|Microsoft clip art|
Guitar pick-work plucks melodies in dark twilight in my home today from the computer. Coffee gurgles and preschooler stacks orange slices. Most of the household sleeps.
Last night, nine or ten guitars thrummed, picked, and throbbed live around us at an acoustic jam. A shiny red accordion swelled and folded along, adding a French flavor to the songs. Harmonicas were pulled out of pockets or deluxe tin cases and whaled on.
My husband’s friend invited him to bring his djembe drum and join this weekly gathering in the city. We arrived around 6:15 to seven or eight men already jamming along to folk and rock tunes. We chose a table close to the action, ordered some sweet potato fries with garlic mayo, and tapped in time to the music. My husband’s friend arrived as we were sitting down, carrying a snare drum and guitar. After talking some and munching on the addicting fries, they joined the music. My man pulled out his djembe drum and tilted it slightly for the best acoustics. After listening for a few lines, he jumped in, his broad shoulders keeping time.
Throughout the evening, more men and women arrived, opening guitar cases and moving in close to each other and the circle of players. Maracas, tambourines, and percussion eggs were laid on tables to encourage use, and musicians comfortably swapped instruments for several songs. A cherry mandolin traded for a snare drum with metal brush roads.
Twelve strings, bass, acoustic, electric, banjos, and ukuleles alternated in front as lead. Graciously allowing all to have turns on stage to lead, musicians would politely defer to each other. “Sunny, after you?” or “Bill, do you want to follow Kevin?” The lead would choose a song, bringing up their music, and then either clothes-pin the chord progression on a paper hung over the back of the music stand, or simply talk out the song outline. The group would quickly pick out the harmony or melody and join in.
“Do you play guitar?” I was asked. “Oh no, I’m useless at guitar,” I laughed. Keeping time with bouncing legs, or a nodding head, I danced and sang along when I could.
Words were my music, and I found them stirring and crafting in me as I watched. How could I describe the evening and the camaraderie I was seeing? Silver pony-tailed gentleman in green flannel smiled broadly and rocked out, pulling us in. His slight hippy feel was nostalgic of my parents and reminded me of the numerous house concerts we hosted while growing up. Guitar player in white khaki in the front right who pulled out the harmonica – you added a nice harp feel! Three brave women joined the mostly male group, strumming and singing along. One of them, blonde ponytail and gutsy voice, led several songs up front, all original material. Everyone sang along for the catchy chorus. “I have most of that song memorized already and I’ve only heard it twice,” one percussionist said appreciatively. “Thanks! I was channeling my inner punk,” she laughed.
For about three hours we bobbed and drummed. Tiny narrow-hipped waitress with bouncy curly hair wove expertly through the swaying guitar players. Knit skull-capped biker grandpa a few rows down in blue denim pants and shirt with grey Santa beard impressed me with his I-touch screen phone prowess – the blue screen lighting up his face as he swiped and navigated.
At nine, our friend left, and we took our leave too. Stowing the djembe in the trunk, we drove home on dark highways through bright city lights to dimmer suburban streets, melodies still ringing in our ears. Tapping my feet, I hummed “Brown Eyed Girl.”
What have you been listening to lately? How do you like to create art or express yourself?