April 2018

Friday, May 12, 2017

Play on

Wednesday night, my partner Ann and I went to Seattle’s Moore Theater to see and hear the Americana, blue-grassish Old Crow Medicine Show.

This was the first time we’d been to the Moore since the Poetry on Buses 2016 celebration. At that celebration, I loved the diversity of skin colors and languages, but Wednesday night’s auditorium was packed with 1600 mostly white people. However, the crowd was impressively age-diverse. I sat with my cane, snow-capped Ann beside me, in the folding chairs that required neither climbing up stairs nor over others. In the row a few feet in front of us, young ones stretched their legs to step over the backs of chairs so that they didn’t have to ask others to get up (an inconvenience both for those who struggle with balance and those who were texting or taking selfies.)

This concert celebrated fifty years since Bob Dylan released Blonde on Blonde, and Old Crow played songs from the album. They opened the show with “Rainy Day Women #12 & #25” (better known as “Everybody must get stoned.” The seven musicians play an awesome variety of strings, keys, and drums, and sing melodiously, so that their sound pops. I find them more musical than Dylan, but their ebullience overwhelmed Dylan’s simplicity, so I like Dylan’s version of this song better.

Ketch Secor, the band’s lead vocalist, remembered the band’s first trip to Seattle, when the band played on the curb. Like most performers here, he waxed poetic about how beautiful the city is, with its waters and mountains and farmer’s market, but he was also quite funny when he quipped in the same sentences about the city’s less charming but very real aspects: the smell of pee in its alleys as an indication of our ridiculously large homeless population. He claims he saw a man peeing out of a bus window, but I doubt it. Still, the image works for the city, especially if the peeing-man bus also spit out a Rolex-wearing man. 

The whole night was fun. Ann and I (and everyone else there, it seemed) drank our India Pale Ale from adult sippy cups, which the Moore sold so that we could take our drinks into the concert (and they could make an extra three bucks per imbiber). Band members moved around the stage playing different instruments all night, some members playing three or four throughout the night. One guy even soft-shoed.

They closed their encore with “Wagon Wheel, ” a song where Dylan wrote the chorus and 25 years later Secor wrote the verses. It’s a fabulous song (first recorded by Old Crow  and in 2013 by Darius Rucker or you can even hear them together.)
Being from Raleigh, I always imagine a Raleigh crowd when Old Crow sings, “If I die in Raleigh, at least I will die free.” (Probably a roar like at my first concert at UNC when James Taylor sang, “Gone to Carolina in myMind.”)

However, the song reminds me not of famous singers, but of my friend Pam’s 50th birthday musical jam yurt. (“How crunchy,” I can hear my niece Isabella say.) Even though we can’t sing our way out of a bag (maybe a NC way of talkin’), Ann and I were invited to this jam session as people who love Pam and love to be an audience to good music.

I love Pam and Allyson when they sing together, and I also love their friend Jeremy’s energy in this song. Jeremy is an English professor, but not too typical, I’m guessing. He plays the banjo and throws his head forward and back as he sings out, stomping his foot—stomping his whole body, really.

I could write more (of course, "If music be the food of love, play on" comes to mind from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night), but I think I’ll leave you now so we can both listen to some good music. In this way, we’ll be together even when we’re not. 

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