What was the longest concert that you have ever been to, live?
3 hours? 4?
Maybe you've attended long music festivals...but have you ever wondered when and where the longest concert ever occurred?
Likely not. At least I didn't wonder that, as a life-long musician, until one random night at home over three years ago, following a gig in Chico, CA.
I was frustrated that the local super-group project I directed had gotten stiffed by the venue that had asked us to open for an out of town act.
That touring act, whom no one knew, got paid...but we didn't. We brought 100 people out, and were dealt a bad hand by the booking contact there.
We got a "we owe you one". Ugh. The worst. I'm sure you're familiar.
I went home fuming. It wasn't just another band of mine this time, it was a large super-group of local musicians I respected, who had trusted me with their time and energy. The night was fun...but these folks deserved better treatment. I get very defensive of those who show my projects support. I'm hard enough to deal with(and I know it), without others making it more difficult.
...but what could I do about it?
The problem wasn't just our show, or even our scene alone. I'd been around, I knew enough to know what was a common problem and what wasn't.
We needed more people coming to Chico for live music. More entertainment dollars would give us more wiggle room. More to work with.
I had two ideas, in the heat of my frustration:
Let's make a commercial, and let's put on a really big show.
That commercial became a documentary, and that show became the longest concert in recorded history.
When I first considered the idea of a "really big show", with everyone in town in it...that got me wondering what the longest concert had been.
At the time, it was 15 days, 12 hours of continuous live music at Ri Ra Irish Pub in Las Vegas, NV.
My first thought, after learning this, was "we can do that!"...my second thought was "I bet we can double it".
So, nearly six months later, at The Tackle Box Bar and Grill, we staged Chico Breaks the Record, a concert that lasted just a couple hours shy of 34 days, from April 1st until May 5th, 2015. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Over 350 acts, made up of over 900 different individuals, played over 11,000 songs for over 800 hours straight.
Though almost all of these acts were local musicians, Coolio, Delhi 2 Dublin, Achilles Wheel, and a number of other touring talents came through and played short sets at the event.
(On a personal note, "Gangsta's Paradise" was the first rap song I ever learned, word for word, and I got to rap it with Coolio himself on stage. Not bad for a folk-singer from rural Michigan and NorCal.)
It was a media frenzy, an emotional roller-coaster, and an experience deserving of an epic movie to show all the good things that came from it. A positive event for our community, and for many of us personally as well.
From one act to the next, the listening audience didn't know what to expect. We had Rock followed by Jazz...by 80s cover music...Garage, Metal...Screamo.
Many of you may be thinking, "Well, I don't like all of those things"...but, in the moment, in the spirit of the event...I saw hippies spinning to Hardcore, little grey-haired old ladies line dancing to Punk, and Yoga classes being held during Folk sets.
400-500 people a day attended the event. The most common phrase I heard throughout the effort was "I saw the best band I've ever seen, and the worst....and they both were great."
It was named the number one local story by the Chico Enterprise Record, for all of 2015. Uncountable friendships came from it...and at least one baby.
The biggest impact I think the event had was something I didn't expect or consider at all, however.
Just a week or so into the event, an older woman who had been volunteering asked to speak with me about something. She told me that she had been noticing a lot of the good that was happening from the event, and she wanted to make me aware of something she had figured I'd missed.
According to her, as a person ages in life...their world gets smaller.
Your friends move away or pass on. You go out less. You do less.
She wanted to tell me that she kept seeing old folks coming out to be a part of the event...even to get on stage for the first time in decades.
When they left, their worlds were bigger than when they first arrived. Their eyes brighter. New bands were forming. Old friends reconnecting.
What this woman wanted me to understand was that this was the biggest effect the event was having on people...and to keep that in mind.
Heavy stuff, right?
It was then and there that I knew I'd found my calling in full.
If this one event could have that much positive impact, than I was going to have to start doing more thing just like it.
In the time since, I've organized a 16 day concert, broken the record for Longest Ukulele Performance (twice), and traveled over 30k miles around the US...doing just that.
Next up, in Chico, we're going to be breaking that 34 day record with a 1,000 hour (41.5 day) effort...and we're going to be live-streaming it to the whole world.
We tapped into something special here, and now there is a well-spring.