THE first new Bloomington concert happened in early August, 2002, at the then recently restored Buskirk-Chumley Theatre! (A historic place for both live music and film. Hoagy Carmichael was the leader of the 'house band' during the last few years of the silent film era.).

I first saw the listing for the date on Haven's website, contacted the management of the theatre, and volunteered to help. Like many small restored theatre operations, the economics of successful production of events requires a robust response from the community in the form of people ushering, taking tickets and the like. I was happy to be an usher that night! Besides, I had been a poster placement person years before, and put out a number of the event posters in high visibility locations around the town & campus.

Havens provided a great show, including the showstopper FREEDOM Medley. Richie graciously came out to the lobby of the theatre and signed cd inserts for people. I had brought along a hardcover copy of his 1999 memoir, THEY CAN'T HIDE US ANYMORE, which Richie addressed as Busker Fer Freedom for me.

It would be over three years until a return engagement for Havens. This occured on April 9, 2006, a date I will long remember. The show was sponsored in part by the Tuto Bene Winer Bar, which hosted a 'Meet & Greet' gathering after the concert. Complete with wine and finger food. All you had to do was show your ticket stub from the theatre. I had the pleasure of treating a friend to the show, so the both of us attended the meet and greet.

But, first, the show!

richie haven on marquee of buskirk-chumley theatre

Havens sat between a guitarist he travel with, and a cello player, who added dimension to the intricate interweaving of the two guitars. I had the good fortune of sitting with friends in the front row, where the facial expensions of all the players are so easy to see. Richie covered songs he's famous for, and introduced some of his own material in his intimate speaking style. The audience was a spread across generations, people in their sixties, and folks young enough to be their children AND their children. Talent know no age barrier. The Love of FREEDOM grows among us. When it came time for a show-stopper, Richie once again built his FREEDOM Medley into a stirring finale, where he careful stood up in front of the stool he'd been sitting on, and held his trusty GUILD Dreadnaught size guitar up to the microphone he'd been using for his voice, and built his trademark strumming into a crescendo. At the peak of this rising curve of intensity, he leaped into the air, kicking one foot over his head. Mind you, this was the foot that taps out the steady rhythm behind his strumming for as long as an houir or more! Since he was born in January 1941, this means he was 65 years old at the time. My explanation for why he could still do this at such an age is simple: HE NEVER STOPPED!

ON To Tuto Bene, what a nice walk!

I chose to walk the short number of blocks to Bloomington's South Rogers Street, where Tutto Bene Wine Bar is located, near West Third Street & Rogers. A number of folks had already gathereed by the time I got there, and there were tables full of "NOSH" - finger food, of many varieties, cheese slices and crackers galore, to say the least. One needed to order the wine by the glass, but the finger food was courtesy of the house.

Once Havens and his party arrived and got settled, a table was set up, where Richie could 'receive' folks who wished to have albums autographed. A fellow from the house was available to take photos with your own camera, if you wished to have a memory of the moment. The line got a few dozen folks long before I joined. I had a great time speaking with the fellow directly behind me, who was young enough to be a son or a grandson of mine. Then, I discovered the fellow in front of me was a local silk-screen graphic designer. We struck up a chat about that, and I'm happy to see his work spreading around Bloomington in the years since 2006.

When it came time to chat with Richie, I informed him of our history together, and FINISHED a story about an old folk song begun the LAST time we'd talked - in the lobby of the Buskirk-Chumley in August 2002 - and, thinking of an appropriate gesture for the one picture of the two of us that exists, I simply held my hand pointing in his direction, as to say, "Here's the MAN!" After ALL the energy he'd expended on stage, and through an hour of meeting & greeting, he was still so sharp that he got his hand up in a mirror image of my own gesture. When I sawe the print of the snap, I realized that the look on his face is laughter! So, there you have us...once in the same alfalfa field in August 1969, and now in the same photo for the first time. What a LO-O-O-ONg, Strange TRIP it IS...

This story completed at 4:20 pm, October 13, 2008.


*****All materials copyrighted 2008 Jesse Slokum*****