Acoustic folk-rock-roots-blues guy Jim McGowan played the Wine Cafe in Mankato right before he headed across the country to advocate for kids with diabetes.The program he was promoting is called Safe at School, and it helps ensure that kids get the care they need whether it’s a regular day or a field trip or there’s a sub or whatever, and that they get it without feeling too much like a weirdo. That description is not endorsed by Jim or the American Diabetes Association. Probably endorsed by any kid who’s ever shot up in the lunchroom, though.
I’ve never seen Jim do his thing as an advocate. I’ve only seen him perform. I am sure, though, that he’s similarly genuine and compelling, and whatever the advocacy equivalent of “Thank God I’m A Country Boy” is, I bet it brings the house down.
At both kinds of gigs, there’s stuff to work around. Other people’s stuff. You have to stand there and deliver like you’re not knee-deep in crap there’s just nowhere else to stash. You really have to act like you’re the main thing happening here, right now, or nobody’s going to buy it. I am guessing Jim would say this is where being a bar band and being an advocacy director come together.
Of course, yes, people always sit in front and text. I don’t know the equivalent on the advocacy floor. Or maybe it looks literally exactly the same, just like this. There’s always a chance that the phone-user is reaching out to their friends/their legislators, saying “this music is amazing”/”oh my GOD get down here and fund this program.” There is a chance. I kind of think you can tell which performers hope for the best in that regard. They’re the ones who watch the phone-users really close so that as soon as they look up, they’ll make eye contact, with the singer looking like, “well? well?!” I mean why not. At minimum, you’ll get a smile, and that’s a start.
It’s good for kids with diabetes that Jim does what he does to make it easier to get care during the school day. It’s good for bars and for music lovers that Jim puts folk-roots-blues-rock-John Denver covers out there with so much sell and hope and integrity. Thanks, Jim, for the work on both fronts. Thanks also, LeeAnn Thill, for making up Diabetes Art Day and prompting us all to think artfully about such an unartful condition. Thanks too, Amy Stockwell Mercer, for being a longtime bridge between the art world and the diabetes world with passionate writings on both. You guys are the best. You guys make clear that the only way to deal with a weird mix is to wear it really, really well.
The Frye is at The Wine Cafe — the premier venue of diabetes-affiliated Minnesota bar bands — next Saturday, Feb. 9, 9 p.m. – 1 a.m. I might still be wearing this.