That’s a long time to be away from the things you love.
Your friends, family, movies, etc.
We’ve all had this same, shared experience. Some of us have had it worst than others; some have lost loved ones, some have lost jobs, some people got sick and are still dealing with the long term effects of the illness…
But all of us lost something more precious and valuable than gold.
I was a spry man of 54 when this all started.
Now I’m getting applications from AARP.
I’m not happy about it.
Not one bit.
When someone asked me what I missed the most during the pandemic, the answer was quick and simple:
Family, baseball and Rock and Roll.
Slowly but surely, I’ve been able to catch up with some family members, including a wedding last week, and even though I didn’t make it up to the stadium this summer, baseball has been a constant companion via radio and TV.
The absence of live RnR has been a void in my life. The last time I was at a Rock and Roll show was at Arlene’s in Jan of 2020, only I wasn’t there to see a band.
I was in the band.
Malbone Street made their debut that night to warm, friendly crowd of family and friends. I was really looking forward to the rest of 2020. March was going to especially fruitful. Malbone Street was slated to play The Bitter End on a Friday night, and the following week, Val and I had tickets to see Pearl Jam at the Garden.
All that changed on March 12th, 2020.
As we have slowly gotten back to normal, or whatever passes for normal nowadays, I’ve been desperately looking for opportunities to see a good Rock and Roll show. Over the summer, we got to see our local bands at the various summer strolls, including friends like Mike McLaughlin, and Steve Mac, but it’s not the same as being inside an arena, or a hot sweaty club with colored lights and overbearing sound. We’ve been to the movies, we’ve been to restaurants, but still, no Rock and Roll.
In the old days of my heady youth, I would have just jumped on the train and headed into the city and hit every club until I found what I was looking for, but truth be told, I just don’t have the steam to do that anymore. It pains me to admit that. And to be forthright, with a mortgage and a hefty cat-food bill, the days of shelling out cover charges for five different clubs in one night are in my rear-view mirror. I’ve got major responsibilities now. I’m an adult!
I was determined to change that this weekend. I scoured the websites of all the local haunts in NYC; Arlenes, Bowery Ballroom, Rockwood, etc. They all had acts, but nothing that really jumped up and grabbed me. So I decided that I would check out who was playing at Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg, (a place we like to call Fake Brooklyn.) The acts were a country singer named Jonathan Long, and a chick singer-songwriter named Samantha Fish. I listened to about 30 seconds of each of their songs, and that was enough. Sounds like they rock, lets go!
So we did.
We ate a lovely meal at home, (pernil and collard greens- I admit, I live good), and then I pulled on my trusty L’amour shirt, before we headed off the battle the BQE on our trek to Fake Brooklyn.
As I drove thru traffic, Val took the idle time to look up the acts for the evening. She was not thrilled with what she found.
“This is what we’re going to see?” she asked with that Val face.
If you know Valarie, you know the face I mean.
I just shrugged my shoulders.
If you’ve never been, Brooklyn Bowl is a great room. Its got good food, a bowling alley off to the side, and a terrific stage with a dynamite sound system, plus screens to watch the performers if you can’t see the stage.
The opening act, Jonathan Long, was a really good singer-songwriter from Baton Rouge, LOOEESEEANA. Good singer, good guitar player, good songs.
But tonight, he was a guy with a guitar on a stool. It wasn’t what I was looking for and it wasn’t what I needed.
As we waited for the next act, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was not the oldest dude in the club, not by a longshot. In fact, I was on the younger side of this particular tribe, and since I’m in the first year of Gen-X, it means that every single person there was a Boomer. It does my heart good to know that the fire still burns in the hearts and souls of the older generation, and I was ecstatic that nowhere did I see any of the bearded, man-bun wearing malcontents of the younger generation. I was home.
Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a hot, sweaty RnR club, was actually an Ice Box. I don’t know why. Val was freezing and she had no problems letting yours truly know about it. Truth be told, I felt like the night was going to be a bust too. I told myself, “we’ll give it two songs, then we’re out.”
