East Yesterday

East Yesterday. It must have been about five years ago, just after the birth of my son. He was fast asleep and I was deep into one of my of my favorite past times. Watching youtube videos of my favorite musician’s live performances. I was about half way through this one particular set when this guitar player started telling a story. His tale was about a movie director who was in the crowd one night and came up to him after the show. He asked the guitar player if he could use one of his songs in his new project, or something like that. The director said that he drew such enormous inspiration and energy from music that that story lines were sometimes direct manifestations of the songs themselves. The director told the guitar player that he would be honored if he could use his masterpiece to help him create his own. And the guitar player obliged. I remember at the time being very moved by this seemingly irrelevant story. I related to it. The soundtrack of my own life has always molded my ideas and shaped my moods. It was the first time I consciously acknowledged the profound effect music and art really possessed. And surely enough this revelation melted into the next song and left my mind on autopilot until yesterday. You see, my dad has been playing gigs here for decades. I spent many a summer day as a kid at Neptunes Beach Club and Gurney’s Inn standing on the side of a stage feeling important for no particular reason. Back when live music moved the people on the floor. I have vague memories of the Memory Motel and of C.P.I. and Claudio’s. I return to these places as an adult and can’t decipher deja vu from the absence of cognitive development. What stays with me is the characters and the songs. Standing next to a speaker taller than me, sound waves oscillating through my core. I fell in love with the movement in body and mind that’s created when the music starts. Since I was a kid things have changed. Guitars don’t rock most clubs anymore. Most drums are made on machines. Digital dominates analogue, the whole bit. Music heads will argue until the end of time about what’s good and what’s bad. I try not to think in those terms, I just love good sounds and it is what it is. For me life has changed just as drastically. Married young, divorced young. My son is starting school in the fall. Priorities over passions most of the time and life doesn’t stop for your opinion. Things were tasting a little bland lately so since my dad and my best friend have birthdays days apart I thought it would be good to all go out to hear some music. So there we were, three outstanding gentlemen on the way to the show in my dad’s Chrysler Town & Country. Or as my dad put it, three lunatics disguised in a soccer mom van. But the sun was to our backs and heading east on Monday was an enjoyable ride. A change of pace for those who tend to work more easterly than they reside. The land was smothered in gold. No clouds in the sky and the deer were feeding on the farmland. I noticed the corn had grown tall and the swans were swimming in their sun glistened pond. We listened to chuck Berry and The Animals. When we got to the Talkhouse it was pretty empty, we could tell by the lack of outside activity. We checked out the upcoming shows on the board and decided we were all coming back in a few weeks to see the Wailers. Since I bought the tickets online I gave the doorman my name, he stamped our wrists and we were ushered to our picnic table seats perpendicular to the stage but nevertheless front and center. We shifted our seats ninety degrees to the right and immediately began obsessively babbling to each other about the gear on stage. On top of the two fifteen inch speakers was the immortal golden Fender Stratocaster. On the bass players side was a matching speaker set. The Ludwig drums sat in the middle. We peaked around the left side of the stage and saw the separate reverb unit. We saw the Showman amplifier. We saw it all. This is the type of place where you walk in and love it. You don’t say, “Oh, this is nice.” We went on a loser lap after already realizing this might be the most amazing thing to ever happen. My dad stayed in his seat and struck up a conversation with a couple at our picnic table that looked about his age. As usual we admired the wall photography as If it was the works of Leonardo. I knew the bartender and I talked to her for a bit. I said hi to the owner, we hung outside for a minute then we got some drinks and went back to our folding chairs. Some roadie came on stage took the Stratocaster away. I was completely jealous of him. For five minutes we sat in our own minds. I was too busy to look behind me but I could feel the place fill up. Pockets of energy began slightly bubbling and voices began to run into themselves. I turned to my dad to say something about how amazing this show had already been, when a thunderous explosion of a chord rang out through the speakers with unmistakable force and hit us like a tsunami. There was a brief moment of silence and the guy to our right said to his girlfriend, “that must be the sound check.” My friend and I shot him the look of two scorned siamese cats and harmoniously responded “ no it wasn’t.” As we turned our heads back a man in his mid seventies walked onto the stage with his two bandmates in tow. His hair was white and pulled back in a ponytail. He walked with ease and and his eyes smoothly panned the room. He held the same guitar in his hands that he has held for the last fifty years. And he held it the same way he has done since he was a little boy. Left handed and upside down. He was five feet away from us and he looked right at me. So began the involuntary dopey grin that remained on my face for the following twelve hours. He then looked at the one adolescent in the front and with grandfatherly warmth he said into the microphone, “Do you have your earplugs kid? Good, because I will show no mercy tonight.” And with that said he blasted the audience with sounds that have no words worthy of description. All at a decibel level that made you understand why Leo Fender had to give him so many new amps and speakers after they exploded and caught fire. This was the sound of mother nature’s fury, it was primal. During the set I went through all the emotions that had ever crossed my mind. I figured out how to fix my life, I knew the answers to questions that had plagued me for years. All my unfinished projects were being finished tomorrow, I just figured it all out, then and there. I’m sure everyone was enjoying this show but I was convinced this show was uniquely for me to hear so it could transform my very being. Towards the end of the set just as sensory overload was just about to turn me into a gushing fool he finished a song and took a sip of water. He walked back to the microphone knowing what he was about to unleash but he didn’t tell a story this time . He simply said “you might know this one.” My thoughts instantly shot back through time as he started playing Misirlou. Back to when I heard the the story of how a guitar player helped inspire a director to create his own masterpiece and in turn gave millions of people from another generation the opportunity to hear a legend from another era. For the first time since the music began I looked over at my friend and realized that he had the same insane dopey grin on his face and by the looks of him we must have been riding the same wave. The director must of been riding this wave too, I thought. All of a sudden I didn’t feel so eternally unique but I felt connected in a different way. And I once again acknowledged the tremendous power of art.