Local Lifestyle

Saturday, May 04 2013 11:58 PM

HERB BENHAM: Concert jitters had me falling all to pieces

By The Bakersfield Californian

When you promote a concert, you'll fall ill. That's a given. What you hope for is that whatever disease you contract, it isn't fatal.

Last Sunday, a group of us put on a concert at the Bakersfield Museum of Art featuring Whitehorse, a husband-and-wife duo from Ontario, Canada, consisting of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland.

It was last minute. We had two weeks to spread the word, sign people up, organize the refreshments, buy the snacks and do all the things necessary to ensure that concert-goers won't be chasing you around after the show with their cocktail forks screaming, "I want my money back."

The first thing I noticed was my neck. It got stiff. It may have had something to do with the initial guest list, which consisted of family and perhaps two or three reluctant children. My neck was so stiff that I had trouble turning it to the right and exercising my peripheral vision when I wanted to change lanes.

I can live with a stiff neck. Everybody has a stiff neck. No reason to mention your stiff neck unless you want to hear about somebody else's stiff neck.

A few days into concert promotion, my right hand started to tingle. I became mildly alarmed. Both with my hand and the mere 25 reservations we had received thus far.

A week into Dante's Promotional Hell (and 80 reservations shy of where we had to be in order not to humiliate ourselves), my right arm went numb. I was tempted to consult Dr. Google to find where my symptoms fit in with the diseases that ended in "ophy" or "itis."

I held off. Nothing good comes from that search. If I found something, and it was fatal, Rog and Jeff would probably ask, "How fatal?" I still had to do my part in bringing the concert to fruition. I hadn't even bought the kettle corn yet.

I hit rock bottom Thursday, three days before the concert, and the day of the funeral for a good friend's father.

On the drive to Bakersfield National Cemetery, both arms went bing, as if nerve fireworks were shooting through them. Things were looking grim, but we were still 30 people short of our goal so I might be consigned to typing the remaining invitations with my left foot.

At the cemetery -- the service being held under a shade structure with oak trees framing the hill in front of us -- I wondered, given my condition, whether it was too late to join the military so I could be buried here after the concert.

I wasn't the only one deteriorating. Jeff, my comrade in arms, sent this email Saturday morning, the day before the show:

"I hope you guys are having a wonderful morning. I am having panic attacks."

I didn't tell him it was about to get worse as our confirmed reservations would naturally erode. Now it was time for the cancellations.

Expect bad news on the eve of an event. Accidents, nuclear spills, pestilence, infirmity and death. Concerts attract them like honeysuckle does carpenter bees.

We lost two guests to a sick cat that required a house call from a veterinarian. It was either pay the vet or buy two tickets to Whitehorse. No one could afford both.

Another friend had to tend his sick mom, who took a turn for the worse. I told him I understood but what I really wanted to say was, "Tell her to hang on. The concert won't last more than an hour. If you still don't feel comfortable leaving her, bring her. In addition to baby-sitting, animal care and a triage unit, we provide elder care."

I know this sounds awful, sacrilegious, but I was almost paralyzed myself and was going to lose money to boot if one more person slipped in the bathroom and broke a hip.

We lost one more reservation when a guest had a family friend either jump off a bridge, fall out of a hot air balloon or be bitten by a brown recluse spider. I wished him well as long as "well" included being run over by a trolley.

Fortunately, concerts are like weddings. Eventually, they end in a marriage. One hundred thirty people attended the concert, many miraculously rising off their death beds. Whitehorse was phenomenal. We all fell in love, as sick as we were.

The next day, I regained use of my left and right arms. My neck is still stiff. I'm not complaining a bit.

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