Die-hards wait out weather
It rained hard -- but they partied harder.
While some attendees of Tanglewood left in a huff as the rain started to pour down, an army of spectators remained, toughing it out with gusto.
And despite the weather, Tanglewood on Friday night became a strange sea of rain slickers and beach chairs, of golf umbrellas and drink coolers.
For these are the true believers. These are the Taylor-gaters.
"We've got to enjoy it, make the best of it," said Michele Burro, of North Adams. "I love him -- I've been a fan of his since I was a teen."
"Him" being James Taylor, the pop music sensation of the Berkshires, as he made his eagerly awaited appearance with guests Yo-Yo Ma and Sheryl Crow. Friday's sold-out show was part of a five-day festival at Tanglewood featuring James Taylor and friends. Tonight's show also will feature Ma and Crow.
With his biographical songs and smooth voice, it's clear that to many in Berkshires, he's near and dear to their hearts.
Even Burro had a smile on her face, despite her friends being less than thrilled about the rainy weather. "He really cares about his fans," Burro said. "He's had an interesting life, and I'm glad he's part of this community."
Still, the damp weather forced some tailgaters to think creatively about their shelter. Mike Jenkins and his wife, Maureen Perry-Jenkins, along with about another half dozen spectators, propped up a huge gray tarp on their umbrellas, making themselves a sort of cellophane commune.
"We've come every year for 10 years, and we've picked up tricks every year," said Perry-Jenkins, offering some of their cheesecake and chocolate mousse. "We're pretending it's Woodstock."
Then suddenly, an umbrella fell, sending the entire operation into disarray. "You can't shift, or you'll wreck the whole thing," she laughed.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the commune, Sharyn Brooks-Katzman of Lawrence, Kan., recalled the first time she saw James Taylor in 1976, when he performed with Emmylou Harris.
"It was intergenerational. ... There were the screaming teens, and then there was my mom," she recalled. "It was a sunny day, there was all wandering around, it was just the fun of being here. It was an expression of youth."
But did the rain discourage this member of the faithful? Hardly. "I was in love with him even then," Brooks-Katzman joked.
‘She knows a weather shift'
Of course, this wasn't an event just for diehard fans -- this was also a chance to convert some new members to the fold. Case in point: 9-month-old Hannah Phillips, who was surprisingly calm despite the rain and the cold.
How did her parents do it? "I'm kind of working on it right now," said her father, Michael Phillips, whipping out a baby bottle from underneath his poncho. "She's Berkshire-born," Phillips said. "She knows a weather shift."
Some, however, were a bit less prepared. While George and Barbara Christoph and their family -- including both of their children and their spouses -- had their share of shrimp, bean dip, and "the best margaritas ever made," all six of them were huddled under one lone umbrella.
They didn't mind -- they were just happy to see James Taylor, for what they said was at least the 10th time. "We're expecting our first grandchild, and we can't wait to take him here, too," said George Christoph. "There's nothing here like this. ... This transcends generations."
Whatever happened to these Taylor-gaters? Perhaps not surprisingly, their faith was rewarded, as James Taylor took the stage. And as he began to sing -- almost if by sheer willpower -- all that rain suddenly disappeared.
But even without the change of pace, it's pretty clear that sea of listeners would have still remained. "I'm a faithful fan," Burro said. "I'd sit in the rain for him."
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