Ninety miles an hour down the freeway on my Honda. Desperate to shake off October’s haunts and harrows. To outrace the end of another useless year. The deadening Autumn air turns a mind to mortality. To legacy. The soft, shadow blur of scrolling blacktop. Scarred and pitted beneath my feet. Some may counsel against this sort of foolishness. Speed is a useless drug, after all. Nothing is faster than time, and the past never really recedes.
Three weeks prior, I’m drinking with a friend. Whinging on the futility of art. “I don’t know.. I feel like I’m getting somewhere.. But I’m running out of room.. And I haven’t done everything I want to do.”
He shakes his head. Rueful. Counters with a wisdom to which he really has no right, “What is it that you want? Fame? No one is remembered. Not really. The best you can hope for is that a line or two survives. A photo that a handful of folks recognize.. And what’s any of that matter if you didn’t enjoy the ride, man?”
“Quit worrying about it. Do the best work you can, and try to have fun along the way. The rest of it is all bullshit.”
In the real of the now I begin to tease the hard edge of my rev-limiter, passing the three digit marker on the speedo as the engine roars in reply. A siren road shanty of rage. The physics of the bike start to eke out a weirdness with which only the very fast and the very ill-advised are aware. In this zone, decisions matter, and consequences waste little on small talk. I find my thoughts drifting from that conversation to the subject of Shea Seger, and on how she probably agrees that the ride matters at least as much as destination. That how you get there is everything.
If you find yourself unfamiliar with her work, I suppose you can’t be blamed. Seger enjoyed a brief run at super-stardom back around the turn of the millennium through a record deal at BMG — she was whisked out to the UK where no less than Sir Elton John served as an early champion. Through a quirk of fate, however, the timing was unfortunate. Seger soon found herself stalled as corporate shakeups during the financial apocalypse those years inflicted on the music industry left her in an uncomfortable position. Stuck in a company where most of her supporters had found themselves pink-slipped, she discovered that the new faces were a bit too unfriendly and decided to take a graceful exit — extricating herself from the deal to strike out on her own.
These days Shea enjoys a purposeful life, making her home in Virginia Beach as a singer-songwriter, mother, and wife whose family oft joins her musical endeavors. She’s toured with luminaries such as John Mayer, Manchester Alt-Rockers — James, and Brit-Pop chanteur, David Gray. You might, if you’re into that sort of thing, recognize her as the featured vocalist on anarchist, dubstep raptronica outfit Dazz Embed’s 2009 single, “Shame (The Stage will Fade to Black.)” Currently she’s in the middle of a three date residency at Zeiders American Dream Theater. I caught her opening show last month and found her work to run a gamut pleasantly reminiscent from favorites like Janis Joplin to Ani DiFranco. She was joined onstage at times by both her teenage daughter and her husband, as well as Zeiders resident Artistic and Music Director — Bart Kuebler, who provided skilled accompaniment on both piano and accordion.
With remaining shows slated for October 20th and November 10th, the folk tinged confessional tone of her first evening will likely stray into more raucous country-rock territory. The venue is a delightful black box theater with the sort of intimacy you aren’t likely to experience at the NorVa or Shakas. If you have yet to find the time to give over patronage to this unique space in Virginia Beach, Seger’s act is a worthy introduction.
. . .
As I turn off on the exit the ramp to wind my way home, I’ve got Shea’s most recent album piped in through my helmet’s Bluetooth headphones. In an age where fame seems to be the driving motivator behind every Tom, Dick, and Jane on Youtube and Reality network television, it’s refreshing to listen to an artist like Seger concentrate on simply making good work. Living honestly, free of the obsessions modern life seems so intent upon pushing on us.
This is a worthy musician. Right here at home. What more do you need?
Do yourself a favor, and go see this.
All photos shot with a Minolta Maxxum 7 (2000) on Kodak UltraMax pushed two stops.
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