Little Feat, Big Heart

In addition to my day job, I’ve become involved in something that has been a new, huge part of my life. I work in a very large office development, called Innsbrook, and I became chairman of its Special Events Committee this year. The big event is always Innsbrook AfterHours — a 20-week concert series that has been running for 16 years.

At first, our committee became involved in helping to decide which bands we would target for the season, but the real fun came at the actual concerts. It’s been five weeks of bands, including America, Sister Hazel, The Marshall Tucker Band, and Little Feat. Because I have the honor of selling Innsbrook T-shirts and hats right next to the stage, I’ve had an up-close look at the bands and the folks that work with them.

For Little Feat, a band that has been putting out albums since 1971 and touring for more than 30 years, every night is a traveling party. The band members hang out with the fans before they play — and after. At Innsbrook they stood around talking music with fans, traded stories of past shows, and signed every piece of paper and old album thrust at them. Asked why they do it, Billy Payne said, “We love what we do.” Billy has been with the band since 1969 — 32 years!

A dedicated group of fans follows them from show to show. They’re old and young and come in all shapes and colors. They sing along with every song, dance, and make plans for the next shows. Not a bad way to spend some time.

I’m not saying that Little Feat can cure cancer or eliminate the bomb, but the spirit that was in the air that night was special, and it taught me a few things that can be applied to our careers:

  • Arrogant people suck. No matter what you do for a living, treat people with respect. A Little Feat example: A guy hitchhiked 200 miles to the concert in 90-degree heat and awful humidity. He helped sell CDs that night and was a sorta-member of the crew. Before we closed up for the night, one of the guys in Little Feat came out of the tour bus to make sure that the guy had a ride to the next show. Beautiful.

  • Give a damn about who pays your salary. Sounds basic, but I’ve seen some fairly arrogant band members who forget who is paying for their new hemp shirts and cigarellos. I won’t name names, but the name of their band is also the name of our country.
  • If you love your job, the money doesn’t matter much. I’ve talked to equipment loaders, lighting guys, schleppers, and traveling vendors who wouldn’t think of doing anything else. One told me, “What other job puts a roof over my head, lets me see the country, and hear great music every night?” Instead of worrying about your next raise or commission check, ask yourself if you’re skills are being appreciated. If not, find something else to do. We’re all going to be dead a long time. Being miserable won’t earn you any brownie points in the next life. (Or in the ground, depending on your beliefs.)
  • Surround yourself with positive people. There seems to be a tradition of a lot of backstage BS at concerts. Swapping stories of rock stars they’ve punched, cities they love to visit, and intimate details about debauchery are just part of the sitting-around-the-campfire discussions that help bring people together. If you can regularly schedule time for your coworkers to get out of the office and laugh, you’ll have a much happier office.
  • Pitch in even when you don’t know what you’re doing. The person who makes things run in Innsbrook is Denise Kranich. She has the energy of 10 people and does the job of at least 3. When I became involved in this whole project, I didn’t know what I was getting in to. But I have learned a lot, have met a lot of great people, and have some great Fred Durst and Axl Rose stories to swap.
  • Looks can be deceiving. It’s easy to judge people before you talk with them. I was talking to some guy before the Little Feat show and had no idea who he was — until I saw him sit down behind the keyboard and start playing!

I’ve vowed to become more like Little Feat in my everyday life: Enjoy what I do, treat people with respect, and laugh. So thank you, Paul, Sam, Kenny, Richie, Shaun, Bill, Fred, and the entire Little Feat traveling circus. You didn’t know it, but you taught me a lot, and we’ll see you next year in Richmond.

Related reading