On my mother’s birthday each year since her passing, I get a little melancholy. I usually don’t plan much on that day, having made the mistake once shortly after her death, of booking a first time co-writing session in which, if memory serves me correctly, I think I spent most of the time trying not to cry - unsuccessfully. Yeah, no song got written that day.
But life has a funny way of mellowing us over time, and things that used to make me cry now make me laugh. Take, for instance, the story about a relative who, upon hearing the eulogy I wrote for my mother's funeral, asked me, “Did you ever think about becoming a writer?” Hilarious.
This year, instead of reflecting for the entire day on assorted memories of her love of ballroom dancing, anything dark blue, and movies where the underdog triumphantly prevails, I did something decidedly different from previous years – I went to a concert, a Kenny Loggins concert, to be precise.
I think I can safely say that my mother had no idea who Kenny Loggins is. (I came out of the womb singing the entire score to Funny Girl, which I’m certain, was very entertaining to people around me during my toddler years.) But I know she would be happy that I was doing something fun, and something musical, and something with my friend, Jeryl, whom she adored.
Now, there’s a little bit of a history with me and a couple of concerts Mr. Loggins played last year. It involved a new band he started, an article I wrote for the Huffington Post, a chance meeting, an elephant, a stick of gum, and a mostly one-sided conversation. Okay, I threw the elephant and stick of gum in there just to see if you were paying attention.
If you’re new to this blog, well, first, thanks for stopping by. And second, to catch up on that whole backstory, here’s the link to one of my all-time favorite blog posts http://ileneangel.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-kenny-loggins-blog.html …which led to this joint HuffPost piece http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kenny-loggins/blue-sky-riders_b_2007436.html and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ilene-angel/kenny-loggins_b_2007280.html…which led to…jeeze, this is exhausting, so I’m stopping now. You’ll just have to Google.
So back to last night. My friend Jeryl and I headed to the concert at Yonkers Raceway or Empire City Casino, as it’s now called. We parked in a lovely section of the vast expanse that I believe was called “China,” and we started hiking. Sure, the security guy told us there were shuttles, but a) shuttles are for sissies, and b) I remembered that I forgot to lose those the 30 pounds I’d been meaning to by the end of the summer, so win/win with the hiking.
We got to our amazing seats just before seven to hear the opening act, Blue Sky Riders, comprised of Gary Burr, Georgia Middleman, and yes, Kenny Loggins. (You can read this HuffPost review of their album to see just how much I love this band. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ilene-angel/blue-sky-riders-finally-home_b_2569825.html )
The only thing was we were about two of twelve people there for the opening act. I kid you not. The tickets said 8 o’clock, so people didn’t know about the opener, or that there was an opener, or that Kenny was in it, even.
So picture walking out on stage, pumped to play your set, excited to share your new music, looking out at a vast array of…empty seats. Oy. I felt awful for them. I tried to singlehandedly make up for the throngs of adoring fans that weren’t there, but that was a fool’s errand. To their credit, they kicked ass and lived up to every glowing thing I said about them in my review. And I’m sure they’ll take home fond memories of playing Yonkers. I know I do.
By the time the headliner came out, the entire place was packed. Out walked Kenny to perform his concert of wall-to-wall iconic hits, woven together seamlessly with the perfect amount of humorous banter in between, and sung to the kind of perfection that only a true veteran can achieve. (I know, you should see what I write when I really like someone’s performance.)
The crowd sang along, hooted, hollered, and everything else one is supposed to do at these types of events. Me, I wondered about things like can the performer hear the audience doing any of that stuff out in the open night air? Or does it just look like a bunch of people moving their lips? And which of his hits does he still love the most, and which does he wish he never had to do again. Me, I’ve got my own personal favorite song of his.
The ninety-or-so minutes seemed to me to be like five. But I knew by the time everyone was on their feet dancing to “Footloose” that the concert was winding down.
Jeryl and I went to the gated area to go backstage. And by “backstage,” I mean behind the trailers parked on the racetrack. Oh, the glamour of it all. This year I wasn’t crashing. We actually had passes. So after the radio contest winners, and the fan club members, and some other grouping we couldn’t quite identify, we were ushered in.
I would like a huge drum roll now, please, for all of you waiting with baited breath to find out whether or not I was able to carry on an actual conversation this time with Kenny Loggins…………yes, I could…I mean, I did!
But first, I have to just say a word about my friend, Jeryl. We met at a performing arts camp when we were 13. So this is a friendship that has spanned quite a while. In fact, it was at this performing arts camp that Jeryl, having listened to me play and sing my songs in a little practice room, went to the camp director and told them I needed to perform my songs in a concert…which I did…which changed the course of my life forever.
Fast forward a lot of years to me sending her a 35 page draft of a “book” and asking her if she thought this could be an actual book. (She had become a journalist – after studying acting at NYU and getting a law degree, slacker that she is.) If she had said no, I would have trusted her and let it go, but the thing is, she emphatically said yes! And once again, the course of my life was forever altered by her boundless enthusiasm for what I do.
So here we are backstage at a Kenny Loggins concert, and I have no idea how this whole interaction is gonna play out. But given what I just told you about Jeryl in the prior two paragraphs, I should have foreseen that it might involve her telling Kenny Loggins that I’m the greatest songwriter ever and generally extolling my genius, in addition to his, of course. (This is why you bring a friend.) Bless her heart, if she could have, she would have pulled up two chairs and made us write a song together right there. (That did not happen, by the way.)
So the three of us chatted amicably for a few minutes, took a picture together for posterity, and parted ways so Jeryl and I could hike back to my car. It was a far cry from a year earlier, when I think I managed to only eke out a few guttural noises in lieu of actual words.
I know that Kenny maintains a grueling touring schedule, and that launching a new band is an uphill battle in today’s music industry. But if you want to see how it’s supposed to be done at its finest, go get yourself a ticket and see him on the road. And for the love of God, come early and see Blue Sky Riders. You will be so glad you did. I know I am.
So thank you to Jeryl and to Kenny for making September 8th this year so filled with joy.
To my beloved readers, thanks for stopping by. And please tell your friends.