I've lived a lot of places. My parents were fairly transient as I was being raised, and so I got to experience everything from a shitty old trailer house in Williston, ND, where my dad worked the pipeline, to a school bus rambling across the 2-lane highways of the midwest. My family spent many holidays in campgrounds, cooking our meals over a bonfire. Birthdays were celebrated in unknown lands, opening handmade gifts my industrious parents had made. They eventually took up house flipping, which kept us in one place slightly longer than before, but when the house was done and sold, we were back on the road. As an adult, I adopted that free-spirited lifestyle and lived it with abandon, but whenever anyone asks me where I'm from... There's only one answer.
My family arrived in the little port town I call home when I was just 4 years old. I went to pre-school in a beautiful, historic brownstone building at the top of the big hill. That school had the best old wooden playground I've seen to this day. The magnificent structures are long gone, replaced with plastic, but I remember the pirate ship with the ropes & oars, and the little log cabin tucked away at the edge of the woods just off of the tennis court. The hours I spent lost in imaginative play on those dangerous old jungle gyms will forever be a part of me. I graduated high school right there, with 41 others, in the same building where I learned to tie my shoes and count to 10. Granted, there were several moves and other schools in the interim, but I ended my schooling in the same place where it started and there's something special to me about that.
My hometown is right on Lake Superior and so I got to swim in her cool, clear waters every sunny day of the summer. I met the captains, the fishermen, the hippies, and the entrepreneurs who made this little hidden gem someplace extraordinary. I've traveled to many gorgeous and amazing places, but none hold a candle to the town where I learned to ride a bike, where I got my first job, and where I still get excited to return to every single chance I get. Whenever I'm playing a gig, no matter what town I'm in, if I announce to the audience where I'm from, there's always applause from a handful of folks... It's not the kind of response you get when you announce you're a Packer fan, but the few who are excitedly clapping are doing so because they've been there and they know there's nowhere else like it. I'm proud every time I say it. "I'm from Bayfield."
When I think of the word "community" I picture that quaint little village and the people who live there. I think of gritty northerners who know how to work hard, play harder, and who would do anything for one another. I think of the artists and musicians who have made a living doing what they love (and maybe waiting a few tables on the side as I did.) The folks who have made Bayfield their home tread lightly, coexisting harmoniously with Mother Nature and protecting the natural beauty of a beloved place that has remained virtually unchanged for 164 years. But as I mentioned earlier... the secret is out. From June to October the population booms, as droves of tourists make their way down the cobblestoned streets, ice cream in hand, fancifully clad in island-inspired attire. During this time, the locals need to share their paradise. Just as there's a special relationship between the townspeople and nature, there's also a special relationship between the townspeople and the tourists. Without them, there would be no Bayfield. Not to be a negative Nancy, but the lake has been over-fished and the forests have been depleted of lumber, so were it not for the city folk who come to bask in its tranquil beauty, our charming oasis would likely become a ghost town. They come for pristine scenery, for delicious food, for unique art, and for live music.
When I recount my music career, it all started on the narrow streets of a little northern port town. I had just learned to play the guitar and was feeling brave, so I stood there with a tip jar at my feet and I belted out a song. People stopped, and put some money in my jar. They told me to sing another, so I did. 20 years later, and with a debatable amount of success under my belt, I haven't forgotten that day I decided to occupy a street corner in Bayfield, WI and sing my guts out. Now the time has come for me to try to return my feelings of appreciation for the magical place where I got my start, by helping to save their summer music series. I'm no stranger to the fact that the arts are usually first on the chopping block when times are tough. Being that the future is uncertain & resources are limited, there is a very real threat that the "Concerts by the Lake" series will be cut. These live shows are a staple for locals & tourists alike and they could commence (in late summer) while still exercising social distancing (if need be.) I'm extending this idea to you... If music has ever helped you through a tough time, if seeing a live concert ever made an impact on you, or if you just want to help a good cause, now is your chance! The future is unknown at the moment, but eventually, we will get the green light to move on with our lives. When that happens, and I return to my hometown, I hope there's live music filling the streets, intermingling with the smells of berry pies and waffle cones. Because the Bayfield I know & love has always come with a soundtrack.
Donate to help save the music in Bayfield HERE. And if you're feeling particularly motivated, you can type "Concerts by the Lake" in the Notes section.