September 30, 2014

Thoughts on the Blues

excerpted from the 2011 Festival Guide Letter from the Producer

I often get asked how we came up with this idea, meaning Tall City Blues Fest. And there isn’t really a simple, black and white answer, but if I had to narrow it down, there are a few answers that would fit the bill. “My big mouth!”, “I’m not sure” and “By faith” all have elements of truth to them!

My experience in life is that if I have to know how it’s all going to work out before I start, well, then that isn’t faith. We’ve had no idea all the way thru this process how all of this was going to come together, where we were going to get the money, who we were going to get to help us, and so on. More was constantly revealed along the way and being at the helm of this project as Producer, I can tell you that it wasn’t always revealed in what I thought was a timely manner! If pain is a measure of progress, then we sure have made a lot of progress! And progress is hard to measure when you’re so close to a project; the vantage point from the outside looking in is often radically different than the perspective from the inside looking out. From the inside, you see all the messiness, the flaws and have first hand knowledge of all the ideas that didn’t work and all the people that didn’t support you. From the inside, you’re on the firing line: taking the hits from the naysayers, answering questions that sometimes you don’t even know the answers [to], making decisions out of context of information you think you need and being obedient to inner intuition that logically seems insane and questioning yourself all along the way. From the outside, it looks like things are clipping along nicely, so it’s easy to lose perspective and realize that progress IS being made, even when it doesn’t feel like it. I’ve learned that my feelings about something really don’t have much to do with what is REALLY happening!

Why Blues Music?

At various points along the way, I had many moments of clarity; the kind of moments where you get a brief glimpse of the front side of the tapestry you’re weaving instead of the mundane back side that always looks messy and indecipherable. It was these moments of clarity that gave me just enough fuel at doubtful moments to keep forging ahead. Here’s one such example: Another question I’m often asked is “Why Blues Music?” I must admit that at the time we chose blues music, we thought we were doing so because we were relighting the torch the Chamber carried for several years with the Shades of Blues concerts. And there is truth in that.

Along the way it also became clear that there was a much bigger purpose: a Blues music festival gave us the perfect platform to launch a 1st year unique experience, like none other our community has ever experienced locally and to do so without too many pre-conceived notions, charged opinions and contempt prior to investigation.

Everyone can relate to Blues music! Whether you consider yourself a fan of the Blues or not is irrelevant. We can all relate to Blues music and here’s why: Because every single one of us has messiness in our lives. None of our lives are nice, neatly intact, perfectly wrapped in a box with a beautiful bow on top…obviously! We have both hardships and victories, challenges and triumphs. Life is not unilateral and one-sided. It’s balanced with both messes and delights. Really, it’s the messiness that gives life’s its sweetness, because it’s the messiness that puts the sweet spots in perspective AND likewise, it’s the sweet spots that put the messes in perspective when they come along. Without messiness, sweetness doesn’t exist and vice-versa; both are necessary ingredients in the tapestry of our lives.

Blues music penetrates the soul. It embraces this messiness and also celebrates the victories; it says “Here’s where I’ve been, what happened, and where I am now”. Sure, other forms of music embrace these same things, but no other form of mainstream music [that I know of] is as neutral musically and artistically as the Blues. If we had done a Country Music Fest or a Rock Fest or some other kind of Music Fest, it would have alienated as many people as it attracted. A Blues music festival, though, neither inherently repels or attracts people…at least in THIS West Texas community, anyway. Our critics said, “Why would you do a Blues music festival here, there’s not a strong Blues community?” And that was precisely the point…to start something new! What we did find out along the way is that there are way more fans of blues music in our community and surrounding area than we ever dreamed would be possible.

Blues music is REAL and it takes something real that connects with people in the core of their hearts to really be capable of opening our minds to what a new entertainment landscape in West Texas could look like. Blues music comes in so many styles and variations, just like real life, and we’ve worked very diligently to put together a line-up of Blues artists that are as diverse as they are similar–a line-up that we hope will make you surprised by your own delight!

On The Personal Side

We all have our own personal Goliath’s and this Festival has been one of mine. It has stretched me in ways that I didn’t know I had the ‘skin’ to cover and I was certain I was going to split in two or develop a disorder. I had meltdown’s that might be described in this part of the country as “dropping my basket” and I’ve had victories that rocketed me into a 4th dimension. Thru it all, one thing is plainly clear: There’s a bigger picture at work, here. I don’t know yet what that means or what that looks like and I suppose that’s not up to me; it’s up to you reading this, as a community, as a collective power far greater than me. I know that when I ‘turn it over’, let it [the issue] go soak in the ether of God’s house, it always works out way better than anything for which I might have otherwise bargained. Still, at the time of this writing [2 weeks before the Festival], I have no idea where we are going to come up with the funds for the home stretch, and yet that has been the case in every situation along this journey where we’ve been up against a wall thru which we busted victoriously.

Will Tall City Blues Fest see Year Two, will it become an international success that draws people from all over the world into our community, or will it just be a flash in the pan that people say “Remember that one time when…? I simply don’t know. What I do know and what was a very stark moment of clarity for me just a few short months ago is that I’m am only a steward and that my responsibility is to tend to what has been laid before me to the very best of my ability. It’s not perfect and I certainly didn’t go about it perfectly and I most certainly didn’t go about it alone. What you see and are now experiencing [Tall City Blues Fest 2011] is the product of the collective faith of a small group of people who wrote straight with crooked lines. I hope you enjoy it and, that in some way, this inaugural year makes a positive difference in your life. From the beginning, that was the intention we set and was the center point to which we went back to again and again when faced with decisions: Will it make a positive difference in someone’s life and in our community? The formula was simple: If we felt like the answer was “Yes”, we did it even if it seemed insanely impossible and if the answer was “No”, we dropped it.

To the Blues, To the Messes, To the Victories, To Something New and To All That Helped Make This Possible…

My Cup Runneth Over,

Lisa J. Grissom
Producer, Tall City Blues Fest 2011

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