Thursday, September 18, 2008

Play that funky music (oh, ok, folk music) white boy

We gathered once again to play an outdoor street festival tonight in downtown Pittsfield. On these "Third Thursday" gigs I always feel like I am living in the midst of a "Northern Exposure" episode as regular and eccentric folk parade up and down the street listening to great music, visiting with one another, eating fun food and visiting the street vendors and art shops open late. It is a blessed experience and I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Tonight we were in competition with a pretty good cover band who was MUCH louder than our trio - even when I cranked up the old Rickenbacker for a little "Pink Cadillac" we couldn't compete with "I Want Candy" or their Tommy James medley. So... we just figured out what key they were playing in and joined them sometimes - doing a MUCH better version of "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" I might add!

But then for about 25 minutes we had the central square to ourselves and did some of our best tunes from Leonard Cohen's "Anthem" to our standbys "One of Us," "Slip Slidin' Away" and "Let It Be." We even got a chance to share my tune, "Hymn to Grace" about our wonderful and wounded little town.

Being in community with these people - and living much more in touch with both the pulse of the seasons and the folk - is humbling for it forces me to make certain that I don't live in the realm of ideas. You can run, as they say, but you can't hide in a small town and tonight I saw the local Habitat coordinators from our New Orleans trip, my former secretary, a few church members who have lived through incredible hard times and still have faith, hope and love, people I recently visited pastorally, colleagues as well as a bunch of good hearted souls who love our music and wish us the best. There is an immediacy to this ministry that is refreshing and keeps me fresh.

One of my band mates arrived after a miserable day of hard work and overwhelming demands - and started out singing all grumpy and pissed off - but as the music took root and we had a chance to love and support one another in song, found that the ugly feelings left.. and it was a sweet time after all. We even had one of our little Sunday school guys set up a make shift plastic bottle drum set to join in when we rocked out! Blessings abound even in the midst of economic insecurity and political confusion. And when we can make music that is beautiful, too... well, let's just say there is a healing that helps us all for a moment.

As I thought about this day at its close - the challenges, the joys, the expected FROST (omg), the people and poetry - this prayer/song came to me that I have always cherished by a woman of the North Country: Joni Mitchell.

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