Sunday, March 01, 2009
The Marvelous Feats of Ken Heffner
multi-GRAMMY winners blind boys of alabama
professional trend-setter, music maven, and overall nice guy brought another amazing performance to calvin college. ken heffner, calvin’s first and current student activities director brings top notch performers to our college every year. in fact, calvin’s got a rep for bringing in awesome acts. when i feel adventurous, i’ll leave my home and college and meet some students from nearby colleges downtown. inevitably, they’ll say, “oh yeah, i’ve been there a couple times before. so-and-so was performing at your school. you guys always have awesome concerts!”
since arriving at calvin, i’ve heard of star performers that did their due diligence at this college before they went national. the two that come to mind are the dave matthews band and jimmy eat world. if i could turn back time, i’d be at the front row of those concerts.
when i heard that the blind boys of alabama were coming, my mind instantly flashed back to a youtube video documenting their studio collaboration with ben harper. the performance was so moving, it gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes. that was the first time i had heard of the blind boys of alabama, and i couldn’t wait to see them live.
the entire lower section of the fine arts center (FAC) was packed, and i saw more city residents than calvin students. usually, the best concerts bring in people from the city and neighboring areas, so i knew i was in for a great evening. i wasn’t disappointed. contrary to today’s top 40 sound, the blind boys of alabama brought me back to the roots of rock and roll: blues. the group consists of four men, and they brought some hired guns along, a guitarist, bassist, and keyboardist. three of the four blind boys solely sing, while one also drums. as their group name so clearly states, all are blind, even the drummer. a drummer myself, i didn’t know that one of the blind boys was a drummer until much later in the concert. naturally, i was watching the drummer for most of the concert, and i was surprised by the drummer’s posture. it didn’t look natural, and he’d hit the rim of the drum quite a few times. i have tremendous respect for singing drummers, just because of the difficulty of coordinating four limbs along with your breathing and singing, so i didn’t think much of it. but when i realized that the drummer was also blind, i was blown away. these men were so inspiring because they didn’t allow their impairments to stop them from making world-class music. i left the FAC incredibly satisfied with such an uplifting performance.