It was the perfect Friday night.
Anna and I parked in the lot of Java Jack's at 46th and Bryant. It was freezing cold outside and I was a little bit nervous. Excitement and anxiousness for my first Hootenanny experience.
We walked down the stairs into the basement. Right away I was overcome with feelings of happiness, peace and major deja-vu. We sat in old movie theatre chairs and Anna immediately went for the whiskey that Jim Walsh was offering freely. Already slightly soused, he held up the bottle and Anna poured it into the plastic cup. It was snowing a little bit outside. I was driving and there would be no alcohol for me. Besides, I don't like whiskey.
I took it all in with my mouth open and eyes a bit glazed over. The Terri Schiavo face, as Brian once called it.
I wanted the basement to be my basement. Anna said it would be someday. Except instead of a bird room, like my house back in Missouri where birds fly around freely, there would be a wiener dog room, which would actually be a giant field of poppies where wiener dogs leap out like dolphins. It is a very happy idea.
Recliners, couches, folding chairs and random movie theatre seats surrounded a small stage. The ceiling was sort of low and there were no windows to the outside. Album covers and flags and posters covered the walls. I immediately recognized Bruce's "Greetings from Asbury Park" and pointed it out to Anna. This was all too awesome.
Then I figured out what the deja-vu was from. This room reminded me of The Underground in Philly, another basement of another coffee shop with another little stage. Another sordid memory last May. I was pretty sure this Friday night wouldn't have me huddled in the alleyway behind the coffee shop with a major case of snot runs and beer tears. I was right, too.
I knew a good dozen people in the room. As a lurker/sometimes poster on howwastheshow.com, I knew these dozen or so as obsessive local music fans and cyber contributors. I follow what they write, their articles and reviews and pictures and websites. Occasionally I follow. Sometimes more than occasionally. I was a little bit intimidated. Sometimes more than a little bit. I caught myself staring, thinking if I would ever get up the nerve to have a conversation with these people. How much of an asshole would I make out of myself when I tried to talk? Would they ever be my concert friends? Would I ever stand in their circle or sit next to them at a Hootenanny?
I don't know.
But I do know that having Anna next to me made me really happy. I didn't have to worry about how much of an asshole I would be because it's understood. We would both be assholes together. We both kept our coats on because this perfect basement room was also bitingly cold. My feet were frozen and I wished I had about ten more pair of socks.
There were fifty or so people lightly packed into the basement. Jim Walsh poured more whiskey and the four musicians tuned their guitars. Jim Walsh had taken a night off of hosting and Stook stepped up. I kept thinking that, had we gone to high school together, Stook and I would have been friends. I don't know why specifically high school. It just seemed right.
The music started. Four local musicians (Jim Walsh as The Mad Ripple, Stook!, Brianna Lane, Bill Dankert) who played acoustic guitars and sang lyrics we could all understand. Some broke your heart and some made you really happy. There were a lot of songs, a lot of jokes, a lot of stories and still a lot of whiskey. Anna and I just sat against the wall in our movie theatre seats and laughed a lot. They all got drunker as my feet got colder, though I really stopped caring too much about that a long while ago. I was so comfortable and my mind was able stop racing for two hours. Anna said it was like I had found my people. I felt like I was on the outskirts of this club that wasn’t really exclusive at all. It was just nice.
Two hours later it was over. I spit my gum out; we bundled up and ran back into the cold. Back to the slippery streets and into Seward. We picked up Laura at her house. I drove into downtown. My nightmare, these one-way streets with drunken girls and frat boys waltzing awkwardly through lights. We parked and trekked into First Ave for Trampled by Turtles.
The club was packed with hippies, rockers, mid-lifers, beards, beads, weed and even a little treat who kept hitting on Laura. By the time we made our way around front, Pert Near Sandstone had ended, the one opener we had come to see, which was a bummer. A bummer soon forgotten once the girls got beers and we all started jumping up and down to the second opener, The Kissers (from Madison.)
I would have an orgy with every single member of The Kissers. I’m just saying.
Trampled by Turtles started and the club sort of exploded. Anna finished her whiskey and we were far enough back that Laura’s little treat was a distant memory. It was the three of us in the middle of a sausage fest sprinkled with ladies. We jumped higher and danced crazier to this blue-grass madness. We jigged and twirled and hugged a lot, linking arms, leaning our heads on each other’s shoulders and keeping rhythm on each other’s backs. I decided then that this audience would best be described as rowdy but respectful. They rocked around us, giving us a little space but not really afraid to sometimes jig right into us, as an audience should. I ran into a few people I knew. Danced especially hard with them. Friends from college and friends of friends. Close friends for just that night. It was like my earlier hootenanny had blown up in exactly the right way.
Trampled by Turtles rocked. Pros who fiddled and strummed so quickly that, at times, you couldn’t see their hands. They sang these songs that had us waving our arms in the air and dancing around and around. They created this audience.
Anna, Laura and I left. Sweaty and soaked in spilled whiskey. We ran out into the cold and I saw my First Ave bouncer who still remembers me from the one night I worker there over a year ago. He asked for a hug and I ran up to him. I jumped up and wrapped my arms around him and told him I was glad he hadn’t forgotten about me. He told me he couldn’t. That made me happy, too.
We ran into the parking garage, into my car and drove to the Seward Luce, a spot that is quickly becoming our spot. The waiter remembered us and even remembered that we were sitting in the same seats as last week. We chugged our waters. I got the same salad as last week and we continued on with our night, talking about music and boys and art and all that lovely nothing that three girls talk about at 2am.
We drove home and I crawled into my bed, under my covers, so worn out and happy I was almost sick.
Like I said, it was the perfect Friday night.
At one point during the Hootenanny, when Stook sang a song about his Valentine, he mistakenly referred to the holiday as two weeks ago. The audience laughed. If every day were as great as Friday, my two-week eternity would be heaven.
I took no pictures of my Friday night, even though my camera was at my side the entire time. I had to soak it in at the Hoot and cameras weren’t allowed at First Ave. I kept thinking I had to write it down to remember this night. And my words will help me remember it.
But then there’s the other side. Sometimes, for me, words don’t do an experience justice when photographs will.
My Valentine’s Celebration: SCARFTASTIC!