Last year, I wrote about how I became inspired to take up the guitar, which led to a post about my first time in the spotlight at the Fab Gear adult ensemble concert. I recently had another opportunity to perform on stage. Where the Fab Gear adult ensemble concert was fun and exciting, the Electric Coffeehouse (“ECH” for short) concert was not only fun and exciting, it was very special. Allow me to explain why.
The public school that my kids attends is very small, but it boasts a rich, robust music program. The high school alone features a general choir, select choir, concert band, two jazz bands, a percussion line, and a Celtic ensemble. Throw in choirs, concert bands and jazz bands at the middle and elementary levels, musicals at the middle and high levels, a talent show, and all-county and all-state performances, and you get a sense at how hard the music faculty and kids work!
This brings me to Electric Coffeehouse. It’s a long-standing event (I believe I heard that this year’s performance was the 15th edition) that closes out the musical performance schedule for the school year. It’s an opportunity for the students to get on stage and perform their favorite songs in front of a live audience. Any genre is welcome and usually represented: rock, pop, jazz, R&B, blues, show tunes, indie, alternative, metal, country, etc. I can probably list at least one song for each of these categories from this year’s performance. This concert is not limited to only the students in the music program – it is open to all students from the middle and high school levels. It allows students who love music to shine by singing, or playing an instrument, or both. It’s also open to faculty members and occasionally parents of students (that was my ticket in).
My youngest and I went to two of these concerts when she was in late elementary school/early middle school. Last year, she made her ECH debut by performing “House of Gold” by 21 Pilots. She is in both high school choirs and bands, and also in the musicals, but this was different. She learned how to play the ukulele specifically for this song and this show. She really wowed the crowd!
This year, she wanted to perform two songs, but due to the record-high turnout, she had to pick one song: “Undone (The Sweater Song)” by Weezer.
Two years ago, I took her and her older sister to see Weezer and Panic at the Disco. Both of my kids are huge fans of Panic at the Disco. My oldest was more familiar with Weezer than my youngest; I was more familiar with Weezer than Panic at the Disco. This concert helped educate two generations to the other’s musical tastes. Since then, my youngest has really gotten into Weezer.
It was up to her to recruit someone to accompany her with the vocals. She naturally chose her best friend, who also happens to be a very talented singer. I learned how to play the song on guitar and bass mainly to help my daughter and whoever else would play guitar/bass learn and rehearse the song. However, it dawned on me that it was usually the two band directors who primarily played guitar, and they had over songs to learn for this year’s show, in addition to managing all of the moving pieces that go into producing this event. So, I mentioned to my daughter that if it was OK with the band director, I’d play guitar on the song if need be. When I was told, “sure, you can play,” it was time to really learn the song.
“Undone” is not complicated to play, but there are some nuances to both solos that took some time to get down. I learned both just in case I was the only guitarist, but was willing to share the lead if another guitarist was assigned to our ensemble (there was). When it came time for the first group rehearsal, I met the other guitarist, a student who has been playing guitar for about two years, and we worked out who would play what. He said he was more familiar with the first solo, so I said, “it’s yours!” He was nervous at first, but the more we worked on it, the better he sounded and the more confident he became with it. I only wish that the amp he was plugged into was louder because he sounded good. We had another student on bass, and one of the band directors played drums. Considering we only rehearsed together a few times, I think we did a pretty darn-good job!
As a bonus to being one of the performers, I got to see the show from backstage and was able to congratulate and chat with the other performers as they went on and came off. The set list was diverse and impressive. Here’s a sampling:
- Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” (killer opening number!)
- Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”
- CCR’s “Fortunate Son”
- The Beatles’ “Happiness is a Warm Gun”
- Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” (performed by “Facutellica” – an ensemble composed of faculty members)
- Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days are Over”
- A super-funky version of Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time”
- Michael Buble’s “Feel Good”
- Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be” (featuring my daughter’s friend on lead vocals, and an outstanding student flutist who played bass in our ensemble!)
- Simple Mind’s “Don’t You Forget About Me” (featuring the high school’s chemistry teacher on guitar and vocals)
- Miranda Lambert’s “Hannah” (including a fiddle!)
- Joan Jett’s version of “I Love Rock and Roll” (the finale that featured everyone)
These were the songs I can recall from the top of my head (my apologies to the performers of whose songs I overlooked!). There were 20+ songs. It was simply an amazing show to see and be part of.
I’ve watched both of my kids perform on various stages, from music to athletics, but ECH was a special moment as I was able to join my youngest on stage and help her bring some music to life. It’s certainly a memory I will cherish forever. I hope she does, too.