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Sam Baker at Imagine Event Center in Black Rock

I was following up on a conversation in preparation for an upcoming event, when the publicist I was talking to invited me to another event with one of her artists who was passing through Buffalo. At the time, I was unfamiliar with the venue, which intrigued me immediately, to be quite honest. As I hit the road Saturday morning, I said to myself, “Let’s do this!”

I show up to Imagine Event Center, tucked away in Buffalo’s Black Rock neighborhood, and I was readily impressed even upon pulling in. The venue is compounded by tremendous musical synergy in the neighborhood, with Sportsmens Tavern, and Hot Momma’s Canteen within walking distance.

The bar – photo courtesy Imagine Event Center

The owner, Chuck Anderson popped his head out as I was entering. He couldn’t have been more welcoming. He introduced me to his staff, engineer, bartender, etc. He then offered a tour of the facility, which includes a recording studio. The studio has been around for some time, but the performance hall is still less than a year old. It was in the studio where I would meet the artist for the evening, Sam Baker.

Me and Sam

Sam and I immediately struck up a conversation, as I was curious about not only his music, but of his back story.

It turns out that he did not become a professional touring musician until later in life. “I was like 49, was building apartments in Texas when I did it,” Sam says.

Incredibly, he was riding a train in Cuzco, Peru 1986 sitting with a German family, when a bomb went off. Killed the family instantly. “I got caught up in someone else’s war,” he recalled.

He survived, but not without a torn artery, blown eardrums, damaged left hand, head trauma. His recovery included many surgeries, and therapy. What has kept him here, as he put it was, “a long string of miracles and coincidences.”

He lost hearing, his left hand was so badly damaged, he had to learn how to play guitar left-handed. Due to the brain injury, Sam would have trouble with vocabulary, and would write for a long time, struggling with words, to tell of his experience. But there was something more.

“I think I was trying to write down what that’s like, and I had these melodies that kept coming back,” said Sam. He started to connect with what would define who he is today. “I had a song called, I was on my way to Machu Picchu when the passenger car exploded. Once I had that line, I figured that’s the way to go, to describe what it is. To me it seemed more effective than writing 20,000 words.”

Anxiety and post traumatic stress followed him for a long time after that fateful day. “I could hardly function. I go someplace, and would go from one blast shield to another in fear that everything was going to explode. I was so post traumatic.”

Eventually he found his way to PTSD therapy. Sam remarked, “The people that know post traumatic, it is a miraculous thing. I am their biggest cheerleader.”

Therapy helped him thrive again, and he hopes that others can find their way through it as well. “For people have some issues, which they can’t get a grip on, and it is causing them great anxiety in their life, the possibilities are there.” He continued, “Whether it works for them or not, if someone has this issue, I might just say, let me tell you what worked for me with that traumatic incident, and if it radiates out, it radiates out. And luckily for me and for you, if we radiate, we have access to a platform which helps us radiate a little bit further. It is both a gift and a responsibility. ”

Sam’s 2 set performance was a wonderful journey of melodies and storytelling through his original folk music, and a few deep cuts from some great artists from the past. It wasn’t hard to hear the healing in his words and melodies.

Find out more on Sam Baker here:

Look for more events at Imagine Event Center

A look at the venue – photo courtesy Imagine Event Center

Written by Elias Benavides

Elias Benavides

A goofy kid from Buffalo's lower west side who loved to play the guitar and loved live music. Has moved on to sound engineering, stage lighting, anything live music. Now he's writing about musicians on BR too. Why am I talking in the third person?

View All Articles by Elias Benavides
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