Kirsten Thien and Arthur Neilson Opened for Buddy Guy at the Birchmere

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(A post-show reflection from Kirsten)

Buddy Guy and Kirsten Thien Marquis at the Birchmere

Buddy Guy and Kirsten Thien Marquis at the Birchmere

Any fan of the Blues will understand how excited I have been for this show. Well, it outshined all my expectations. Leading up to the show, I found myself thinking a lot about the history of Rock ‘n Roll, the men and women who were instrumental in creating Rock ‘n Roll itself, and how important this music has actually been to the history and pride America. “It’s only Rock ‘n Roll, but I like it!”

It would be easy to be star struck about opening for a musical legend like Buddy Guy. But for me, I can’t think of the how good Buddy’s music makes me feel without also considering the level of effort it takes to bring heart-wrenching AND sexy music to the stage night after night, and year after year. I contemplate the many years he spent slogging it out on the road in segregated America, playing in exciting (and at times dangerous) Chicago clubs, and rockin’ it in the studio and on early tv – playing with enthusiasm and fervor, and never calling in sick. (Check this youtube of BG w/ Big Mama Thornton.) He put in countless hours honing his craft and watching the ones that came before him and taking the best of what they did and making his his own. He didn’t do this for a few years. He’s done it for almost 60 years!

For some reason, I can’t look back on the careers of the great American blues and rock men and women with misty nostalgia alone. When I read about and reflect on those days I always drift back to the fact that America was still segregated in the years when Electric Blues and Rock ‘n Roll were born. In practical terms, as touring musicians, this barred so many touring musicians from the comforts of decent lodging or a quick diner stop on the long road from gig-to-gig. The effects, as we know, go way past the practical and way past what could be touched on in a little blog.

But a song, can sum up so much in just 3 or 4 minutes. Buddy Guy’s song Skin Deep touches on this topic and is one of the sweetest soul songs I’ve ever heard — especially live. He addresses these emotionally confusing facts of our shared history so soulfully and opens the door to just a little more understanding about how we can learn from the past and move forward with that knowledge. And he does it without a tinge of bitterness or regret — just an eye to see the good in people and envision where we can be if we follow our hearts and not our fears. Right after that, he rips into a slamming guitar riff to set off the next Blues Rocker and so continues the cycle of music transporting us alternately between deep reflection and pure, visceral exhilaration.

These are the things i think about when I’m falling asleep at night, or riding the subway, or writing to you. Most of the rest of the time, there’s a voice in my head urging me to press on and work as hard as I can to continue the tradition of Blues, Soul and Rock ‘n Roll!

Back to the gig itself….I wore an outfit that went well with my polka-dotted, Buddy Guy guitar strap for this gig. I matched EVERYthing on stage including the ‘drum rug’, the kick drum, and Buddy’s guitar pedal. When I stepped out on stage, someone yelled “NICE GUITAR STRAP!” That set the tone for the set and, with guitarist Arthur Neilson, we were off to the races.

The audience was so attentive, but not afraid to call out when they were feeling it! I love talk-backs from the audience – PLEASE feel free to do it yourself sometime! As an artist we dream of gigs like this! The Birchmere is a dream venue. They can keep us going for months. It’s more of an out-of-body experience than anything. There’s a connecting with the music and the instruments and the audience that transcends our daily activities. It only happens when we’re all willing to be transported together into the world of the song that’s being played at that moment. When the last song came, I was honestly surprised. We played “Love That’s Made to Share” last, for a really energetic finale. Then I came back to consciousness. I realized my feet were literally about to fall off from the pain of wearing 3″ spike heels, and I limped back stage to change my shoes.

What then? I got a beer, forgot everything else, and enjoyed another FABULOUS show by the one and only Buddy Guy!