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The Divide

Updated: Mar 22, 2019


/ˈmajik/ noun

A quality that makes something seem removed from everyday life, especially in a way that gives delight.

"There's 54 chairs," I said to Doc Wiley; the count of seating for a night of music at Live From the Divide. This particular night is August 18th, 2018 with Red Shahan, a singer-songwriter from Texas, getting ready to rock the room with songs from his 2018 release Culberson County. If you don't know of Live From the Divide, Jason Wickens and Doc Wiley partnered in creating a 50-seat listening/recording room in Bozeman, Montana. They began this adventure in 2012 and the series is now about to wrap up its 7th season. The shows are recorded with the live audience and then mixed and mastered for our local radio station KGLT, as well as seven sister stations in surrounding states. I began volunteering here in 2014 (3rd season) and have now secured a position as a production assistant/manager.

When I first walked into this turn of the century cold storage block, it was September 2013. I felt magic lingering in the air as the sun's rays glazed the red brick walls and through the historic windows illuminated a room that would become a second home to me. At the time the stage had not been built, neither were there pews on the back wall. In fact, the room has taken on quite the transformation from when I first stepped into the space, with not only added architecture but also a sound system that is quite different than anything else.

"Lights on stage, waters in the cooler, take down the signs," Doc bellows to me and my fellow interns; Jason is about to say a brief thank you to our sponsors and announce Red and his band onto the stage. The crowd settles into their seats, and starts to hush and turn their attention to the front. "Cue the lights, lower the music, and here goes Jason," I think to myself as I grab the iPad from Doc to aid in the live mixing of the show. As the band makes their entrance, I sneak over to the south side of room and find a good chair to adjust levels from. Doc had been coaching me on mixing most of the season but this evening was different; I felt different. Red settles onto his stool, Paw Paw Smith grabs his sticks and Eli Ford tunes up his guitar; here we go.

The energy was beautiful. They started the set with Waterbill, the first track on the album, a bluesy rock number, then continued to play through the album from there, ending on Try, a gorgeous self reflecting waltz. "One more?... One more?!" Doc clammers from his booth to stand front side of the audience, everyone on their feet at this point hooting and hollering for another. The band, enthusiastic to have such an admiring, well listening audience (what seems to be a rare find these days for a hard working musician) obliges the uproar of request. The band was solid.

Though hard to explain, mixing their show live that night, I felt as if I was the sixth to their five; highlighting guitar and piano melodies, being sure to punch in reverb at the correct moments, heightening the energy as they built the song into a cacophony of rhythm and well thought out solos. Surreal is the only word to describe this particular evening. They were so well organized in their performance and the songs well-crafted, my job became easy and effortless. It became magic. Unexplainable energy moving up and down and around the room, through every individual and tying us together as one in this occasionally funny, absolutely exciting, sometimes heartbreaking experience. I absolutely loved it.

After the set wrapped, the crowd slowly made their way out of the listening room to the merch booth meeting and visiting with the talented group, then out the door home. Beau, Sean, Michelle and I folded chairs stacking them in the corner of the room. We grabbed all the microphones and wrapped the cables from recording, placing everything in its proper place; we then brought the artists cases into the main room to ease them in packing up for the trip to the next gig and hauled any/all trash out. We'd been at the studio since 4pm, its now 11:30, midnight. After all the patrons have left, the band finishes packing their gear and plays Tetras in the their trailer marked Live Snakes. "It's worked so far," Red laughs my direction. "Definitely one of the most clever quips I've seen on the side of an equipment trailer," I think to myself. Everyone is elated with the evening and says their respective thank yous and goodbyes. The band clamors into the van to hit the road for a few hours that night.

"Bathroom checked, how's the greenroom, shut the system off," just a few double checks from Doc. "Everything is good to go," I reply. He can tell I'm giddy about the show, "Great job tonight."

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