Lena B. and the Headless Bettys Perform
~ by Fred Middleton
Who are these Headless Bettys anyway? And why is Lena B. hanging around with them?
I thought it best to first find out how many Headless Bettys there were â€¦ not as easy as it sounds. Sid Johnson came on stage at about 9:00 pm with an acoustic guitar. Lena B. had already told the energized, growing crowd that the show would start slow, and eventually there would be some dance music. Sid (no, Headless Betty) did just that â€¦ started slow â€¦ and dynamically.
You know right away when someone has stage presence. It takes a few bars to appreciate their creative talent. After those few bars, Sid had the full attention of anyone listening. Other audience members soon came on board, a few at a time, until all the inmates were warming up with Mr. Johnson, songwriter/performer extraordinaire.
Several excellent self-penned songs later, Sid exited stage right, while Kendall Patrick, Jen Carnahan and Lena B. took their places with acoustic guitar, bass and keyboard, respectively. I recognized Lena. Could Jen and Kendall be the Headless Bettys?
Following a bit of stage talk, Kendall, who had been quite involved with her cell phone, assured the crowd she was not texting, she was looking up lyrics. I laughed all the more, having watched Erica, who was sitting close by, do this many times.
Lyrics found, the trio went on to dazzle the listeners, instrumentally and vocally, with several wonderfully catchy tunes, some original (likely Kendallâ€™s â€¦ possibly Lenaâ€™s â€¦ or both?).
Suddenly, and without warning, Kendall was off and Sid was back on (stage, that is), along with Booth White, who sat behind the drum kit. Could Booth be a Betty? Betty Booth â€¦ sounds vaguely familiar.
Lena, Jen, Sid and Booth performed a few more fine originalsâ€”some Lenaâ€™s, no doubt. Then Lena took a quickie break while Jen and Booth started funking us up with some killer rhythms. Iâ€™m guessing this is when Sid changed over to electric guitar. (Iâ€™m saying it is, anyway. Itâ€™s all true, honest; I may just have the order mixed up.)
Sid jumped into the Jen/Booth groove as things started to heat up. Lena joined in as Booth switched to djembe and Angela Birtwistle settled in behind the kit. Could Lenaâ€™s own sister be a Betty? That would be four. Hmmm.
Fade out: between-song jam. A little witty repartee takes place between stage and floor members. Then all hell (musically speaking) broke loose. These five unique and gifted musicians managed, with their own music and audience support, to temporarily transport the pub at large to a higher consciousness â€¦ or something.
Qualifier: I often clarify details of the night before, the morning after. That way, I donâ€™t distract the players from the job of making magic, and it gives me (and the musicians) a chance to absorb the experience. That luxury was not to be had this time, as I stepped off the island Sunday morning. This left many questions unanswered and me relying on memory (always dangerous) and/or guessing (never a good idea). But hey, thereâ€™s a deadline for this stuff.
So â€¦ after several more, give or take, awesome originals, Booth, Jen and Angela find another canâ€™t-not-move groove, while some on-the-fly equipment tweaks and/or instrument changes take place. Then Sid lets loose with the first (I think) coverâ€”the funkiest version of Cheap Sunglasses ever. There were very few people sitting at this point. Iâ€™m sure I saw bartenders Shalane and Isabell serving with one hand (each) and holding onto the bar with the other so as not to be sucked onto the dance floor.
Then another cover, Kendallâ€™s fantastic version of Waiting for the World to Change, and it was time for a break. I looked at the clock. These folks, spelling one another here and there, had been rockinâ€™ the house, non-stop, for two solid hoursâ€”nothing lightweight about these entertainers. And did I mention their kickinâ€™ harmonies?
After all those present drew a collective breath, Lena, Sid and the four (?) Headless Bettys took to the stage again. But wait! The beautifully tattooed blonde woman who came with Booth is now playing the keyboards and belting out a song somewhat reminiscent of a polka (a very ballsy polka). Could this really be? Iâ€™m a moderate drinkerâ€”I swear.
The womanâ€™s name is Monica McGregor-White, and I wondered if she could be a fifth Betty.
Well, I was unable to confirm exactly who was or wasnâ€™t a Betty, so Iâ€™m going with every performer without the name Lena or Sid. That makes five of them, for a total of seven brilliant performers sharing/exchanging the incredible energy that can only be accessed when music, dance and positive emotion all come together in one place at one time. The word â€˜transcendâ€™ comes to mind. Perhaps this is why Lena hangs with these Headless Bettys.
As for Sid, he and Lena have collaborated for about four and a half years. Hopefully, that will continue long distance. Sid and Estelle, with sons Jacob and Dylan, are already en route to Montreal for an expanded cultural and musical experience. Happy trails to you all.
*All the inspired, wild and crazy dancers.
*Kathy Shura playing some harmonica with the band â€¦ looked like fun, Kathy.
*Monica and Jen arm-wrestling between sets (apparently they just never got around to it during Monica and Boothâ€™s recent wedding).
*Proud papa Len (not one to shy away from entertaining), taking Stephanie for an exuberant swing-dance spin (and dive, following a deep dip) during Lenaâ€™s extraordinary solo closing number, Hallelujah. Leonard Cohen had no idea heâ€™d written a hit dance number, Iâ€™m sure.
Footnote: I moved to Port McNeill in late August of 1979. With a little help from my friends, I put on the first of many dances that Halloweâ€™en. BBC (Birtwistle, Birtwistle & Curtis) supplied the live entertainment. In fact, Iâ€™m sure I remember Lenaâ€™s mom, Cathy, telling me that she and Len met at one of those dances.
My youngest son was born in P.M. in 1981, the year before Lena. He and his brother are both working musicians/performers. I sometimes wonder if that early exposure to music, dance, theatre, etc. is partially responsible for their choices (and Lenaâ€™s, Angelaâ€™s). In any event, itâ€™s a true joy to see people following their passions and excelling at it.
We moved from P.M. in 1985, so I never really got to know Lenaâ€”or Angela, who had yet to be born. Iâ€™m thrilled to know them a little now, through their music.
Upcoming at The Whaleâ€™s Rub
* Saturday, July 28th @ 8:30pm Â Rambling Dan Frechette, blues, bluegrass andÂ folk from Manitoba (recommended to Stephanie by David Essig)
*Friday, AugustÂ 3rd @ 8:30pm Â The Roper Show, rockinâ€™ out blues from Victoria (theyâ€™re making a big splash down island. Check them out on YouTube)
*Friday, August 10th @ 8:30pm Â Beyond the 10th (Island Time sans Ros), with special guest David Essig
*Sunday, August 19th @ 2:30pm Â Geo, globe-trotting flamenco/classical guitarist from Nanaimo (amazing guitarist/violinist, also on YouTube)
More to come