With the June 15th release of Sara McLachlan’s new album and the renewal of the Lilith Fair, I am reminded of a special summer and the role Sarah McLachlan played during that time.
The early 90’s was a great time for music. A moment in time where good, adventurous music was being released across many genres. Rock was good. R&B was good. Rap was good. New Age was peaking. Pop was epic. And to top it all off, although the music known as alternative had started it’s slide from being truly alternative to being marketing drivel, the mix of true indie and the pre-fab corporate stuff was really shaking up the scene.
Add into this that culture itself was in a transition. Transitioning to what we had no idea at the time, but transitioning was the fun part. It mattered not where we ended up.
Back then, tattoos and piercings still were a sign of rebellion. A real statement. I even lost a job due to tattoos and piercings. Today teenagers get tats and piercings before graduating school.Â Every cause seemed so important.
It was the year 1993. That was a huge year for me. That was the year the Air Force tried to prosecute me for an accidentÂ resulting from by a medical condition caused by my service. Although that ended up in my favor, it left me a bit jaded and wounded. That incident culminated in my most famous tattoo and peircing, which I have written about quite a lot. (Even got into a bit of web exposure, which is still out there somewhere. The naughty Santa)
Being out the Air Force and searching for meaning in anything led to that year being spectacular. Effie and I were alone in Colorado, broke, barely making it, and having the time of our life.
We attended every festival and event we could. It was free and since there was so much going on culturally at the time, we were exposing ourselves to everything. We were vegetarians, extremely liberal (yeah, that changed big time over the years, Libertarians are created, not born), and were exploring art, music, and our place in the culture.
One event the Cherry Creek Arts Festival. This was held in the streets just north of the recently opened upscale Cherry Creek Mall in Denver. It was an amazing festival, and that was the first year we attended.
That was a landmark event for us. The memory still stands out as a high point in our life. More so even than attending Lollapalooza festivals and more well known events. Even after our subsequent visits to the festival, 1993 stands out as the best.
Being into music, I had heard the song Possession a few times on the radio, but it was just another song to me. I did not know about any other music by Sarah McLachlan. I don’t know that I could have even named Sarah McLachlan as the artist. That was about to change big time.
Both of our cars, a Mitsubishi Montero and a Plymouth Colt, were down and we could not afford to fix them. This relegated us to the bus system. It was not a big stretch as even when the cars were working we took the bus often. It was hip in 1993 to try and save the planet. We arrived at Cherry Creek early to make a whole day out of the event. It was a day’s entertainment for only the cost a couple of vegetarian hot dogs at Paul’s Place in the mall.
I wish I knew the DJ, or whoever was in charge of the music that day. He did something really interesting, and usually not recommended. He put Sarah McLachlan’s new album, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, on a continual loop for the whole day.
We started checking out the art and there was some really original stuff there. We had been to many street art festivals in our days. This one was different. The level of talent at this festival seemed higherÂ than any we had attended up until that point. Instead of just walking around, spending a day out as cheaply as possible, we started to explore the art. We spent a lot of time talking with the artists, even grilling some of them. We were expanding our horizons.
At first, the music did not register. I heard it, but it had not penetrated my psyche yet. The day was already becoming special. There was one artist there that created life realistic resin sculptures of himself, others, and his body parts. Another did amazing abstracts, which up until that time I considered kiddy art. It was this festival that lead to my eventual study of art and my becoming an artist myself.
After an hour or so, the music hit me like a bomb. We were probably on our third listen of the album by that time and I had started to pay attention. That album was enchanting. I realized that I was walking around the city in which I had lived since 1989, but it felt more like a fantasy land. The whole scene was becoming surreal.
After a few more hours and a cheap lunch we went right back into checking out the art. The best part of the day was about to begin. We went to the performance stage to watch the late Denny Dent do his thing.
His thing, by the way, is producing a celebrity painting in the space of one to three songs. He used up tp six brushes at a time as well as just his hands. It is quite a sight watching him go at the canvas with three brushes in each hand, then flinging the paint directly from the cans and slapping the canvas with his hands.
We watched him do Mick Jagger and John Lennon. It was a very energetic show. As with all great showmen, he saved the best for last.
I had seen his show closer on TV before this event, but Effie had not so I kept quiet. He started painting to the first of three Hendrix songs and continued through the second. At the end of the songs the music stopped and Denny took to the mic. The painting looked like a jumbled mess. He talked about being the best you could be and almost apologized for the canvas. Then Purple Haze started and Dent dropped to his knees as if praying. He sat there, his hands shaking, looking towards the sky as the song built up. Then, just as the main guitar line kicked in, Dent jumped up, rotated the canvas, and viola, it was done. He had painted the entire thing upside down.
The crowd roared. Very few seemed to know what was coming. Seeing Dent perform live was a real treat. Unfortunately, Dent suffered a heart attack a few years back and since then several imitators have sprung up in his absence. I can always say I saw Dent perform three different times. Each time, the Hendrix bitÂ brought a smile to my face.
After that, It was back to the art, and to Sarah. As the night sky started to replace the day, we started back to the bus stop. We had spent less than ten dollars and had one of the best, eye opening days we have ever had. Truly a magical day. It was that day I felt that anything was possible. I turned to Effie, and with no point of reference or idea how to make it happen, I proclaimed, “In one year I will have us living in Germany.” Guess how that turned out. Things did seem to click after that day.
The next day, even though we were still broke, and would be for at least another year or so, we headed out to our favorite indie music shop. It had to be indie. Unfortunately, the years have played havoc with my memory and I can no longer remember the name. At the time, we did have the distinction of being the customers that spent the most in one day at that store the day we switched from cassettes to CD’s. We had not always been broke.
We bought Fumbling Towards Ecstasy that day. Sarah McLachlan has been a major part of my life since. As major as an artist that I have never and probably never will meet can be. She has never put out a bad disk, and her most successful was the follow up to Fumbling, titled Surfacing. Still, that CD, that day, and that particular moment in time, the early 90’s, was just magical. Sarah McLachlan was, and still is, a major part of that.
She was a cultural changer. Few, no matter how popular, can really make that claim. I know that day would not have been the same without Fumbling Towards Ecstasy. Cheers to you Sarah!