Friday, October 19, 2007

A reflection on a great night out

There are nights out, and there are nights out.

Last night was memorable. My sister Patty took the kids to Illiano's for pasta, and knowing they were in safe hands, Lucy and I fled to Northampton.

It was warm, and muggy. It seemed like the trees had turned overnight, and the streets were filled with punks and students and life.

At the Iron Horse, Mike Doucet greeted us warmly, and we chatted for twenty minutes about things two old dudes in their fifties do - kids, physical ailments, friends.

And then we danced. I've forgotten how much fun it is to dance to Beausoleil. They are skilled hands at finding the rhythm and soul in an ancient music. I've been knowing Doucet for a long time, and his playing and singing just get better and better. Coincidentally when I got to work this morning I looked at a picture of my sons Brendan and Colin together, taken 20 years ago at a Beausoleil concert on Foss Hill at Wesleyan. It made me think of the connectedness of life (Beausoleil, Louisiana, Middletown, family). And it made me miss talking to Brendan.

Billy Bragg was as good as the first time I saw him in an Iron Horse production at some saloon I think in Sunderland in 1985. That night, I had just gotten my membership at WWUH, and I interviewed Billy backstage. He is as funny, smart and talented then, as he is now. While he never had a lack of confidence, or any hint of stage fright, he has warmed with age, readily poking fun at his years (singing, "all my friends got fat" in Waiting for the Great Leap Forward) and his own weight ("These heavy matters don't worry me, because I'm a heavier dude than I used to be" from the new and great Johnny Clash - An Old Clash Fan Fight Song). Of course there were the few lengthy philosophical excursions, but his bit on whether music can change the world, I still disagree. Billy contends that it wasn't the Clash who politicized him, but being with the audience at an anti-racism Clash show. I'd argue that without the music, that audience would never have been there. And as ridiculous as it may seem, I would say that my thoughts have been shaped by musicians as diverse as Barry McGuire, Bob Dylan, Ian Anderson, Randy Newman, Elvis Costello, the Clash, and yes, Billy, you. In the old days, I often came away from a Bragg show thinking, "Damn, this guy knows more about my country's history and politics than I do." I'd like to think that I don't have that regret today.

I also met several WWUH listeners at the show, and each one thanked me for introducing them to Billy Bragg, and for speaking out and playing the music I do each Wednesday morning. It's nice to know someone is listening.

A final thought. Last night reminded me of what musical performance ought to be. Yeah, I had fun at the Bruce Springsteen show, but dancing three feet from the band, or hearing a concert in a beautiful old theater, are everything a concrete and steel coliseum or sports stadium are not. And all without the hassle of scalpers! Listen you Hannah Montana fans, forget about the ticket brokers, giant venues, Disney-packaged music and you're dorky friends and find a punk club where you can really discover who you are.

So, there are night out, and there are nights, out. And last night was one to remember.

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