3 gigs in 17 hours last weekend in Wisconsin

I have no idea if any of you, my readers, are remotely interested in the daily logistics of life as a roving Lutheran folk-rocker, but I thought I'd give you a rundown of this past weekend: I played in three different ultra-rural Wisconsin towns in one 17-hour period. Thanks to all the nice folks I met in Sand Creek, Spencer, and Riplinger!

On Saturday afternoon I drove out of Minneapolis in my Saturn Hybrid, the iPod rocking through the car stereo. All weekend long I spent a lot of time shuffling the iPod through the songs of Chris Knight, an excellent country-rock songwriter, perfect for the pending autumn. I arrived at the site for my evening concert. Here's a photo of my glamorous tour bus parked next to a vast and surprisingly beautiful field of corn.

A few dozen folks from the area came out to spend their evening sharing some music with me and we all had a great time. I was in a pretty squirrelly mood, so I ended up yapping a lot, joking around, and finding out about life in Sand Creek. Here's a picture of some of the crazy fans I had sitting in the front row! We're posing in front of the congregation's own church directory photo frames, containing Confirmation Class pictures stretching back a century (just like what I sing about in the song "Church Directory"). I love to make connections to all those hundreds of people, long dead, who we'll never know...yet their lives continue to impact their church community decades later....the "great cloud of witnesses"...it's a theological/ecclesiastical mystery that I can't get my head around, but still I see it so clearly manifested in reality.

There were some interesting musical moments during the concert. I played some strange stuff including the Finnish folk melody Kuortane, "Yesterday" by The Beatles, and a show-closing sing-along version of "Narthex" with high school freshman Derek sitting in on hand-drum (he's the kid in the red vest). The church has been singing "Narthex" for a couple years after they saw me play in a neighboring town a couple years ago, and it was totally cool to play the song and have everybody jump in and sing on the chorus!

As I took down my equipment after the show, some of the youth who were there introduced me to the music of alterna-prog band Avenged Sevenfold. I could totally appreciate the musicianship and arrangement, although the sound of the production was a bit too "current" for my geezerly ears. A good band, though. Kids these days, they like that jungle music.

By the time I jumped back in my vehicle after saying goodbye to my hosts it was pushing 10PM. I hadn't had any dinner, so I drove 40 miles down the road to Chippewa Falls. Not much choice for food, but McDonalds was open, so I enjoyed my Value Meal #2 in a spotlessly clean and deserted restaurant. This might sound weird, but here's the truth: these are some of my favorite moments of a touring musician's life:
+ you've played a good show and everybody enjoyed it, a little community was created, there was a spark of love and creativity and uplift in the world
+ you've flown down the empty highway in the dark, great songs blasting from the car stereo
+ you get some food and a giant beverage 'cause you haven't eaten for 10 hours
+ you sit alone and enjoy wonderful anonymity and privacy
+ you bring along a book/magazine/newspaper and read in the lovely quiet
+ get a refill of that cold beverage
+ you've got that satisfied, aware, post-gig buzz and you're appreciating the weirdness, fun, and freedom of the musical life
+ two words: french fries
+ back in the car, 70MPH, more good and loud tunes off the iPod

I tell you, every day I tour by myself is like this, and I just love it. I could do it forever. (Of course, it would be most ideal to have Dawn and kiddos with me, but I really enjoy it out there on my own, too.)

Got to my hotel around 1AM and I crammed in 5 hours of sleep before I had to wake up and drive over to Spencer, WI, where I was musical guest for the morning. And a couple hours later I was the musical guest in Riplinger, WI. Both places were great....farm families, old-school small town life, babies and octogenarians, cows next to the parking lot. Played some great hymns, guided folks through The Heartland Liturgy, and even got to fire up a vintage Conn-brand Hammond-esque church organ and bang out a Gospel-style take of "What a Friend We Have in Jesus"...I was doing my attempt at bluesy organ playing, and you should have seen the faces of the locals....they've never heard their usual church lady musician coax noise like that from that instrument!

Headed home around Noon and had to stop in a gas station parking lot to take a nap...didn't want to fall asleep at the wheel. 'Twas a busy 17 hours, and I was spent...but happy! I feel like at this stage in the game I really know what I'm doing, and I feel like I've got something fresh and interesting and helpful to bring to the table. Can't ask for much more than that in the vocational realm.


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