2011 Soul-Patrol Convention Rewind
This past weekend at the 2011 Soul-Patrol Convention, in Philadelphia at a German-American multi-purpose facility called Cannstaters, originally built as a haven for a group of people who were outcast from “normal society,” I got a chance to do most of the other 9 things in life that I enjoy doing all squeezed into a relatively compressed 24 hour time period, I wanted to throw a birthday party for an entity called Soul-Patrol that I created 15 years ago by doing much the same thing that I am doing right now. I created it by sitting in this chair, in the middle of the night, just writing down my thoughts about music/culture. I wrote what I wrote without caring if anyone else would ever read what i wrote or if they were to read it, if they would care about anything that I would have to say.
Nevertheless I was compelled to put my thoughts down on paper about a subject matter that I have been obsessed with, since I was about 10 years old. I have been obsessed with the topics of music/culture since I was a child. However as an adult I have gone beyond a simplistic obsession with the collection of factual information. I have moved to the larger obsession of just how all of that factual information just might be connected to each other and what conclusions that having an understanding of those connections will lead me to.
What I didn’t realize at that time, 15 years ago typing away during the middle of the night, is that developing such an understanding actually results in the creation of new data, that was previously unknown. If that sounds like some sort of an academic research project, it isn’t….
That’s because the development of this “new information,” is something that “just happens,” in ways that are not predictable because it is wholly dependent on other people who have an intimate knowledge about these connections between all of these pieces of “factual information.”
The intimate knowledge that these other people have about these “connections” is really the story of their lives, the good, the bad & the ugly, most of which is not truly meant for public consumption. These stories are mostly good, however there is always just enough pain associated with how those seemingly disconnected pieces of information are actually connected together, that makes it all unfit for public consumption. That’s because the details about the lives of the people who create the music/culture must exist outside of the “public domain.”
It has been truly my great honor & pleasure that the people who know the truth behind all of the factual information that I could possibly ever collect about a topic (music/culture) that has been my obsession for over 40 years have trusted me. They have trusted me with what is fundamentally their “life story,” in order for me to be able to develop a deeper understanding of the truth of what those connections represent.
Taken separately these facts + the connections between make for a fantastic story. However, when you begin to put each one of these stories together, it creates an alternative view of the past, present & future. One that is quite a bit different than what the “mainstream” would have you believe. And that is in a nutshell is pretty much what the Soul-Patrol.com website has evolved into over the past 15 years of it’s existance.
This is all good for me, because it fits in quite nicely because I am a technologist by trade. More specifically I am a technology analyst, which means that I specialize in solving problems by analyzing the facts and then reconstructing those facts in such a manner that they make more sense, then they did before.
What the Soul-Patrol Convention allows me to to do is to somehow bring all of this to life in a meaningful way. And while that way may not make sense to everyone, it makes all of the sense in the world to me. And for me as the person who is compelled to write about what is my own personal obsession (music/culture) in the middle of the night, even if nobody ever reads or cares about what I write, it is a joy for me to watch all of it unfolds right before my eyes. In real time and in real life.
In planning this 15th birthday party, for something as ubiquitous as the Soul-Patrol.com website, there were only two things that I was absolutely certain that I wanted.
1. I knew that I wanted to have as much meaningful conversation as possible, augmented by as much great musical performances as possible.
2. I knew that I wanted this birthday party to begin in a manner as simply as the website itself had begun 16 years ago and I knew that I wanted it to end by making some previously known, factual information connect together to create new information
So it began with my old High School friend, Michael Burt on the stage, having the same conversation that we had 40 years ago about our mutual obsession with the music of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. It ended 14 hours later with a once in a lifetime/you had to be there to see it live concert performance by Mr. Clarence Burke Jr, to help us to answer the question that has been asked more times than any other via email to me by the readers of the Soul-Patrol.com website; “Whatever Happened To the Five Stairsteps?”
In between those two events was 14 hours of just about the best that Black Culture has to offer.
—A whole series of Rock, Jazz, Blues, Classic Soul, Neo Soul, Hip Hop and Doo Wop, once in a lifetime musical performances for the spirit
—A whole series of in depth discussions complete with questions, complaints and yes even a few potential solutions to some of the key issues facing a culture, whose survival is very much in doubt as we move beyond 2011, for the mind.
All of this was provided by the gathering of some very committed and yet equally obsessed people about music/culture, who much like myself manage to create excellence/genius out of chaos. It was a meeting of those who are outcast from society, whose very obsessions cause them not to quite fit into the norm. In short these are in fact “my kind of people.”
The event itself is much like the website. It is overwhelming, it is confusing and it is a bit disorganized. It is an attempt to bring many things together under a single umbrella that seem unnatural to be brought together. However to people who are not only obsessed with the culture, but who also understand it’s “connections/disconnections,” it is in fact an extension of how their thought process work.
A few hours ago I got off the phone with Jamaaladeen Tacuma, the great jazz bass player. He has been an avid reader of the stuff that I write in the middle of the night, for the past 15 years and as a result of that we have become friends, “birds of a feather” you might say.
