaving like a moron and  walk away. I think she saw I was serious.

She slurred

“I work here”…

I said ,

“Not for long”…

What amazed me was that my reaction to conflict was very different than it had ever been in the past. In fact, I noticed that my heart rate didn’t even increase. Honestly, despite my “night job”, I’m not used to violence or anger like that. Where I live we play music because it makes us happy, and generally people come to the music because they want to feel good. I dontthink this crowd was the same. I felt like I was on a movie set it was all so unreal.  Then, when I returned to the same place the next night for a second show, I was optimistic that such a disasterous evening could not repeat itself. I was right. It could however –  get wor

Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting? But…I’m a Hippie!!

Arriving early, everyone was at the stage setting up and the musicians greeting each other. We all hadn’t played together in many years, so it was a little like a reunion.  I noticed behind me a long table full of rowdy men. The place was packed, and these guys were dominating the energy.  A stag party, I quickly ascertained.

Soon after our arrival one of the members of this group came to us pretty drunk, asking if he could play a song for his friend who was getting married. I told him straight out that if he was too drunk, he couldn’t come up, but if he could behave and prove he wouldn’t destroy our instruments or puke on stage, he could.  I told him that I would decide when the song would happen and that he could go back to his friends, I would call him up.  He didn’t seem to like that I was taking control of the band…which is my job.  He walked towards me like a young horse with no discipline or boundaries.

“So,  you the big boss or something?” he said to me, taking a step forward into my space agressive and impolite.

“I sure am”, I said looking at him squarely in the eye and not giving an inch.

Then he made a terrible choice.

He took a quick step to be beside me, and then before I could say or do anything, he launched his arm around my shoulder pulling my face to him and crushed his lips on my cheek in an angry way. I had never been kissed angrily before. It was a violent uncomfortable feeling.  I was immediately repulsed.

My hand fleew up and pushed on his chest and without really touching him much, felt all my anger and shock pour out to him and he stepped back.

“You’d better go now or this will go bad for you”.  He gave me a victorious smirk like he had gotten somethign I didnt want to give him and now I couldnt take it back.  I was angry and confused.

I got on stage and started the first set quietly.  It is a restaurant so we generally begin quietly so that people eating aren’t unable to speak over their meals.

We began with Ain’t No Sunshine, a song I enjoy playing acoustic on.  Within seconds the drunk man was back at the stage demanding to come on. I could feel the band behind me getting irritated. I told him no and to move back.  I repeated that when I wsa ready I would call him.

When he continued to persist I leaned over and said past the sound:

“You’re too drunk to be on my stage”. I said firmly and finally. Then stood up and continued to play the song.

“YOUR stage?…bitch.”…he said.  I have met men like this, who don’t like women with any sense of personl power.  They are few and happily far between, but I could smell this one like a dog in the bushes.

The next thing that happened reminds me of a good volleyball strategy, where players set up in a strategic triangle and the ball is handled three times before being enthusiatically spiked to a victorious finale.

At first, he stood in front of me and tried to get on stage and I pushed him off and he stumbled to John my husband playing rhythm who in a quick move he pushed him  harder to the leftwhere he stumbled incomprehendgly landing him in front of my bass player who took one defintive step forward and uncermoniously launched the guy three tables away. It was over.

The song stopped and the bass player gave the guy brief but insistent instructions as to what he could do with his own personal anatomy.

What a night.

I spent all day yesterday recouping my energy from all of these events.  I felt like I was sucked dry.

The irony is that i am supposed to be working on fifth chakra “setting boundaries an dexpressing needs” this month, and it seems like the Universe is making it evidently possible for me to practice the elements of this chakra in everything I do.  Big challenges all over the place.

The difference between being in a spiritually focused place and not, is that I see these situations as opportunities to pratice what I am learning. I certainly don’t see them as coincidences – that’s for sure.  But the willingness to see an opportunity for spiritual understanding does not supercede the fact that I was completely freaked by this.  The differnece is I was interested in WHY i was freaked out.  What was the thought behind the emotion? I was angry.  In fact I think I was angry on behalf of women EVERYWHERE who can’t go into a bar or social situaiotn without being on guarD.

