Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend a Steve Bell house concert, planned by le chum‘s stepmom as a surprise birthday party for le chum‘s padre.
Steve Bell (or check out here), for those of you who are unfamiliar with the name, is a Canadian singer, songwriter and storyteller… and trust me when I tell you that he needs all three nouns to properly describe him as an artist. Steve is an incredibly talented musician (as evidenced by the two JUNOs that rest in his possession; if you’re still in doubt, listen to the guitar instrumental on Simple Songs and keep in mind that he is not using multiple guitars, as he was kind enough to prove to me on Thursday), but what sets him apart from other folksy/bluegrassy/jazzy/acoustic artists is the natural humour and wisdom that seep through his gifted storytelling that provide the backbone and lifeblood to his music.
Le chum and I arrived early at his padre’s house to help set up for the concert, but once the party punch had been mixed and the coffee carafes set out, there was little for us to do but sit down in the living room and get out of the way. So we cautiously sat at the end of one of the makeshift rows of chairs and listened to Steve finish up his sound check. After he was done, he came and sat down by us.
“Hey,” he said easily. “I’m Steve.”
We got to talking about school and work and travel, and soon Steve was regaling us with tales of Istanbul and Galilee, of monasteries and mountains. More guests had started arriving, but he stayed where he was and kept on chatting. I assumed at first it was out of politeness (surely he had more impressive people to greet than a couple of twenty-something shmucks?), but even as the crowd grew around him, and some guests hovered awkwardly close over his shoulders, Steve continued to engage us in conversation, holding eye contact, and maintaining a sense of genuine interest in us and our dreams for our twenty-something lives.
Eventually, le chum and I bowed out of the way to allow the expanding crush of people to gain access to Steve, but later that evening, standing around in the kitchen, Steve sought us out and enthusiastically continued our conversation, insisting that when (not if) we head overseas, to call him first to get in contact with friends of his we needed to meet and stay with.
The concert? was wonderful, the music inspiring, the banter entertaining. But what made a lasting impression on me was Steve’s genuine love for people, manifested first in the sincere moments he spent with us; then in the passion of his music; and finally through the stories he wove between and among songs, stories stitched from bits and pieces of lessons learned while living life.