Berthold Auerbach coined music the best when he said, “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” So here I am, knee-thick into the stickiest June I remember, after a winter and spring that trudged on months past their welcome. One major breakup, downsize to a walk-up apartment, and broken nose (freakish attack by a porch chair in a windstorm) later, I’m able to enjoy tonight’s beautiful moon, lightning bug show, the first breezes in days, and admit to myself, Life is good.
What really helped me dust myself off and start to enjoy summer’s embrace, though, was getting out and seeing some live music. Virago, a fierce female guitar/percussion duo, to be exact. As I’ve written before, I am a music nut. I listen to music, talk about music, download music, buy music (yes, in a store), explore music constantly. Whenever I flip back through certain chapters of my life, I reaffirm the strength, hope, and nourishment music has provided me.
Sometimes, however, I forget the power of live music and why I miss it so deeply when I haven’t experienced it for a while. I still remember my first concert, which in some ways will always be the best show I’ve ever seen: Tears for Fears at Radio City Music Hall. Lights dimming, colorful strobe lights dancing around on stage, the first strains of their opening song slowly leaking out to us in the dark. My goosebumps throbbed for days.
And then, of course, there was my first stadium concert: U2 at the Meadowlands. Followed by my first music festival experiences with Lollapalooza and Lilith Fair. (I still drool over the documentary Woodstock any chance I get, believing somehow I must have been there in spirit, though I was not yet of this earth.) Living on my own in New York for close to a decade, I sucked in as much music as that city has to offer, and still didn’t catch it all—subway stations, bars, lounges, cafes, pizzerias, Irving Plaza, Bowery Ballroom, Central Park, Washington Square Park, street corners, the front stoop of my four-story apartment house—music buzzing from every crevice, corner, and alleyway.
Tonight adds another show to my list. And we’re not exactly talking New York or a stadium spectacle here. Yet burrowed in a cozy cafe near the ocean, sitting with a group of warm, welcoming women, I enjoyed some of the best music I’ve heard (and seen) in ages. In fact it was hard to believe at times that such raw, kick-ass music could possibly be spilling out from only two women, a guitar, and a drum. Amy and Maire beat, strummed, and sang with passion and intensity I haven’t experienced in a long while, connecting with every one of us for every minute of the hour. No matter that the cafe blazed from lack of air conditioning and summer’s swelter—the duo played music as though each of our lives depended on it. Heat be damned, they seemed to say, stealing occasional swigs of water, we’re gonna give you all we got. Well, they sure got me. From the first notes on, I was hooked. And, yet again, music proved the restorative, empowering value it holds in my life. Two women, a guitar, and a drum. Sounds simple, yet proved to be anything but.
24 June 2010