By Gary Sohmers, January 2017, copyright, All Rights Reserved
There are good and bad Beasties within us all.
As a child, influenced and inundated with the growth of electronic media, music, and marketing, if I was going to choose a path in life it was probably a wish to be rich and famous in show biz. I think at that time, all children of that certain era wished we all could be a musician, dancer, TV or movie star, instead of a fireman, policeman or teacher. It looked like the best life because we didn’t know it was scripted and not reality.
My parents wanted a better life for themselves and their children, of which I was the oldest of three, and we had all the accouterments of a progressive affluent family, even though it really could not have been afforded on the money Dad took in, but they provided.
Our TV showed me the world, and even though at times I was merely the remote control for my father’s channel changing needs, I was able to witness history, art, science, and mysteries beyond what could have been gathered by him when he was my age. We watched channels grow from 4 to 400, the changing popular styles in entertainment, a man flying in space and images of the other side of nature on remote locations on the planet, along with the greatest comedy and scripted drama. The news was never good no matter how they said it, with war, politics and bad people dominating the headlines.
Dad wanted to be in show biz, but determined for himself he needed to provide for his family, set aside his dreams and concentrated on his reality, which none of the children understood. But we were kinda lucky. I lived in New Orleans when it was swinging, to Nashville when it was coming into commercial popularity, Philadelphia during the Bandstand years, to New York when the Beatles arrived and then off to Chicago where the blues lived.
So I was bitten by the bug at a young age, part of the baby boomer generation, and when old enough to strike out on my own decided that fame and fortune awaited me at the end of the rock n roll rainbow. Sure I was young, delusional and completely unaware of how to achieve that dream, but that didn’t keep me from making as many mistakes as possible to get the answers to how.
As a teen, I wrote poetry and tried to write songs mostly teenage angst, or following popular themes of silly love or overly wordy protest songs. I liked my own stuff but did not share with many people due to embedded low self-esteem of my artistic abilities. My father often told me that sure I could be an artist or musician but that I was not good enough. That hurt but I held it inside.
My determination to learn all, and enjoy it led to finding musicians to jam with, moving amps for musicians, putting up posters and handing out flyers for concerts, leading to more gigs, some even paying money, not just education. I felt I had somewhat of a gift picking new up and coming talent before they made it, and was lucky to work with many bands that succeeded because of my awareness and assistance.
Getting a gig helping an important blues musician taught me to be humble, and working with music business people taught me to be cautious. I got a great gig as a producer at one of the best concert venues in Chicago and was lucky enough to help numerous acts gain record deals, connections and fame. But, that is where alcohol caught me.
Moving to Wisconsin where beer is the state drink, even under the extremely negative influence I was able to take my knowledge and sales skills into the music business at another level, as an agent, representing talent, and continuing to produce concerts. I still wanted to perform, write songs and be a rock star, and assembled musicians, recorded and did a few concerts. I was living my dream doing all that I wanted as an independent.
Alcohol led to cocaine, and both led to severe bouts of depression. I was consumed by doubt, paranoia and anger at reality. It seemed like I was always surrounded by what appeared to be bad luck among amazing experiences, bad choices made when good ones were presented, irrational beliefs overruling common sense. Was this show biz, or was this self-destruction.
It wasn’t easy, but I decided to move away from the influences of my younger life and still achieve my show biz dream, moving to New York City, where I needed to concentrate on reality to survive and live my dream. I may have been a big fish in the small pond I lived in, but I was a tiny fish in a big apple pond. I was lucky to have friends in the biz I had done favors for and was given a few nice small-time opportunities to prove my worth.
Without the negative intake influences, I was easily able to use my skills and knowledge to get a good gig as a stage and road manager, while keeping up my chops playing and singing small time with some great musicians. I was comfortable that being in music was enough and that status is always fleeting. My ego had been tamed.
As part of constantly seeking gigs, I was often hired by producers, promoters or bands to fulfill a duty to a stage for a show, which could involve anything from equipment wrangling to security to stage management, counting box office revenue or escorting talent to a pizza joint. Being able to do it all was an attribute getting work in our biz.
So it was no big deal that I got hired to be a show producers’ stage manager for a free concert in Central Park. The best part was the group and the singer was one of my favorites, and their new record was an exceptional work evoking change in human behavior which I had been listening to for about a month.
The music and the messages were inspiring and were happy to be able to add my expertise to make sure all went as well as could be expected. Professional experience for the band, and an enjoyable experience for the audience, and usually a profitable experience for the promoter. This was a free concert and we were all being paid, so the sponsor must have a profit motive somewhere here. Maybe just selling beer and t-shirts.
I spoke on the phone with the promoter’s rep a couple of times before the show to discuss my services, and was told I would be assisting the sound crew, keeping a security eye on the audience and moving equipment when needed. I showed up early enough to help set up the gear with the stage and band’s crew, and then went to sit in the grass to decompress prior to the fun.
Thinking about the show and where I was to be positioned on the right side of the stage, near the monitor mix board when the show started, I was able to take a short break so I went to sit on the grass in the sun. I was watching the squirrels foraging around the currently still empty trash cans, and the bottoms of the trees nearby. The sound of birds was the only sound for a few moments.
That was when everything gets a little weird.
This may be what happened next to my best recollection.
And if was all in my mind I hope you enjoy the mystery with me.
Coming Next Chapter One – Introduction to a New Reality