I’m writing this in the Nashville airport after the best weekend I’ve had in a lot of stressful months. One might think, considering where I am, that my days and nights had been filled with wonderful live music. The live part is fairly accurate, but wonderfully unique hits the mark closer than an unqualified wonderful.
The inn where I stayed with my group of Very Special Writer Friends had a music room with a grand piano, an acoustic guitar, a mandolin, a folk instrument I’ve forgotten the name of, a big harp and a little harp. That’s as technical as I can get at this point in my life. Deb brought an electric guitar that her husband built to sound like a 1966 Strat. I heard that phrase a lot. The guitar had a nice tone. Not that anyone present had the chops to do much with it. That wasn’t the point.
The point was to have fun, and Mary has been taking guitar lessons for a year. She deemed the rest of us a supportive audience for her public premier. I felt honored and proud of her as she played four or five Eagle’s songs. Even with a broken finger on her right hand, she acquitted herself well. It was fun. That was the point.
Jules played the piano and a bunch of the rest of us sang, and I use that word loosely, show tunes. I know very few show tunes. Not my genre. Again, not the point. Nor was it the point to discover the exact limits of my out-of-voice range though I now know I can’t reliably hit an E anymore, and a lot of the Ds were downright wobbly. No, the point was that we sang pretty badly, and it was still fun. No judgment. Just doing. Not unlike preschool in some respects, except that I’m a lot less worried about other people’s opinions now than I was when I was four.
As we sat upstairs in a cozy library filled with comfy sofas and armchairs, loads of snacks, coffee, and tea on hand, a mandolin lesson went on down in the music room. Now there we heard some wonderful music, wild, climbing melodies that seemed ready to leap into the treetops and dance on up to the sun. But they came in fits and starts, as lessons are wont to do. I loved them better for that.
There was canned music, too: Elvis snapping out “Jailhouse Rock” in the ladies room at the BrickTop steakhouse; the soothing bluegrass our hosts put on the house music system. Then some of us wanted to hit the honkytonks.
We ended up in Tootsies Orchid Lounge that just happened to have the worst band in America on show. After half an hour of desultory warming up, they launched into the crappiest country rock imaginable. And again, that it was crap didn’t matter as much as just going and seeing what we could find. Plus, I got a good reminder that I don’t go to small, crowded clubs that draw a lot of bachelorette parties for several reasons besides being old enough to receive AARP junk mail. Public vomit, crowd farts, anonymous groping, screeching feedback. All endurable once a decade or so, and possibly worth it had the music been good.
I used to think music had to be at least marginally good to be enjoyable. Ha. In my life, music hasn’t been about performance for a long, long time. It’s about participating. Listening. Playing. Singing. Sharing. When it all works – yay! When it falls a little short of ideal – well, that works, too.