April 29th, 2011
I’d spent the day mostly alone over at Alki walking down the beach and up the beach, getting the middle finger from a little kid, making my way to the bar where the cute blond bartender worked on other days. I wrote and wrote for a while. What else does one do when the solitary days stretch themselves out and the daylight wanes? Watch TV? Go to the girly shows? Saturday evening mass? Not me. After I’d written all I could for a day, I went out to see a band.
They were playing at the Skylark Saturday night. My contact at the bar recommended them so I was taking her word for it that something magical would happen. “I’m on the list,” I said at the door. I gave my name. The list was short though, and I could see it as the guy looked it over. My name was not there.
“You’re not on here,” he said, “but I remember you from last night so it’s cool.” And he let me in. Every once in a while someone does something unexpected that reaffirms my belief in people. He had no reason to let me in. I was on the list the previous night, but why should he trust that I should be two nights in a row? He did though. It was the first time I smiled all day.
Like Lightning was going on then, the first of three acts, but the one I was there to see. There was a woman behind a keyboard playing and singing. The guitar and bass came in simply. “Every day felt like a dark horse…” the woman sang. Indeed, some of them do, and that song ended, and I had a few beers and the bartender smiled and said, “Hey, there! You’re back again.” I was. I was. Live music. Beers. Smiling bartenders with the voice of recognition. Nice. The music went on with a building repeated chord progression, just A to F# and the vocals over and over, “I’ll never be the same.”
I never fail to be amazed when musicians can take only a couple simple chords and one phrase and through the act of repetition build it into something so much more than the sum of its parts. It was only two chords and a phrase, but it was music. The more it repeated, the less repetitive it got. There’s a talent in that art. “I’ll never be the same.” Neither will I. Art will do that. A painting. A poem. A D chord cranked through an amp. They all change the heart and mind and soul when done right.
Her voice reminded me of someone, and it bothered me through the set. It was a good reminder, a compliment, but I couldn’t place it as the music and the beers went on until there came a tune that started with a quiet piano, the snare more keeping time than a beat, some bass, some guitar fading in and out. The vocals came in softly, and then there was a drop and the snare rolled and there was build and the voice, “I don’t want to disappear.” It came to me. Her voice reminded me of the woman in the movie Once. And by the time I realized that, the voice was there again in the second chorus, “I don’t want to disappear.”
The Once thing is good. I love that movie and its music. Like Lightning has the exact same kind of deelpy honest feel but with a little more edge, a little distortion on the guitar. And then into the last chorus, it completely dropped out. There was only snare and vocal, that same line, “I don’t want to disappear.” No matter how quiet and solitary a day one had had, the line moved, the line gave strength. Only music can do such, can echo a thought one may have had walking alone along the beach and in doing so … well, rescue.
Like Lightning finished that song, called “Disappear” of course, and eventually finished the show. I left then thinking I might have numerous days of being alone at the beach or the bar or wherever, but when there’s music like this in the world, that’s OK.