Friday, June 19, 2009

You can't always carry the music with you

Saw The Helmsman last night for a hoist. Sam Adams Summer Ale. He'd just returned from a trip to Amarillo, a two-Starbucks town, one of which is inside an Albertson's. "There's absolutely nothing going on down there. A cultural and culinary wasteland. Unlike most of the rest of Texas, you can't even get good Mexican food. On top of it all the weather sucks."

"One good thing. It's only a four hour drive to Santa Fe."

"Yeah. But I can get there from here just as fast in a plane."

The Helmsman wanted to show me his U. S. Open Golf Championship iPhone app, but we couldn't get a clean connection in the bar. Plus the heavy and continuous rain had put a kibosh on the tourney anyway. We talked about the vicissitudes of virtual living and he showed me his mini battery pack. "Until battery technology gets a whole lot better, you gotta carry a couple of these around with you. Life is impossible when your juice runs out."

He was headed into town to see Doveman and members of The National at Poisson Rouge. They call it lamp rock. Arty dirges. It's funny how music speaks to us -- sometimes it's the beat, insistent and strong, that gets us moving, sometimes it's the honeyed whisper that moves us. Or maybe it's raw like sushi. You never know. I remember Uchida at Carnegie Hall working on the first movement of Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor. It was her piano riding the orchestra, the galloping figure, a supreme act of equitation, the rider and horse dancing as one. That image came later. At the time, resistless, I stopped thinking altogether and let that great chordal unrolling of sound, in waves, wash over me. You never know with music.

Or seeing James Blood Ulmer sitting down noodling and barking about his little red rooster, that thing men are always on about. And Vernon Reid standing by his side goosing his guitar and making sure that the whole thumping band didn't get too out of hand. The Wild Bunch. Once the rooster thing had been settled, then Blood started -- ugh -- popping those crazy chords of his and the audience hissed a little, maybe people thought he was slightly crazy too, but no, it was just the blues with a feelin'.
I love the life I live and I live the life I love. Okay, prove it. Which he did.

You never know. Now The Helmsman was saying goodnight and, "See you in a couple of weeks." I hope he found something in that music that he couldn't find anywhere else. And I hope his juice didn't run out, either.

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