The Wanderlust Misfit

Don't Run From Anything, Run Towards Everything

Bluegrass Basement — No Boots

The bar was in the basement of an upscale restaurant. Along the walls and in-between the couches and tables were displays of antiques; old typewriter, butter-churn, record horn, and the lights were low, dim yellow tinted red from the shades cupped up on the walls. Small, white candles in tall glasses on each table. The bar was in the center, long oak counter running square, and as you followed it around you passed tables, chairs, people standing in groups and people in bar-stools, little tables rounded by ottomans, the bathrooms and to the back of the bar long cushioned benches along the wall, low tables in front.

Here was the stage: A square cove was pushed back in the corner of the wall, ten square foot stage. Red rug and dark wood panels, low light red tinted from the shades cupped against the walls.

Four of them whispering together before the strings twang. The bass on the right begins thump, thump, boom thump — fingers flipping at thick strings, bass player with broad shoulders, barrel-chested and heavy faced. Thump, thump, boom thump. The old man on the left brings in his guitar, acoustic simple riffs playing pah pah, ker pah pah — and he begins to sing, low and soulful scratchy voice, sounding think the way his forehead wrinkles thickly, scrunched soulful over closed eyes. And the banjo comes in, curly black hair and a blunt-nose kid cradles his banjo under his arm and plays, standing tall and loose rhythmical tapping foot. And the fiddle, the fiddler long-faced and serious, glasses with thick and black top rim only, long nose and the fiddle stuck in the crook of his neck as his head looks down, shoulders stooped as his bow flicks twangs off the strings.

Thump, thump, boom thump ker pah pah pah une ker pah pah. And the music picks up just like this: two of them singing now and the bass steady, guitar in the back and the fiddle and banjo stand center, the two of them playing delightful while the old man sings and moans beautifully. All of them barefoot. Above them the bare aluminum of air-conditioning ducts and red gas pipes twisting a network of fumes above their heads. Two younger guys in the front, in front of the crowd standing just in front of the band, clapping and stomping and driving them on. The banjo flicks quick fingers up and down the fret board making strings sing and the bass making bounce the bump bump, thump boom thump, the old-man guitar riffing gritty and slow, keeping pace to his voice. They wear flannel shirts, sometimes open showing hair, dirty jeans rolled up above ankles and barefoot. The banjo comes forth now, the other instruments fading to background, supporting sounds, as the banjo fingers pick up moving back and forth in chords and flicking strings, the banjo player leaning back real skinny in the shoulders and letting loose the sounds of the banjo he cradles in his arm. He plays and crescendos and right then the fiddle makes debut, long screech and bursting forth its gorgeous back-woods sounds. Fiddler with his head down. He plays and plays and tall and lanky, head down, shoulders hunched, where the fiddle cocked in the crook of his neck. And it picks up, the fiddle screeching and crying and bursting choir choruses from the strings flicked with the bow, the fiddler has been stomping now and is kicking both his feet. Head still down and shoulders hunched he leans back, eyes closed, and is hopping jumping foot stomping to the crescendo and the two wild ones in front of the crowd dancing and stomping clapping overjoyed with the beauty of bluegrass country back-woods magic and the two start cheering as the fiddle crescendo tops and tips the band breaks it off in clean final note and the two of them cheering hearing no one else. They turn around. Mink coats and high-heels, tweed jackets and shined shoes.

Perhaps to be better dug somewhere else.


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