By Valerie Coffey
We had to go to New Orleans for one dream of mine to come true.
Do you remember your childhood dreams? Did you dream of getting married to a royal (or never being married)? Having a big family (or not)? Having a nice home with a garden and a white picket fence? Having a nice car? A successful career? How about being an astronaut, fireman, supermodel, or actor? Some people dream of being a talented cook and opening a restaurant.
Not me. It’s a dream of mine to sing like a rock star in front of a crowd of enthusiastic fans.
Some dreams you have to work so hard for, that they are a special kind of reward when they happen. But like many dreams, being a rock star is a far-fetched one. The “American Idol” ideal takes so much talent and great gobs of luck, that I never for a second tried to pursue it. Besides, when American Idol started, I was 34, eight years past the cutoff age.
But sometimes you get a sampling of a dream come true, even without trying.
I like to sing, but my vocal training has been minimal. My mother sang in a Sweet Adeline chorus for many years when I was little, so I had exposure to four-part harmony vocals early and often.
I took chorus class in middle school, and I sang in after-school “special” groups for a few years, where I sang high soprano. I can carry a tune, and I hold my own in a harmony.
A choir teacher once told me I had a surprisingly high dynamic vocal range (meaning I can sing high notes and low — must be that long neck). But my range is not extraordinary, so when I sing karaoke, which I love to do, I pick songs that: 1) I know are in my “sweet spot,” the range where I have the best vocal control and 2) I know by heart, both lyrics and cadence. For example, I don’t touch any songs by Cher or Carly Simon (with their low registers) or Whitney Houston (so very high). Only a fool would karaoke Mariah Carey with her inhuman whistle notes (I dare ya — and if someone succeeds, please take that video! That would be awesome!).
But I can’t play any instruments. I can’t really read music. So karaoke is one of my favorite pastimes.
Ah, karaoke! There’s nothing better than having a supportive crowd sing and dance and clap along with you when you’re onstage, and cheer when you’re done (which happens even for the absolute worst singers). That’s why I love karaoke. I clearly didn’t get enough attention as a child! 🙂
So it was particularly gratifying when I got to go up onstage with a real band called The Remedy one night in February 2015 when we were in New Orleans.
New Orleans! The city of music that puts Nashville to shame, in my humble opinion. It was my first visit to N’Awlins. It’s seedy, it’s smelly, it’s dirty, it’s crime-ridden, and I LOVED IT! There’s live music on every doorstep, on every curb, in every restaurant and club. It’s one of the few cities where musicians of all kinds can earn a middle-class income.
We were enjoying the performance of a rock cover band called The Remedy one Wednesday night, at a bar on Bourbon Street (the main happening street in the French Quarter) called The Swamp, when they asked if there was a woman in the crowd who would sing with them.
“We need someone to sing a girl song everybody knows,” they said. I raised my hand and Mitch pointed at me with two hands, and they called me right up. When opportunity knocks, you go!
I walked up the steps to the stage, which was bathed in green light (it’s not called The Swamp for nothing).
“Can you do Pat Benetar/’Hit Me With Your Best Shot’?” asked the lead singer, Damien, a diminutive black guy.
“Absolutely I can,” I said. “I know it by heart! It’s my go-to karaoke favorite!”
The band began to play. Damien stepped back and let me take over when he saw I knew the words. He joined in for the harmony and choruses. When the song was over, I got a rousing cheer from the band and the crowd (or maybe just Mitch).
“Can you come back tomorrow?” the singer asked me. “Come back and do a set! You were great!”
“Are you kidding me?” I said. “That would be awesome! I would love to!”
So the next day, I fretted over what to wear, ate a light dinner, and we headed back to The Swamp around 9:30 pm. All the time I was so excited, that I calmed myself down by thinking, “They might not even remember me! They might not realize how much I’m looking forward to singing. What if they don’t see me? What if they forget? Don’t get your hopes up. DO THEY KNOW IT’S MY BIRTHDAY?”
But right on cue, the Remedy saw us as soon as we entered the bar. Damien motioned me over and told me they’d be ready for me around 10 pm. I felt like Bette Midler, waiting for my cue.
By the time they called for me around 10:15 pm, The Swamp was getting crowded. It was Thursday night. The audience was dancing and singing and paying attention to the music.
When the time came, they introduced me, and I was so eager to come up, that I was onstage before I realized I had meant to take my sweater off. When I began to take it off over my head, I got a reaction from the audience (or maybe just Mitch), which made me vamp it up a bit.
Then the band began to play. We sang Hit Me With Your Best Shot, followed by Heartbreaker, another Pat Benetar song.
Mitch captured a cell phone video of me performing in terribly unflattering stage lighting with horrible sound quality. It should be quite embarrassing, but as I always say, I have no pride and no shame, so…here’s the video.
At least this time I remembered to smile.
When the second song was over, Damien said, “How about that Valerie, everyone!?” And then he added in a deadpan, “She’ll be performing at Harrah’s all week!”
The Remedy was just what the doctor ordered…for my birthday, no less!
The Swamp didn’t have a marquis, but … for my next dream:
Almost everyone can imagine how it feels to have a dream come true. It’s pure joy, it’s exciting, it’s fulfilling.
And I know I speak for Mitch when I say the RV life has been like that for us. Quite a few dreams have come true in our first year of living our dream and traveling full-time in the HMS Love Shack. Many bucket list boxes have been checked. Singing on Bourbon Street, seeing manatees, visiting Glacier National Park and seeing mountain goats, visiting Yellowstone and seeing grizzlies, seeing cities and farms and Interstates and backroads through our huge, honkin’ windshield, visiting hundreds of long-lost friends and family, having my music idol Howard Jones say to me in his British accent after his show, “Are you the RVers, then?” — it goes on and on.
And then there’s finding your mate — that one and only special person who’s your number one fan and records all five minutes of your “star” turn onstage with your cell phone. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog.
Keep your mind and heart open and let your childhood dreams flood in!
See you in the warm places!
Next post: Wholesale Warranties — Who Are They?
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