This last weekend was our sixth annual LDSMusicians Festival. It was by far the best ever, in all the years that I’ve been doing it, guiding it, experiencing it, this was a year of major growth for me. Here’s my report.
Friday afternoon was crazy. Earlier in the day, I had a flat tire, we had to get Jacob to the doctor, lots of things getting in the way. In retrospect, I think it’s very similar to the things that happen every time we get ready to go to the temple.
Pretty soon it was evident that we were going to miss the 3:30 session that we had planned as the start of the fest. So, I called and let them know to not wait for us. At that point, I considered bagging it, but I knew that I needed to do it. I needed to consecrate the weekend, and starting it in the temple was a part of that, whether or not I actually got to do that with any of my musician friends. Jodi and I would go through anyway.
It turned out that Julie was also running late, so she went through with us.
That temple session set the tone for the entire fest. Many times, over the course of the weekend, I would simply feel the swelling of the Spirit and I would tear up. Even at the stupidest of moments. It’s tough for guys when that happens! :-)
From there, I crossed the street to the UDC chapel to set up for the workshops. I had prepared a workshop called “Scriptures for Musicians”, based largely on the blogs I’ve done over the last few years with that subtitle. As I’ve been reading the scriptures, I’ve been amazed at how many of them have jumped out at me as referring to my musical efforts.
I was concerned about the turnout. Julie had made arrangements to have Jeannine Laskey to come and give us a songwriting class and critique. She’s very involved in the NSAI and a very accomplished songwriter, and I was concerned that we’d have enough people to make it worth her while.
It turned out we did, although the people tended to trickle in on “Mormon Standard Time”! There were even a couple of people not on our email group, that had heard about the workshops from ads or other promotions. They were fun to meet.
I did my presentation, sharing those scriptures, and talking about those verses having just come out of the temple was very spiritual for me. I got to share many of the experiences that sparked those personal revelations, and it felt great to me.
Jeannine’s presentation was wonderful as well, and she shared some of her early, difficult life, and how that impacted her songwriting. One of the reasons why I don’t usually like critique sessions is that, too often, the guest will critique from the perspective of commercial songwriting, and not acknowledge that there are other reasons for and methods of writing. Jeannine embraced that and helped everyone take their songs to a newer level. It was a lot of fun.
Saturday began when I arrived at Morey’s house. He’d called me earlier to warn that he’d not been feeling well that week. When I arrived, he was not looking well at all. I was quite at a loss. He’s our lighting man. What would we do in the evening show? But, he was willing to carry on. I gave him a quick blessing, we finished the loading up, and we were off to the Amphitheatre.
When we arrived, Cole was already setting up the sound. I suggested Morey rest while we waited for more folks to arrive and help unload the lights. They arrived very quickly and we began the process. Matt, Marshall, Zack, many others arrived, and work began.
This is one of the parts of the fest that I like the most. As people begin arriving, some from great distances, we meet, embrace, chat, then get to work. Brad from Border Crossing, our group’s original founder from Idaho. Kent from Arizona. Dorshan from Nashville. Many of the people that arrive are folks that I’ve been virtual friends with for a long time, but had never yet had the chance to meet face to face.
Things start happening, the show and the stage start to come together. Some clean up, some set up the sponsors and the CD sales tables, some sweep the amphitheatre, each dives in and begins the effort.
At about noon, we break for lunch and have our “song circles”. That’s a tradition that grew out of our first fest. As we were having lunch on the lawn by the amphitheatre, guitars seemed to jump out of cases, and we started playing each other songs and jamming. We’d share what we’d been working on and just having a great time.
Soon, at around 2:00 or so, we start to see audience trickling in. Many are family and friends of performers. The afternoon show starts. Frankly, too me the afternoon show was a blur. I was spending a lot of that time walking around, checking on this, working on that, making sure that things were going smoothly. I’m sure that there were some great performances, but I didn’t absorb many of them. Tom Halverson showed how incredible his bass playing was, Lloyd Plum showed some guitar pyrotechnics both in classical and hard rock. Dorshan sang, and many others were there as well. I know I’ll get in trouble for forgetting many people, but I was just too distracted.
Not long after we started, clouds started rolling over, and the winds began to pick up. I got really, really nervous. I thought, at first, that the storm was going to miss us. For the most part, it did, but the clouds seemed to hover over us for a long time. We did get one rain squall which lasted for only a minute or two. Not much to worry about. But I did, anyway.
