We went out, but not very far. I’d booked a babysitter (yay, we have a babysitter again!) but there was nothing on at the movies and we didn’t really feel the urge for Indian food or Thai food or anything far flung. So we went to our local bar, where there is live music with no cover, and they have Lebanese food and good beer.
The demographic is … well, it’s a bit on the older side. It’s sort of middle aged, let’s say. I don’t know where the young people of my town go to socialise, but it’s clearly a bit further away. Like, downtown DC or something. I really have no idea, never having been a young person who went socialising in this neck of the woods. But let’s just say that B and I were the youngest people in the room, probably all night or close to it.
The bands that play there are eclectic; you never really know what you’re going to get, from smooth jazz to down-home bluegrass to Bolivian pan pipes. (Okay, not so much the punk or the heavy metal.) But tonight even the band seemed a little on the mature side. It was an all-female ensemble, and the two of us spent some enjoyable minutes pinning down their imaginary day jobs as they started up – the drummer was a librarian, the bassist was your friend’s mum, the trumpeter was an elementary school teacher, and the lead singer works in the credit union. Probably. Something like that.
It was extraordinary, actually, watching these women who probably have very mundane other lives, up on the little stage belting out some wonderful standards, great close harmonies, amazing jazz numbers, sexy trumpet solos, scatting and crooning like nothing else. (Some people’s thing is drums; some people might think a girl with a guitar is a fine sight; but for me, it’s always the brass player that makes me smile.)
The crowd wore hawaiian shirts and unironic moustaches, sandals that were almost but maybe not quite orthopedic; they looked like science teachers from 1984, like my aunty, like Tom Petty. They were a motley crew. But I realised that if you transplanted the whole lot of them into an Irish pub – not a trendy one, but the naff one whose doorway you’d never darken because you’d meet your friend’s mum there and the lady from the newsagent’s – that was exactly who these people were. They’d look perfectly at home on the plush pink seats and low stools of a plain old Irish pub, sitting in front of its polished dark wood tables with their pints of Guinness and glasses of port or whatnot. (Except Tom Petty. He’s vintage Woodstock, through and through.)
And then I looked at the band and my view shifted again and I realised it was exactly as if we’d crashed a wedding. These were, in fact, your aunty and the lady from the newsagent’s and my mum’s friend, and they were up in front of the stage giving it socks just like the young people they used to be not so very many moons ago, and they had every right to be there.
The highlight was when one single customer, of fairly advanced age and indeterminate gender, clad in a sort of Andean hoodie, shimmied up to the top of the room, danced all alone to the song of the moment, spun around to point fingers at the crowd, smiled gap-toothedly at us all, and shimmied back out again. We should all be so lucky as to be in fine dancing fettle at that stage of our lives.
We didn’t dance, in the end, because B had been up since 5am and the music suddenly got less like music we wanted to dance to, and because we were shy, and our pints had run dry, and we were in the company of all our elders. Maybe we didn’t want to show them up; or maybe we didn’t think we were up to their standards, because to tell the truth they were all pretty good. But we’ll be back – not too soon, but some time – and maybe we’ll dance the next time.
There are so many lessons to take away. Dance now, because who knows what the music will be like next time round. Stop caring about how you look, just dance anyway. Be the guy who’s up on the dance floor regardless. Order the chicken. Hang out with old people because they make you feel young. Support live music because there’s nothing like it.
Never forget that no matter how pedestrian someone might seem, they could be an amazing sexy-cool jazz trumpet player by night.
Learn the trumpet, so you can be that person.