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#12 Lights Out 


I was unpopular in high school. I never had the $100 Nike shoes or the colorful Trapper Keeper binders that my classmates proudly sported.  And though my parents have always been scrappy and industrious, they were also poor. My mom made most of my clothing- which, in retrospect is awesome, but when you’re a teenager trying desperately to fit in, hand-made shirts with one’s name embroidered on the front is not going to win you any popularity contests. I tried to play sports like all the popular kids, but every game ended with me in tears and my team-mates disappointed at my lack of athletic prowess. So I stuck with the arts. I especially loved theater. I started the drama club at my school and wrote several plays that my friends and I rehearsed and performed solely for ourselves. So when an actual traveling theater company came to my school to put on their version of “The Wizard of Oz” I had to have a part. Of course, I thought I would make an excellent Dorothy, but for some reason the director thought otherwise, and I ended up playing the role of Auntie Em. Luckily for me, in this rendition of the production, Auntie Em had a solo, which was a suitable consolation. 

When opening night came, my parents were there in the audience, which always made me nervous.  My dad was making stupid faces at me from his seat like he did at every school event. The production was going along seamlessly and before I knew it, it was time for my solo. I closed my eyes and proceeded to let my voice soar through the gymnasium. I was on autopilot. All of a sudden, at the height of my song, the power went out.  Gone were the lights. My accompanying back tracks disappeared, and everything fell dark and silent… except for my voice.  I hadn’t been given any preparatory information as to how to react in this situation, so I did the only thing I could think to do, which was keep singing.  My solo carried through the vast darkness and when I was done, there was a roar of applause- which to this day is still my favorite sound! 

That experience was a great primer for what was to come down the pike. It turns out that power outages are a common theme during my performances. I can remember playing a little venue in White Bear Lake with an old band of mine during a thunderstorm. We were cautiously working our way through the set, hoping not to get electrocuted but eventually lightening hit a nearby power line and the lights went out.  Not wanting the vibe to suffer, I quickly grabbed my acoustic guitar, slung it over my shoulder, and went around to each candle lit table- serenading them with a rendition of “Me and Bobby McGee.”  This has now become my go-to crisis plan. 

O’Gara’s Pub, 2010. I was playing a show with G.B. Leighton to a packed house and by God if it didn’t happen again. Thankfully, I knew what to do. The reaction of the crowd is the same every time. Once they get over the initial shock of the situation, they smile and sing along and seem genuinely thrilled to have a little table-side concert in the dark. I still have people come up to me and say, “Hey! I remember you! You’re the girl who sang to us that time the power went out!” Yup. That was me.    

Two summers ago, Danny Rampage and I were back in my hometown and things came around full circle. We were playing an acoustic duo show in a small, protected area where the ferry boats launch. My dad was there in the audience, making faces at me. We were playing our final set when the weather took a turn for the worse. The wind picked up, the lights went out, and the poor sound guy was absolutely mortified. I calmly said, “Fear not, friend. This ain’t my first rodeo!” My dad, who never leaves home without a flashlight, shone it on us as we smiled and sang in the tiny spotlight it created. Everyone in the room felt like family that night. Over the years I’ve learned that a little power outage will never keep me down. I truly enjoy playing in the dark. However, on the flip side- if I’m out having a good time with friends and the bartender turns the lights ON… well, then we have a problem.