It doesn’t take much to make me happy. Long walks in the sunshine. A cold beer when I’m tired. A new, unopened package of bologna and no one around to judge me. Wildflowers. Any one of these things will split my face with a smile and make me wiggle with glee. But once in a while, the stars align, the fates fall into place, and the Universe takes a break from riding my ass. Everything comes together, and I have the closest thing possible to a perfect day.
Recently, I had two of those days.
Writer’s note: Despite the unadulterated awesomeness of these two days, it’s taken me a while to unpack them all. As I’ve discovered through this process, sometimes happiness is just as difficult to write about as pain. In this post, I’m only going to remember the first of the two days. The second will come later, when I’ve had time to reexamine and process everything. It probably won’t come tomorrow, or even be the next post, but eventually.
The first perfect day was a Wednesday. In all fairness, it wasn’t possible for this day to suck. Just by my waking up, this day was going to be awesome.
For starters, I worked a show. “What?” you say. “You worked? Doesn’t work steal your soul and eat your joy?” Sometimes. It can. If the show sucks or takes a lot of unnecessary work or the road crew is a dick or I’m having a generally shitty day, work can blow. But it can also be fun and gratifying and awesome. It just depends on the day and the show. This one, it just so happens, was of the awesome variety.
For starters, the show was one of my favorite bands, Guster, as a stop on their acoustic tour. So just the fact that I was going to be paid to sit through a Guster concert was fucking badass. But just in case this day needed some sprinkles, there was the news that I was going to get to light the show. (Hear that? I was going to be an active part of the design of a performance of one of my favorite bands. There may have been some squealing and hand-flapping involved when I found out.)
So even if we had stopped there, I would have been giddy. But to add to the awesomeness, my brother, Chris, had flown into town the night before. Chris is also a big Guster fan, and when he saw that they were playing my space he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to fly up from Houston and maybe get an insider’s view of the show. I was beyond psyched about just getting to see my brother; the distance between us often means that we see each other only once a year, and I can’t stand that.
But I was also excited because this was the first time anyone in my family has even seen what I do for a living. My brother not only got to watch a show I was lighting, but got to see everything that goes into a show and the magic we create from sweat and skill and tape, and that was really special to me. He got to see our stage setup and asked questions about the audio consoles. He followed me up to the catwalks and watched me focus specials for the band, asking questions all along. Standing up in the catwalks, while I was folded up behind a fixture and talking about how my rig functioned, there was a sudden moment when the complexity and skill involved in what I do really dawned on him. It’s hard to explain, but in that moment, my job suddenly became a “real” job in his eyes, and I finally felt his validation.
The day itself was an unexpectedly easy one. Being that this was their acoustic tour, the band carried little gear, mainly backline (instruments and amps) and monitors. Their two road techs/managers, Josh and Gordon, were super chill and relaxed, and got everything loaded in and set up quickly and easily. I was able to get my specials focused perfectly without any rush or hurry with plenty of time to spare. It was the kind of day that we all wish would come more often.
The ease of the day was great because it kept the stress low and spirits high, but it was particularly wonderful because it was the exact day that I wanted with my brother here. From the very beginning, I’d been warning him that there was a chance that this day wasn’t going to live up to his expectations. See, despite the fact that it’s our house, it’s the road crew that dictates who can and can’t be around before and during the show. Some of them can be (rightfully) touchy about having people around, going so far as to post security throughout the space and distributing crew passes that must be shown to get around. Of course, I hoped that he’d be able to hangout backstage and see sound check and take a few discreet pictures and everything else that would make his day special, but I also need to keep my job. How much Chris would get to experience was entirely up to how cool the road crew was, and we wouldn’t know that until they got off the bus.
Immensely cool, as it turned out. Beyond what was expected or required. They didn’t blink when my brother followed me around all day. Shot the shit with him while he sat next to me during sound check and stood next to me backstage. The front of house (FOH) audio engineer, Gordon, chatted with him while he sat next to me at my console during the show, and after the show he screamed down to the monitor engineer, “HEY! JOSH! WE GOT ANY MORE BACKSTAGE PASSES?!” Josh looked up from the snake he was coiling and shouted back, “Nooo?” “Okay,” Gordon yelled. “Well, I’m sending this guy down, don’t kick him out,” and he sent Chris to the area where the backstage group was gathering. Chris got to chat with the band and get a few autographs. Kyle swiped him the lead vocalist’s set list, and I scooped up a few errant guitar picks. He was more than geeked. It was exactly the day I wanted for my brother, everything I’d hoped for and more. Short of inviting him on stage to play a guitar solo, we couldn’t have asked for more out of his experience.
And on top of all that, I lit the shit out of that show.
I love busking, (lighting a show live,) and it’s especially fun when I know some of the songs and connect emotionally to the music. Chasing the dynamics of the music, amplifying the mood that’s being set on stage, and making tangible the movement of the song…when I’m on my game it’s absolutely exhilarating. If I can give myself goosebumps, I know I did a badass show. After the show, as I was packing up my headset and shutting down my board, Gordon leaned over to me and told me that I’d done a great job on the lighting. I thanked him, and told him that it had been a fun show for me, that it was easier when I connect emotionally to the music. “Yeah,” he said, “but there’s a lot of LDs who’ve connected to the music and still done a shit job. You did a really, really great job, it looked fantastic. You’ve got a lot of talent.” I was proud of the show, but hearing from the FOH engineer, a guy who’s seen the show 50 billion times with 50 billion different LDs, that the show looked good…that felt amazing. I’m pretty sure I blushed.
That day was fucking amazing. It’s been a little over a week, but the pride that I felt in myself and the wonderful experience for my brother have left an imprint on my brain that won’t disappear quickly. It’s the kind of day that I will replay in my mind later, when the world isn’t so kind.
It was fucking perfect.