About halfway through the show, the clouds cleared. It turned out to be very nice that way, because it had kept the hot afternoon sun out of the amphitheatre, and not done much raining.
Soon after the clouds cleared, I had the chance to go on stage with Matt, Morey and John and play with Random Tangent. It has been so stinkin’ much fun working with those guys this last year. I’ve learned a lot from each of them. By this time, Morey was feeling much better. Certainly not feeling WELL, but much better. We were all grateful for that.
Then, with the afternoon show done, we began setting up for the Evening Showcase. Connie had suggested that we start and close the shows with a prayer, and that sank in and felt very good in my heart. I was a little nervous how it would transition, a solemn prayer, and then my rock tunes (I was starting the show), but inside, I knew it would work.
So, that’s how we began. Pat Arp gave a beautiful opening prayer, and I ripped into “Turn it Up”. The show was off and running!
I was amazed, one at a time, at each of the following performers. It was still a blur for me, as I was the MC, and coordinating prize drawings with the sponsors and the CD table, getting artists ready, moving things on stage, etc…
I was amazed at how Eric Herman had all the kids (and especially mine) in the safe and fun palm of his hand. He’s found his niche, and he’s got it nailed. Brendon and Jake have been singing his songs ever since.
In spite of EnZign’s technical troubles, they did a great performance.
Crinna Hill is just constantly getting better and better. It was especially cool to see Dad Roberts step up with his electric slung low and wail. Man! What a guitarist, and I’ve always loved what he writes.
I’ve always been amazed to watch how the two Border Crossing guys can have an audience captured so easily and so calmly.
And I’ve always raved about Sam. What an incredible and adaptable performer. At one point, there was some tech troubles. He told his band to groove a little while he tried to get his instrument working (Inside reference: Thanks for forgiving me, Sam!). When they did, he picked up on the tune they were playing, grabbed a little bit of hand percussion and sang a song they’d not planned. They could have gone on and on and on, and I wouldn’t have minded a bit.
After the strike, I was hammered. I felt like I had been run over by a truck. I was hobbling because I could hardly walk. That’s OK, that’s what happens every year, when an old man like me runs up and down the brick steps of the amphitheatre too many times, and hauls too much gear around.
But we had to go to the after party. That’s where a lot of the fun is. And it was. Swapping songs in a circle (even if Brad and Steve never played my request, Dave did…), and laughing a LOT. Making new inside jokes (we do have the holiest crap of all, don’t we?), and mostly being amazed and feeling both tight in a loving circle of friends, and like an outsider not worthy of hanging with all these real musicians and truly spiritual giants. And it’s especially cool, if I can digress, to see just how much their spirituality comes shining through their music, even when they’re playing silly songs and making me laugh until I’m not sure if I’m crying because I can’t breathe, or because I’m being touched so deeply.
Finally, Morey and I went home. I got to bed at about 4:00
And yet, I still somehow managed to get up and be on time for church the next morning. Go figure.
The last event of our fest, for the last two years, has been the Sunday Devotional. This year, it was headed up by M Ryan Taylor, and he did a fabulous job. Not only with his own work, but in conducting the meeting with heart and Spirit.
One part of that I especially enjoyed was being able to sing some of Bruce “Bruceman” Forbes’ hymn texts as the break hymn and closing hymn. It was a real moment for me to finally give voice to his many contributions to our group over the years.
I learned a lot this fest. I saw people giving time, money and effort (some did all three), even when they had little promotional interest in the fest. I saw many go over and above the call of what was reasonable to get it accomplished (Thanks, Morey). Those contributions and the incredible performances were very humbling for me. I enjoyed very much renewing old friendships, making virtual friendships real, and even finally repairing a broken one, releasing a grudge that my own wounded pride had clung to way, way too long.
Starting and ending the Fest on a Spiritual high bookended the weekend beautifully for me. Many many times my eyes welled up. I guess I’m just getting old and sentimental. I really grew a lot this year. It was our best show ever, but it was way more than a show for me.
MRKH - Mark Hansen
Mark Hansen Music - LDS Rock Music - Free Downloads
Mark Hansen Music - LDS Rock Music - Free Downloads
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