Muscle and Bone ventured out on slick and splattery I-480 last night with a car full of gear, heads full of lyrics and shoulders taut with wonder. As in, ‘wonder if anybody’ll show up?’
It rained non-stop from load in to load out at the Slow Train Café. Cold, splashy, puddly rain that might keep show goers home with a good book. But Oberlin is different, so it seems. Even with college on break, pain pourin’ down and a chill wind brewing, listeners braved the puddles, took their seats and tuned in.
Garrett, Slow Train’s sound guru, gave us the kind of monitor mix you might expect from an Oberlin grad who toured with a band and comes at music from a visceral perspective. ‘This is just the kind of vibe I needed to hear tonight,’ he told us. ‘It’s your stage. I’m here to make you feel comfortable and sound good.’
Grin. Forgive us for ever doubting heaven exists.
Dan and Kylie at the counter stacked our plates with lavender vanilla scones, pressing herb tea and black coffee into our respective palms. Baristas do grow on niceness trees, do they not?
The Slow Train Café was peopled with eclectic individuals. The Jazz musician whose teenager in tow has loved Dylan since third grade. An Irish musician whose companion asked which Tempest tunes we plan to cover (Duquesne Whistle fyi). Linda and Larry, who listened with a kind of blessed intensity you can only do your best to serve. A slim youth rolled a cigarette in preparation to smoke outside; song after song he sat, rapt and then clapping, never quite leaving his stool. A computer user in a corner booth slid toward the isle for great gulps of songs. The bard does break the lesser spells with magic of his own.
There was a momentary suspension of conversation, wine tasting, table bussing and phone tapping when ‘Don’t Think Twice’ commandeered the stage. Garrett nudged up the volume for the fingerpicked guitar, the Irish musician glanced furtively at the room, daring anyone to interrupt a masterpiece with mere human wants and needs, and the rain on the window danced in tandem with a long goodbye so many ache to say.
There is no proper way to say what a night like this does for the heart of an artist. But next week in the studio, if we manage to capture a fraction of the warmth and passion let loose in a rain soaked enclave on College Street, we’ll have an album like no other.