The New York Songwriters Circle Showcase (AKA The Night I Met Billy Joel)

Presumably because the universe likes to play games with me, I was not guaranteed to make it to my first New York Songwriters Circle showcase on Monday. A long line of storms and a tornado watch not only had me driving to the train station in a monsoon, but also had me stuck on a train impeded by a downed tree on the tracks. This turned a normally "blissful" 1:40 train ride into a...somewhat impatient and inconvenienced 2:45 train ride. And did I mention I forgot my headphones? As a result I got to the Bitter End a full hour after I had planned, and had missed the 6PM soundcheck. Oh well, I'll roll with it.

If you've never been to the Bitter End, it's not a big place, and if you're there an hour or two before the start of a show it's also pretty empty. So, I walked in, found the director of the Circle, Tina Shafer, introduced myself, glanced past her, and saw the man wearing a jacket and baseball cap having a glass of wine with a woman at a table about 15 feet from me. I knew immediately it was Billy Joel. What the hell was he doing here other than stopping into one of his early venues for a drink? No idea, but there he was. Was he going to be staying for the showcase? No idea, but there he was. I finished my conversation with Tina and then pretty much went about my business waiting for the showcase to start. I walked past him a few times, but I didn't want to interrupt since I know I hate it when I go out for a drink and fans are constantly coming up to me. I mean, we all know how that feels, right? Riiiiiight.

Around 7:20, he and his friend got up and started gathering their stuff together, and a couple of other showcase performers who were sitting near him made their move for introductions and pictures. OK, this was my chance. I grabbed a CD and walked over. As he turned to head toward the door I went up to him and said, "Hey, can I be that guy?" I introduced myself, shook his hand, asked if I could give him a CD because I had done a cover of "New York State of Mind" on it, and told him he had been a big influence on my music. He thanked me, took the CD, and then wished me luck in the showcase. He took a couple more pictures with other performers and looked at the big mural on the back wall while mentioned that it didn't used to be there, and then he was gone. And that was it. My entire encounter with him lasted probably 30 seconds, and I didn't get the chance to apologize for lying to his face the first time we met. But I got the CD in his hand. Why didn't I ask for a picture? Because I felt I had room for one request - either a picture or offering him a CD - and the CD was the more important option. Sure, Tony Basile may not believe any of this happened without a picture, but that's his loss. Do I think anything will come of it? Nah. But that's not really the point, is it?

And then the showcase went really well! Believe me when I say that the talent on the stage was seriously impressive. There were more piano players than Sara Lewis and I both expected, and lots of songs about lost loves and broken relationships (that part wasn't so surprising). I played "Over The Edge," "Shadow," and "A Kind Of Faith," and it was absolutely my best performance at the Bitter End. I played well, the audience was very receptive to all the music, and after "Shadow" Merrily James sat at the piano and said into the mic, "That was awesome." Thanks, Merrily. You were pretty awesome, yourself.

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    © STEVE SCHULTZ