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One More Time, With Feeling

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Singer/songwriters Kenny Loggins, Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman recently formed the new band Blue Sky Riders, and were profiled by Huff/Post50 in February. They are finishing their first album and will be chronicling their experiences as a band in this blog.

There are 55,578 new bands arriving onto "the music scene" each week, (I'm guessing here...), all young and gorgeous, all talented beyond belief, (well not ALL, necessarily), but all vying for the same shot: for your attention, your imagination, and your hard earned cash. So what am I doing here, now, at my age, still wanting you to sing along? I guess the answer is... that's what I do. I'm a singer. I'm a song-writer. Not necessarily WHO I am. But it's what I DO.

And when Gary 'n Georgia and I are on stage together and in "the zone," when Blue Sky Riders is in The Zone, it's the most fun I've had on stage in 20 years. When these 3 voices hit that blend, it's magic. There's GOTTA be an audience out there, still hungry for new/classic music!

At the beginning of our first ever tour last year, we played our first opening-act show to "half a house" in Webster, MA. (That's what they call it when no one shows up...,"half-a-house.") This time it's because it's an outdoor gig and lightly raining. On a good night the real audience potential there is about 2,000, but even though the weather was bad, the mood of the 800 folks gathered there was festive.

Thinking I'd be funny and play with what I assumed would be obvious, that Kenny Loggins is in the band, I bought a fake nose-n-glasses at a gag shop, and wore them onto the stage. Well, ... if you're ever running from the law I suggest you consider doing the same thing, because almost no one figured out who the lanky guy on stage right was, the one slightly resembling Buddy Holly with an alcohol problem!

Georgia, Gary and I started out as we had planned, doing the a cappella introduction to "I'm a Rider (Finally Home)"

"I'm a Rider...," we sing, and they're all looking at us like, "What the hell is happening here?? Is that Kenny Loggins? Nah, it can't be. Why would HE be up there this early? But WHO are they?!"

By the time we're done with our short set, (opening acts usually only play for 20 minutes, but KL generously let us go a little long tonight), we just stand there on stage, staring at the audience, a bit flustered. We'd planned on an encore, but the audience is only applauding politely, just kinda sitting there, staring right back at us, stunned. In those crucial moments, there passes about a half year of puzzled assessment. What do we do now?

Then, suddenly, magically the applause starts... at first a bit tentative... then... suddenly, extremely enthusiastic. And just like that, we made 800 new friends! Out there in the rain, wet and cold and pretty darn stupefied, they gave us the warmest welcome we could have ever hoped for. We'd broken through. We'd played our first real, public, "opening act" show together, and they'd told us, "Keep the faith. We're with you."

But that wasn't necessarily the norm.

A few days later we faced a "private show" crowd mostly drunk on beer, all seemingly needing to converse loudly and incessantly at no one in particular... not such a good thing when you're trying to sing to them. The best part of that learning experience was not only did they need to yell at each other during our Riders' set, they went right on incoherently shouting at each other during my solo set too; so in the long run we couldn't take it so personally. I guess they all just had a lot to get off their chests that night. Beer'll do that.

I suppose we'd seen enough "polite opening-act greetings and half-filled houses" by then that the stress was starting to show on my face. Just as we were about to go on stage to yet another handful of unsuspecting KL fans, the sweetest thing happened.

Georgia turned to me and in her gentlest tone, simply, empathetically said to me, "Please don't quit." And at that moment I knew she saw right through me, and I loved her for it.

This is what I've been missing during my 30-year stint as Kenny the Autonomous... an empathetic partner. I suspect Gary saw it on my face too, though he's not the type to say that sort of thing. After all, he's a Connecticut Yankee in King Urban's Court. Guys like him just squint knowingly into the setting sun and do what needs to be done.

But when Georgia said that to me, I knew I was in for the long haul.

I've so missed being part of a team, and this is one hell of a Team!

Now cut to one year later, in Saratoga, Ca, and an appreciative and enthusiastic audience is giving us an encore, AN ENCORE! One where we thought we were done, were about to walk off the stage, but then the audience demands we come back and play "just one more."

And suddenly I'm filled with gratitude. I feel like my life is starting over yet again.
And it is.
One more time, with feeling, eh?