Regrets? I've had a few. But at this moment, the most piercing one is that I didn't get down to Portland for either night of the Help the Hoople shows dedicated to raising funds and spirits to aid in the mighty Scott McCaughey's recovery. (Help the Hoople, as in Scott the Hoople, as in... aw, skip it.)
Though the precious NW rock'n'roll resource was felled by a stroke only six weeks ago, he was strong enough to mount the stage for a few songs during the two-night extravaganza, which also featured performances by McCaughey friends and bandmates (always a blurry distinction) Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Bill Berry of REM (yep), Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney and her McCaughey/Buck collab Filthy Friends), Janet Weiss, Kurt Bloch (also of FF, as well as Fastbacks and Young Fresh Fellows), The Decemberists, James Mercer of the Shins, Patterson Hood of Drive-by Truckers, Alejandro Escovedo, M Ward, Justin Townes Earle, a reunited Dharma Bums (one Seattle show, lads?), Casey Neill, and plenty of others.
Worth mentioning: The Gofundme to raise money for his medical bills is still up, still running, and still very much worth your time and attention.
This rendition of REM's "You Are the Everything," from Green (a song so good you can hardly believe it isn't on more people's lists of top 10 favorite REM songs, but that's only because they have so many other great songs that even dedicated fans can forget songs as good as this one), sung by James Mercer and played by Buck, Mills, and Jenny Conlee of the Decemberists, give some indication of how magical the night must have been:
Still, as good as the music must have sounded, and as brutal as it was to read the social media updates and not be there, the sight of McCaughey in his natural element: on a stage, instrument in hand, instilled a deep sense of joy and optimism about life itself, and the radical, restorative power of music.
Though he likely still has a long way to go to full recovery, seeing these pictures of him on stage gave me that of-late-unfamiliar tingle that makes you think, if only for one second, if this is true, then how bad can the world possibly be?
Pretty bad, obviously. But a little better knowing that you can celebrate the life and music of an artist and person you love without having to lose him first.