April 20, 2023 - University of Illinois, Chicago

Three years since the acute beginning of the pandemic and I'm finally starting to fully understand its impact on  my work and career.

I think the pandemic diverted me off a potentially damaging framing of my Homeric pieces, something that developed in 2019 when I started to value and pursue them as commodities more than experiences.

Three years later and I think I am in a much healthier place, a place more true to the gift that Homeric epic has been creatively, personally, and (yes) professionally. And I think I'm only now understanding the role the pandemic played in this shift: the pause it put on touring, the new challenge of virtual performances, and the space those years gave me to develop The Blues of Achilles in a more protective environment. I've come back to touring now with different goals, different interests, and a better understanding of what I've done with my work and what I want it to mean as a legacy.

My Odyssey performance at UIC in the second half of April was only my second of 2023. When I go perform for the JCL in July I will only have done four Odyssey shows to that point and it's conceivable that I might do fewer than ten Odyssey shows all year. 

And that's by design. My goal for 2023 was not to book as many Odyssey shows as possible: it was to book the shows I needed to reach my 50 state goal (which I'm on track to do in November) and then give a paper on the accomplishment at the SCS Conference in January. It was to explore the ways in which my Odyssey can give me unique experiences and take me to places where I can make connections with audiences I haven't yet reached. Which is, of course, very Odyssean. 

That goal has allowed me to focus my more aggressive booking pursuits on The Blues of Achilles which has been incredible to perform extensively this spring - it feels like those war songs are something special beyond even what I hoped and felt when I wrote them: I'm only scratching the surface of their potential.

And I still have Odyssey shows like my wonderful hometown performance on a Thursday afternoon… packed into a brutalist classroom with a shallow cinderblock back wall and a chair attached to the floor. The fickle spring weather creating conditions such that it's 70 degrees outside but the heat is pumping as I sweat through the Invocation for the 357th time… “Who am I?” I sing, and wipe my forehead. 

40 minutes later I finish with “You have brought me here to…. You have brought me here to…” and I realize that 24 year old me got the story more right than he ever could have known he did or expected to. 

I let the final chord sit, applause follows, hands shoot up to start discussing what I've done for them, what we've done together as performer and audience.

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