I'm one of those people who really likes to have a tune playing in the background or the foreground while I work or drive or eat, so music is important to me. It's been that way as long as I remember. I grew up with a limited variety -- mostly whatever was on WOWO radio, but by the time music hit the FM band (that's right, kids, AM used to be the place for music!) there was a little more variety than just “safe” pop songs and the so-called beautiful music versions of “safe” pop songs. In subsequent years I discovered at least 153 different varieties of rock music, as well as country, jazz, blues, big band, electronic, bluegrass, reggae, and a few other genres that escape me at the moment. And for the most part, I can appreciate most any type of music. The orchestral majesty of classical music can truly inspire. The rhythmic poetry of rap can actually get me moving. And the sound of a mariachi band can really make me hungry. Yes, it usually comes back to food!
But I was thinking about all this as I looked through the upcoming performance schedule at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. This city is blessed to have so many chances to hear good music. Besides the impressive list of talent that will be showing up at that magnificent venue, we are also treated to other shows. Visionary Promotions put on a string of great shows over the past couple of years with some lesser-known, but just-as-talented performers. Local and regional bands take to various stages around the area. It's a wonderful thing to have a musical soundtrack while remaining in this area.
I was reading on the Internet of the memories of some locals who were thinking back on some of the concerts they had seen right here in Van Wert. In 1966, the Kingsmen (”Louie Louie”) and Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon (Palisades Park) each held shows at the Junior Fair Building at the Van Wert County Fairgrounds. That one stunned me. I realize that the music industry has changed a great deal in the past 40-plus years, but that still seems like quite the coup for this little town. I think the modern equivalent might be having a Ke$ha concert (Adults, have a kid explain Ke$ha to you) at the Junior Fair Building. Just can't see it happening!
There have also been plenty of great shows as part of the Van Wert County Fair over the years. I am half-amused and half-saddened when I hear people give their suggestions of who they want to see at the fair. Usually the acts are far too pricey or far too pickey to play in front of the local grandstand, but somehow that thought never occurs to these helpful suggestors. I would like to see the Rolling Stones without having to drive three hours too, but I can't see Mick and the boys playing the fair. Besides, at their ages, the Stones would probably have to wear some sort of air filtration system to keep the racetrack dust from bringing them to their knees.
I've attended some great concerts over the years. It started with a Pat Benatar show in Fort Wayne in late 70s, and moved through all sorts of shows, including the good and the bad. My wife of 22 years (today) once refused to attend a John Mellencamp show with me because she wanted to change into “concert clothes,” whatever that means. While I can say I saw Bruce Springsteen, George Strait and Michael Jackson in large arena shows, I also sat through Air Supply and the immensely forgettable Jack Wagner. (The latter two I was actually paid to attend. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)
These days, I like seeing musicians of all types sharing their craft with an audience. Be it a Southern Gospel quartet or a guy with a guitar and a fistful of songs, there's nothing like live music. So I encourage local folks to take advantage of the numerous shows around the area this year, even if the music isn't usually your taste. Unless it's Jack Wagner. Then you have my permission to go home and sing yourself to sleep.