remembering robert hazard in cape may, nj

i was probably the very last person involved with this thing to sign on for it.

i finally heard from a couple of folks who pushed the “it wouldn’t be the same without you” button and caved in…and, truth be told, i’m glad i did – for the most part.

in the end, it was the spirit of what we’d hoped to do that won out over all my personal prophecies with regard to what kind of event it would turn out to be…the fact that i was dead-on with damn near every one of them was, after it was over, not as big a deal as i’d made it in my head.

playing with robert one last time....
playing with robert one last time....

some time back, kathy falcey (who’d done some booking for robert hazard at the end of his career) had decided to organize a tribute to robert at this years’ cape may singer songwriter conference, where robert had given the keynote speech last year. now i have nothing against kathy (quite the opposite – she’s one of my favorite people), and my feelings about robert are well documented on these pages.

it’s just that i know how these conferences typically come off, and i guess i just wasn’t that eager to commit to something that was happening at 5pm on a friday in cape may, NJ – a full three hours from home. the time slot virtually guaranteed that no one who wasn’t already there and registered for the conference would be there, and that those who were would be occupied elsewhere. but this is the nature of these things…they’re essentially networking opportunities for folks who are trying to get ahead in some form or fashion in this business of ours. years ago, there was a degree of merit in attending them – because there was a chance that you might actually encounter someone who’d at least have some sage advice, or would be willing to pass along some acquired knowledge via a panel or a random encounter in a hallway or at a bar.

on mandolin at cape may
on mandolin at cape may

now, though…everyone who might actually bring a degree of merit to something like this is too cool to show up at a lowly music conference – and frankly, i guess i get it. most of the folks who go to these things are just trying to find their way, and as such, there’s a lot of new songwriters…and people who just haven’t honed their craft yet. as such, a lot of it can be hard to listen to…still, if someone with the experience and knowledge to point them in the right direction isn’t there to do so, who will?

anyway, i digress…

to paraphrase the blues brothers, “we got the band back together”. freddie ditomasso was on bass, tommy geddes on drums – and myself, nik everett, and jd malone filling out the band. kathy had some of the females who were playing at the conference join us for “girls just wanna have fun” (i played the riff on mandolin…which was much more effective than i thought it would be). i had also suggested to the guys that we do “i still believe in you” with everyone taking a verse…which worked out really well, too (i did the bridge, and managed to get through it)…

it was yet another one of those moments when it struck me that this could very well be the last time that i play these songs…and that i won’t ever play them again with the one guy who did them best – the guy who wrote them.

playing pedal steel behind nik everett on "bound"
playing pedal steel behind nik everett on "bound"

if i had to look within my own life for some good that might have come from roberts’ passing, it would be simply that there are things that i take the time to appreciate now that i don’t think i really gave much thought to a year ago. it’s something that i’ve heard other musicians talk about before – most notably, i’ve heard stevie nicks say on several occasions that she’s thankful for every show, for every opportunity to play, because she knows that any tour could very well be the last tour…for any number of reasons, up to and including the singular reason that none of us will ever get to play those songs with robert again.

due to the nature of my role in most of the bands i play with, i’m constantly juggling instruments, throwing in harmony parts – and sometimes it’s easy to become preoccupied with the logistics of what i’m doing…to the extent that i forget sometimes to look around me and take into account what’s going on. i’ve been very fortunate to play with some phenomenal musicians and artists, and every now and then someone will do something that floors me – to the extent that you can’t not take notice. those are the moments that make all this worthwhile.

the void created by roberts’ absence makes that hard to ignore these days.

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