As I hinted at briefly in my last post, I got a chance to do some impromptu music-making while I was in Austin, Texas this past weekend at the Netroots Nation convention. I hadn’t expected to perform until Sunday morning, when I was to play for the Multifaith Worship Service. But when life provides you with an opportunity like this, you’ve just gotta laissez les bon temps rouler, bébé! 😀
It happened on Friday night: after a long day of keynote speeches, panel discussions, and really disappointing box lunches (sorry, but MMN gets cranky when she’s hungry!), it was time to party! Austin is known as the live music capital of the world, after all, and I was looking forward to escaping the over-air-conditioned sterility of the convention center to get a little taste of what the city is famous for. (Oh, that reminds me — I should balance my complaint about the convention food by reporting that dinner at the Iron Cactus was fabulous!)We gathered at Maggie Mae’s for a party sponsored by the seminal political blog, Daily Kos. The conventioneers enthusiastically enjoyed the fabulous food and terrific margaritas, as we took over the two-story venue, with its courtyard downstairs, patio upstairs and indoor areas all around. I’d already had dinner, but I was very grateful that my friends directed my attention to the chocolate fountain near the entrance (When they saw me walk in, they yelled “Virgo! Chocolate fountain!!!” from the staircase above. I understood; they were speaking the universal language of chocoholism! 😛 )
Now, I must confess that I don’t usually love going to bars; the music tends to be so ear-splittingly LOUD that I can neither fully enjoy it (I’m too worried about what it’s doing to my hearing) nor carry on an intelligible conversation. So I spent the first part of the evening hanging out with friends old and new at a relatively quiet indoor table. But after awhile, the zydeco music that drifted in from the patio worked on me like a siren song, and I had to go check it out.
It all started innocently enough. Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band was playing the kind of music that you can’t help but dance to, so my friends and I got down to business. I was watching the band at the same time, though, and I was fascinated by the washboard player, and the variety of complex and interesting rhythms he managed to coax out of that simple sheet of corrugated metal. I was so transfixed that when he stepped to the edge of the stage, I assumed he was looking for an audience volunteer to try a few scrapes with his spoons, and I went right up to him. He didn’t hand me the spoons though — instead, he grabbed my hand and led me up onto the stage! I was game. But when we got up there, he still wouldn’t give me the spoons. Instead, he took the washboard off his shoulders and put it on mine! Cool… Now, may I have the spoons, please?
I was unclear on the concept. He didn’t want me to play the washboard. He wanted me to be the washboard! Okay, I was still game. You see, even though I’m more introverted than 90% of the population (really! I took a test!), being a musician and all, I am also a total ham — under the right circumstances. My friends on the dance floor went wild — and started snapping pictures furiously!
It was fun and all, but I wasn’t completely satisfied. After the washboard-ist played a nice long solo on, um, me, I tried one more time to convince him to lend me his spoons. Of course, I can’t blame him for hesitating — after all, he had no way of knowing how many margaritas I had in me (only one — honest!), let alone whether I had rhythm. But he finally gave in. Once I held the right tools for the job in my hands, I took a moment to feel the music for myself (being an instrument had distracted me a bit), then I let it rip, imitating one of the rhythms he had played as best I could. When the song ended, he told me I sounded pretty good… and my friends were seriously impressed.
The bandleader thought it was pretty funny — he said maybe they need to recruit a new washboard player! I gave him my card. 😉
What can I say — still waters run deep, mon cher! 😀
photos by mik, a.k.a. mr. brillig.
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