Saturday, June 13, 2009

Red letter day

The scenario went something like this...

I saw on the artist's website that he would be performing here in concert. I followed a link to the venue's page, which made no mention of the event. I e-mailed someone there for more information but did not receive a reply. Earlier this week I called the place and was given an individual's phone number. I called it, left a message, and shortly thereafter received a return call.

The person who called me is a lawyer who independently puts on and promotes singer/songwriter concerts on the side. He maintains an e-mail list, which is how people generally become aware of the shows. Apparently he's been doing this for fifteen years. I just needed to bring twenty dollars, cash or check, to get in tonight.

I didn't have any concerns about this being on the up and up. In fact, it merely adds another level of curiosity to what I did this evening: attend a country music concert in a German arts organization/social club's ballroom.

I was happy to be able to see Bruce Robison in Columbus as seeing him or his wife in concert has previously required a drive of at least two hours every other time I've seen them individually or together. While Robison isn't a household name, especially outside of Austin, Texas or the country scene, he's enjoyed a pretty good amount of success by virtue of his songs being covered by the Dixie Chicks, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, and George Strait.

So, for a guy who seems to be well-thought of in the industry and has six full-length solo albums, an EP, a greatest hits collection, and a Christmas record with Kelly Willis to his name, it's a strange sight to see him and his four-piece band putting on a concert for approximately ten dozen people in such a location. Sure, the music was better suited for a honky-tonk, but with his German ancestry, this spot was oddly fitting.

Plus, unlike bars, I can't imagine there was anyone present tonight who didn't want to be there. The audience may have been smaller than what he deserves to be playing in front of, but it was appreciate and attentive. There was no talking or texting--I was among the youngest among the many grayhaired attendees--but rather people out to enjoy a night of live music.

Robison and his band played an hour-long first set, took a break, and then returned to the stage for another forty-five minutes. It struck me as a very professional performance. The word "professional" may have negative connotations in music, but I mean it with respect in this instance.

He and his support appeared to be having a good time while also striving to entertain the crowd. He tells stories, both sad and humorous, through the straightforward songs that you don't need to "get" to enjoy, unlike some of the music I write about here. That can be refreshing.

I imagine it's pretty difficult to make a career out of being a songwriter, but Robison strikes me as someone who has worked at his craft and, against the odds, can make a living at it even if on some nights it means playing in a central Ohio beer hall for 100-something people on an e-mail list or who, like me, found the concert date on his website.

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