Monday, February 22, 2016

Music Monday: Stephen Kellogg - "Best of Me"

I've been listening to Stephen Kellogg's music for nearly 12 years, and in that time, I've attended many shows. I've seen him in various settings -- with a full band, without a band, in a record store, in a restaurant, etc. You get the picture. Last Friday night was my 16th show and my 14th as merch girl. By this point, you'd think I've seen it all, but it ended up being a very unique evening.

Thursday night, Stephen's management contacted me and said there might not be a show on Friday. Stephen, his band, and his opener, were all stranded in Wyoming after high winds closed the highways and forced them off the road. She told me they were trying to figure out if he could still make it to Iowa, but they weren't sure just yet. All day Friday, I received updates on Stephen's travel plans. The roads opened, so they hit the highway again, but after they got going, the roads closed again. No high profile vehicles or trailers were allowed due to the winds. Stephen was pulling a trailer, but he continued on for more than 100 miles. He's probably lucky he didn't get a ticket or into an accident. Around 3:30 on Friday afternoon, management contacted me again and said they booked Stephen a flight to Iowa, but he'd be be getting in after eight (which meant the 9 p.m. show time probably wouldn't happen) and it would just be him and as much merch as he could carry. Oh, and I was in charge of getting him from the airport to the venue.

Stephen landed in Des Moines shortly after 8 p.m. After deplaning and getting his bags, we were on the road to Ames (a 40-minute drive) around 8:30 p.m. During the drive, Stephen had to rehearse six songs he hadn't played in a while but wanted to add to the setlist since he'd be playing solo. We'll just call this my own personal concert. It was a pretty cool experience. We also had some really interesting conversations about work and life and finding the bright side of everything.

Finally, we arrived at the venue. A full house was waiting for Stephen. While he changed clothes (he'd been awake and attempting to travel for 22 hours) and prepared to go on, I hurriedly set up the merch (not nearly as pretty as I would have liked). Despite his late arrival, the crowd welcomed him to the stage and were actively engaged throughout the show. They also bought tons of merch -- including all 10 copies of Liz Longley's CD. She was the opener who didn't get to perform at this show, but Stephen encouraged everyone to take a chance on her music because she's fantastic and, "handing her $100 tomorrow will feel really awesome." It was a great night, and I'm really thankful I got to experience it. It's not a night I'll soon forget.

Jeff captured exactly what I saw from Stephen on Friday evening in this Instagram post:

You may look at this as just another @stephen_kellogg photo. But look closer and you'll see weary eyes from 22 hours without sleep; a brain that is, somehow, still churning (or maybe on autopilot); and a heart that is missing his band, his incredibly talented opener @lizlongley, and no doubt his family. At the same time, you'll see an expression of pure joy and gratefulness for the nearly sold-out crowd that showed up in Ames last night; an expression of a dedicated man in his element, doing what he loves. I've taken thousands of photos of SK over the years--many look nicer or are more artistic--but very few show such a spectrum of emotion. Attitude IS, indeed, everything!! Thank you, SK, for being one of the constant forces in my journey. It's always a pleasure to share stories and thoughts on life--even at 1:30AM. 😉🤓😴🍕 #southwestnortheast #alllovefuturesbright #mshop
A photo posted by Jeff Hackbarth (@jeffhackbarth) on



I'm really glad Stephen got to Ames so I could hear him play a few songs from his new record South West North East.  This track is my current favorite:


This is one of the songs Stephen rehearsed in my car. I've been playing it on repeat for months as it completely sums up how I feel about some of the friendship and relationship struggles I've had in recent years. Check out the lyrics:

The more you get to know me, 
The less you seem to like me
And I'd be lying if I said I was not offended 
I would rather see you look at me
With cold eyes and a vacancy
Than disrespect us both by your pretending

There is no one in this world who won't make a few mistakes
With friends like you, I don't need enemies
But in case you ever wonder, 
You may have broke my heart
But you will never get the best of me 

So I dusted myself off
And I headed for my home
Or for someone who could tell me I was better on my own
Nursing all my disappointments
I refuse to be anointed
By the tribe of people I could blame for how the thing had gone

And there is no one in this world who won't make a few mistakes
With friends like you, I don't need enemies
But in case you ever wonder, 
You may have broke my heart
But you will never get the best of me

Even if it's for the best
That doesn't make it hurt less
Cause I have been here before
I can take a little more
Cause that's always been what's best

And I am someone in this world who has made a few mistakes
If you point them out, I'll never disagree
And in case you ever wonder,
Although you broke my heart
You could never get the best of me
No, you will never get the best of me

This is a really long post. And some of you may have just skimmed.

So here's the TLDR summary:
It would have been easy and understandable for Stephen to just cancel his show in Ames. It's a venue that only holds 150-200 people, so no big deal, right?  But no ... Stephen was determined to get to this show. He may not have the fame or fortune of some other musicians, but he has an incredible amount of heart and dedication. Oh, and he's a pretty solid songwriter as well. I'm so proud to be a fan and supporter of Stephen Kellogg.

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