Lotus 2009

I’ve been oddly reluctant to blog about Lotus, maybe because it’s such a whirligig of brightly colored memories in my head, but here goes.

Our debut show was a 45-minute set starting at 8pm. What a long day Friday was! After the excitement of the night before (see previous post), I made sure I got plenty of downtime on Friday and rested my voice.

This was a challenge to do, since we had soundcheck at 2. Or 3. Or 4. It went on for a long time. I think they may have gotten started late and Cara Dillon’s gang wasn’t getting quite the sound they wanted.

Since Lara had brilliantly had us working with our Sound Guy Chip for weeks beforehand, we had little trouble when it came our turn. Kaia is a very difficult group to mic because there are so many of us and we don’t stay on the same mic. So you can’t just designate one mic as “the low mic” for someone singing in the basement; the Sound Guy has to adjust each mic depending on the song. Chip had a diagram for every piece in our show and studied photos of us so he’d know exactly who needed what!

We did a quick cue-to-cue, which is where we move to each place in the set, start that piece, then jump to the end of the piece. It can look pretty funny because the singers are dashing back for percussion, pretending to sing on the mic, and then running to put the percussion back. All while we switch around to different mics. Kind of like musical chairs. But cue-to-cues help build muscle memory so transitions are “smooth and fluid.”

I came home and rested, then did a quick warm-up before it was time to go back. Actually, I spent most of my time double-checking what I was going to wear and putting on more and more hairspray! The weather was dreary, misty, rainy. Perfect English weather (where’s a good chippie??) but not so good for an outdoor festival.

Anyway, I wasn’t as nervous as I expected to be. I attribute that mostly to the meds I’m on! But it also helped that we were as prepared as we could be & that I’d spent the whole week working out my personal demons so I’d be ready to perform.

I arrived early at the venue and found some of the Kaiasistahs already there, putting on make-up and chatting. We passed around body glitter and kept the tone light.

We had just enough time to do some quick warm-ups, then Jane led us in the “golden thread” meditation that we do before all our important shows and when we need to tune in to each other. The golden thread comes up from the earth and rises through us, connecting us via our hearts and ears. We open our eyes and look into the eyes of each sistah, finding the golden thread there. Then we dashed the hell out of the room!

Quick setup of our percussion and waters, then out into the house. I was in the center aisle, waiting for Lara. I remember seeing her leaning against a doorjamb while Mike The Stage Manager read thru the sponsor list and such. It was great to have her come to me and get her pitch—I just felt like we were in command of a terrific situation and were going to sing our hearts out. I gave the pitch, her strong voice rang out with “Soooooo glad I’m here!”, and we were off!

From before that first note, we were connected to the audience. They were live that night—absolutely hot. The kind of audience every musician dreams of. When we all joined in with Lara’s voice, we all went to the next level.

The 45-minute set went by in a blur, but there are little flashes that stand out for me. One was noticing that people were coming in and not leaving! Another was Malcolm Abrams (of Bloom Magazine fame). He’s a big fan and he & his wife sat near the center of the church on the aisle. Whenever I needed a touchstone with the audience, I just looked at him.

I have no idea if we made any flubs that night—I know nothing major came up–but I do know that we were in a love affair with the audience. Amy says that, during Arise, three separate women in the audience stood up in response to the repeated call, “Arise!”

Of course the major thing that stood out for me was the audience response to Not One More Day, the song I wrote during the Bush-Cheney administration about the Iraq war. People called out in response to particular lines. They started to clap along but stopped so they could hear the lyrics. And at the end, we got a partial standing ovation. It was a deeply gratifying experience. I felt like a true artist.

Oddly enough, now that I think about it, we did not get a full standing ovation on Friday night. I think. I can’t quite remember. But it was a love-fest. A luuurve-fest. And I want more!

After the show I ran by the art pavilion, which was drenched in the pouring rain. My friend Jeanne was volunteering and I spent my last hit points on her, as we went upstairs and talked art. After a while I simply had to go home and rest. Plus I felt slightly ill from the pizza I’d eaten. 🙂

Saturday afternoon
We met under a tree at Third Street Park on Saturday to prep for our workshop. We were sans Tristra, who was home resting her (very) pregnant self.

