Sunday, June 6, 2010

Ups, downs, overs and outs in my reinvention

I have not blogged in several weeks though I have encouraged others to blog, I seem to have lost the impetus. There could be several reasons combined for this that just sort of kept me at bay from the blogging keyboard. But as I've noted in past posts, I love to write. I love to meander down the road of words and string them together in the hopes that something halfway intelligent or humorous is created.

I was laid off the end of January. After having worked since 1972 I guess one could say a major part of my identity was my job. But I never really blogged about my job so that can't be it. I've spent the time since looking for another job, creating a new side business of booking bands and working on my book. All have kept me fairly busy but not so busy that I could not have taken the time out to blog.

Creating the new side business has been fun, hectic, interesting, and frustrating. I'm a bit on the ADD side so I have a tendency to bounce around getting things done. First step, get the email domain - check. Second step - study websites of others in the same business - check. Well, except for the times I would be looking at other websites and sort of meander off to read the newspaper online or pop over to Facebook to see who left something funny or profound on my page, or when I would wander over to my email to see if anybody was doing something fun and had invited me. Oh yeah, I was writing about my business start up. See, I am easily distracted. At the same time if I make myself focus, really focus, the sky could fall and I wouldn't have even heard Chicken Little.

Oh yes, I must have business cards. Thank God for Sean Patrick Donovan. He created the most exquisite business card with just the right amount of lasciviousness for me. My favorite colors, my symbol, the fleur de lis, and a saucy little message. Just perfect. Business cards - check!

Because of my volunteering, I have met several people who own clubs and book bands themselves. One gentlemen in particular has become my mentor. He seems willing to share anything he has with me in my quest for knowledge. He answers my questions, he explains how things work between the clubs, the bands, the booking agent, the manager, the splits. He explains to me the ego of the musician, the artiste! And I, in return, send him jokes. Business training - check!

After booking bands off and on for ten years for non-profits, it was time to take this experience and see if I really had any talent in this area and I will admit I have mixed success. But that's the nature of the business, it's up, it's down, it's over and it's out. Just ask Frank Sinatra.

I am currently the booking agent for Richard Allen and the Louisiana Experience. Richard is a brilliant musician and can play drums, keyboards, accordian and so on and so on. He is also a very talented composer. In short, Richard has what it takes to go somewhere. We are learning to communicate with each other, we are learning to be patient with each other and we are learning segments of the business together as we go along. We've had our ups, our downs, our overs and our outs but each time brings us a little closer to getting it all together. I believe in Richard, I believe in what he is trying to do so I keep moving forward with him.

And last summer I was about as lucky as you can get (a little take on the name of her first CD, "Lucky Girl") when I met Karen Lovely. As in The Karen Lovely Band. My brother, Phil, had hired Karen's blues band to play for the Central Point, OR "Battle of the Bones" picnic. I'm not quite clear what this is, barbecuing ribs and listening to music? I know Phil told me but remember, I'm ADD, throw in a pinch (a very large pinch) of menopause, probably some brain damage from raising children and oh, a bird must have flown by the window when he was telling me. Anyway, back to the point, being, what was the point? Oh yeah! Karen Lovely and her fabulous manager Lorie Haynes. Have you ever met somebody and felt like you could be really good friends with them? That's how it felt with Karen and Lori. We're women of an age. We've been through some battles. We've dealt with a lot of life. And we came back laughing. I think we came back with a vengeance. I think we're living life on our terms in the way we really want to. And we're doing it with a very strong sense of humor. I like living my life like that.

OK, back to my story. I had the honor to watch and listen as Karen sang her heart out at the Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival held every 4th of July weekend. The Karen Lovely Band was entered into the Journey to Memphis contest. So, in the blistering sun, Karen belted out songs that became embedded in my skin. The kind of music that when you hear it you pay attention, you focus and you think she's singing to you, she's singing about something that happened to you. And she won. Of course she won, those judges aren't stupid. Then she went to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in January and came in second out of approximately 200 bands.

So, it was recently my honor to promote Karen up here in Seattle. I worked with the Highway 99 Blues Club, Lori, Karen and Richard. At first the club was a little skeptical because it was the Saturday of Memorial Weekend. And those of us who are "into" music in Seattle know that is Folk Life weekend. Folk Life is incredible, but Folk Life is the kiss of death to music clubs for that weekend.

But I had a plan. Open with zydeco and the zydeco dancers will come straight to the club from Folk Life (I know, because my name is Rita and I am a zydeholic). And I am a firm believer that zydeco and the blues are kissin' cousins. And I PR'd the hell out of it. I handed out hundreds of handbills created by Dana Sullivan (what's a girl to do - juggling two of the most talented illustrators/graphic artists in Washingont State - it keeps me in a tizzy!) I emailed it to the masses, I Facebooked it to my friends. The Washington Blues Society picked it up and ran with it. And my strategy worked, it really, really worked. Richard came on and whipped up the crowd to a dancing frenzy. The crowd that came to hear the blues loved the zydeco and the zydeco crowd loved the blues. It's like who would have thought of covering orange slices with chocolate? Then Karen started singing and I felt as if I was wearing velvet inside out, with the soft side against your skin. With sequins. Yep, like wearing your black velvet dress with the sequins inside out. That combination of softness and hardness that tries to lull you but keeps you aware. The joining of the two bands broke records for Memorial weekend Saturday nights.

I hope to do more of this as time goes on, finding the right combinations, the magic combinations. I am meeting some great people, I am learning so that's keeping my brain from turning to mush and I find this business very interesting and stimulating. Just one little episode in the Reinvention of Rita.

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