Sunday, October 23, 2011
Born to Play
The tiny homecoming parade was over, so Jeff and I wandered the short strip of stores that line the downtown stretch of Evergreen Colorado. We found stores full of nuts, pastries, original art, and funky clothes. I made several mental notes, ideas for holiday gift purchases next month.
Then we headed back up the uneven wooden walkway that constitutes a sidewalk in our town. Out of habit we popped our heads in the open doorway of a magical place called Little Bear. It’s a two story wooden structure, that shows the wear and tear of decades of lively nights and raucous fun. From the outside it looks like an old fashioned tavern from the wild, wild west. But inside it’s very obviously not a place set up as a cheesy tourist trap.
This place is authentic tavern. It’s a genuine bar, the kind that never seems out of style because it’s just there. It’s there and it’s been there, for more years than I’ve been alive. The stairs that lead up to the pool hall room and upper outdoor balcony are wooden, and literally have dips in the centers of them, where hundreds of thousands of feet have made their mark.
Little Bear is special to us because we stopped here one day, when we were house hunting in the area last spring. We had no idea where we’d be living, when autumn rolled around, and at the time it was just a unique place to grab some lunch.
We cruised through house listings on our phones as we munched on burgers and fries. The kids loved scouting the old battered license plates that lined the walls, looking for places we’ve lived. We all got a laugh out of the wild assortment of women’s bras that hung haphazardly from the ceiling over the small wooden stage.
We were told by the lone waiter/bartender/cook that Little Bear had basically been there forever. Their easy, relaxed atmosphere, and guaranteed live music on many days of the week, meant they were rarely empty in the evenings. We agreed that we’d be back, and moved on with our search for a place to call home.
And sure enough, we ended up in a condo just two miles down the road from Little Bear. And last night we found ourselves once again pulled up to a table. But this time it was a different atmosphere. The quietness of lunch time had given way to a small, but lively crowd, who were all bobbing their heads and tapping their feet to the music of the live band that graced the stage.
We sat down at a table and ordered drinks. It didn’t take long to realize that we’d be staying a bit, as the band was really and truly entertaining, so we ordered a small pizza. Then we sat back and soaked it in.
The guys on stage were a hodge podge of ages, mostly my age or older. But they knew how to play. There was no doubt about that. I’m not a musician, but I’m mesmerized by people who are. It’s a skill I respect because I can’t do it. As the guys rocked out to classic songs from the 60s and 70s I took turns watching each musician individually.
And they were all good. Really good. On their own. It amazed me. The keyboard guy’s fingers danced over the keys with perfect precision and amazing creativity. The drummer seemed to be in his own world, beating out the exact right rhythms that each song needed. The bass player and guitarist also seemed to have magical fingers, moving up and down the necks of their instruments with perfect accuracy.
And the lead singer. Let me tell you, this guy loved being on stage, loved being surrounded by these guys he genuinely seemed to care about, and loved putting everything he had into every song they did. From rock and roll to the blues, he swayed, danced, sang and grinned. They were all, as a unit, a joy to watch.
It reminded me of a song the Bacon Brothers Band wrote, called Not Born to Beauty -
Maybe they got day jobs
To support this rockin' jones
But the rhythm fits them like a skin
And the blues is in their bones
Turn on your MTV
And you won't find them there
You can read that Rolling Stone cover to cover
You won't find them anywhere
But in basements and garages
Hotel lounges, roadside bars
Close your eyes and hear the tunes
And you'll be seeing stars
They were born to do it
They were born to play
Not that these guys were ugly. Quite the contrary. But these guys were good. Playing in a small tavern, in front of just a dozen people, on a stage lined with bras, they gave us more for our money than some bands who actually charge for their shows, in stadiums that hold thousands.
Jeff texted our teenager at home, who loves playing his guitar and fits right in at this place, with his shaggy rebellious hair, and told him to ride his bike down to join us. Within minutes he was munching on our pizza, sharing my soda, and soaking in the great music with us.
I looked at all the empty chairs around us and wished they were filled with the people I love. I kept thinking, ‘I’d love to bring Kurt and Terry here…’ and ‘I’d love to bring Matt and Julie here…’. A few of my siblings, and my in laws, would all love the magic that we found last night.
It was one of those nights you never want to end. Once the pizza was gone, the sodas and beer refilled too many times, it was time to call it a night. When the band took their second break and came off stage to join their wives and girlfriends in the audience, we knew it was time to go. We got up, gathered our stuff, and headed for the door, passing by the table filled with band members.
I was captivated by the average-ness of these guys who made such magic onstage. If I saw them in the grocery store, I’d never dream they could be a part of one of my best nights so far in my new home town. I found one of them outside on the front porch, as we made our way to the car, and expressed my gratitude to him, for such an entertaining show. He was humble and appreciative, and thanked my family and me for showing up. The gratitude seemed backward.
We’ll be back. And I hope when we do get a chance to drag our visiting family to that old worn out bar, there is a band onstage even half as good as the guys we saw last night. In the chaos of life I sometimes forget just how relaxing a loud, rocking night, tucked in an ancient tavern with some people I love, can actually be.
I hope those guys, who maybe saw last night as ‘ just another gig’, realize how much they were appreciated by this middle aged mom. Their talent was impressive. Their love of music was palatable.
There is no doubt - they were definitely born to do it. They were born to play.