That Fine Line

Have you ever noticed the fine line that runs between being cool and being a fool? Between just right and over the top? Between eccentric and just plain crazy? I recently encountered yet another fine line—the one between potential disaster and magic.

Chris and I had just driven 460 miles to Columbia, South Carolina, where I was scheduled to play an outdoor concert at something called the Alien Carnival House. And now, we’re sitting in our car staring at this “venue,” a rundown four-room house in a marginal neighborhood, where, we later learned, our host and his second wife had raised eight children.

In my line of work, a gig’s a gig. I’ve played the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles and the Knaughty Knight in Morgan City, Louisiana, so I’ve experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly. You play your songs and hopefully, a connection is made, the love starts swirling around, and everybody goes home happy. In thirty-five years of touring, I’ve never missed a gig.

Would this be my first? Neither of us wanted to get out of the car. Even Chris, who can put a positive spin on anything, was skeptical.

“Maybe we should just drive on to Charleston . . . ,” he mused aloud.

Then our host came out to greet us. Sensing our fatigue, he ushered us into his daughter’s bedroom where Chris and I promptly fell asleep on a mattress on the floor.

While we slept, an amazing transformation was taking place outside.

A stack of fine oriental rugs—salvaged from our host’s first marriage— was removed from a dilapidated garage and spread out over the backyard, where the ground rose up like a natural amphitheater. Marv the sound guy arrived to set up sound. A white tent was raised over the back deck, which was now a stage. Because of the threat of rain, a blue tent was set up out front. White Christmas lights were strung across the front of the stage along with mason jars of white candles, creating a magical glow. Then, miracle of all miracles, people began showing up. Lots of people. They came bearing lawn chairs and food, and some even brought candelabras.

During the second set, a huge rainstorm blew in. While everybody huddled under the blue tent, grinning like they were having the time of their lives, I kept playing. So what if my bare feet were standing in inches of water on a soggy oriental rug. So what if I’m singing into a microphone that’s plugged into a hundred and twenty volts. Lightning? Thunder? Laissez les bons temps rouler! Once again, magic edged out disaster by a nose.

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