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Column 22

February 27, 2013

Another Side
By Jon Berman

I played a show the other day that just went completely the wrong way right. I had felt sick all day but had offered my music to entertain folks voluntarily working and people donating supplies. My friend Darlene Sattler put together an afternoon to fill a full size trailer with supplies and necessities for people in Staten Island, NY recovering from our latest natural disaster, Hurricane Sandy. I could not cancel. The ibuprofen wasn’t working.

Driving out to Chicopee, Massachusetts, the setting sun began to sink. My head was pounding. I was driving 65 miles per hour on the Mass Turnpike. Every other driver annoyed me. And I thought to myself, “there is no way you’re going to pull this off”.

I pulled off the highway at exit 5 and headed for a Starbucks coffee shop. I walked into the men’s room and looked at my pale face peering out of the hooded black sweatshirt. My head resting on the mirror, I ran some cold water and splashed it on the back of my neck. Immediately someone pulled on the door handle to enter, because that’s what happens. I headed out to the counter.

Ordering coffee at Starbucks can be a challenge, because what Starbucks really sells is vibe, and that vibe is faux European. It can also be a challenge because my lovely wife orders a venti soy no water chai tea, which can come out pretty garbled when I attempt to order it.

I ordered a small coffee. The barista did not hesitate or translate my order into Starbucks language. I looked pretty beat I’m sure. I paid and returned to my truck, and began to navigate my way to where the event was taking place.

I found a good spot to stuff my truck into and began to set up. It was sunny but windy. The temperature was dropping fast. Solo gigs for me mean no crew. I’m the act, the crew, and the management. I’m in no shape to manage anything. But it’s an important cause, and it sets a precedent in my mind for future acts of kindness in this world… and my part is small anyways.

During the second song I performed it became apparent that the temperature had dropped so fast that the saxophone was going to be difficult to keep in tune and unpleasant to play. But the caffeine was beginning to set in, and I was beginning to feel, maybe not… good, but at least human.

I put down the frozen horn and picked up my guitar. The wood felt warm in my hands compared to the metal sax and I began to strum the beginning chords to a song about a summer day on the beach. And just like that, the world changed.

The ache in my head was gone. I could stand there all night, give a little rhythm and  warm up the thoughts of those volunteering their time, money, and efforts to a common cause. There were songs to relate to the cause, songs to feel warm, and a couple of cover songs to sing along to. This is what music is about. Raising spirit, bringing people together.

When a couple of girls asked about CDs I immediately handed five to the organizers and told them to sell them for whatever they wanted to and to donate the money to the event. It was that moment. Clearly something had connected. And someone wanted to take the music home with them.

Which is what it is all about. People, sharing, and connecting. That night, that guitar was magic in my frozen hands. And I’m thankful for it.

Jon Berman is a musician who lives in Blandford. Previous columns and contact information are available at


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