We did a quick warm-up and then got to talk a bit with the “shaman” of the stiltwalking performers. Talk about brilliant make-up and costumes! They were gorgeous! And the woman we chatted with was very nice indeed.

Went out to do our workshop and found that the setup was different from what we expected, but hey!, this is live performance, so you adapt and move on. The workshop started with an abbreviated version of So Glad I’m Here. Then I did some blah-blah on what shapes world music and how to get more from the Lotus experience with supa-secret knowledge.

Then we opened it up with more singing. Some of it was just us, but most of it included audience participation. That was really lovely. We had great weather under this sunny blue sky (which we’d weather-witched beforehand, of course!) and everyone in the tent was singing lustily, as They Say. It went by in another 45-minute flash. Then I ran out of there and came home! I slept from the time I walked in to the time I had to put make-up on. The drink that refreshes!

Saturday night
Saturday night was a more worrisome set because it was longer, we had a success under our belt (I didn’t want us too cocky), and I thought some of the sistahs were tired.

I put on more hairspray Saturday night because our beautiful day had been replaced with flat-out rain. We shared body glitter again and a very quick Golden Thread before scooting out to set up.

Oh! I should mention the Kaia cheer! We have done this before every performance (save one where we forgot and of course performed badly ;-)). We put one hand in the center of the circle and yell, “Gooooooo, Kaia!” while raising our arm over our heads. It is an elaborate ritual. Passed down through generations.

Anyway! Saturday night’s audience was different from the outset. I’ve noticed before that Friday night audiences tend to be more live than Saturday’s. I chalk this up to the fact that everyone’s been running around all day Saturday, out of their workaday routine, and they’re ready for a little rest once they get to the show. Add to that the fact that our audience was sodden from the rain and you understand why the energy was down.

However! We still built a good rapport and performed a great set. We didn’t get the outward level of excitement that we got on Friday night, but we did have a good lovin’ vibe going with our wet friends. Amy says she was aware of more flubs on Saturday, but nothing major. I, of course, am kicking myself for not getting a recording of the set from either night so I can hear audience response.

Oh! I forgot—Saturday I arrived early to try to catch the toy piano virtuoso but couldn’t get in, so I ran over and caught 4 tunes by Cara Dillon (lovely voice, lovely lovely lovely). One of my clear memories from Friday night is of Cara and Angela swapping parenting stories backstage.

After the show
I was determined to see some other acts after our show, so the night became a marathon. Amy and I decided to hang out, so we ran to my car to drop my Pointy Goth Boots off. Then on to That One Guy, whose instrument and musicianship is—well, it’s very hard to describe. It’s a must-see show because it will blow your mind.

We bopped up to the hospitality suite for some water and homemade cookies. Lara showed up with Dena from Salaam and we chatted while Lara got a caffeine fix.

Then we were off and running again, trying to catch up with Jenny. I steered us to the wrong tent, which meant we got to hear a band from Argentina (???) for five minutes before I realized my mistake.

We slogged through the rain towards our True Destination and basked in the love we kept receiving from people who’d seen our show and kept giving us shout-outs. We finally arrived to hear the EE Marching Band (name?? help??) do a scorching version of St James Infirmary Blues. There was hardly anyone in the tent, which just meant we had that much more room to dance! It was getting late and I was losing steam, but kept going, determined to make it to the after-party.

The doldrums
There was this space of time that was interminably long: picking up our remaining CDs and cashing out. I ended up by myself for almost an hour, standing around and waiting for one thing or another. They only had one person doing cash-out and it was all done by hand (!), which seemed to take far longer than it needed to. During that time I got very tired and also started to get a little spacey from being up so late and past The Hour Of Taking Meds.

The high point of standing in the rain waiting around was the drum jam that was going on across the street. Soon a guy came over to my side of the street and checked out some big blue steel drums (like barrels that you’d keep crude oil in). He practiced slamming the tops and sides. Before I knew it, a whole other group of people was on my side of the street, using the drums and trash cans as a mini-version of Stomp. It was cool.

