Merry Christmas, Baby

December 21st, 2009

xmas1.jpgI saw Oasis perform at Radio City Music Hall in May, 2000. Truth is, I was there to see openers Travis, but the Gallagher Bros. guitar assault was impressive and infectious. That night, after the show, I unwittingly cribbed a song title from Noel. “Live Forever” was released years later as the second track on “Love & Other Indoor Games.”

“Love” was released in 2004 amidst what one ex (a description of whom made the liner notes, natch) called my “Lothario Phase.” In retrospect, I was fairly lost, playing numerous rock shows a week and dating any woman with a pulse. It didn’t end well, at least right away. My (slightly fictionalized) exploits were splashed across the New York Times Style section. And that was the best part.

Anyway, my objective in writing “Live Forever” (as I remember it) was to craft a catchy, anthemic rock song, something that said nothing but meant everything. I don’t remember, but I imagine I was simply endeavoring to rhyme when I wrote

I don’t want to live forever
I just want to know
That there is something better
Than a rock ‘n roll show

Indeed, I distinctly recall singing that line hundreds of times without any idea what could possibly be better than a rock ‘n roll show. Better than harmony? Melody? Applause? Alcohol? Nicotine? No chance.

Last week, I found out.

I won’t lie, I spent a fair dose of time planning Wednesday night’s “A Holiday Benefit, Vol. 3” artist introductions. I had to. Not only was time to kill as Chris Abad, Misty Boyce, Chris Cubeta, Bryan Dunn, Emily Easterly, Martin Rivas, Ruby Rivers, Bess Rogers, Casey Shea, Paula Valstein, Emily Zuzik and I took the stage for our sets, there was business to conduct; I wanted to be sure we made as much money for 826NYC as possible.

So I thought a tiny bit about what I’d say about each artist (ie: “Marin Rivas may be the hardest working musician in New York”) and 826 (“ie: “A five dollar donation provides a week’s worth of pencil’s for the kids”) before their set. And I thought about what I’d say before mine. Thing is, I was playing two covers (“Christmas (Baby Please Com Home)” from Vol. 1 and “Merry Christmas, Baby” from Vol. 3) and one of my own songs. I chose “Live Forever” because it’s fun to play, it kinda’ rocks, and it’s easy enough for musician’s to learn (I tapped Bryan Dunn to lend some rock).

By the time I took the stage, I’d been popping on and off of it all night. The room was packed. There was a terrific spirit in the air. All of the artists were helping each other out, cramming onto Pianos’ small stage to sing backup and add instrumentation. The audience was smiling, laughing and dancing, many remarking to me what a terrific group of musicians had come together, and for such a terrific cause. I felt frenzied, jumping on and off stage, pitching CD sales and the silent auction, having brief, distracted conversations with friends, playing hype man and then wrangling the next act. But it working better, perhaps, than years before.

And so I stood there before Chris struck the first chord of “Live Forever” looking out over a sea of friends, musicians, volunteers, my mother and brother, and Abbi, and I said, “Years ago I wrote this lyric and I don’t think I knew what it meant. And tonight I do. Tonight, I know there’s something better than a rock ‘n roll show. There’s friends. There’s family. And there’s this community that we’ve built together from love, appreciation, and trying to do something good.”

In retrospect, it sounds like the ending to a Nick Hornby film. And it’s a lesson I seem to learn over and over, each time more indelibly than the time prior. But there it is: the sound of an entire room singing, and smiling, all together now for something bigger than ourselves.

The totals are still out; many silent auction checks have yet to clear (and, for that matter, you can still snap up copies of all three records at aholidaybenefit.org, or download “A Holiday Benefit, Vol. 3” at iTunes). But preliminary tallies suggest that we exceeded last year’s take. With corporate match, I have no doubt we’re write our friends at 826NYC a larger check than ever before.

Which is nice. But the real payday was in that feeling, there in that moment, where “Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You” was writ large on our hearts for every day of the year to come.