Imagine, if you will…
You’ve admired a musician for decades. Three decades, in fact. You first saw their band on MTV, and then you saw them live, back in 1987. You have almost all of their albums, you know the words to many of their songs well enough that you can sing along. As you are recommending the band to a friend (who is also a musician), you decide to visit the band’s website again, just to see what they’ve been up to.
As you look through the pictures, the tour dates, the updates...you see a spot to contact the band. Because you’ve loved them for years, and because your Official Fan Motto™ is “show the band some love,” you send a message saying that their music has meant a lot to you over the years and you tell them how much you’ve appreciated them and loved them all this time.
Then imagine that you get an email back from the FREAKIN’ LEAD SINGER of this band that you’ve loved for decades, and he thanks you for your email and for your kind words about his band and their songs...and he happens to mention that he does house concerts on weekends, and to let him know if you’re interested.
Thus was born one of the greatest nights of my life.
The band is the Rainmakers (I’ve written about them before) and the lead singer is Bob Walkenhorst. We started an email correspondence, and I scared him at first. I mean, I was writing to Bob Walkenhorst! And he was responding! Tell me everything! What about this song? What about that song? What does this lyric mean? I assured him that I would calm down, and I was true to my word. It took me a bit, but I did calm down. Bob is also an artist, and we bought a gorgeous painting from him, one that I get to look at every day.
I mentioned the house concert to Ken, thinking that he’d say, “Nah, we’ve got enough other things going on...we really shouldn’t spend the money on that.” He totally surprised me by saying, “That sounds pretty cool!” But we knew that our house wasn’t big enough to host 20-30 people in one room to hear Bob play, and that’s where Shane and Matt came in. They were on board immediately, and we started to plan this shindig.
We initially planned it for late May, but because the Rainmakers were leaving for a tour in Norway soon after that, Bob really needed to be home the weekend of our scheduled show. It was obvious that he felt really bad about having to reschedule, but it all worked out okay!
The big show was on Saturday, September 20th, and we had a nice turnout of about 20 people. I wish we could have invited more, but space was limited. Bob got there about an hour and a half before we asked people to start arriving, so he had plenty of time to get his stuff set up and we were able to get to know each other and do all the fan stuff like get things signed. I’m often very nervous and shy when meeting a new person, especially if that someone happens to be one of my favorite musicians! However, I didn’t feel that way at all. He put me immediately at ease, and was wonderfully friendly and kind. Of course, we’d been corresponding a bit for several months, so I had a pretty good idea that he was going to be a nice, fun, and funny person...I just didn’t realize how nice and fun and funny! He had said he’d bring me a t-shirt, but ended up bringing me three, and I got one signed. Awesome!
Bob brought along two of his friends from the Chicago area, Joe (an author) and George (an engineer and Notre Dame graduate). Joe brought some of his books, so we got a few of those, too...a couple of them signed. I was in fangirl heaven. They were both a lot of fun, and I enjoyed meeting them and getting to know them a little bit. I hope I run into them again one day!
People started arriving right on time, and we had an hour to talk and have some food before Bob played. I tried to invite people who I thought would appreciate this kind of show, and I think I nailed the mix. Everyone from a friend from high school, to a friend from college, to a friend from the lab (and a guitarist in a local band...another friend who came is the bass player for the band), to a recent friend we met online, to my sister Diana. I don’t know if the party planets were aligned just right, or what, but it was a perfect mix of people who love good music and love a good time. Everyone was talking and laughing and primed to hear some music.
Then Bob played, and it was great.
HA! No, there is much more to the story.
Bob didn’t just play. He told background stories about these songs I’ve loved for years. He talked and laughed with us and just generally charmed the pants off of everyone (not literally, of course...it wasn’t that kind of party!). He blew everyone away by how good he was. You know, I remember him always having a great stage presence, but to experience it up close and personal was a whole other story. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that he had us in the palm of his hand.
His voice was strong and clear, and it’s amazing how much sound he can get out of one acoustic guitar.
He took a half an hour break, giving everyone a chance to talk and laugh and eat and drink some more. He played a second 50-minute set, and then he was done.
I could have listened to him play two more hours. I could have listened to him play all night. I was mesmerized.
Then it was time for more talking, laughing, eating, and drinking. It really was a wonderful mix of people, and we had such a great time together. My sister told me that she’s never heard such a “buzz” among a party crowd. I couldn’t have asked for a better evening, and I think everyone felt the same way. We wound down around midnight, and Bob headed off to the guest room for some snooze time. (Shane and Matt were thrilled to have him spend the night there!) Everyone said their goodbyes, then it was just me, Ken, Shane, and Matt. We cleaned up a little bit, just what we had to, and talked about how it had turned out perfectly and how happy we were that it worked out that we could do this.
(See all the photos here.)
The seven of us met for breakfast the next morning before the guys headed out and we got to chat a little bit more. Everyone agreed that it had been a great party and a fun show. Shane told me later that either Joe or George asked him, “So what did you think?” Shane thought for a moment and said, “You know, I’d have to say this was one of the highlights of my life.” I completely agree, and feel the same way. It’s something that we’ll be talking about for a long time to come. I can’t begin to convey how special it was for me, and what a pleasure it was to meet Bob. He is a genuinely nice guy who is an incredibly talented songwriter and performer. What a wonderful evening. I was a little blue as we parted ways.
After he got back home on Monday, I emailed him to tell him how much everyone loved it and that I was getting some wonderful feedback from people. I said he’d made several new fans that evening, and that made me very happy. I’ve known how good he and the band is for years, so what a pleasure for me to share that with others who didn’t know! I got an amazing email back from him in which he said many nice things that absolutely stunned me, but the upshot was that everything was perfect for him, and that the evening would stay with him as one of the best nights he’s ever had playing. Wow! He thanked me for giving him a night that makes him know that what he’s spent his life doing has all been worth it, and said that “music is still magic” when you can share it with people like us and all the others who are brought together by it. Music IS magic, Bob, and I think we were all touched by your magic on Saturday night. I know I was.
I think that feeling is conveyed quite well by this song, one that he played for us that night. I don’t know if I have one single “greatest night,” but I can say that Saturday night is right up there. (And thanks to Eddie for posting this video!)
“Thanks for being here with me
On the greatest night of my life.”