The days grow colder, the nights longer and the leaves are gone.
Exiting the year 2013, and entering winter 2013-2014 and entering the winter of my life.
And so its getting harder and harder to move around, to get from point A to point B, and closer and closer to the end.
I’ve been performing publicly since 1972 and that’s going to come to an end at some point. Probably not this year or next but at some point.
Some of the deciding factors will be whether or not I can still even find work, though I continue to be blessed with great talents who have been willing to share in that talent.
And so as soon as one or two doors slammed shut (never to be opened again, if I have any say in it) this past year, the door to a new musical adventure opened, and here I am once again in a musical wonderland, the bright, sunny, warm, happy, energetic world Kathy Monahan has offered up to me. Together with the partnership between myself and Andrew James Hughes, which continues strong into its second decade, music is going well and life is, overall, good.
I will be starting up my Al-Vis and Friends showcase at Espresso Joe’s in Keyport in January, and this is also one of the highlights of my career. Being able to be a part of other performers successes means a lot to me, because I know how it feels to have someone older and maybe a bit more well-established in your corner. Many years ago people like Lance Larson, David Shearn, Helyn Chrobocinski, Tim Cusack, Bob and Pat Hackwith and several others gave my career a boost by believing in me, and so it is important, I think, to let people know when you believe in them.
Young artists such as Sofia Nicole, Mikey Butler, Samantha D’Arienzo, Matt Scuteri, Two Reds and A Beard (AKA Megan,Kevin and Lauren), Alex English as well as more established artists such as Jill Cagney, Me and Bobby D. (my life long friend Bobby D’onofrio and the incredibly beautiful and talented Kelley Dewkett), Pam McCoy, Artie Rossi, Laura Crisci and so many others- all of these deserving of much more recognition than they have gotten.
Sometimes a little bit of encouragement goes a long way. Low pay, pay to play, thieving club owners who demand you bring people in or they won’t pay you, inattentive and callous audiences, shyster promoters- there is so much negativity in this business that it can be crushing at times.
Now add to this mix the fact the musical artists LOVE to put huge boulders in their own path. Alcohol, ego, prima-donnaism, recklessness, undependability- so many ways an artist can be their own worst enemy. And so an act that I fought like a tiger for for 2 1/2 years and that was one of the most promising of my career comes to a screeching halt for no good reason. A simple plea for a change in personnel snowballs into one of the most self-destructive (for the other party) breakups I have ever witnessed.
But that is done, and a new day is on us. I don’t have that kind of problem with Kathy, and I don’t think I will ever have that kind of problem again, now that I have seen the damage it can cause.
What will 2014 bring? I have no idea, because I also learned in 2013 that a career and a life can change in the blink of an eye. None of the issues I currently face may be around at the end of 2014 (and thats assuming I will be around).
But some things are constant, such as the things I have outlined here, and I look forward to those. Who will be the next Sofia Nicole or Lauren Buzelli or Cook Smith or Carol Barbieri even? No way to tell.
27 years ago I began performing with a ragged bunch of hippies in a loose acoustic conglomeration. We called ourselves the Granola Heads. Lee Hefter, Danny Gallagher, Helyn Chrobocinski, Amal Ardito and a few others got together at Helyn’s or the Clearwater House on Sandy Hook, and played some great acoustic music. That was the beginning of a 20 year friendship that was one of the most productive of my life. Helyn and I would go on to work together to book the acts at the Clearwater Festival at Sandy Hook and later, Asbury Park- some of the best festivals ever.
16 years ago I heard a song that stayed with me, even after only one listen, for weeks and weeks. when I finally got to meet the person behind the song (who called herself Spring) it later blossomed into yet again one of the most rewarding and long-lasting associations of my career.
My friendship with Helyn continued until her death in 2007. My friendship with Spring lasted over ten years, culminating in the other ridiculously absurd splits of my career, with her going way off the deep end and back into the oblivion from which she appeared. I don’t know if last years insanity will have the same result (so far it has, at least around here) but then again I can’t stop people from hurting themselves, no one can. I couldn’t stop Spring from what she did in 2007 any more than I could convince Danny to put down that ubiquitous bottle of whiskey that got between him and the audience so many times in the years I spent performing with him.
Death has a way of rearranging the furniture, so to speak. When David Shearn died many of the friends we had in common ceased to keep in touch. when Helyn passed in 2007 the same thing happened. In fact I don’t think any of what happened between Spring and I would have happened if Helyn hadn’t passed around that time.
As far as the most recent split, it wasn’t death but the slow realization on my part that things were just not what they seemed that brought it on. One of the things I am good at is adapting to situations, I think. And part of adapting is to turn a blind eye to things that are, at least on the surface, irrelevant to the situation at hand. So I ignored and ignored until I couldn’t ignore any more. Was it a waste of my time and resources? I think so, but at the time it wa a crap shoot. No one wants to be left out of the game, so I played along for 2 1/2 years. Maybe too long. No, definitely too long.
But that road led to THIS road, and this road is much more productive and serene. when Kathy sings all the great singers who came before her come into my head. All of the great acts I have been blessed to perform with come into my mind. And I am ready for whatever comes next, even the darker, colder parts of what comes next.
I might try to block those who contributed to the disasters earlier in 2013. But I will NEVER curse that road. Because that road led to THIS road, and at least for the next few years I know that will be one of the best roads I have ever travelled.
Happy 2014 everyone:
“May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rains fall soft upon your fields,
And, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.”
as Big Danny used to recite.