Music Videos

Three minutes as folk-rock stars

Way back in 2010, the band Good Old War had a YouTube cover contest. The winner would get to sing on stage with them (they didn’t specify where). I learned about the contest at 9pm on the final day. I pulled my daughters out of bed to try to throw together an entry with our version of Coney Island. Here it is –

You had to submit your entry via Twitter, which I’d never used before. So, I set up an account and tweeted my first (and close to my last) tweet. I realized just before midnight that the post was private, so I made it public just as the contest ended.

The band told me later that they’d already picked a winner, but they couldn’t resist putting the girls on stage when they saw our entry. So, they invited two winners.

The only problem was they had intended for the performance to be at a concert at Drexel University in their native Philadelphia. We lived in Atlanta, 800 miles away.

But what’s a 12-hour drive (each way) in the grand scheme of things? We arranged to drop the toddler off with family in North Carolina, and hit the road.

My brother and his family drove down from Vermont to see us and my aunt and uncle in West Chester let us stay at their home.

We rehearsed backstage a couple of times with the band and I tried to adjust to the higher (original) pitch of the song –

We walked around campus and people actually recognized us from YouTube. Little celebrities! The concert had several openers, so it was after 11pm before we went on stage. My exhausted son threw up on my brother around 10:45 and we rushed to the bathroom to clean up. Some got on my sleeves, so I rolled them up for the performance.

A fan (of the band, not us) caught it on her phone –

I was crazy nervous. My son may have sympathy vomited. The audience started singing while I was still playing an intro I didn’t realize I had added to the song.

It wasn’t a stadium, the invitation was more about my adorable girls than me, and you probably haven’t heard of the band, but it was one of the highlights of my life. “Remember that time we drove 12 hours to Philadelphia and sang with Good Old War?” Yeah, I do.

Good Old War and the Hills
Good Old War and the Hills

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Here Comes the Sun at the Pompidou Center

In 1993, I was a Mormon missionary, wandering the streets of Paris, France, to spread the Good News. A favorite place to go for a break when knocking doors wasn’t working (which was most of the time) was Place Georges Pompidou, an open concrete square in front of a modern art museum where street performers, hawkers, caricature artists, pickpockets, and tourists gather.

The sights and sounds of this place are sticky in my otherwise-faded memory. A fat Portuguese caveman breathed fire and let you throw darts at his stomach for 20 francs. A drummer rocked out on a spare-parts set that featured a dangling banana – every so often he would scream “BANANA!” and hit it with his drumstick, flinging fruit flesh into the audience. We didn’t listen to much popular music as missionaries and it was a guilty pleasure to hear bands covering pagan tunes by The Smiths and The Beatles on guitars, violins, clarinets, and the occasional didgeridoo.

One rainy day, probably in May, only the die-hards were out performing. We stood under umbrellas and listened to this guy sing Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Have You Ever Seen the Rain? His accent was strong – “I waaaNOOO ha-ye-evah seen da rain?” Sticking with the weather theme, he moved next to The Beatles’ Here Comes The Sun. The small audience laughed and gasped as the sun really did come out on the chorus! I don’t think I was particularly down at the time, but the coincidence brightened my day and has stuck in my aging brain all these 22 years.

"Here Comes the Sun"
“Here Comes the Sun”

In 2008, 15 years after my mission days, I had a business trip in Paris and scheduled some tourist time to visit a few of my old haunts. I went to the Pompidou Center and guess who was performing.

I learned from another YouTube video that his name is Yama Nico. I hope he’s there next time I visit. We need to talk.

Pompidou street musician - Yama Nico
Pompidou street musician – Yama Nico