You may know Jamaaladeen Tacuma as a heavy duty bass player, associated with the likes of Charles Earland, Reggie Lucas, Ornette Coleman, James “Blood” Ulmer, and others. However I know him as yet another individual who is obsessed with all of the same musical/cultural facts and the “connections/disconnections,” between them as I am.
Jamaaladeen lives in Philadelphia and had wanted to attend the 2011 Soul-Patrol Convention, but couldn’t because he wouldn’t be arriving home from a European gig till after it ended. So I described for him over the telephone what had transpired, from the sudden and surprising presence of Mr. Bernard “Pretty” Purdie in the audience popping up out of no where and laying some serious knowledge on us during the Miles Davis Panel to local Philly funk/rock legend Mike Tyler during the Hendrix panel to the awe inspiring individual performances of artists that we know like Susaye Greene, Billy Paul, the Chantels the Escorts and others. to the bone chilling performances of artists that we should know better like Angel Rissoff, Gary Lee, Quiet Storm, Morris Mills, the Bleu Lights, TNT, Julie Dexter, Stephanie McKay and others. On top of that, the camaraderie that people like Darrell McNeill, James Mtume, Bob Lott, Dyana Williams, Tim Smith, Randall Grass, Garland Jeffries, Giant Gene Arnold, Warren Haskins, Ric Wilson, Lee Fields, Sandra Trimdacosta, Jason Miles, Chyp Davis, Bob Pickett, Abe Santiago, Joe Moro, Wayne Smith, Milton Duggar, Charles McMillan, Clarence Burke Jr, Thomas Anderson and others have extended to me in my quest to bring some sense of meaning to my lifelong obsession, by participating in my attempt to throw a birthday party for something as intangible and as unlikely as a website that consists mostly of ramblings written by me, at a time when most normal people are asleep, is nothing short of incredible.
What is less incredible and almost completely expected at this point is the support for doing this that comes from people like my brother Mike, Cheryl Russell, Lawrence Perry, Sally Foxen, David Brooks, Mike Hall, Diane Floyd, Kevin Amos and other folks who put forth their blood/sweat/tears that enabled this birthday party to even happen at all.
Some people asked me what will I do for Soul-Patrol’s 20th birthday or perhaps its 25th birthday. I smiled when asked that question. That is because I honestly don’t even know if Soul-Patrol will even be around from day to day, week to week, month to month or year to year. After all the world existed just fine before the website came into existence and the world will still continue to exist long after the website disappears from the scene.
In reality, Soul-Patrol isn’t even supposed to have existed for even one year, the fact that it has managed to be here for 15 years is amazing and I am not sure if that represents an accomplishment or it represents a failure of the music/culture to have fixed itself, so that this level of obsessive analysis/documentation isn’t needed anymore. If it is still here in 5 or 10 years I won’t quite know what to make of it because I would think that by that time it would have been succeeded by some entity that is far less disorganized and far less dependant on some aging hippie, who is obsessed with writing about music/culture in the middle of the night.
So rather than confront that larger issue, I will just look back and reflect on the fact that I had a fantastic time. And perhaps more importantly, my wife Harriette and my daughter Rachel (who worked the door for most of those 14 hours) told me that they had a fantastic time. And if you all think that I am obsessed about music/culture, seeing smiles on their two faces is even more of an obsession for me.
The truth of the matter is that much of what was written on the site at the the beginning was written with Rachel sitting on the floor, right next to this chair. She is only 3 years older than the site and the world that she lives in isn’t exactly filled with the kind of people who are obsessed with things like music/culture. She has led a life of “suburban normalcy,” where much of her focus has been getting into college.
Over the years, the Soul-Patrol Convention has allowed me as a parent to expose Rachel to a wide body of the kind of people that she doesn’t get a chance to be exposed to on a daily basis. An eclectic group of people who are artists, authors, filmmakers, broadcasters and more, all eccentric outcasts in their own way, not unlike her father. And these people have watched her grow over the years into a strikingly beautiful 18 year old woman who is now on the cusp of starting her own life. They in a nice kind of way form a kind of alternative support system of people who kind of live on “the other side of the street,” that will do anything they can to assist her (but she doesn’t really know that quite
yet.) I’ll know that I had some impact when the day comes, and she calls to tell me that she went out with a group of friends to see an artist like Stephanie McKay or Morris Mills or Julie Dexter or someone else that she has met over the years at the Soul-Patrol Convention and she took her friends backstage.
At the end of the day, the Soul-Patrol Convention much like the website itself (as well as it’s primary author) is a very unique, one of a kind, eclectic event that while clearly not for everyone has been and continues to be something that is needed for a whole host of reasons that shouldn’t even exist at all, but do. It was one hell of a 15th birthday party for www.Soul-Patrol.com and it was my pleasure to put it on, for those who felt as obsessive about this kind of stuff as I do to take a weekend out of their lives in order to participate. All of this took place in appropriately sureal fashion inside of a place that 20 years ago, I might not have been able to walk into the front door of, suggested to me by a genteman that I didn’t even know a few years ago, named Charie Lucie.
My batteries are now recharged and I feel like I can conquer just about anything (except for Eric Cantor.)
Soul-Patrol Convention History
(a slide show of pictures from previous Soul-Patrol Conventions)
Take a look and let me know if you have any questions or ideas…
or via telephone at: