When I realized what was happening this weekend (that is, the Life Is Good Festival), I immediately went to look at Bob Dylan's tour schedule.
Not because I expect Mr. Dylan to be at the Festival.
No, I was checking to make sure that he was not out with The Never Ending Tour right now.
And while checking, I started humming R.E.M.'s "World Leader Pretend."
Dylan IS on the road next month, but right now he's not touring.
And that means I'll get to see Ben-Ben!
Brendan was my next door neighbor for the first two years of college at UMass. Our gang of friends spent many many night (and let's face it, days and weekends and dinners and dawns) listening to and talking about music.
And while I spent my time at UMass exploring the media end of the business, Brendan (or Ben-Ben, as his roommate called him) got involved with the University productions, which put on a slate of amazing shows all year long, that culminated in a big Spring concert. At every concert, while we'd be wandering through the crowd (most likely drunk) he'd have the thrill of working behind the scenes, as part of Load-In/Load-Out or Stage managing and such.
Brendan and I lost touch not long after college, but the advent of Facebook put us back into each other's orbit. And two years ago, I saw him post a status about being in Canton, Massachusetts on a mid-September weekend.
I wrote him. "Are you working at Life Is Good?"
We made a plan to meet, to see each other for the first time in about 17 years.
After college, Brendan continued to pursue a career in the touring business. And---as these things work---he had a combination of talent, good fortune and timing, to land a gig with none other than Bob Dylan.
You can say what you want about Mr. Dylan being inscrutable and mercurial and whatever, but if you've been paying attention, in the last 20 years, he's become remarkably consistent about who he works with. His touring band has changed very little, and, unlike much of the 70s and 80s, his touring band is largely the group of musicians that play on his records.
Apparently, this extends to the people Dylan employs on The Never Ending Tour. Ben-Ben and much of the core crew have been with Dylan for many, many years.
So that's Ben-Ben's life. If Dylan is on the road, then so is Ben-Ben.
It's quite a thrill to live vicariously through Facebook and see Brendan post pictures from far-flung places around the world.
And it's nice that Mr. Dylan has happened to be off the road for the weekend of the Life Is Good Festival in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
When Ben-Ben is not on the road with Dylan, he's with his family in Massachusetts, and will pick up a job here and there if it won't interfere with the start of the next tour. So he's picked up a gig running Good Vibes side stage at Life Is Good.
And while he grew up to be a roadie, I grew up to be a disc jockey, who gets assigned to introduce a few of the acts at the Festival. So for the last couple of years, I've been sent to introduce some of the acts on the Good Vibes stage.
It's pretty funny, and wonderful, to know someone from when you were practically a kid, and get the opportunity to work with them as a professional.
Saturday at 2:15, I'll be standing in the wings waiting to introduce Katie Herzig. Ben-Ben will have given me the standard speech he has to deliver to misbehaving DJs, about keeping my shtick short and sweet and getting the hell out of the way. And when he's ready, he'll give me the cue to send me out to center stage. We'll be interacting as the professionals we work hard every day to be---He's touring with perhaps the greatest musician that has ever lived; I am running a beloved, heritage, independent radio station.
This is hardly the kind of thing we could have imagined 20 years ago, when we were sitting around a UMass lounge, eating Bruno's pizza and listening to R.E.M., thinking we were terribly clever to change the words of the song so that we were singing, "I am, World Leader Ben-Ben . . ."
Hear the song on Youtube.