Both Sides of the Rail
[Editors Note: This month I am proud to introduce the debut column of my longtime pal and scenester Annabel Lukins. As her opening commentary suggests, Annabel deftly walks the line, in maintaining the enthusiasm of a fan even as she lives the life of a music industry professional. Her skills in striking this balance earned her the 2002 Grahamy Jammy Industry Award for Support of the Scene. Annabel truly rocks, and were psyched to add her perspective to the site]
After hitting Greyboy Allstars & MMW at the Fillmore in Denver, we headed to a late night Anders Osborne show. I started dancing with the keyboardists wife, whose husband was just sitting in for the night. She turned to me and said, Please dont judge him tonight, this isnt his best playing. I asked her why she said that. Well, you are in the industry and you critique bands all the time. I took a moment to think about my response, and it rolled off my tongue, Sister, first and foremost, I am a fan.
Im such a fan that I gently weaved my way to boogie on the rail for the Greyboys. But then I went backstage and talked to Karl Denson about coming back on Jam Cruise for the 6th time.
My name is Annabel Lukins, I am 33 years old, and I am a live music addict. I grew up in NYCs Dakota when John Lennon was still alive, I slept on the couch at Wetlands on many occasions, I saw over 100 Phish shows, crying my eyes out at Coventry, and I first found God at RFK Stadium in 1991 when Jerry Garcia sang Stella Blue into my soul and out the other end. So yeahIm a fan.
My parents encouraged me to intern over my college summers. I landed one at PolyGram Records doing radio promotion. A memo went out one day: Steve Miller will be in the building today. Do not approach him or try to greet him. What a joke! To me, it read, DUDE, STEVE MILLER IS GOING TO SIGN YOUR GREATEST HITS CD! Mr. Miller came out of the CEOs office and said, Does anyone have a wastebasket? I ran to grab one. Thank you, he said, what is your name? I told him and then lightly asked, Will you please sign my CD? Id love to, he said and ALL mouths dropped wide open like I had just kicked a puppy.
I still have that CD. And more than anything, I have that memory of the moment I knew that I wanted to be in the music business. While everyone put him on a pedestal, I wasnt afraid to approach him, get him a wastebasket, and treat him like a normal person. Game on
But dont let the glamour of the business deceive you. It may seem all fun but its such hard work. Living in NYC, I slaved at MTV for years as an assistant while doing street team for Gathering of the Vibes & Berkfest. I struggled at a hip-hop record label while co-producing the first Jazzfest & Bonnaroo CDs. I soon after ran to Colorado to be the marketing director of Telluride Bluegrass Festival.
That was 4 years ago. I am now engaged to the love of my life, own a 3-bedroom house in Boulder, and soak in my hot tub in the back yard nightly. I worked my butt off to be here. And I knew that working in the live music scene was the way to go. So I currently earn a living from the following: I help run Jam Cruise (the coolest festival in the universe), I work for Langerado, Bonnaroo & Lollapalooza. Thats 4 festivals a year that pay me to do what I love.
Im friends with all the bands and all the kids in the front row too. I am BOTH sides of the rail. It doesnt get old for me and I cant tell you why. Maybe its simply because I love the music so much, the bands that play their hearts out for us, the colleagues who have become my closest buddies, the community that surrounds it and the freedom that comes from it.
What has allowed me to stay grounded is remembering that it IS a business. I hired a girl to help me at Lollapalooza based on a phone conversation. After one day, she was in tears. She said she had no idea it was as hard as it was. She just wanted to meet all the bands and party. We let her go asking her that maybe this experience would make her a better fan. But that it was best to stay a fan. I crossed the line over to making it my career. I wouldnt have it any other way.
Ive got a great t-shirt that says, Music is my business. Livin the good Life! Oh how beautifully multi-layered that is! So much so that I am finishing my column on a plane headed to San Francisco. I sent an IM to Pete Shapiro, my dear friend since high school, to wish him luck on Green Apple this weekend. He said, If we bought you a ticket, would you come to San Franciscos Green Apple at Golden Gate Park? We need you there for Karma. Thanks, Pete, thats a pretty wonderful thing to hearCount me in, Ill help with whatever you need, smile like its my job, and keep that gratitude for the life I have made for myself strong.