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Here I Am... There You Are: A Bucket of Water

by Terry Scott Taylor

HM Magazine September/October 2002

In approximately six days it's off to the Cornerstone festival for me. I've been participating in this event sporadically now for over twenty years and I admit I have a real love-hate relationship with the entire affair. I love playing; however this year seems particularly ominous, especially July 4th, which in some sense is D-Day for me. I'm facing a personal schedule that George W. Bush would find formidable. It looks as though I've got 4 or 5 sets to perform in one day, which include Daniel Amos, Lost Dogs, and various solo performances. This all means learning or reacquainting myself with more songs than you'll find on two Elvis Costello albums -- which means too many. Anyway, put rehearsals on top of a solo project deadline, two magazine deadlines, product and travel coordination, various and sundry business affairs, and all important family time, and you get a good idea of what it feels like to be as amped-up as the Tasmanian Decil in heat. Yes, C-stone is a blessing and a curse.

Let me say that I very much admire the Jesus People inner-city ministry, as well as their dedication over these many years in providing a well-run venue for artists such as myself. The JPUSA (Jesus People U.S.A.) Crew always bends over backwards to make sure that artists requests (demands?) are met. Joe Shmoe's need for a B3 on the Ostrich stage at precisely 3:52 p.m. is as important to them as the Top Biller's request for "green ones only" peanut M&Ms in the backstage trailer. Of course I'm exaggerating, but only a little. The point is that the staff and crew are pretty terrific, and it amazes me how affable and gracious they truly are towards the mind-boggling number of fans in attendance, as well as the demanding and sometimes-temperamental artists who make up the roster. God bless Glenn and Wendy Kaiser and the family there in Chicago. I am always honored when asked to perform, no matter what the schedule or the real possibility of muggy, stifling heat, rain, the smell of the pig-farm mud, and the festival site traffic. even with the gamy smell of Ostrich meat hovering over the proceedings, you can count me in.

Of course, I get to stay in a pretty nice hotel at the end of the day, and unlike the sometimes odorous, sun-burned, dirt-encrusted individuals that actually camp at the site, I can take a luxurious shower, sleep in a king-sized bed, turn the airco all the way up to maximum, and chuckle at the thought of all those campers pinching their noses as they line up in front of the Port-O-Lets. Strange thing is, I've never met a camper there who didn't just love, I mean LOVE, to camp at Cornerstone. I've never really been a camper, so I suppose it makes sense that I don't really understand the enthusiasm... no... the utter bliss of these "let's rough it" folks. Don't get me wrong. As an "Arrrteeeest," I don't believe I deserve any kind of coddling or star treatment. On the other-hand, the schedule can be rather grueling, and hanging out in the stifling heat of the product tent day after day, or fielding questions like "Why does Larry Norman perform two versions of your songs on Horrendous Disc?" can be a little... well... taxing. Returning after the gig to my pup tent located next to the family of six who enjoys playing P.O.D. on their boom boxes, into the wee hours of the morning, is far from my idea of rest or respite.

While I'm sure there are a few exceptions, we Christian musicians don't expect a hotel room at Cornerstone because we're "Rock Stars." We need them for pragmatic reasons (rehearsals/a common area that makes it easier to gather band members up for scheduled shows and interviews, etc.). Hotel rooms are little havens of rest necessary to help ensure an energetic performance. It's only a small luxury, but a fairly essential one. I am, however, willing to admit that it's possible that I expect to be just a little pampered. I justify this by telling myself that I've paid a few touring dues in my time, and while I'm exceedingly grateful to the Lord for allowing me to do what I do, there are times when it all gets pretty rough, and discouragement rears its ugly head.

If it sounds as if I'm seeking any kind of sympathy here, I apologize. This isn't my intent. I happen to believe God uses tough circumstances to instill character. Point is, I'd do it all again. All I'm really saying is that I'm 52 years old, and that at the Cornerstone Festival it's nice to come back to the room, the hot shower, and that little mint so lovingly placed on my pillow.

Recently, the Lost Dogs did a gig at Alice Cooper'stown, a club owned by the infamous Alice Cooper (whom I understand is now a brother in Christ). The Dogs performed a well-attended set. Afterwards, various fans surrounded each of us, seeking everything from autographs to a chance to encourage us, or tell us how much they enjoyed the show and our music over the years. This is absolutely my favorite time. After the performance. Meeting these special people is always an honor. They are truly Family to me.

After the Alice Cooper'stown crowd began to thin, I gathered my things up and started heading towards the van. A young man, whom I'd seen standing at the back of the crowd earlier, approached me.

"Mr. Taylor?" he said shyly.

"Call me Terry," I said, setting my stuff down. I smiled and extended my hand. We shook hands as he introduced himself. Then, with a nervous tremor in his voice, he said, "I don't mean to bother you."

"You're not bothering me at all," I assured him.

"I know you've heard this a million times, but I just wanted to tell you how much your music has meant to me down through the years."

I told him with absolute sincerity that what he'd just said meant the world to me. What I didn't say was this -- every time I hear these beautifully encouraging words, my heart melts. Every time. I will never get tired of hearing them, because, especially when I get discouraged, they genuinely help me to go on doing what I do. I wasn't, however, expecting what the young man said next to me.

"I really thank God for your music. My only child died not long ago, and my marriage fell apart because of it. I didn't think I was gonna make it, but your music pulled me through." Tiny, delicate tears formed in his eyes, and he brushed them away as he added in a kind of ragged whisper, "I just wanted to say thanks."

After I released him from my embrace, I wiped my own years away. We talked quietly and uninterrupted for another few minutes, and then he was gone. I slowly made my way back to the van... humbled, broken, and mostly... reminded.

As Cornerstone looms ahead, and I go about the hectic, sometimes overwhelmingly busy business of the whole enterprise, I will be reminded. I will be reminded of what Mike Roe said to me over dinner one night when I was feeling particularly discouraged.

"Yeah, Terry, sometimes we lose heart. We're broke almost all of the time, and we're not getting any younger. Sometimes we even lose sight of why we were called in the first place. Sometimes I only know one thing. God entrusted me with a little bucket of water. He gave you one, too. He's asking us to take our little buckets of water and offer them to the people."

This year, along with my guitar cases and luggage, enremitting schedule, and pressure headaches, I'm planning on bringing my little bucket of water to Cornerstone. Like the young man in Phoenix, Arizona, the fans will bring their buckets along as well, and there in the midst of all the hubbub that is C-stone, there in the dust and heat, we will drink deeply together. The water we will drink is exquisitely pure, because it is the water that comes from an infinitely deep and eternal well.

Contributing Editor Terry Scott Taylor is a veteran musician and songwriter, renowned for his gigs with Daniel Amos, Swirling Eddies, and the Lost Dogs, as well as for Production and solo work. More info at www.TerryScottTaylor.com