“The show must go on!” There is no more enduring cliché, defining principle, noble ethos or plain blatant piece of bullshit ever practiced in the history of the arts. The origin of the phrase comes with some debate and contention. Who said it first? P.T. Barnum of Barnum and Bailey circus or Noel Coward the famous British playwright? It is even one of the last songs recorded by a dying Freddy Mercury. It was his ode and inspiration to play out every remaining show – like a champion my friends. No matter its true origin, the phrase is clearly born of at least 1 part ego, 1 part flamboyance and 1 part principled duty to our craft.
Runaway Home has certainly lived by the motto and has not failed it in over 250 shows. We have missed parts of the band and parts of the sound system. We have missed parts of the mini-van and parts of the instruments. We have missed parts of the GPS, map and overall sense of time. We have even missed parts of the venue and more than once, parts of the audience. The show goes on. The balance between the twin work ethics of always showing up and always bringing your best performance are in constant tangle and rarely in perfect balance. In most cases though, when the lights go on and the first note is struck, with imperfections in tow – the show goes on.
For at least the past week, I had been toiling (and still am) with a stress-induced whopper of a sinus infection turned bronchitis, turned bubonic plaque. With more than a little trepidation, the band traveled into Kentucky on Thursday for a private Chamber of Commerce show at the foot of the Bourbon Trail. MR Roland Distillery is a beautifully rolling hilled-farm, earth-toned like its Bourbon, with a well-known front porch stage for pickin’. Our regular fiddler players were already booked, so this would be a perfect opportunity to try out a third player, as we were booked to play just basic background music for the event. It was also I thought a safe place for me to growl and crack my way through limited vocals. I had been coughing, hacking and otherwise been just sick to death. I was going in with little confidence and sound-check would quickly prove my insight. Like a dying car, my first attempt at singing started with a crack, a guttural half-measure and then followed by complete silence. My band mates somehow converted three-part harmony to two on the fly (not as easy it may obviously seem). Our fiddle player did a great job following our adrift set, even bringing along her banjo-playing boyfriend to complete the front porch montage. There were many smiles, a few shared magical music moments and more than one fever-induced hallucination of flying hay bales and brown bourbon waterfalls. The show went quickly as they often do, but the die seemed cast for the big concert set in Flintville, TN two days later.
We had never contemplated cancelling a show, much less ever pulled the trigger on it. The reputation of being a dependable band and being a musically inspirational band had finally met head on, without hope of gentle confluence. The reluctant calls to the agent were made and the show was cancelled. The inevitable angry and disappointed feedback from the cancelled show’s promoter were heard loudly and the reminder of our lack of invincibility was felt strongly. In the end though, we were moved by the soft landing afforded to us by friends and fans. “Your health is more important,” “take care of yourself,” and “we can’t wait for your next show,” were all reminders of the true meaning of the showbiz promise. We even received get-well cards from fans far out-of-state. Wow! We hope to carry that mantra back to Flintville sometime if we can. We owe you a song! And the show must WILL go on.”
Mark Elliott – Runaway Home
“It’s the Music That Makes Us Smile”