Labor Day Musicians
Published: Sunday, September 04, 2011
By John Sinkevics | The Grand Rapids Press
Depending on your job, your boss and your state of mind, Labor Day is either: A) a great time to celebrate being a “Working Class Hero” with the “Finest Worksong,” or B) an excuse to wail the “Working Man Blues,” followed by “Take This Job and Shove It.”
For many, the soundtrack probably falls somewhere in between, unless you actually have to work on Labor Day, in which case Skid Row’s “Slave to the Grind” comes to mind.
But that’s not the case for several local bands performing Monday at the West Michigan Labor Fest in downtown Grand Rapids’ Ah-Nab-Awen Park.
The Jimmie Stagger Band, Mustang Band, Krystal Kleer and Mick Lane will entertain folks from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. to help celebrate America’s proud workforce and to give support to the unemployed. And they’re darned glad to be part of it, even if it means working on a holiday while everybody else relaxes.
“This is, for me, the event that celebrates my life’s work,” said Lane, a well-known folk/Celtic music artist who has helped plan past Labor Day parades to honor organized labor and promote workers’ rights. “I use my music to tell the stories of the everyday heroes I have seen.”
Lane, who's also a member of the Conklin Ceili Band, noted he's spent three decades representing and organizing workers, so it's an honor to play on Labor Day.
As for weekend work: “I don't think musicians love working weekends, but they do love bringing their songs and stories to folks in their performances," he explained.
"We have to perform when (people) are willing to relax and listen, or when they want to have a good time and celebrate. That is nights, weekends and holidays. ... It goes with the turf.”
Of course, songs such as Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care of Business” — often listed as Labor Day fodder — don’t exactly extol the reputation of rockers as hard-working fellows:
People see you having fun just a-lyin’ in the sun, tell them that you like it this way; It’s the work that we avoid and we’re all self-employed, we love to work at nothin’ all day
Granted, I wouldn’t suggest calling most musicians before noon due to the odd hours they keep, but they also sweat and toil through a lot of weekends and nights without any overtime benefits.
Take the recent Lake Effect benefit for Special Olympics, which featured local classic rock band Alive & Well and raised more than $2,000 for the cause.
With set-up and tear-down time, band members spent nearly eight hours working on a Sunday for minimal pay. Piano man Roger MacNaughton said that’s just par for the course for this “brotherhood” of musicians, who simply get inspired by the music they play.
“We share so many common memories, we feel it’s important to keep it going,” he reasoned, noting the crowd’s response makes it all worthwhile. “You never get tired of ovations.”
So, with Labor Day approaching, how about a standing-O for West Michigan's hardworking musicians?