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"Why do you put on those live concerts in your store?"
In a technical business like audio, you get a lot of abstruse questions. But I want to tell you about a question that about popped my internal fuses the other day. It went: "Why do you put on those live concerts in your store?"

Pardon me? Why do I put on live concerts in my store? Because live music is what it's all about. Because there's no better way to spend an evening with 120 other people. Because I want to expose friends and customers to music they might not otherwise hear. Because maybe it'll change someone's life. Because I want my staff to know the difference between the sounds of the viola and the violin. Because I take my job seriously enough to want to recalibrate my aural measuring system now and then. Because I think it'd be civic-minded to raise a few bucks for KXPR, the Opera, the Symphony. Because local symphony players need the gigs. What kind of question is this, Why do I put on live concerts in my store? Who wouldn't want to put on live concerts if they had a suitable space? How can you be in the audio business and not put on live concerts? Isn't it obvious?

A question like that keeps a guy like me awake half the night. You toss and turn and the responses keep swarming noisily out. They buzz around, and some of them sound high-toned and philanthropic, and some sound harsh and irritated, and some come out soft and fuzzy, like the sound of an old amplifier that needs new tubes. And yet each response somehow fails to nab the core of why you undertake such a project---a project that may give you back nothing but a bad review in the morning papers if the reviewer had too long a day or didn't fit in his chair quite right or didn't like the chardonnay at intermission.

You stare into the dark and they buzz around, and then, in the wee hours, the core comes out. Eisenhower's in the White House, and in a Fresno backyard my Aunt Marsha---my other cousins and even the kids from next door are calling her Aunt Moofie---opens her battered guitar case and one by one she sings us kids to sleep. That voice, the guitar, the cool evening breeze off the fields, the crickets, the old canvas butterfly chair, and those songs---old folksongs and nursery tunes and protest songs---and there I am, six, maybe seven years old and I can't be sung to sleep because I'm too damn alive to yield to sleep. How can you put a kid to sleep when the kid's heart is pounding so hard his chest is squeaking, when his hide is peppered with goosebumps, when the intensity of the whole thing makes that kid's eyes fill up with water like he's been chopping onions for an hour? So he's frozen there in that butterfly chair, looking like he's playing the part of someone in suspended animation for the school play, and then Aunt Marsha sings "Buckeye Jim ("You can't go, go weave and spin, you can't go, Buckeye Jim"), and that kid spins off into his own world where time slows down and then stops dead in its tracks and where, if he'd had a tape recorder along, he might have brought back the sound of subatomic particles weaving and spinning with photons.

Those sounds, those worlds, those intensities, have haunted me for 30 years or more. It wasn't just one magical summer night---there were many other nights, and afternoons, and mornings, spread out over 25 years, until just a couple years ago, when Aunt Marsha put away the guitar for good.

Now she's got record albums to show for her talent. The cousins and neighbors have their memories. And I've got these concerts.

So that's it. It's your turn: want a ticket?---Keith Yates

Reprinted with permission from the August 1990 KXPR/FM91 Program Guide.

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