Two famous guys stepped up to help us save Hendy Woods Park by singing their hearts out at a benefit concert in the Big White Mendocino Music Festival Tent on July 11th. I know that local landscape contractor Don Shanley was instrumental in connecting us with Kristofferson and I’m sure others played key roles- thank you one and all. The concert sold out and with tickets going for $45-$100 dollars each in a 800 seat house plus concession revenues I’m unofficially estimating that the event raised around $50,000 which is a tidy sum. So many people made this possible but I know that three blazing candles who were burning for this Hendy concert were Kathy Bailey, Deanna Apfel and Janet Andersen. They were flickering around everywhere during the event and I know that all three worked tirelessly for months to pull this off. The logistics for this undertaking were daunting so it is a good thing that we had these three dauntless AV women steering the ship. Those of you who did as much or more than these three very visible leaders forgive me for not knowing who you are. I do know that Lauren Keating, Keevan Labowitz and Eric Labowitz were hard workers too. I was selling tickets for Laura Fogg and Deanna Apfel‘s redwood design quilt where I found people happy to buy five $5 tickets for $20 as they fell hopelessly in love with this sophisticated yet completely happy vibe art quilt. If you would like to buy a quilt raffle ticket look for the quilt at our Mendo Fair where the final drawing will happen on the very last day of the fair- guaranteed to become a family heirloom.
The concert itself was way more special than I expected. It was so simple. There they stood. They sang a lot they spoke a little. Sometimes they made me cry. It was kind of naked. Bill and Kris were like burnt sugar- acrid and irresistible.
Bill Bottrell who is 60 years old decided to move to the North Coast after a long career as a record producer for the very famous including Michael Jackson. He wanted to get more involved in community-based music and this concert was definitely that. Bottrell sang first prefacing many of his songs by telling us whose point of view the song was coming from. He places himself directly inside the heads of others and sings their songs for them. He and his standing bass player held us captive. We especially loved it when he mentioned Albion by name.
Kristoffer “Kris” Kristofferson has a catalog of over 80 songs that he has written. He sang about 50 of them for us last Wednesday with nothing but a short “Thank You” in between. Once in a while he would insert a comment into a song like when he was singing about drinking and womanizing and carrying on and said “I wrote that song a long time ago”. When he sang his well-known phrase from ‘Help Me Make it Through the Night’, “I don’t care what’s right or wrong” he added, “Yes I do”. It was a little like he was having a quiet conversation with each of us. I went online to look at some of his lyrics as I was moved by the poetry of the songs. The refrain in his song ‘The Pilgrim’ reads, “He's a poet, he's a picker, he's a prophet, he's a pusher He's a pilgrim and a preacher and a problem when he's stoned He's a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction taking every wrong direction on his lonely way back home”. He examines himself and other humans with compassionate precision but also with brutal honesty. I saw myself. He is talking about my generation. Although he is touted as a Country Western artist really his songs cut across a wide spectrum and are straight ahead emotional pleas and ballads. I guess it was a marketing decision to stick him in the country western box. He is mostly just an unadorned poet/balladeer. He speaks to directly to the heart and the conscience.
Like Bob Dylan Kristofferson has a gravely voice that will win no beauty contests but that is surprisingly unimportant as the songs come over just fine without any prettiness. I think he was embarrassed when his voice gave out a few times but we didn’t mind or at least I didn’t. He is 76 years old. Sometimes he gave us the impression that he was grateful to us just for listening. I believe that deep humility is often a hallmark of those who have seen it all and survived to tell the tale. A big life is chiseled into his craggy face.
In the end I heard he left to drive to San Francisco to catch a plane that night for a concert with Merle Haggard. Online it says that he’ll perform in eight different states in just the next 2 months sometimes solo and also dates with Haggard. I guess he is not retired. When I walked into the big White Tent I was not a fan but when I walked out I had become one.
After the concert my partner Bob Sites and I went across to Dick’s Place where the bumper sticker reads, “So few Richards and so many Dicks”. Local favorites the Blushing Roulettes were holding court in their inimitable way to a standing room only packed house. I counted only six of us over the age of 30- a whole different crowd from the boomers in the tent. It was refreshing to wade into a crowd that young in drastically aging Mendocino County. Wrapping it up with a big red bow we spent the night in the picturesque Mendocino Hotel so we did not even have to drive home after drinking all that donated Golden Eye Migration Wine (so smooth and yum). A perfect end to a perfect evening. The fortitude of the shakers and movers of Anderson Valley have pushed all the magic buttons and made “It” happen again. It was swell.