Saturday, January 27, 2018

Music, the Universal Language

My usual schedule is such that I work from home the last two days of the week, so by Friday afternoon I often haven't talked to anyone in person for 48 hours and I'm ready to rejoin humanity just a bit.

So it's convenient that there's a coffee shop & hipster bar less than a mile away that is open until 11pm on Friday nights. They have excellent loose leaf tea served in a tea pot that allows for the removal of the tea when it has steeped (which is important if you want to avoid bitter tea), most of the baristas have beards, and they serve PBR, the hipsterest of all hipster beers. They also serve wine and I believe some more local brews, but since I don't drink I've never paid much attention to that side of the menu.

On Friday evenings they have live music. It has been a mixed bag.

Full confession: I am not a huge fan of live music. I know this is a horrible thing, but I'd rather hear the sounds recorded with decent acoustics minus the crowds and echoes and weather warping the instruments. I had one album that had amazing cello music that I finally gave up on because you could hear the cellist breathing and soon that was all I was concentrating on. But as background noise in a cafe... I can deal with it.

Here are the acts that I remember thus far:
  • a woman singing and playing guitar in December: I'll have to take a pass on this one because she was playing Christmas music, and I have a hatred for Christmas music that most people reserve for people who don't clean up after their dogs and BMW drivers.
  • a guy who interrupted his long litany of complaints about being on the road to sing songs about how horrible it is to be on the road. He also seemed to have a lot of trouble hitting the notes in the songs he wrote. I couldn't tell how much of the bad singing was because I had a head cold and maybe wasn't hearing the notes correctly, but I suspect he was just kind of bad.
  • a guy who could actually play and sing. He turned out to be the owner of the cafe. I have hopes that he will play there more often.
And then there was the duo last night.

The two guys started their set staring at sheets of paper on a music stand, and I looked around the room trying to figure out how the brick walls and steel beams could be producing the harmonics they were because it sounded like the two guitars were playing in completely different keys. One of the two was singing, and he seemed to be striving for a third key altogether.

Now I played violin in grade school, and clarinet in high school for a bit. I can play a few basic chords on the guitar and pick out some things on the piano. I was in a marching band that competed all over the state. I've played in a lot of terrible concerts. I know pretty much everything that can go wrong from broken strings, to slipping in mud, to stadium echoes causing half the band to be one full beat behind the other half. This was in a whole different category.

Anyhow, they finished the song, and most of the people in the room interrupted their conversations to clap and it felt like one of those dream episodes where everyone else is hearing something completely different from you, because nobody else seemed bothered.

Just as I was starting to wonder if they'd hipstered the tea I was drinking, I heard the singer talking to his friend. "Oops, looks like I was supposed to be using a capo on that song" confirming the fact that they had played an entire song with the guitars in different keys. And hadn't noticed.

The rest of the evening didn't get a whole lot better musically-speaking. They repeated the same problem (as far as I could tell) about four songs later, and then there was one point when the second guitar seemed to be going off in a different key for a completely different song. That was the point I started laughing so hard I was almost crying.

Anyhow, the music may have been a disaster but I can't say I didn't enjoy myself.

1 comment:

Route 8 said...

I had no idea hipsters were keeping PBR alive. That’s...cute.

My trouble with live music is how loud it always is. I would feel sorry for those guys if they didn’t seem so OK with how it went.