Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Oh, the Places I've Been

Life is a story. Make yours a best seller.

So said the sign on the insurance agency when I got to Tappahannock, headed to a B & B to spend the afternoon with a couple of theater types eating lemon blueberry cheese bread and trying to sip a cup of coffee (two sips was all I could manage).

I'm not sure if a sign like that would resonate with everyone, but it definitely struck me as a worthwhile reminder. At least in my own mind, I'd like to think my tell-all would be a best seller. If nothing else, I know it would be a fun read.

Ditto the artsy couple I was talking to who were strangers when I got there and insisting I come back for a leisurely weekend by the time I left.

Arriving back barely in time to do a phone interview with a former bank president, I couldn't have been more surprised when he began our conversation with, "I finished golfing, I had a beer and now I'm having a drink." Needless to say, he was pretty garrulous.

Only then was it time to go out and play.

But not for long because I have an earlier than usual morning planned. As luck would have it, Balliceaux was hosting a last minute early show. Bingo, I had a plan.

Walking into the back room, I found myself the first arrival of the evening besides the musicians, which worked out well since I was hungry. Beef empanaditas spiced with cumin arrived with a white cheddar and roasted jalapeno dipping sauce that I could have made short work of with a bag of blue corn chips.

Instead, I dipped the six empanaditas in it, savoring the heat while people began to arrive, including a loud couple who took the booth right behind me.

The reason I'd come was for Accidental Seabirds, a long-haired and affable duo playing banjo, guitar and drums/percussion with their feet.

"We're from New Jersey," the banjo player announced after the first song, causing the couple behind me to yell, "Woo hoo, Joisie!"

When asked, they said they were from New Brunswick. "Did you go to Rutgers?" the banjo player asked and proceeded to do some sort of a chant. "I'd better stop or I'm gonna get beat up," he said. Later he shared that every stop they make on tour, there's a New Jersey-ite in the crowd. "Must be because people are trying to leave New Jersey." You think?

His singing was clear-voiced and earnest (the guitarist occasionally sang, too), they were both excellent musicians and their smart and occasionally sarcastic folk rock songs told stories well, making them a pleasure to listen to.

I spotted a theater friend mid-set and we had a hushed conversation (touching on why some women hate "The Taming of the Shrew") between songs because I was so surprised to see him out. When I see him at night, he's always working.

The singer pointed out the merch table, mentioning that their CDs were available on a donation basis. "So you can buy us a beer or buy me a haircut and get one," he explained, sounding very crunchy.

From the first few notes, I recognized their cover of  Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale," although the Jersey couple behind me couldn't quite place it. I finally turned around to identify the song for them so they'd stop talking about it and I could hear the song rather than them.

"That was my Mom's 'brown' song," the singer joked in a reference I doubt everyone got.

Let's just say I was sorry when their set ended.

During the endless set-up for the next band, Fool's Errand, I was joined by a favorite musician girlfriend who plopped into the booth with me and shared that she'd spent the afternoon playing pool and day drinking and now needed to sober up before she opened for a honky tonk band later.

Ah, first world problems.

More people arrived, no doubt due to Fool's Errand being local, but the band - guitarist, bassist, fiddle player, drummer, sax player - was taking so long to get started that I would have left if I hadn't been having such great conversation with my friend.

We'd seen each other just Saturday night at the same soul dance party but then we were too busy shaking our tail feathers to chat. Tonight, we had time to compare lives.

Both of us thought the other was hilarious as we over-shared man stories from our past and sized up the men in the room. We agreed that if our forthrightness was off-putting to a man, he probably wasn't the man for us.

When the band finally started, we gave it a song or two before looking at each other confused. Neither of us quite "got" the sound. The fiddle was lost under loud guitars, sax and drums, although sometimes it felt like bluegrass on steroids. Or Americana jazz. Or...

There were so many influences at play that we both felt lost at keeping up with what they were trying to do.

Or maybe it was just way more fun dazzling each other with some of the juicier chapters from our life stories. Both, mind you, sure to be runaway best sellers.

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