From my first folk show at 16 -over half my life ago – to Eddie From Ohio this past weekend, I have been incredibly lucky to be a part of the folk community that does not put barriers and guards between the artists and the fans.
My first EFO concert was soon after I turned 18. After the show I awkwardly introduced myself to Julie, the lead singer. I added them to my growing lists of bands I would drive all over the eastern seaboard to see during the next 16 years of my life (and counting).
The following summer they were playing at a club that was 21+ and we were only 19. So they arranged for us to sell merchandise. This began years of me selling their wares after shows. No those shirts don’t come in a small, sorry. Except for the best Christmas present ever, my very own small-sized EFO shirt that didn’t swim on my 98 pound frame. I still have it. The shirt, not the 98 pound frame.
A year later I received a card in the mail; a get well soon card from the band on the eve of my heart surgery. A month after that I was standing in the rain outside of the Neighborhood Theater in Charlotte when I was ushered inside, because they didn’t want me standing out in the cold so soon after the operation.
When most kids my age were paying big bucks to go sit a half mile from a stage and watch a show on a jumbo screen, I was literally at the feet of so many artists. And they cared. They cared about their fans as individuals. As people. Still do.
Our sons and our daughters will lay on your hills.
I remember one solo show that Robbie from EFO played in Greenville, SC. For whatever reason the crowd was small that night. Maybe a dozen people. As the show was nearing its end Robbie called the audience to come gather around him while he sang his song, “Jerusalem.” He invited us to sing along. Him unplugged. Us singing Julie’s harmony in her absence. To this day it still ranks as one of the most powerful performances I’ve ever witnessed. Mindfulness and being present in the moment are not suits I wear well, but in that slice of time the rest of the world disappeared.
Our fathers will find us and comfort us now
This weekend Zach and I went to their 25th anniversary show. They played songs I haven’t heard them play in a decade or more. It felt like a portal back in time. Some songs have completely different meaning at 34 than they did at 18, especially the songs they have written for their children.
I wish I had the words to adequately describe how it feels to continue to see the same bands for decades. Bands that I have gotten to know. Who greet me with hugs. Whose tour bus I have sat in. Who I have known longer than I have known my husband. Who remember me as a scrawny teenager, and know me now as the mother of two children. I wish I had the words to sufficiently thank them for all of those years. For taking the time to get to know me back when I was a dorky teenager nervously holding out setlists for autographs and wearing the band’s shirts to the shows.
I can say without hyperbole that those moments changed the trajectory of my life. I was a decidedly uncool teenager, mostly because I *felt* so uncool . But this community gave me a place to belong, a place to feel noticed and worth the time and attention of these people who I held as being so awesome.
In college my then-boyfriend saw a guy wearing an EFO shirt. Random dude was not a student, nor was he anyone I had ever met. Then-boyfriend said, “Oh! My girlfriend likes that band!” And the guy says, “Oh, is your girlfriend Rhiannon?”
See. I was cool. Sort of.
Okay, I can’t really say that with a straight face. But the important thing is that I felt a part of something bigger than myself.
And there is a part of me who goes to these shows now who connects with that inner teenager. Music is a powerful memory-maker for me, so I am transported through space and time like a ping pong ball. This song reminds me of being a scared kid. This song reminds me of meeting my best friend. That song reminds me of the anxiety of driving down Black Mountain. It all reminds me of something.
When I was maybe 19 someone gave me a bootleg of Eddie From Ohio at Bad Habits. On that cassette was their Schoolhouse Rock Medley. As a Schoolhouse Rock fan I made it my mission to hear it live. They gave me various reasons over the next few years as to why they wouldn’t play it. Julie told me the only way I would ever hear it live was to go on one of their cruises.
Well. It only took 15 years, but I held out longer than they could.
And just like that, this show has created its own special memories. Those will go with the memories of Zach and me going on our first real date since Rowan’s birth. Pumping in the Birchmere office. Getting Lorelei her first autographed band poster.
Music makes up so much of the tapestry of my life. I’m glad for every chance to weave in a few new threads.