When Worlds Collide


by Susan Varnes-Newland
(Guest blogger from Grieve The Astronaut) ~ ~

When Worlds Collide

As I sit in my red, vinyl beanbag chair, headsets on, cord attached to the turntable….

I honestly cannot remember a time without music in my life. I was either listening, playing or singing it. Music has always served as a connection to other people. My extracurricular childhood activity  was singing in the school choir. And, even though I grew up in the small, farming town of Colfax, WA I was blessed to have the same choir teacher, the entire 12 years. Mr. K. David Coe. A man passionate about music, who possessed an artistic temperament. I wonder how many wooden pointers sticks he broke during his career. However, he taught us to love and respect music. That love of music carried into my college years at Washington State University. Not only did we enter singing competitions in my sorority, we spent a lot of time reenacting our favorite MTV music videos in our rooms. Hairbrushes and curling irons the perfect props as microphones. One of my BFFs, Marie, especially loved music and to sing. She is an alto. I’m a soprano. So, our harmonies blended.  And, she created the best cassette mix tapes. 30+ years later, we’re still singing and harmonizing together. It brings us joy, and connects our lives and spirits. Music does that.

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Rockin’ Through My Fifties has illustrated how intertwined all of our lives are. I’m constantly experiencing Six Degrees of Separation. We are all connected in some way…if you just slow down and take the time to notice.

About 1 ½ years ago, my musician friend Jessica Lynne, held a pledge support party at her home. It was to help raise finances for her upcoming recording contract in Nashville, TN. Recording an EP can cost musicians several thousand dollars. It’s not uncommon to ask for support from fans and followers.  One of the musicians joining in was Andrew Landers. He brought along his guitar and voice, for an acoustic singer songwriter event. Request an idea for a song, and they create one on the spot! Lots of fun and creativity involved. I immediately was impressed with not only Andy’s talent, but also his presence.

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​ A warm, loving and humble man. And father of SIX children! Now, that takes a lot of love in your heart, to become a parent to six children. I knew that he was going to be a growing presence in the Seattle-Tacoma area community.

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In the fall of 2016, my friend Marie asked me if I wanted to go to Louie G’s in Fife, WA to listen to one of her favorite local musicians; Andrew Landers and Mainstreet Struggleville.  “Marie, how do you know Andy? He’s part of the local music community that I’ve become friends with.”

“He and his band performed out our party last summer.” “WHAT? The party that I messed up my dates on? ” …Head hangs low.  So, we bought tickets and showed up for Andy’s show. Raymond Hayden (band leader of Grieve The Astronaut) ended up sitting at our table. Sparks started flying when my two worlds collided. In a very good way. My past and my present were joining. Ray got called up onstage to perform with Andy during the show. When he left our table to join Andy onstage, Marie gave me a “Wow, that’s cool!” look.I love Andy’s music. It’s a blend of American Folk, jazz, blue grass, southern rock and everything in between. Combined with his good-humored personality and ability to story tell, you feel like you’re wearing your most comfortable pair of jeans, while hanging out on the back-porch swing, on a peaceful summer evening. When I started researching his background, I found that my instincts were correct. A former pastor who had also been involved in music therapy programs at hospitals and senior homes. Music is a healing force. And when combined with his sincere and loving spirit, the effects are like receiving a warm hug.

Andy performs by himself acoustically, and with his band, Mainstreet Struggleville. That night, Andy was performing with his band. And, as an added creative component, an artist was painting behind them. His art illustrating the music he heard. Although, I enjoy Andy’s music acoustically, the band adds more joy and happiness to be spread throughout the room. An upright bass, electric bass, drums and a saxophone rounded out the music palette. Marie was thrilled when Andy played one of her favorites songs, City of Rose (Portland I’m Coming Home Tonight) from the soon to be released album, “Whereabouts.”  It made me SO happy, to see one of my lifetime BBFs, loving the music being created by this incredibly talented music community.

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​When she said they would be performing again, at their neighborhood summer party, I made sure and cleared my calendar. I wasn’t going to miss it this time!

The day of the party arrived, blue skies and sunshine. Perfect for their home located on Budd Bay WA, with a gorgeous view of Mt. Rainier.

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​When we pulled up, I saw Andy’s 1972 VW bus parked out front. The classic symbol of a modern day, troubadour hippie. After an excellent meal of tacos and margaritas, the music started. To be able to enjoy their music at a private show, was such a treat. Marie’s ability to create great party mix tapes in college, had grown into great parties with live music. I filmed a few live feed videos for Facebook, carefully circling around the band. Tripping over an amplifier cord was not on the taco bar menu. And we noticed boats pulling up and anchoring out in the bay, to listen.

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​A professional 5-piece band, in my friends’ backyard. What could be better. I always enjoy sitting close to the musicians, so I can watch them play their instruments. It’s that music connection, of being able to watch their hands and see into their eyes.  The upright bass is a jazzy, blues classic. Accompanied by a wailing saxophone, bass guitar and drums, it’s the perfect combination for an afternoon of musical delight. They performed both original songs and sing along rock classics. A fun and carefree afternoon of storytelling, mixed with the rich roots of American folk and blues. To quote Andy “Music is my compass, it’s how I see the world and long to see it better. The songs that I’m singing every night are the songs that I need- not to learn how to play, but to learn how to live better.”

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To close out the evening, Andy and the band played a rousing cover of “We’re All Irish Tonight”! Introvert, extrovert…it didn’t matter, we were all madly dancing around, doing our best version of the Irish Jig……And then we all ate Andy’s VW bus.

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​And that’s what I love about Andy and his band of musicians. Everyone feels free and welcome to be who they want to be, in the presence of their music. I’ve always had this illusion that musicians don’t see or notice me from the stage. That Wallflower feeling. However, at the end of the evening, Andy grabbed my hands and said one of the sweetest things, that I’ve taken to heart. “Susan, you are such a joy to watch from stage. Your smile and spirit are just beautiful.”

We are a mirror to the musicians. They get to watch and observe their music flow out and through us. Witness their music coming alive in another person’s spirit. The whole connection ‘thing’. Something that all of us human beings are born with. The desire to feel connected and accepted.

Thank You Terry and Marie for such a fun night of music and festivities! We’re already looking forward to next year’s party with Andrew Landers and Mainstreet Struggleville!

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You can check out more of Andy and his music on www.mainstreetstruggleville.com.

And, also mark on your calendar the CD Release Show of his new record, “Whereabouts.”
October 7th, 2017   8:00pm – 11:00pm, Louie G’s Pizza Fife, WA ( www.louiegspizza.com)

LET’S ROCK!

SUSAN IN SEATTLE

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