Friday, April 15, 2011

GUEST BLOG: Party of Five

Written by Goofy. He is a former student of both Billy and Bob’s from 10 years ago. He is thankful this won’t be graded.

By: goofytakemyhand 

'Til Death Do Us Part - Bob Livingston (mp3)
Ruby's Shoes - Bob Livingston (mp3)

“This is your line,” said the aging Texas troubadour, “Sing it with me.”

He’d played gigantic venues throughout the country as a sideman for legends such as Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker. For over a decade, he represented the U.S. State Department throughout the world as a music ambassador, traveling to thirty countries.

The artist’s name is Bob Livingston. He played last Saturday night at a local coffeehouse which has hosted weekly shows for 10 years. Artists are scheduled for two 50-minute sets with a meet-and-greet in between. The admission price has never changed: $10.

There were five people in attendance. You do the math.

“When all else fails, music prevails,” is his catchphrase. Music would have to prevail Saturday night, I convinced myself, even though I was surrounded by thirty vacant chairs. Bob entered the room apparently unphased by the turnout. He started out with his recent single “Cowboys and Indians” which was inspired by his state department visits to Asian audiences. The best way I can describe the song is the way he does, “Mahatma Gandhi and Sitting Bull meet Ravi Shankar and Buddy Holly.”

We gave him a round of applause. With five people, it sounded more like a golf clap - fitting because his gig the night before was in Augusta, Georgia following round two of the Masters. Like a prototypical cowboy, he could tell a great story.

I was fascinated to see how these experiences impacted his life and music. He sat in the same high school desk senior year as Buddy Holly did when he was a student. This would come back into play later in the evening he told us. He tried to engage the audience, but it was clear only I even knew who he was, much less any of the notable Texans he’d crossed paths with.

Midway through a song just 40 minutes into his first set I saw something in his eyes. It was the look of regret and resignation. He finished the song, told the concert director he was playing through the break. Crap. Bob’s storytelling ended. He roboticly strummed a couple more songs from his latest album and then wished us good night.

I peered backstage and saw a defeated man hanging his red hair down with a blank expression on his face. He was closing up the suitcase with all his CDs for sale. I gently knocked on the door and awkwardly said, “I enjoyed your show tonight.”

Both of us seemed to doubt the sincerity of the statement. I had hoped he would share a couple more stories with me. However, he was emotionally worn down and exhausted. He recommended a few online Texas music stations to me, but clearly wanted to be left alone. He gave me a promotional copy of his latest album and wished me a good night.

Bob and I pulled out of the parking lot at the same time. We both drove down the same road. He pulled his large green van into the Rodeway Inn as I continued down the strip. I never found out what the second Buddy Holly story was. At that point, I didn’t even care.

When all else fails, music prevails? Not hardly. I slowly watched Bob Livingston the musician become Bob Livingston the person that evening. Bob Livingston the person knew music was not going to prevail on a night like that.

The songs above are from Livingston's latest album, Gypsy Alibi.


Bob said...

Wonder if he's seen Crazy Heart? Why haven't I ever heard of him?

goofytakemyhand said...

Don't know. Your impromptu thumb piano gourd songs in your office always attracted a larger audience than this concert.

troutking said...

Good post, Goofy. Depressing, but good. Possibly your conversation would have gone better if you'd opened with "Dr. Livingstone, I presume..."

waitsfornoone2005 said...

Thanks for sharing this. I guess we lose sight of how lonely and depressing life on the road can be for a 'non-celebrity' musician.
Regards, Dave.

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