You’re not going to meet a better dude than Sean Aylward. It is not going to happen. You will not meet a better dude. Trust me.
This is a simple story about a guy owning a simple moment. On a night when Sean Aylward really had no business stealing the show, on a night when most people in the audience came to see a lot of other people, people with bigger bands and bigger names, people who could rightfully have asked “…and who was that guy who sang the third verse of ‘The Weight?” Sean Aylward stole the show. Just another in a long line of extraordinary moments in a pretty ordinary dude’s life.
Here’s the scene: Thanksgiving 2012. An A-list group of indie rock musicians gather at the legendary Warfield Theater in San Francisco to recreate The Band’s seminal rock n’ roll farewell: The Last Waltz. The idea was to have these present day musicians re-interpret that incredible Thanksgiving night almost four decades ago when an insane amount of rock royalty got together to give one glorious send-off to one of the great bands of all-time. “The Complete Last Waltz,” as it was dubbed, features musicians from heavy-hitters like Further and Wilco as well as indie stars like Dr. Dog and Fruit Bats. And my friend Sean.
Sean fronts a band from Los Angeles called Hello Echo. As a 100% biased observer I think they’re great. But to the music-loving public, they’re by-and-large “undiscovered.” Their claim to fame, if they have one, is making sweet music videos (directed by Sean) in which he alternately does things like jumps off Santa Monica Pier in a yellow suit, walks around downtown L.A. in a spaceman outfit and sprays people with an inordinate amount of silly string.
You might remember a phenomenal Boston band called Apollo Sunshine (if you don’t, trust me and my forever-damaged eardrums that they wreaked havoc upon e’er stage they visited). Sean spent time as their rhythm guitarist not because he’s a face-melting guitarist but more because he’s good at making (and keeping friends). He palled around with Apollo’s frontman back in high school and when he wanted to learn electric guitar years later, the lead singer basically told him he could learn by playing in the band. He toured the country, hung out with Smokey Robinson, lived in a big farm house with the rest of the band out in Western Massachusetts and made music day and night. Not a bad gig.
Another old friend, Apollo Sunshine guitarist Sam Cohen is the musical director for the Complete Last Waltz and last year, when they debuted the show in San Francisco, Sean came up from L.A. to check it out.
Someone suggested Sean sing the cherished third verse of The Band classic “The Weight,” which is where a lot of people would say “But isn’t there a [more famous/more attractive/more sonorous/more suitable] singer for this vaunted role?” And the answer, as always, whatever it is we’re doing, is yes. There is. But they are not you and they are not here now.
So Sean agreed to do it and when it was his time he grabbed the mic and brought the house down. Check it out for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Th9Pqij4e-0.
How does one go about manifesting their dreams? Surely it’s not as easy as making lasting friendships, saying yes to things and believing that you belong wherever it is you end up on any given night. No, it’s not always that easy. But sometimes it is.