Saturday, March 17, 2007

How I Caught a Byrd at the Mall

By Maria Sebastian

In the spring of 2005 I was invited to perform a live set at the Galleria Mall for Robbie Takac’s Music is Art Foundation Annual Instrument Drive.

The offer sounded refreshing for the opportunity to play original songs over my usual cover shows.

The mall enjoyed a fairly busy afternoon and the drive seemed a success. Shoppers listened in passing and some stayed a while to grin at the girl and guitar on a riser between the dollar store and Sears.

When my set was over I began wrapping cords as a friendly woman approached me with, “My husband and I love what you just did! You should share a show with him some time. He’s a folk singer playing in town tonight--Roger McGuinn.” She said his name expecting I should recognize it. Her husband leaned with one foot on a nearby wall: a sweet looking folkie in a top hat stopping at the mall between coffeehouse gigs in the mountains.

After a brief chat I took their card on which (Camilla) had written Roger’s booking agent info., as well as Mr. Folk Man’s advice over which microphone I should be using instead of the preamp on my jumbo Alvarez. I put their card between spare string packs in my gig bag, gave a genuine nice-to-meet-you, and carted my suitcase and guitar through a neon Spongebob hallway toward the parking lot.

Over coffee that night I Googled “Roger McGuinn” to see if I should line up a valley-view patio gig with this earthy couple. Maybe something downstate in the Catskills or Woodstock; haven’t been there in a while.

No one mentioned BYRDS.

My musician friends still pat me sympathetically on the head since for all the music trivia I thought I knew, I knew not that Roger McGuinn meant legendary Byrds guitarist—the man who introduced the 12-string Rickenbacker to rock music inspiring artists including Tom Petty and Bob Dylan—and putting folk-rock on the genre map.

I skimmed and scrolled and found an e-mail address that put me in direct contact with Roger. In the subject header I wrote “Well blow me down.” He replied the next day with “You should have opened for me last night.” But I had a gig in Batavia…

It took two years but I landed that opening slot. I will open for Roger McGuinn on Friday, March 30th at Rockwell Hall. People will be finding their seats for his set and it will remind me of passersby on the day I learned that, even at noon at the mall, it wouldn’t have been too cliché to ask “Come here often?”

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