I must also give a shout-out to Mike Redman, who came over and talked to me for a while before shooting some incriminating photographs.

Eventually I had our fabulous check in my hot little hands and struggled with the merch back to my car. As Fate would have it, cell phones were totally on  the blink, so I couldn’t connect with Amy or Lara via voice or text. As far as I knew, they’d hit the party and were back home! It was a frustrating experience.

The after-party
One of the best things about Lotus was being treated like a rock star. We each had a yellow tag with the glorious words “Artist: All Access” (cue angelic music).

The best experience of this was showing up at Tall Steve’s for the after-party. There was a whole gaggle of people outside the door, waiting/trying to get in. (I ran into Mike Price and discovered yet another factor that contributes to his charisma, but I shall keep that secret for now!) I just walked up to the doorman and flashed my pass. “Go right in,” he said. Open sesame! I’m lovin’ this!

The place was packed and loud, of course—not my favorite scene. But I was still on the hunt for Lara and Amy and determined to milk the Lotus experience. I wish I’d gotten some food and drink, but foolishly didn’t.

I ended up at the top of some stairs, sitting with Tall Steve and Amy Roche. This ended up being the “coolest” spot in the house (if one cares about such things), since everyone was going up to the roof or coming down and everyone wanted to talk with Steve. My sister went a little drooly when I told her that I was setting there while one of the guys from Los de Abajo was talking to Steve.

After some time Amy and Lara miraculously arrived and we were reunited. Amy Roche wanted to get a singing jam going, so we wandered around in search of the best place. Everywhere we went was packed, and of course everyone had to talk to everyone else, so the “search” ended up as some sort of tribal initiation into the mysteries of Shangri-La.

We were joined by Lara’s fabulous friend Kate (Lara got her in by throwing her (Lara’s) pass down to Kate from the rooftop) and hung out on the roof, where a Celtic jam was going on. I was so cold that I started to lose the feeling in my jaw. Amy J saved the day by saying either we sing or she was going home. So our little party shuffled over to a corner of the roof and then stared dumbly at each other with no idea what to sing.

Lara and Amy Roche have sung together for years, so kicked back with some Sweet Honey tunes. The rest of us struggled along. We did some call and response stuff but I was so out of it that I simply couldn’t improv. AMy J once again called it and she and I wandered off into the night.

I then came home (3 am) and couldn’t sleep! It wasn’t until 6 that I finally nodded off.

World Spirit Concert
Sunday afternoon marks the closing of Lotus. The World Spirit Concert is three acts in 3 hours, all for free if you’re wearing an ALL ACCESS pass! I thought about wearing my Lotus pin (a gift from Amy J) but decided I wanted to flaunt my artist status one last time.

Holy crap, I can’t even remember who I saw. Shoot. They were from northeastern Canada and played traditional Accadian music. And they were awesome! I was in the lobby when I ran into Jane, so she and I were able to hang out together for the duration. There was a point in the show where I began crying, feeling so deeply the absence of my sister Paula, who should have been with me if circumstance had permitted.

After the show was over, Jane and I wandered down the street. I didn’t want Lotus to end. I wanted to savor every last detail. And I didn’t want to surrender my pass. Okay, that last bit is a joke. But I felt sad that my Lotus experience was over.

The thing that struck me overall about the experience is how normal it felt. We’ve done gigs in churches before. We’ve sold CDs. We’ve had people tell us they loved the show. This was all that, just on steroids. And I felt most fortunate to realize that, for 15 years, I had been on the other side of the rope, so to speak. But now, in the 16th year, I was the receiving the praise and a little bit of hera-worship. I loved it, but I love all performance.

I didn’t ogle the other artists and they didn’t ogle me. The praise I received was all within the bounds of good taste. The shows themselves were really good shows. It was all good! I’d expected to feel much more intimidated and a little lost.

I have to say that part of my successful experience was due to the Lotus volunteers, who are the real champs of the festival! Unbelievable.

So, assuming anyone’s still reading, I close this account of What Happened When. I haven’t devoted much space to reflection but I think that’s part of what this Lotus has meant to me—to keep my experiences a little close to the vest so that I can savor them when I want to.

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