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There’s something about Sunday night
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Saturday, March 04, 2006

Music at home

Last night Fran invited me to an event one of her classmates was putting on. She didn't know many details, so I didn't know what to expect. It was a musical review (revue?) that had been picked up by Broadway recently, a play written by a local singer-songwriter based on Lee Smith's Fair and Tender Ladies.

We walked into her classmate Joe's tall, Colonial home, into a big living room stripped bare of furniture, filled with people watching a man on bass and a woman on guitar, singing. They did a few songs, then other people picked up instruments and moved into what I think was the dining room, filled with amps and microphones. A tiny boy dressed in a flaming cowboy shirt, snakeskin boots, and a black ten-gallon that fell to his nose swaggered out, carrying a guitar that covered most of his body. He was 7, and a Hank Williams impersonator. It was really the most precious thing I've ever seen. His singing was, well, you know, he's seven. But I was blown away by how his teeny fingers hopped from chord to chord with ease--he didn't even have to look! (Sometimes I have to look.)

The crowd was mostly grandparents and middle-aged folks when we arrived, but as the night went on, a younger crowd started showing up, and it was clear by the time we left that an afterparty was brewing in the backyard. Joe's friends seemed like the type I would enjoy. He seemed to be about my age, very personable and good looking, goateed, with a poplin fedora, thick silver ring on his pinky, and trendy pointy black shoes like I'm always trying to interest Tim in.

Fran and I mostly stuck to watching the music, and talking to Joe whenever his rounds would place him in our vicinity. He introduced us to his friends once, and they seemed really cool, but we weren't feeling that social. It was fun for me just to get to hang out with her. The music was easy to sit back and listen to. I haven't been able to hang out and listen to live country or folk in a long time.

Towards the end of the evening, Joe played a few songs. One of them, "Valentine," stuck in my head like a burr in cotton. I knew it front to back, but couldn't remember from where. I asked, and he said, "Old 97s." Of course. I started talking about music, and as soon as the words "alt-country" left my mouth, I could feel the light go on inside me, and I knew if things were different, in my old life, that would have been the moment when the evening changed, and lengthened, the water in my hand would have become a beer, then another, and the crowd would thin, then disappear, and eventually, I'd tiptoe out the next morning in the bright sunlight with a phone number in the back pocket of my jeans.

Musicans get me every time.

In a much more wholesome way, the night reminded me of being a kid and going to the Music Emporium for concerts. It was a dusty music store that would open its storage space in the back on weekends for shows. It started out small, a potluck dinner, people sitting on boxes or bringing their own lawn chairs. The kids would run around in the front where the instruments were, and try to count all the frog trinkets and figurines (plus the lazy cat named Frog who slept in plush guitar cases) that the owners collected. I once spent a concert sketching the guitar player bent over playing. I remember the folds of his workshirt and the smooth, reckless curve of the instrument were my favorite parts to draw. My parents pushed me up afterwards to present him with the picture. I was probably eight or ten.

The evening made me think of how I want my home to be someday, filled with laughing people with a beer in one hand and an instrument in the other. I want to host evenings like this, in our spacious home somewhere--preferrably in the middle of the country with a wide porch and a living room big enough for dancing. I want to draw creative people to me with temptations of my cooking, and Tim's love of playing music.

It was a really wonderful evening.

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