The Downtown Seattle Association puts on a series of outside concerts every summer, and many of the events are at the Harbor Steps just up the alley from where I work. Angela and Mara braved the traffic and the heat to come downtown today and fetch me on my lunch hour. We walked over to the Steps, which have a large level space like a piazza midway up, ordered sandwiches at an adjacent deli, and found a place to sit just in time to hear the Dusty 45s start their show of Americana, Rockabilly and red hot Swing.
Most of their playlist were their own compositions, but they opened with Herb Alpert’s The Lonely Bull, which kinda put the crowd on alert that these guys were for real. The band was a lot of fun and the crowd was appreciative. It didn’t take long for people to start swing dancing in the space in front of the stage.
Angela and I could not dance together because we couldn’t leave Mara alone in the crowd, but a lot of Angela’s friends in the partner dance community tend to show up wherever there’s good dance music for free, so she danced with some of them. She also coaxed Mara out for a couple of swing numbers. I was really feeling it and would have loved to get out there, and Angela would have let me go fetch someone to cut the rug with, but I really only like dancing with her. We’ve got some moves, she and I. I contented myself with being outside on such a lovely day and hearing great music.
I was starting to think I might have to go over to the sponsor booth and buy one of these guys’ CDs, but I didn’t have to. The lead singer, trumpeter and guitarist Billy Joe Huels, challenged the crowd to name a song in three notes and said that whoever guessed first would get an EP of their music. He blew three notes. They were three that I recognized, and in my mind I correctly identified it as another Herb Alpert composition, but Angela’s hand shot up and she nailed it as A Taste of Honey. Little did the challenger know, Angela would have guessed any Herb Alpert tune on a single note. They played the rest of the piece while Angela went and collected her prize.
One of the lines the band sang today, and made us chant back, was “chase that dream!” It was from a song two of the bandmembers had written many years ago when they’d decided to throw caution to the wind and be full-time musicians. That story went deep into me. I sometimes feel that part of my soul wanders off while I’m shut away at my desk during the workday, and I grind away a good share of my mental energy turning it over in my head whether I’m selling myself and my family short by playing it safe and simply bringing home the biggest income I can manage.
So it’s bittersweet, but I thank God for little breaks like this (and — I should add — for the fact that I work for a company that doesn’t mind if I take a long lunch to go watch a concert with my family). I don’t know if they make up for forty hours of my life every week, but to paraphrase my friend Jeff, we can’t all be rockers,* and until I’m ready to plunge into some other adventure, lunchtime concerts and other escapades like this help me keep a measure of sanity.
For a finale, Billy Joe had the end of his trumpet lit on fire. The crowd enjoyed this. I did too. That’s the kind of stuff you can do when you’ve tossed away your fears and followed the still small voice inside.
*Jeff actually said, “yes, Matthew, we should all be dairymen”, by which he meant emphatically that we cannot all be dairymen. This was during a discussion wherein he found himself exaspirated at my use of the agrarian life as the baseline for assessing how we as individuals and as a society are faring.