There’s so much more to a show than the music.
For every show, there’s a feeling influencing and encompassing all who open themselves to it, from the moment they set their mind on being a part of it. And through the positive energy created from friends dancing together while actively listening to a gifted group of artists performing their hearts out, an electricity is created. On some nights it feels like pure bliss, recognizable to every single person present. It’s magic, and if you learn to collaborate with it and to recycle it, beautiful things happen.
One day, with very little publicity, the date mysteriously appeared on Yonder Mountain String Band's website. On a night-off between Jamgrass appearances in Oregon and Seattle, Yonder booked a show thirty miles south of the Canadian border, in a town called, “Bellingham.” Fans were excited about the idea of spending an entire evening with the band, as opposed to the abbreviated sets they were going to be playing as part of the Jamgrass performances. The venue was a historic converted church, and in the field usually reserved for ticket information sat a phone number, at the other end of which was an individual volunteering to set tickets aside for you if you “promised” you were going to make it.
“Absolutely,” I responded. “I live 250 miles from there, I don’t own a car, and I don’t know anybody considering driving there from here, but I’ll be there.” I just had a feeling.
Eventually a friend agreed to make the trip with me, but the day before the show he decided he couldn’t. No reason to panic.
“Do you know anybody making the trip?”
“Yeah, actually my friends Dave and Mimi are heading up there.”
“Would they consider letting a stranger join them?”
“I’m sure. Give them a call.”
“Dave? I’m Adam, a friend of Matt’s. May I ride to Bellingham with you tomorrow?”
“A friend of Matt’s? Absolutely!”
On my way to Bellingham, I made new friends. For five hours we shared life experiences, including probably twenty shows that we had attended simultaneously. You know the conversation.
We hit every rest stop between Portland and Bellingham because he doesn’t like to stop and she “goes” often. And the minute we pulled into Bellingham we recognized something unique about the town. It felt nice, with old, ornate buildings, steep tree-covered hills, friendly strangers and water nearby.
Before the show, we headed to the Boundary Bay Brewery for dinner and beers, where a gentleman approached asking whether I was “the guy who posted his need for a ride back to Seattle after the show tonight on Yonder’s discussion group?”
“Yeah, that’s me.”
“Well, do you still need a ride?”
“Cool, man. Just meet us outside after the show.”
And with that the logistics were settled. I was two blocks from the show, two hundred and fifty miles from home, and two beers into a night which was going to include a Yonder show and conclude at my friend’s apartment, in Seattle, so we could get to Bumbershoot early the next morning. Perfect.
The show was spectacular. The Majestic was beautiful: high ceiling, classic hardwood floors, and pristine acoustics - just a big empty room, missing only the altar that obviously once stood up front. Tonight, it was a little stage supporting four young musicians from Colorado and surrounded by a friendly crowd of only 500. Friday night in Bellingham.
Highlights ensued early with Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough” sandwiched within a “Freeborn Man.” The first set closed with crowd favorite “Granny.” The Grateful Dead’s “Mason’s Children,” during the second set, felt special rivaling the un-amplified acoustic encore of “Yer No Good” and “Mother’s Only Son.”
At setbreak, the crowd poured through three extremely tall doors and into the neighborhood surrounding the Majestic. A beer at the pub down the hill, or a stroll, or a smoke preceded returning to the venue to find open doors and room for anyone interested.
All night, Jeff Austin's maniacal enthusiasm drove the boys, and their masterful responses further inspired him. The acoustic encore, during which the crowd huddled closely together in the front of the room, felt different. Of course it’s not the first time they’ve done it, but you couldn’t help but feel lucky to be a part of it and a little sorry for your friends who were unable to share it with you.
So many factors contribute to the success of a great show, an influential one of which is the attitude and intention of the event’s producers. When events are created with the intention of simply maximizing profit, decisions are made without consideration for the attendees, and as a result, the experience is dramatically affected.
This evening, Ch’ul Productions were the hosts, and their concern for the experience of the fans was obvious immediately. Named after a Mayan word meaning “soul” and “spirituality,” Ch’ul Productions is comprised of a handful of individuals who agreed Bellingham would benefit from the influence of bringing a music-minded scene through town to mix with the naturally artistic residents. They were right, and on this night, the result was magnificent.
JamBase | Portland
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