News, updates, and happenings with the Kragnes family: Phil, our Seeing Eye Dogs, and (me) Rebecca.

Some of the first part of this message may not seem to be related to yesterday’s concert, but I promise that it will eventually show itself to be. Twitter has done a lot of things for me. Last spring when Phil was so sick, I acquired Kirk Franklin albums. I’d been following contemporary Christian artists’ music for many years, but in those awful days, I needed the same messages with a little more punch and directness. I love R&B, so this music felt like a very natural extension of my tastes. Then I got on Twitter, and following Kirk Franklin and a few others lead me to hear others in this genre that I’m going to call Black Gospel to distinguish it from the Southern Gospel Country sound. Following all of these people lead me to hear about their award ceremony called the Stellar Awards, which took place this weekend in Nashville. It’s the Doves of Contemporary Christian music or the Black Gospel Grammies.

You all know how much Phil and I have been looking forward to the musical group Committed at the concert. When I got their album this fall, I had a hard time placing their genre, but given the clean nature of their songs and the number of them about God, I decided they’d go along side their mentor Take Six in the Men’s group category of my Black Gospel section. Of course, I began following Committed and its various members on Twitter. I saw how one of them developed a cold last week and didn’t want to come to Minneapolis having to perform with it. Then as the weekend got closer, several of them (being from the south) worried about how cold the weather would be here. One in what I hope was a half joke tweeted to another something like, “get the money. Get the money.” We did have some pretty awful temps here late in the week, but by the weekend, it was mild again. We got a dusting of snow Saturday night, and as they touched down, this and the cold were a shock to their systems. Some of them used humor, but others seemed a little put-off. Then later that night and the next morning — the day of the concert –, a couple retweeted comments from their friends at the Stellars. these Committed members wrote back to their friends wishing they were there. They also continued to talk about Minnesota weather. It was a beautiful, sunny day and around 30 degrees. I certainly didn’t blame them for wanting to be with their friends, but some of the comments felt perilously close to saying they really didn’t want to do this gig. This concert wasn’t outdoors at the St. Paul Winter Carnival also happening this weekend. Some events for that had to be canceled, because there wasn’t enough snow. We were in a warm auditorium, and I’m sure they had transportation from the hotel to the venue. It made me sad that it seemed they really didn’t want to do this. I took time off from the Malt shop — something I’ve only done one other time for a concern other than weather/lack of business since I started five years ago. I have gone when I really should have stayed home because I was sick. I consider that my job and try to be dedicated to it.

As the lights dimmed for the first part of the concert, a video of Martin Luther King was presented. I learned that he spoke at the University of Minnesota in 1967, and they showed excerpts of this speech — often called “the lost speech” because until yesterday, footage from it hadn’t been widely seen. Then a young male poet did a dramatic reading which was pretty affective. Then after a few announcements from the MC, a local group put together by a professor did a few songs. the bass player used to play with Steve Miller and was quite good. The keyboardist was one of the Steel siblings who are a well-known local African-American musical family, and he was awesome. The female singer named Tonya hues was quite good. I wasn’t very impressed with the guitarist, as he didn’t tune his guitar well or try to fix it when it was obviously out of tune. The male singer and drummer were OK. This isn’t to say their portion wasn’t affective. I learned that the biggest lynching ever took place in Mankato, and they sang a song about a racial incident which happened in Duluth. the last song they sang was written by a seventh grade class, called “I Don’t Believe in Violence”. the audience clapped throughout their set, but we were encouraged to sing the refrain.

When the second half commenced, it was instantly apparent that the majority of the crowd were like Phil and me who came because of Committed being there.
People who had been quiet in the first half started screaming, and yes I was one! The cold made its appearance very occasionally during the show. I sympathized, because I know It’s hard to sing with throat hurting and ears plugged. there was one voice crack, and a couple times when pitch was slightly off. But the professional part was that it was always and very quickly corrected. I noticed, because I’m a really picky listener, but I doubt very many others did. I suspect it was the cold rearing it’s head. They did gospel songs and a Michael Jackson song — always worth points in my book. They did love songs, patriotic songs, and old R&B classics — also among my favorites. there is a Stevie Wonder cover called “As”on their CD that both Phil and I hoped they would do. Because Stevie Wonder was so instrumental in getting Martin Luther King Day started, I was sure they’d do it as an encore bringing on the other group to support them. Alas, there was no encore or “As”. In retrospect, even with their powerful miking, I know they had to do some serious overdubs in the studio to cover all of the facets during the song’s climax. The no encore thing was kind of startling. For those who don’t know, many musicians act like it’s the end and say goodnight. Then if the crowd is really into it (as they normally are), they stand and scream until the musicians come back for at least one more. We stood and screamed, but the lights came up and the music loop came on truly signaling the end. So I just wasn’t quite ready for the quick goodbye.

