I had the time of my life (excluding: wife, children, home, etc.) in Bradenton FL, Dec. 2014 when I was hired to play “in between” main stage acts at the 2014 Bradenton Blues Festival. Solo acoustic sets of 10 to 12 minutes each, 5 times that day, clear sky and a capacity crowd of Blues lovers. Your “smooth transition, acoustic intermission man” was my self-appointed title that I did not publicize.
Had my own tent, opposite of, and in line of site with the main stage. Real estate!!! I became “encamped” with the festival crowd. Lawn chairs not just up to but half way into the tent! During my mini sets, 100’s of lawn chairs would spin around to show me the same love they had for the main stage. The areas to my right and left both filled with more blues lovers hungry for the live stuff. As an artist, one is blessed to have these experiences. For most of us they are rare, hard to score, extremely yummy bits of life we are honored, privileged, and truly truly blessed to get to chew on. And so, to all the “you know who you are(s)”, thanks!!
The Art of the Live Festival is in full swing. Dozens of staff, volunteers, food and beverage, all moving like the coveted well-oiled machine. The Art of Live Blues is in effect with heavy hitting acts on the main stage. [I won’t name names, but check em’ out here.] But it wasn’t until after I had played a couple of my five sets that I began to be shown there were many more layers of Art encamped around me.
A Lovely lady, let’s call her T-from Miami, walked up to me with a sketch book that appears to go everywhere with her. She was gentle in approach, kind in manner, and had something in that book she wanted to show me. In that book she worked in colored marker and on one of the pages was a remarkable marker drawing of a man playing a guitar. Now I had noticed T-from Miami seated under one of the large Palm trees to my right as I was taking mental inventory of the faces surrounding me every hour or so. But it took me more than couple moments to realize the angle of the portrait was hers under the tree, and the dude playing guitar was me!!! I still can’t articulate the feeling that came with seeing that this artist had spent her time and artistic energy with me as her subject. It was part “well duh, that guy is you”, and then a new, never before kind of thing. I mentioned earlier how yummy this bit of life is so I had put all my available energy in to doing a good job. That included connecting myself with my surroundings, the people, the mood and vibe, everything, including T-from Miami and yes, even that palm tree.
In a way, it’s a little like quantum entanglement but not really. We were not two energies engaged in exactly the same action in separate locations but we were two similar energies engaged in our own form of art but aimed at each other at the same time. Remarkable experience for me to say the least, and I was to experience it two more times that day.
During one of my later sets that day I noticed a man this time with a large sketch book appeared to my right. He began sketching with vigor. Head up, head down, sketch sketch, head up, head down. For now, let’s call him the Mystery Man, and more to his story later on. He looked familiar to me but I had no idea why. I had been meeting new and exciting people for the previous 48 hours surrounding the festival so I reasoned that he and I had met at some point the previous day on the festival grounds. I gave him a knowing nod of the head, he grinned, returned the nod and continued to sketch with vigor. He concluded and left the area shortly before that set was finished. Mysterious, no?
About this time T-from Miami showed me she had added the beautiful sun, sky, and that magnificent palm tree to her portrait of me. We exchanged business cards and she has emailed me an HD image of the portrait that I cherish. Funny side note, the following day at an unrelated brunch event, she and I were there and spent some time chatting. Synergy man, can you dig it???
Encamped with all of us all day was a local lady artist who works in oils, let’s call her Nice lady with oil paints. Now she had been painting festival scenes throughout the day much like I had been performing my thing only yards from each other. Naturally, she and I had much conversation. We set our equipment up about the same time that morning before the festival had started and were both surrounded as the 3000+ crowd settled in for the day. I had noticed her at some point doing the head up, head down, looking my way thing I had seen from the Mystery Man, but she was there to paint the festival acts and attendees, it raised no special warnings on my radar. So much to my surprise when my 5th and final set of the day was over, she offered me a painting in exchange for one of my Cds and handed me a canvas board approx. 4”x8” portraying a musician surrounded by people. It was easier and faster this time to recognize I was the guy in the picture. Not only was this the third time that day I experienced a synergetic connection with another artist, but she really nailed my vest and tie!! It now resides proudly on my fireplace mantle.
As I loaded my gear into my hotel room and showered off the “all day in the Florida sunshine” funk I had about me I got the warm and fuzzies thinking of all the layers of Art I had been steeped in for 2 days. I felt I was a part of something big. Not just the music I’m personally dedicated to but I had been selected and placed into the energy and passion of other artists. Seems its somewhere between kinship and that quantum entanglement stuff that Einstein called “spooky action at a distance”. Artistry and synergy held hands with me that day, and they had one more mind blowing event to show me at the hotel bar.
While wrapping up the day/evening chatting with a fantastic bass player friend who will remain nameless over some beers and a samich’, I hear a voice to my left, “I got some good sketches of you today”. Turning to see who is there I’m face to face with the Mystery Man himself!
“Awesome. Say, how do I know you?“ I asked. “We must have met yesterday sometime but I can’t place it.”
He explains that he is Don Brandes. He is the artist who created the original art piece that is the 2014 Bradenton Blues Fest poster. His name and photo are in the same festival book as the Festival acts including my own. I had been all through that book so much my mind placed his face with the people I had actually met. His energy, much like mine, had been focused on doing a good job for the Festival. He used some of his art, and his energy on me at the same time mine was being focused and given to the crowd he was a momentary part of. I’m going to call all of this “willful synergy”. Just try to stop me.
Now, I’m an artist in the sense that I write, record, and perform music. But I can’t draw or paint ANYTHING. My stick men, don’t look like stick men. But in that community, at that festival, I got a rare chance to experience what making that kind of art feels like. I could see it in the eyes, hear it in the language of these artists I’ve spoken of. They will stay with me in fond memory for ever. And I will think of them often.
I have learned from them a new appreciation of Art in all forms. And what’s even more life enriching, is I’ve learned to look for and peal though the layers of the onion that is our individual concepts of what Art is. Beauty abounds in ALL layers.
Thanks for reading, and if you’d like to check out some of my music, you’ll find it here…