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Just a guy and a guitar - Greg Gelpi

Walking on to stage and hitting that first chord on his guitar, the packed house immediately silenced.

As the rats to the Pied Piper, the audience hung on every note of his playing and nuance of his singing.

Enraptured by the power of one man's voice and one man's music, each strum of the strings struck a note in my mind of the immense power of one person.

Watching with my girlfriend Nancy, the person I hold to be the most incredible musician and performer, little-known Martin Sexton, worked the crowd.

My mind couldn't help but to spiral back to the first time I saw him perform, only feet from me in Deep Ellum in the heart of Dallas' nightlife scene.

The barroom crowd, rowdy and nearing intoxication, immediately subdued past a whisper as he hit the first chord on his acoustic guitar. Even in this dive of a bar, the respect was immediate. It took only his mere presence and one chord for him to command the audience's attention.

That night progressed and all too soon culminated in an other-worldly encore of Ice Cream Man by John Brim, a song made popular by Van Halen.

Running back on stage and grabbing his guitar, he sputtered the words "If that's the way you want itï ¿ ½" before launching into his rendition.

Having sung to the point of nearly damaging his vocal cords in his no-holds barred style, he attacked his final song, sliding his guitar up and down the monitors for feedback and proceeding to rip each of the six steel strings off the guitar before finally tossing it aside and running back off stage.

Silence gripped the crowd as no one knew how to react before applause suddenly erupted.

The same energy and soul poured from Martin last week in Atlanta's Variety Playhouse.

"But every dollar has a little change inside to amplify the solitary notions of a grand," a good friend, Daniel Lee, sings in one of his songs.

I tend to misinterpret song lyrics, but, as I see it, the line gives voice to the idea I'm trying to convey, the idea that one person, in the case of last week, one musician, can make a world of change.

As Martin rattled off a series of scats, the crowd replied in unison in similar fashion.

As he said his lines, the crowd knew their parts, their responses.

Witnessing the performers way with the audience, I couldn't stop thinking about the impact of one guy.

From the first note, the concert soon evolved from a passive observance of music and art to an active participation by the audience.

The music became more than a sound, but a living breathing entity. The music became a physical substance that blanketed his fans, a substance that physically pressed against bodies and minds and demanded a physical response in return.

Greg Gelpi covers education for the News Daily. He can be reached at ggelpi@news-daily.com or (770) 478-5753 Ext. 247.