Then because of a series of circumstances –partially of my own making — I didn’t meet any of them, and I could kick myself. They had merchandise but I already had their music. Autographs don’t mean a lot to me, and neither do posters. I thought I’d seem awfully cheap going up and talking to them without evidence that I had purchased anything for an autograph. Phil told me I should have done it anyway, and other fans probably did. Members and I have had small conversations on Twitter, and maybe they would have remembered me from them or afterward when they would see my name. I told a couple that we would be the ones with the dogs, assuming I’d go talk to them. But then the lack of purchase thing made me feel like I would be wasting their time. that was the part of my own making. The other part was that Phil and I got separated. I didn’t want to worry him, and it was really crowded and confusing in there. The dogs in their various ways did a great job getting us out of there. Phil and Garron move faster, and Garron is a little more forceful about getting Phil through crowds. Zane and I tend to wait until there is a parting, while Phil and Garron naturally create partings. Also Phil had a better idea where the stairs were from the theater than I did. We met up at the bottom of the stairs, and someone led us to some chairs to wait for our cab. Then Zane started making his anxiety whines, and some of them were stopped after a trip to the little puppy’s room.

I can’t end my account without discussing our cab ride to our favorite Mexican Restaurant for dinner. I set-up the ride in advance, so they knew we were a blind couple with Seeing Eye dogs. But the driver acted all surprised and had to move some stuff in his back seat for both of us to get into the van. Phil and Garron went to the back seat, and Zane and I sat in the middle seat. The driver asked me to please watch my dog’s mouth. -Either the driver was afraid of dogs, Zane’s muzzle wasn’t to touch him, because his religion says he has to wash seven times, as dogs are considered unclean, or both. With Zane being a curious, friendly Labrador who wants to look at and sniff everything, monitoring his muzzle is a three quarter time job, and it certainly doesn’t make the cab ride comfortable for either of us. Zane senses my tension and doesn’t understand its source. I was the one with the cash, so I had to dig for that with one hand and monitor Zane with the other. After what we’d just experienced, I understood that we weren’t being lynched, and at least we got a ride. Being required to do These acrobatics still felt discriminatory to me.

Even though I didn’t get to meet Committed members in person, there are a couple I will know by voice — particularly the bass Jeston. It made me feel better that Jeston seemed positive all the way through. He really enjoyed being here, and he commented on liking the Old Spaghetti Factory — a restaurant where Phil and I ate our sixth anniversary meal. A couple of others commented about how cold it was going to get and said they were thankful to be leaving just in time. Jeston seemed a little sorry to leave. I joked with the others that the upcoming temps are when we start complaining and to get warm for us. The only thing Jeston wished was that there was a TV in the green room. These guys and many other people I follow are serious football fans. I don’t enjoy watching football, but I have to admit that I sort of enjoy reading there enjoyment of a game. With tweets, you have to put it in to words. When I’m with actual fans, they’re screaming so much they can’t tell me what happened until they calm down.
I want to make one thing clear about Twitter. Even though I was sad that some of the men seemed not to want to be here, there was a part of me that was thankful Twitter allowed me to see their honest feelings. A show is scripted to some extent, so having some behind the scenes glimpses was really helpful. I understood a lot better what they were really saying after their opening number. One said they were happy to be in front of us. I admired that they didn’t try to come out with what might have been a lie — that they were happy to be here. The tweets about the cold made me cut them a little slack and admire their performance even more.

I hope Committed comes back in one of the other three seasons, because I truly think they’ll appreciate Minneapolis more then. I know how much blind people across the nation enjoyed being here for the 2007 ACB convention, and Minneapolis really can be a fun place!
Rebecca Kragnes and Zane (Black Labrador and Seeing Eye Dog)
Twitter: RebeccaKragnes


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