I met this rad guy this one time at a show in Crowley. He stood out mostly because he stood at the front of the stage, belting out tunes to a near deadened crowd. This zombified Louisiana bar sat and listened to this loud band seemingly out of place. The Popscene, whom they referenced themselves as, hammered out some cover songs, of which I remember Blur and the Gorillaz, but the Crowley crowd wasn’t having it. I suspect many of patrons couldn’t tell the covers apart from what was the band’s originals. Not the best musical connoisseurs here.
The blame did not fall on the band. They were on point. They were tight. They were fun. It was the crowd that doesn’t have an ear. Through the alcohol, their eardrums must have been confused.
“Why isn’t this band playing cajun/country music. I’m drinking exports not imports, damn it. Keep that indie bullshit in England.” Of course, I only imagine the bar-goers saying this, as they peer 90 degrees over their shoulder in the direction of the stage briefly before losing interest to face the light-box again. I’d have been happy if someone would have belted out, “Freebird!” No such shouts came.
The Popscene played for an hour or so. I always enjoy seeing a band play and do their thing in the face of such a non-compliant audience. Sometimes awkward, I will admit, but I’ve always giggled at such a thing. I don’t mean that they bombed, either. But it was: casual rebellion. When it comes to change, such a conservative bunch usually and fundamentally gets nervous as though threatened. Those who are have harbored such frictions have a certain resolve to themselves. This I saw. This band threatened the patron’s Saturday night beer-guzzling, TV-face-fucking as per usual. Forcing the audience’s earholes to hear foreign tones, they played their set until it was done.
We swapped. Our turn, now. Our turn proved to get a reaction much like The Popscene received.
“How you guys doing tonight?!” Nada.
One of the bartenders brought us, The Wanderer’s Drift, our own Coors Light beer, during our first song, as if to offer a silent plea, “can you guys play anything we know, please?” Beer is usually given as partial payment here in Louisiana. Beer is currency.
I drank which is probably why I don’t remember much of us playing. But I reckon, we did. Right through our own set. I’ve always played originals, not that I have anything against covers, I just don’t hear them as easy. This night we performed ended up, by chance, being on Daylight Savings. So, by the end of our set, the time had shifted and we had to start mentally scrambling for an extra hour of material.
We didn’t have anymore. And before you say, ‘just play some more’, I’m never really enthusiastic about playing a song I haven’t practiced. Josh with The Popscene (that rad guy at the front of the stage) came up to the stage and wanted to know if we would like to jam.
Now, here I must admit. I have no intentions of playing a show that isn’t well practiced and tight. I will simply say no thanks, if I’m not ready. But, even though I am reserved in what I play in front of people, a secret musical fetish cowers behind my eyes. I have two modes of playing on stage: rehearsed performance and improvisation. Unfortunately, the middle ground feels too uncomfortable. So, when Josh asked if we would like to jam (improv), I jumped at responding:
We played for maybe another 45 minutes. I don’t remember what we played. I don’t remember the crowds reaction. I don’t even remember if there even WAS a crowd.
Let me digress for a moment. When I was younger (but old enough to drive), I would steal my mom’s church key and sneak into our church’s sanctuary. Now, this was one of those on-fire, Pentecostal, non-denominational churches with the bands, music, dancing, talking-in-tongues and such, so they had an array of musical instruments on stage. I would park on the side of the church and use the side entrance. The parking lot was dark on that side. No one could see my car parked in the unlighted lot. Stealthily, I would make my way into the building at 2 o’clock in the morning via the side entrance which opened up right behind the velvet carpeted stage. My mind had no interest in the pulpit or the pastor’s chairs. The cross seemed just a couple of planks of wood, but they had a grand piano that when fingered would sonically fill up the room. It was breathtakingly, beautiful, especially in that large, vacant room. I would play for hours. Smiling and crying. What can I say, since I was 12 or so, music can make me cry. The sounds would be so spellbinding that I couldn’t pry my ears away. Every night I played, I wouldn’t dare turn it off for fear of losing it, but the sun would start to make it’s ascent. I would scurry off like a happy little rat who had the house to himself for the night and is planning his next night out. I’m sure, if anyone peered through a window, I looked like a psychological mess. I would lose all sense of time and place. I would move to the drums, then guitars. My mind making parts to songs that didn’t and still don’t exist.
My fetish is not to just play music, but to keep playing. Until after I’ve lost my way and walked right off the song’s grid, off the map. It’s there, in the sonic wilderness that I long to be. It’s there that I love to keep playing. Yes, it does sound’s like shit sometimes.
The Popscene (Josh, Joe and Chris) and The Wanderer’s Drift (Mego and myself) have had many redeeming nights since. I promise. I was there. I grew fond of Josh, Joe and Chris and, of course, I hope to continue to grow and reap from such friends. When Josh waltzed to the stage and asked if we would like to jam, we did. We moved from instrument to instrument, taking turns. We played like the crowd wasn’t there. We got lost in Louie’s vacant sanctuary in front of a vacant-headed crowd and we didn’t want the reverberations to stop.
When I stare back in time, at the glimmer in Josh’s eye, I see untapped independence, resolve and bravery in the face of non-compliance. All things necessary for surviving in the wilderness; be it music, politics, family or the actual wilderness.
I wish you, Josh, the best of luck in your future adventures. I hope that your experiences, thus far, provide a well-built platform for you to jump from. I don’t have a point to all this. Hell, I’m not even sure if that’s how the night went down. If I think too hard, I’m not sure who played first. I guess I just appreciate you guys and will gladly re-write history if need be to show it. And, just in case I don’t remember or get another chance, know that this is where I fell in love with The Popscene. At Louie’s Pizzeria. In Crowley, Louisiana.
Signed, Trinity Bourque
a.k.a. Church Rowe