It’s the working musicians that are living the true nightmare

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Rob Azevedo introducing the Classic Country show at the Rex in Dec. 2019.

I got the email I was expecting this afternoon from Chuck Stergiou, the GM down at the Rex Theatre in Manchester.  “The Grateful Dead Tribute” show scheduled for April 11 has been canceled, for now.  No big surprise.  Still, sucks no less.

I wrote Chuck back.  “That’s just great. What am I gonna do with all this acid now?”

Ugh.

That also means I have to break the band leader of Lichen’s heart, Mr. John Zevos, a Dead aficionado and as big-hearted a man as they come.  His band was scheduled to play.  Then, I have to beg the Not Fade Away Band to forgive me for the cancellation and probably hide out in some seaside motel to keep from getting beat down by the Kenny Brothers Band.  Them are some big boys making some big music.  Sorry, fellas.

But, that’s the way things are rolling these new days. Chuck didn’t want to shut the show down, none of them.  In fact, Chuck was just getting his legs down at the Rex, finding his voice, mining his way through a series of very excellent and well-attended shows, figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

It can take years for a venue to find its identity. And a full-stop, as the Rex and countless other venues have been forced to adhere to, is a brutal reality to comprehend —  financially, creatively, spiritually, physically, mentally, you name it.  It’s not just brutal…it’s terrifying.

But it’s the working musicians that are living the true nightmare.

A working musician, unlike other musicians with full-time jobs, are the ones who’ve thrown caution to the wind and listened to their muse, believed in it, followed it, believed in their own craft, in themselves, believed in you, the listeners, hoping that you would believe in them and help keep the dream alive.  And the bills paid.

Slobber over your chicken fingers and ranch dressing.  I’ll be singing in your left ear.

Those musicians will suffer big time if this madness goes on too long.  In the wallet in and in the heart. Some of them scrapped their full-time jobs years back and decided to make a go of it as a full-time musician, playing anywhere and everywhere just to feed the body and soul.  I raise a glass to all of them.

But now what?  An unemployed picker is one sad camper, having finally built up a following, a catalog of originals and covers, the confidence of a bunch of bar owners and the respect of other musicians who only dreams of playing music full time, a shot to the nuts like this can be crippling.

I say, Don’t Let It Be!  I say suffer and write. Go Dostyesky broke.  Let your cheeks sink in and your waist collapse.  Dig even deeper than you had before you cursed off the 9-5 life, vowing never to waste another day ignoring your true calling.  You crawled out from under the norm and stared down a nearly insurmountable quest and came out on top. You scratched and grinded night after night and created an image as a songwriter and now it’s time to honor it and scratch again. You’ve done it once.  You will do it again. This time knowing the terrain, when to strike and when to write.  Get it.

The Rex will live on, as will Penuche’s and The Rover and The Shaskeen.  The drinkers in this town will make up for all those lost rounds, give or take, in about five days when the doors reopen.  Flush with cash having not spent our allotted wads on liquor and beer, come Redemption Day, whenever that may be, just charge us by the trough.  You call the tip.  The day is yours.

And see that songwriter over there?  Let me buy her a drink.

She looks thirsty from all that scratching.


Rob Azevedo can be reached at onemanmanch@gmail.com