Someone actually said to me (jokingly) that night it all happened because I was dressed “too damned hot”. Really?

Here’s what i think.

Women should be able to go anywhere, anytime wearing anything, kooking as hot as they possibly can – without feeling like they are being preyed upon by some moronic jackass who obviously has some lacking moral fiber. Some filament of goodness that God just hasn’t installed yet. Maybe he needs an update?

Dear Men,

Here’s the deal.

Then we all go to these places and we play – we assume roles and we have fun with them.

That’s the good part. But then you have a terrible habit of screwing it up. This comes from an unfortunate feeling of entitlement our culture has taught you. When you begin to think you have some kind of right to us because we are dressed up – like we did it for you personally and not for ourselves (which is your first mistake) then we have a problem. A big one.

Even though I work in bars, I rarely (never) get treated like a piece of meat – which is exactly how it felt. You would think it is more common, but not really. I thought I was pretty good at setting my boundaries. Plus we play often in the country, and it seems there is an entirely different mentality when it comes to going out on a saturday night.  Less craziness from people who are connected to the land. City people are wacko. Im sorry…but it’s true.

Even so, I have become pretty mellow – or so I tbought. I was surprised at the strength of my reaction to this.  I live today in an environment where I am surrounded by friends and family and even strangers who are gentle and kind and loving.  This exposure to what someone referred to as “the real world” shook me.  What is it I have been missing, because those kids were a mess.  I thought the world had come further I think and so standing there feeling like I was in the middle of a bad Mad Max remake, was unsettling to say the least.

After the guy “kissed” me, I felt the impression of his face on my face for hours.  It was like I couldn’t wash him off me.  I tried to identify what it was that had left me with an impression. Was I taking this personally?

Sort of. I took it personally on behalf of women everywhere.

What is it that makes someone think they have some entitlement to you?

I become resentful, maybe I am emerging as an old feminist, but being in a bar, and even when I am on stage and men look at me as though they want to eat me for lunch.  Phewf.

I see again how my horses are instrumental in their teachings.  I was able to handle this situation calm and with no amount of feeling it personally. I felt it as “energy” and not “an event”.

I love when life throws me little satires that help me see where I am along my path.

I wrote three songs after all of this.  This is a big deal – I havent been able to get a song out of me in 6 months.

For all of you ladies out there – here are the lyrics for the blues standard I wrote inspired by this fine gentleman…

🙂 enjoy!

(Blues standard in E)

I called it “GET YOUR HANDS OFF OF ME”

🙂

You saw me come in the front door

ANd I saw it in your eyes

It wouldn’t be very long

Before you’d try to waste my time

Did you think your smelly drunken drawl

had some kind of appeal

I think that it might be time,

for you to get real.

CHORUS

Get your hands off of me

Who the hell do you think you are?

Get your hands off of me

Didnt your mama raise you right?

Get your hands off of me

You ain’t gettin lucky in this bar

Get your hands off of me

Unless you’re looking for a fight

Ref: you’d better take a quick step back

or I’m gonna give you a heart attack

Maybe your mama rejected you

when you were just a child

Or daddy spanked you once to hard

and then you just turned wild

I ain’t got nothin

I want to say to you

You’re not worth a minute

But if you keep talkin in my face

You’ve put your two feet in it.

CHORUS

I’m not gonna waste my time

on your narrow little mind

So turn around and walk away

Maybe –  you’ll be just fine

CHORUS

Take a some time

and take a breath

and  go out for a walk

and if you can find your brain

then maybe we can talk

CHORUS

Get your hands off of me

I don’t know who you think you are

get your hands off of me

You’re not getting lucky in this bar

Get your hands off of me

I got no time for wastin’

Get your hands off of me

Or it’s my boot that you’ll be tastin.

Have a great day! 🙂

MAJOR LESSONS IN BLUES

jo rialto 1My recent performance at the illustrious Femmes en Blues III in Montreal taught me some grand lessons for which I will be eternally grateful!  I’ll share them with you in the hopes that you won’t make the same mistakes I made.

First I have to begin by making a terrible admission to you:

I never really liked the blues.

It’s boring. Standard. Repetitive.

Right?

Wrong.

