Saturday, October 30, 2010

music is back

For reasons beyond my understanding at this time, music has been mostly absent from my daily life since the start of the semester. The long drives have been dominated by podcasts or just the silence of decompression. My guitar and amp have nodded off in the corner of my office and even when I've had moments when I wanted to listen to music I've had a tough time finding something that fit my mood.

And yet....all semester I've been looking forward to seeing Langhorne Slim at the Handlebar in Greenville.

Part of the anticipation had to do with this being a social event. You probably know that I do not really socialize in the "social" sense of that word. Rarely do I set out to actually meet up with specific people with the intentions of engaging them in conversations about profound and silly things.

I'm not saying a concert is a social event. Far from it. Just because I'm standing beside you in a room while you attempt to jump up and down in place while balancing your beer, singing off key, and making a bootleg video on your little computer phone does not mean you and I are socializing.

(Which brings up a detached side note: I'm not sure why it's considered appropriate for people to go to a concert to hear a professional singer and then have the average concert-goer decide to try their hand at singing all the songs right there on the spot. I've never gone to one of my sculpture exhibits and had some random guy named Earl wheel in a MIG welder and take up steel sculpting on the gallery floor. Wouldn't that be awkward?)

Anyway, this concert was a fully sanctioned Hooligans event. Jolly, Mosh, Sandy, Ginger, G & I all made plans to converge on Greenville at the same time. Actually I think we converged on Greer first making a stop at a nice little Tex Mex restaurant downtown....that I've totally forgotten the name of right now. Our waitress was dressed up as a crazy cat lady and we saw a Ghostbuster, a couple of pirates, and several people we thought were dressed up until we realized that was just how they dressed all the time.

After the good food and some catching up we made it to the Handlebar to find the crowd really thin. The opening act was already playing and there was only a scattering of people in the building. The delay between the opener and the grand entrance of Langhorne was minimal. And when I say "grand entrance" what you should picture in your head is a reasonably small framed guy quietly walking out on to the stage, picking up a guitar and sitting down on a monitor and whispering a stunningly pleasant tune.

The first time I saw Langhorne Slim was there at the Handlebar about 4 years ago. Back then he was the opening act for the Avett Brothers and he had a similar feel to his stage personality. He wasn't flashy except for his ironic white suit - a simple nod to the fact that while he was an average guy, he was also working a job that carried some level of glitzy expectation.
Last night he started out playing that same old beat up guitar he had 4 years ago. Well, it was the same old guitar except for one new addition......a classy little silver glitter pick guard. A tiny speck of glitz on a heavily worn workhorse.
The band joined him for several acoustic songs as the small crowd more or less gathered around the musicians. The Hooligans had staked out a front and center spot about 10 feet from the stage but it felt more like we were standing in some one's living room listening to some guys play music.
Even after everyone plugged in their instruments and started using the microphones the show felt quite informal and almost conversational.
It was louder than any living room I've been in though. The stand up bass and the bass drum were loud enough that their vibrations rattled the high-hat significantly. And while these photos give you the impression that this is just a little folk band you should know that these guys know how to thrash with the best.
The energy, integrity and movement amplified by these guys can not be properly explained with words alone. You actually need to see the completely sober and normally rational thinking middle aged listener break into some sort of awkward dance to understand.

At one point Langhorne calmly walked down into the crowd with the microphone in mid song and sat in an empty seat in order to sing the rest of that song to the person beside him. When he walked back up on stage a few fans politely handed him back his cap and his microphone.
Near the end of the encore he shook off his guitar and grabbed several ladies from the audience and helped them up on stage to back him up on vocals. Our very own SandySingletary was THIS close to being pulled on stage. It was almost amazing.

When we saw him there 4 years ago I remember seeing him finish his opening set and just walk off the stage into the crowd so he could see the Avetts just like everyone else. It may seem like an odd detail to recall but he was wearing a white suit so cut me some slack. Not long after that Ginger went to one of his shows in San Francisco and accidentally had a conversation with him at the bar before the concert began. Last night we saw him a couple of times while the opening act was playing and then after the show he came out and chit chatted with people as they left. Walking out I found myself shoulder to shoulder with him and I couldn't resist the opportunity to speak and shake his hand. My wife thinks I'm an idiot but it's nice to let people know you appreciate what they do.
And this morning I rolled the old iPod over from "podcasts" to "music" and I enjoyed some vintage Langhorne Slim....or "Sean" as his friends call him.

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