As the lights dropped and the band came out, my first thoughts were one of excitement.
I love chick drummers.
Don’t tell Val.
Samantha Fish came out and proceeded to treat us to 90 minutes of good, clean Rock and Roll fun. A much-needed shot to my soul. She’s a really good guitar player with a dynamite voice; a Rock and Roll torch singer with a hint of Amy, and a touch of Gaga, and more than pinch of confidence, or dare I say arrogance, who brings her songs to the crowd, and have the crowd receive them and give back the love and energy that they deserve. Her band was killer, especially the keyboard player, who managed to keep my attention for most of the evening.
Rock and Roll is unlike any other form of entertainment; movies can move you to laughter and to tears, and even baseball can be an emotional roller coaster ride when your favorite team is in a 1-run game with 2 men on on no one out in the 8th inning of an important game, but Rock and Roll can be a truly spiritual experience. When done right, RnR can move you in ways that can’t be explained to those who don’t understand. When I go to a show, I don’t just go for the music, I go to experience everything:
What kind of shoes is the singer wearing?
What kind of effects does the guitar player have on stage?
Who’s the chick hanging by the side of the stage? Is she banging the bass player?
Why is the mic feeding back?
I want it all.
But mostly, I want good songs.
Samantha Fish provided them. She weaved a pathway of her own making, and I willingly followed. Along the way, I experienced the entire gamut of emotions that a good RnR show can provide.
I’m not saying it was transcendent; it wasn’t Black Sabbath, 1975… but it was what I needed on Halloween Eve, 2021 — even if some of those emotions were less than desirable:
Fear of what the future holds for all of us.
Fear of growing older.
Jealousy over watching another performer getting to do what they love to do, while wondering if you’ll ever get that chance to do that again.
Trading places in your mind with the artist on stage, and wondering how you yourself would fare in a room like that, with a crowd that wasn’t your own, armed with just your wits and a microphone, and a love of life and music.
I settled for the joy of the moment and the knowledge that I’d have a new blog entry when I got home.
As the clock moved past 11pm, I shifted uncomfortably, and watched my wife do the same. I’ve been blessed in this life. I’ve never been sick and I’ve only had a few minor injuries. I can still bench press two plates and bang out 25 pushups without too much difficulty, but what I can no longer do is stand in a club for 2 plus hours without sitting down.
I freely admit this.
So does Val. “My back is screaming” she said with a pained laugh.
We were debating taking off before the show was over, but we stuck it out like the Rock and Roll troopers we are, and we got to see Jonathan come back out and play electric with the band; where he really got to show his chops. I encourage everyone to give them a listen when you get a chance.
You can check her out here → https://www.samanthafish.com/
(BTW, she will be at the Stone Pony on 11/13… Road trip?)
As we moved towards the exit, I had to make a decision that I never used to have to make before, but one I’ve had to make with more and more frequency over the past few years — — Should I pee now, or can I make it home?
I decided to take the safe route and headed upstairs to the mens room, and I as I finished up, I got to experience a moment that only Rock and Roll can provide. After I washed my hands, I moved to the hand dryers, only to find an older gentleman with his pants around his ankles and his junk out, allowing himself to feel the full effects of the warm flow of the air dryer on his exposed man-parts. I guess it might be the only blowjob he gets at this stage of his life. Despite the fact that I haven’t imbibed in any mind-altering substances in over 30 years, I asked two other patrons if I was indeed seeing what I thought I was seeing. They both laughingly confirmed that I wasn’t losing my mind. I ran back to Val, half asking her to come back into the men’s room, so that she too could experience the wonders of post-Covid America, but we decided that it was best to leave the man alone. We exited into the misty October night, happy and satisfied, and still hopeful for a better tomorrow.
“I’m glad we stayed,” she said through the pained smile of someone who had been standing for 2 1/2 hours. “Me Too.”
Rock and Roll is still alive.
So are we.