The music I chose for the event was selected admittedly haphazardly. Every song to me, up to thAT point, sounded like one of only four songs which represented to blues in my head.  Each song only differed by changing lyrics and cadence so I paid little regard to any of the real complexity of the songs.  I threw the general choices out to my Facebook friends and followers and a few good suggestions came back. I had to pick four in total, so for the final two remaining,  I really had no idea what to choose. I looked mainly for what sounded like ”standard blues” to me – like”Ball and Chain” by Janis (everyone “expected me” to do a Janis) and “Hound Dog” (easy…right?) originally by Big Mama Thornton, and crucified later by Elvis.

The F.E.B. festival is created by some very talented and professional women. An all female band, we only had one rehearsal prior to the show and everyone was expected to learn their songs on their own.  I went into the rehearsal thinking (there was my FIRST mistake!) that I could “wing” these songs./ They’re just blues after all. I was so very very wrong on so many levels.

I came home after getting my ass kicked in rehearsal, and sat down to do some real work. When I began to learn Big Mama’s “Hound Dog”, I realized I was faced with a song that was intuitively complex. I had paid no mind to the intricate and off set patterns of vocal and guitar entry and exit. I had sung everything in a 4×4 (my entire life??), but then later realized that most of the earlier foundation blues was extremely complex because it had not followed what we established later in the 50;s and 60s as a very predictable pattern of music.  I discovered we have dumbed down our music over time!  Sadly we have often have lost the real passionate feel of the intuitive offset patterned blues. As I was learning this lesson, my fingers accidentally touched a YouTube video for “Ball and Chain”, the last concert given by Big Mama Thornton in 1984.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSAOHwQhPcQ

In the video, we see a very old Mama. She puts out her cigarette, sits down, looks carefully at the audience as though she is sitting at a table about to tell a frank and frightening tale. It looked so intimate,  except that she was looking out at a sea of thousands of faces. She announces she is going to do a tune “in my own way”, and so begins “Ball and Chain”. A rebuke to Janis Joplin’s interpretation of her music in the 60′s. I had a rough history with this song.  Firstly, many people because of my rough voice and my big red hair, feel Janis when I sing, so I almost feel a pressure of doing her songs, although I don’t relate to her as an artist or singer at all.  I was at first doing Ball and Chain, which I had plucked quickly and mindlessly off the internet. I listened to the beginning, it sounded like a standard three chord blues and I just threw it into the mix, only later taking the time to really listen to the whole thing and discovered that in actuality it was  Janis screaming a horrendous lament for 8 minutes and seven seconds.  Recorded live just a few months before Janis overdosed, it was truly an anthem of misery. I couldn’t do it.

I quickly got in touch with the organiser of the event, apologising for pulling a song after the deadline, but I explained there was just NO WAY I could do this song.  I remembered this as I watched Big Mama Thornton focus her eyes, clearly in the past, and tell some man how she felt about his “hanging around her neck – like a ball and chain”…wow. I was blown off my chair. Her face twisted, her eyes rolled back in her head and her wide smile shone like a diamond in the blue light of the stage. It was magical.  This was a level of blues so honest and so completely visceral it entirely changed her appearance. She became at once beautiful and awesome…bigger than life.  I watched her eyes transform, and I saw her energy move the band through the ins and outs of the story. My heart-felt full, my eyes had tears and I realized that at that moment…I GOT the blues. I felt it, I knew it…and I was humbled. How could I have taken such a vastly important song as ‘Hound Dog” (which contrary to Elvis’s meek interpretation is not at all about a dog at all), and sung it with such a lack of respect! I could clearly feel Big Mama beside me, poke me with her elbow and say “girl…if you is gonna sing my songs, you better do ‘em right!”. “Yes Ma’am”, I replied silently and reverently. Oh boy. That night being called up on stage to perform my songs at The Femmes en Blues, I was not surprised by the feeling of calm and companionship I felt with this wise elder. She had stayed with me the whole week I diligently learned my songs.  I stepped up to the plate alright…but not alone.    Nothing that is as fabulous as what happened that night could ever be done alone.  Only grace, and the help of a friendly guiding hand, can bring you to this kind of experience. Here’s to hoping you all get the blues!

~Peace~