Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Robin & Linda Williams, Si Kahn, Appalshop ... and a snowstorm.

Well, the day started out like a nice, normal winter morning. Up early, coffee in hand sitting in front of my fireplace at the farmhouse leafing through my notes for the show taping later that evening.

Then, it started to snow.

Now, a lot of you folks live in areas where snow and flurries are no big deal. I grew up in upstate New York. When I was a kid, it would take three feet of snow and chains on the tires of the buses before anyone would dare even think about canceling school.

Last winter in Kentucky they canceled school in 16 counties because it might snow. It didn't snow, but the fact that it might was all it took to shut 'er down.

So, when I looked out the window this cold morning and saw flurries ... panic set in. I flip on the TV and, yep, sure enough: school is canceled everywhere.

What would that mean for WoodSongs? Robin and Linda Williams are soldiers of the road and they were driving in from northern Indiana. I called them on their cell and, yes, they were on the highway heading for Lexington.

Si Kahn had to catch a flight from North Carolina to get here. I check the flight schedules online ... cancellations all over the south but oddly enough Si's plane is scheduled to leave on time. As the morning rolls on, his flight departs, snowstorm and all.

That means the artists are showing up and we will have a show. The show was sold-out, but will we still have an audience? Heck, will we have a crew? WoodSongs is all volunteer run ... nobody is paid to work or take risk. The snow keeps coming down, the roads get icy. Three members of the Hippy Chick Strings are trapped in their homes as plow trucks haven't come their way. The reservation line gets filled with messages from audience members canceling their seats for the evening.

We get to the Theater about 2pm and, lo and behold, we have a full crew inside setting up speakers, running cables and making coffee. The WoodSongs Crew showed why, yet again, they are the best in the world. Robin and Linda get to town and Si Kahn makes it to the Kentucky Theater for sound check.

Everybody is in good spirits, sound check defies the laws of physics and we are ready for the doors to open.

A whole six people wander in.

Good grief. Si flew all the way here. Robin and Linda are featured artists nationwide on A Prairie Home Companion. And only six folks take their seats?

OK. Take a deep breath. Robin, Linda and Si are all friends of mine. They know the deal when the weather works against a show. But still ...

And that's not the only problem. The reason Robin, Linda and Si are on the show is because Appalshop in east Kentucky is celebrating their 40th anniversary, and this WoodSongs would be a tribute to them. Someone from Appalshop is supposed to travel to Lexington and be on this broadcast but east KY was being hammered with snow and those mountains are not fun to navigate when your car tires are slipping across the mountain roads.

The clock edges toward seven o'clock. I peek through the curtains and by now over 100 folks have braved the frigid temps and snow and are in their seats. Hey, on a night like this I'll take a full-third of a house any day! Finally, a brave Marcie Crim from Appalshop arrives last second and she's ready to come on stage.

WoodSongs fires up and the audience sounds as loud and energetic as a sold out crowd. Robin and Linda and their Fine Group play their hearts out. Si offers up songs from his new CD and talks about his new book. Marcie does a great job explaining Appalshop and WMMT radio ...

... and it all happened for free. Nobody got paid a cent to struggle through the cold day and make this WoodSongs happen. It shows that, when it counts the most, passion will always trancend payment. The heart is always more powerful than the wallet.

Anyway, I can't wait till spring ...