We were celebrating the 24th anniversary of the day we met. When the opportunity for tickets to The Bluebird dropped into my lap, I knew it was the perfect surprise for Buds, and it promised to be a heck of a night for both of us.
From the website: “The Bluebird Cafe is one of the world’s preeminent listening rooms and the venue has gained worldwide recognition as a songwriter’s performance space where the “heroes behind the hits” perform their own songs; songs that have been recorded by chart-topping artists in all genres of music.”
We had certainly heard of The Bluebird, but tickets are incredibly difficult to get, so we have never gone. Not knowing what to expect, we asked a couple friends about the food, what to wear, how the line at the door worked, but our most critical insight came from our favorite contractor Weston.
Weston came over on Saturday morning to discuss the basement project, so we plumbed his musical knowledge. Weston had been a touring musician and song-writer, so we knew he had probably been to The Bluebird. He told us about the food, what the seating would be like, the expectations (People go to the Bluebird to listen!).
Then I asked him, “Have you played at The Bluebird?”
“Oh, sure, several times.” He replied.
“What did that feel like?” I asked.
He thought for a minute.
“I have absolutely played in venues where no one was listening, and as a musician it tears a little bit of your heart out. So to play at The Bluebird, where people are truly listening, it gives a songwriter pieces of their soul back.”
That sentiment was echoed by Jeff Cohen, the song-writer spokesperson on Saturday night.
“What the Ryman is to musicians, The Bluebird is to songwriters.”
Last night felt a little like being on hallowed ground.
Ready to go and a little dressed up for us.
It was just getting dark when we arrived and there were two lines waiting at the door. One to the left and one to the right.
Photo from here: https://cdn.styleblueprint.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/IMG_3230-800×600.jpg
As you can see, the exterior is not imposing. It’s tiny (90 seats) and this doesn’t look like a location where magic would happen.
The line to the left is for folks with reservations, and we spent a pleasant hour in line visiting with Cathy and Mike who were right in front of us in line.
Yes, even if you have reservations you get there an hour early because you don’t want to risk your seat going to someone standing in the line to the right. Those poor saps are hoping to get any seat for either the early or the late show.
After we were allowed in (They let you in the door by pairings.) we gave our name, and they showed us to our seat. I was a little disappointed that we couldn’t choose to sit with Cathy and Mike since we had been having such a great visit with them, but when I realized where we were sitting, my disappointment disappeared.
I could sit in the lap of the songwriter in front of me.
We were actually a little shocked. Weston had told us that the venue was small, but it was still surprising, plus the musicians were obviously going to be sitting RIGHT NEXT TO ME!
The video above shows the space and also shows me over talking with Mike and Cathy, exchanging contact info. They had great seats, too.
We enjoyed visiting and reminiscing while we waited for the show to begin. We ordered food, but as friends had told us, people don’t go to The Bluebird for the food.
The evening began with a message from Anna-Gene, the Alive CEO. She’s a wonderful speaker and leader, and the way she shared Alive’s mission and the power of the work we do was heartwarming.
Anna-Gene O’Neal, Alive Hospice CEO
The evening was part of the month-long series to benefit Alive Hospice, and Jeff Cohen shared a powerful story of his first experience with Hospice care when his grandfather was dying.
Jeff had been asked to put together last night’s early show (6:30 p.m.) and he reached out to an assortment of his songwriter friends.
The line up.
Being so close allowed us to both hear the music perfectly, as well as hear the interactions between the songwriters, and gave me the chance to be entranced by the hands of the musicians as they played. I’ve been learning to play the guitar, and to watch the easy flow of sound coming from these talented folks and the speed of the fingerings. I was in awe.
These were song-writers. They thought of themselves as technicians rather than (capital-A!) Artists or (capital P!) Performers–a kind of person that they worked closely with. They were trying to find a way to sell this or that song to an audience of one (the Performer) who would then introduce their work to an audience of millions. The songs they played were a mix of songs that had already taken wing and the unhatched eggs. They were collegial and supportive of each other. Laughing, joking, beating their guitars in rhythm when another was singing and joining in light harmony on choruses. And shaking their heads in mournful appreciation; “I just don’t get why an Artist hasn’t picked that one up.”
The songwriters getting set up. The woman in the shot is Victoria Banks.
Our table was the resting place for Andrea Young.
Andrea Young made a surprise appearance and that was a thrill for the other performers as well as the audience. With no preparation she would listen to the songwriter begin to play, assess the key and tone of the song then jump in with her fiddle to add extra ambience. It added so much warmth to some heartbreaking songs.
We left with a sense of quiet awe and inspiration from rubbing shoulders with these hard-working, hopeful, talented, soulful folks.