Whew. You know when you walk somewhere you haven’t been in a few days and you end up going straight through a spider web and it ends up in your face and hair? That’s what this feels like right now. My arms flail for a split-second and I’m trying to feel around to get rid of the web that’s in my mouth and hair. Hello blog! Cobwebby and dusty in here. Plah.
The last time I posted here was a day or two after the Bruins cup parade. That was, oh, a year and five months ago. What could have possibly gotten me to come here and wax on? Well, I attended my very first house concert tonight. I thought it was meaningful enough on a few levels to have to get everything down on (e)paper while I still smelled like incense. Right?
Now, what could have possibly gotten me out of my home and to a house concert, you ask? Well, a couple of things:
1) It was Michael Tarbox playing. If you’re musical nerdy enough, you know him as the lead guitar/singer for the Tarbox Ramblers, an outfit who owned a lot of my Friday nights from, oh, 1996-1999 at The Burren in Somerville during those few golden years when I was working at Rounder Records, broke and not knowing any different. They pretty much owned the place once a week, playing to an absolutely packed house of people who just loved them, myself among them.
I am doing my best to keep things short here, but the Ramblers came along at a time in my life that was rather serendipitous. I had just come off of a 7 week drive around the country with a college friend. Neither of us had been particularly enamored of our corporate post-college jobs, so we both quit, got in the car and literally had no plan. We just drove. And drove. That’s a topic for another post. Maybe in another year-and-a-half. Upon my return, I had to take stock in what I wanted to do and I ended up in the warehouse at Rounder Records, which started a slippery slope in the record business that ended up with myself running my own little record label. Again, story for another time. Or just search the blog here, I’m sure you’ll find some stuff.
Anyhow, during that road trip myself and my friend were exploring the country and popping in all kinds of music, including an awesome collection of old 1930’s and 1940’s traditional blues standards, one of which was a song called “Stu-Ball” that we had taken a particular liking to, so much so that we kept playing it and shouting the lyrics out loud. To be 23 and that free again, right? I do actually have us doing this on video.
Fast-forward to my first Tarbox Ramblers show. The Burren, Somerville. Probably sometime in ’96. They play their first song and I’m just lost in their genius. I mean these guys are for REAL! After the first song, I tell my friend John Cain that these guys would absolutely CRUSH “Stu-Ball” and I proceed to tell him about this lost blues standard we repeatedly played in the car just months earlier. If only they knew it, I remember thinking……if only. Next song by them, I shit you not – Stu-Ball. Right then and there I knew I had found something special. And for years they remained that way to me and I got to know their singer/guitar player relatively well, who is just such a good soul and a great talent. At some point, the label I was working for signed them, too, so that whole era can arguably be defined by their sound. Their songs just take me right back to the Burren. Every time. Glorious, fun, liberating, drunken nights. So, let’s call it 17 years later – a house concert with Michael Tarbox? I’m there!
2) Said house concert is in the town I grew up in. Weirdness. I’ve probably been back to Lancaster, MA three times in the last ten years. My family is moved out. Gone. As many of you may know, there’s not much there. I’m a half-hour east now, closer to Boston and too busy to ever need to be in Lancaster for any reason. So why not go!? I’ve never been to a house concert. What the hell? You go to someone’s house? And they allow you inside? And a band plays? Well, yes. That’s pretty much how it works. In this case, it’s actually Michael’s sister’s house and it’s a place I drove by every weekday on the bus on my way to school for many years. Big old beautiful (and I mean beautiful) Victorian on Main Street in Lancaster.
It’s a pot luck. I ate dinner with my family, but I get there and the scene is rather festive. I know NOBODY. A lifelong friend from school days will join me later, but I’ve got a half-hour on my own. Of course, I see Michael, we have a hug and proceed to catch up. Such a good guy. He shuffles off and I end up talking to the opener, whose name I unfortunately forget but I will probably always remember the conversation we had. He’s probably 50. Clearly a music fan like me and we have some small talk and I ask him how long he’s been playing music. A year and a half! Shit! Are you kidding? He was like me – a devoted fan of music and one day he just wanted to try playing it, so he picked up the guitar and just started. Now he plays out, writes songs and is……just doing something he always wanted to do. Special.
Such an interesting path we all take. I don’t have even close to the balls it takes to perform music in front of people. That is horrifying to me. I would piss myself. Yet I’m the first guy shouting songs in the car and going all air-guitar at home when nobody is watching. I’m perfectly happy doing what I do on a daily basis. In fact, professionally it’s pretty awesome. But I love hearing stories and talking to people who just take that left-turn. Inspiring.
My friend shows up. We both quietly laugh at the situation because both of us grew up here, he delivered newspapers here as a boy – and it’s all just kind of surreal. I’ve got worlds colliding, neither of us know really anyone, there’s all kinds of amazing food and this house is just unreal.
…..and then Tarbox starts. And in some ways, nothing has changed. He’s still got it, I never doubted that. The people, older, are absolutely all over the place dancing and having a ball. It’s sweet, really. I just stand there with my friend and take it all in. As I look around the room, I’m trying to figure out if I know that person? He looks familiar! She looks like someone, I swear it! Could it be her? No!
I listen to the great songs and occasionally think back to a completely different era in my life. It’s almost just like The Burren (or middle school?) except we’re all older and I’m geographically in the place where I was from age 4-17. What the what?
Either way, it was so pleasant to see the age variance – people from age 4 to 65 – dancing, forgetting about life and enjoying themselves. So I like house concerts. Maybe I’ll go to more. My first one was pretty special. Here’s a little footage:
See you in 17 months? I really hope it’s sooner than that.