Julia and I got to open for Joe Crookston again this weekend, despite winter storm Lola. There was projected fear of black ice but the promoter and the audience faced their fears and the show went on. It turned out the night was clear and we all had an amazing time. While we were playing it occurred to me how many moments and chapters each one of us in the room had gone through. Yet, here we all were together to share this experience. We are all compendiums of exchanges, ideas, feelings and tenacious hope, even in our doubt.
Joe Crookston, for those of you who haven’t seen or heard him, is more than a songwriter and performer, he is a master craftsman, a communicator, a transmitter:
“I sing for the beauty that’s still left on this earth. I sing for the joy and the trouble and the hurt.”
– Joe Crookston
During his show Joe said that the media paints a black picture of the world, filled with pain, fear and our insufferable behavior towards each other. He supposed this was true but on his travels, he sees a deeper and wider picture of people helping one another and doing good work.
“Better be brave, ten feet tall, shine for us all… We try to learn the heart of hearts, turn our sorrow into art.”
– Joe Crookston
He remains present, not phoning it in but brings his incredible playing to bare; to bare up his stories which strike a chord in the audience in various ways. For me, I was reminded of my uncle, the actor. Before he was taken by cancer, he got to perform his greatest role and convey to me the full extent of ‘the privilege of treading the boards.”
We go through as performers, musicians, actors, humans with the hope of reaching one another in a profound way, of joyfully freeing one another from the pain of living. This gets clouded by the desire to not only put food on the table but of gaining status.
Joe said after his show, he needs to be alone for fifteen minutes in the back. This is to preserve what he allows himself to bring to the audience. It is a sacred thing for him to perform and it requires that he be able to release the energy, to hold as sacred this decompression without a myriad of interaction. After that, he comes and talks to those who are still there.
I got into a conversation with him about being able to connect on a deeper level for inspiration. He said he had experienced the dropping of the veil between the seen and unseen. He had experienced this naturally without drugs but it was still frightening for him. On the one hand it was a gift that he could take back and put into song, but he could see where it opened up to rooms that you would not be able to come back from; passages which led to madness.
(This is why you weren’t originally allowed to study Kabbalah before you were forty. The mystic path is both illuminating and takes grounding and a firm sense of responsibility.)
Joe smiled then and said that when he goes to play, he has to forget all of that and just be present and ready to give fully of himself and play with who is there in front of him.
It was a privilege to get to ‘tread the boards’ with him and to share a meal with our mutual friends at the Olympus diner afterwards. A feast to replenish, to recharge before taking it on the road again.
May your road be free from black ice and fear. May you be received from your travels with loving arms.