Sunday, January 14, 2007

Marking an anniversary

Singing "Oklahoma Hills" with Laura Cantrell

It was one year ago today that The Nebraska Project, part of the New York Guitar Festival, gave me the good fortune of running into Bruce Springsteen.

The event opened last year's festival and featured a wide range of artists performing songs off of Springsteen's 1982 album, Nebraska. (He recorded the record in 1981, so the project was billed as the 25th anniversary of the album's birth.) I went to see some of the names I knew -- Jesse Harris, Jen Chapin, Laura Cantrell -- but also knowing, in the back of my mind, that Bruce might just make an appearance.

While I was out in the crowd getting some shots of one of the performers, my cell phone began ringing. It was Casey, not 20 feet away from me, standing in a less-crowded area against a wall. I walked over to her, and she excitedly pointed to a man I had just passed.

"He's here! You just passed him!"

I doubled back and, barely understanding my own words or actions, went up to him, shook his hand, and thanked him for doing what he does. I smiled and said hello to Patti, too, and then left them to watch the show. They stood together, closely, watching the artists put their own spin on his words and music. One of them, Mark Anthony Thompson (who has released some albums under the name Chocolate Genius, Inc.), later went on tour with Bruce and the Seeger Sessions Band later last year. It was at the New York Guitar Festival where Thompson met Springsteen, just as I did.

Bruce was kind and gracious, smiling at me and saying hello. He also seemed reserved, not wanting to be bothered, and I didn't press for anything more than a handshake and a hello. Had I not caught him when he was walking in, I would not have felt right walking up to him as he and Patti listened to the show, and I might have refrained, never getting the chance to meet him. Things just happened to work out that night.

This year, the opening event is being billed as The American Beauty Project. Another wide range of artists will revisit American Beauty and Workingman's Dead by the Grateful Dead. We'll probably go, at least on Saturday, to see some good music and hear some classic songs, but I don't expect to have the pleasure of meeting any of the original artists this year, and that's fine by me.

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