by Susan Varnes-Newland
(Guest blogger from Grieve The Astronaut) ~ ~
As I sit in my red, vinyl bean bag chair, put my headsets on, cord attached to the turntable….I drop the needle, hear the crackle and …aaaahhh. Peace and serenity. I have a bad habit of holding my breath when I am tired or stressed. Which causes me even more anxiety.
ROCKIN’ ROLL ROYALTY ~ Larry Mitchell
I find myself holding my breath, shoulders hunched up to my ears and muscles clenched. Fight or flight mode. I have a new Fitbit that has a breathing exercise on it, so I try to remember to use it. Oxygen is important. Especially after I have worked a long 10-hour international flight. I need to breathe in fresh clean air, and breathe out all those toxins. Just Breathe…
I have not mentioned Raymond Hayden lately, the creator of Grieve the Astronaut, so it’s time to bring his name up! Every so often, Ray and his fiancé Jessica Lynne, will host a Private House Show. They invite friends that they know will appreciate the musicians who will be performing. Everyone brings food and beverages to share, we sit back, relax and enjoy the music. Usually around 30 people or so.
This past weekend was a Private House Show with musician Larry Mitchell. Larry is a Grammy award-winning producer, engineer and performer who has toured the world playing guitar with well-knownartists including Tracy Chapman, Billy Squier, Ric Ocasek and Miguel Bose. He lives in Alabama, and was touring through our area for the Tacoma Guitar Festival, in Tacoma WA. I was excited that I could attend!
I woke up the morning of the event, anxious. My night had been filled with stress dreams, my shoulders were tight and up to my ears, I was frustrated and not breathing. I kept reminding myself to breathe in…. breathe out. We were running late, and I was a bit cranky. But that was about to change.
We finally arrived and Larry had already started performing. They had rearranged the performance room from the last time I was there for a House Show. It was Larry’s suggestion, and worked wonderfully! A very intimate setting, for a very exceptional performance. The speakers were set up perfectly, too. Wherever you sat, you could hear him.
At this show, it was just going to be Larry playing his guitar. So, he had music tracks set up in his computer. And he accompanied them. All instrumental. Within a few minutes of siting down, I felt my eyes close, my ears open and my breathing becoming deep and even. Relaxed, peaceful and smooth. I found myself getting tearful, because I realized how badly I needed his music. Simply beautiful. It was mesmerizing to watch and listen to him play. Beautiful guitars AND a beautiful person. Smiling and looking at all of us as he played. And I loved hearing his stories in-between songs. Explaining the background behind the songs he had written. Funny stories that occurred on tours and at celebrity parties. And, we also found out that Larry can’t swim, so don’t have him sit in any canoes for a photo shoot! He’s been there, done that, LOL.
It was amazing to be sitting so close to such an incredible musician. I was literally 3 feet away. One of the songs I enjoyed most was “Unforgotten”. Written to remember those that have passed on in life. Something that I see happening more and more frequently, at this stage of my journey. That’s one thing I really enjoy about listening to instrumental music. You create your own lyrics and story, as the notes intermingle around in your head. Instead of the words speaking to you, it’s the actual music itself. I can just imagine all those notes entering in through my ears, then moving down into my heart, where they get pumped all through my body. The notes flowing along in my bloodstream, filling every cell with oxygenated music. The notes breathing in and out, as they circle and swirl around. Breathe in…Breathe out.
The first half Larry’s show was more mellow and soothing. During his break time, he mingled around with everyone. What a nice man. I had a whole conversation with him about breathing. Breath is life.
The second half, it was time to switch it up a bit with some rock! It was fun to sit so close, and watch his fingers effortlessly move up and down the guitar, creating this phenomenal sound. That’s when you realize how talented a musician is. When you see the speed and accuracy of their hands up that close. During one song, he grabbed one of the guest’s hands, and moved her fingers up and down the guitar neck as he played. What a cool experience for her!
All too quickly, it was time for the show to end. I’m really looking forward to his next visit to the Seattle-Tacoma area this summer! I would like to see him perform at an actual large venue, in addition to another Private House Show.
Oh, and it’s not just musicians who attend shows, photographers do, too! Bill Bungard does beautiful work, and the Tacoma Weekly publishes his concert photos frequently. The 3rd photo on this blog was his. I’m looking forward to viewing his complete gallery of them.