About 20 years ago we had a home that also served as home to a sweet variety of musicians and artists who needed a home when none (other than ours*) was available. Me and Mine had the downstairs and Wayne was upstairs, for the telling of this story.
Wayne played in a band called Technicolor Headrush. While I loved Wayne and Kirk and the other boys in that band (like little brothers,) it wasn’t so much my cup of tea. I still went to the shows and supported local music and all, but it was way more love than actual enjoyment.
It was a Wednesday night and it wasn’t full-frontal Winter anymore. I remember both of these things only because I still notice that so many bands I love all practice on Wednesday nights (that’s why I call it “Band Practice Night” instead of hump day) and I was barefoot. (For record keeping purposes -I wore two pairs of socks from post-Winfield until the daffodils bloomed. aka: leg shaving offseason.)
Our practice shut down by ten because we were old people, all being over 30 and all, and we were settling into the Recap Safety Meeting when Wayne knocked on the front door and asked if he could show us something. I was kinda hoping this would happen because the music I’d heard fall down the stairs all night was a huge departure from the angsty stuff we’d grown used to. Standing behind him in our funkyass mudroom foyer was Kirk with a guitar that had been punched squarely in the face, Jeff (holding what looked like the gas tank from an old Ford truck with a stick in it,) and Eric with a mandolin.
(Unless it was a banjo, which it could have been, but I’d think I’d remember that since we already had Richard, and back then we only got about one banjo player per zip code.) They shuffled in past the living room to the dining room which was completely open because it wasn’t really a dining room so much as it was the band practice room and office space for the first ISP in Kansas.
I don’t remember what they played first. I remember I was Sofa.King.Exhausted from working a 15 hour day, practicing for 4 hours and raising kids for 19 hours that I couldn’t remember where I left my shoes. I know they started out with strong clear harmonies and a completely rearranged bluegrass sensibility, but this music had teeth like The Bad Livers got involved in the build while The Pogues added a rogue chromosome to the DNA. I pretty much immediately forgot that I was tired.
It was a late schoolnight and they played 3 songs before anybody drew a breath. Even the rebellious teens hanging out in my sons room smoking my flowers (stolen from the tray under the sofa like shifty baccalaureate ninjas,) came out to see who was making this music in our house. I had a slow motion Matrix-moment where I looked around and memorized the intersection of where I came from and where I was headed.
I memorized moments like this for a living by the time this night unfolded. The moments when my mother and her sisters busted out their 5 part harmonies at 2am after a pyramid of Schlitz beers and too many Kent cigarettes. We were short enough to listen from under the kitchen table and Aunt Carol always left half of every cigarette she lit.
I remembered singing at the top of my lungs with strangers during my 16th summer, in a war-torn alley in Londonderry when my mom and I had run away from home on my fathers payroll because we could and he pissed us both all the way off (and a country under siege was an attractive option, given the choices.) We locked arms with Italians and Germans and Austrians, that night, and sang till the sun rose.
I remembered how hot my cheeks burned when I didn’t understand the difference between “Winfield Virgin” and actual, bonafide Virgin, but I was rewarded with being taught the entire John Prine catalog by a bunch of editors from the Joplin Globe.
Fast forward a million miles, three lifetimes and all the breakfasts later – I got to see a show last weekend that rolled all those perfect moments into focus. I got to meet new Family (by choice not blood) and be reminded why we do this and how defined I am by the sharing. Music makes me stronger, taller and funnier in the morning. My personal chemistry is totally addicted to the seratonin and dopamine tsunamis that allow me to stay up all night and hatch plans to overtake the earth with love and music and kindness. (And, Underground Railroads. Viva la Revolucion!)
Larry & His Flask played The Tower last weekend and I got to take in a fresh new breath of how my musical moment memory works in 2016, after the Mumfords and Avetts and Oh Brother got their fingerpints allllll over this scene. My scene. The Family scene.
By the time this night ended, I had met all of the parents, most of the best friends and at least half the getaway drivers. I enjoyed one of the best, most dynamic shows I’ve seen in ages (my bar is set CRAZY-high) and I got to be reminded of how happy I am that there are no two-tops in this world. All our tables hold everybody. We need each other to help us build the soundtracks to play in our backgrounds. Me and my people: We’re all mix-tapes and kitchen sing-alongs and I just might be six feet tall.
Meet me at the table.
*My kids might still not love this truth. They had to share at an unprecedented level and I continue to hope that they know I know this, and am grateful for their beneficence.