Why do they say that you know a song by heart instead of by head?
I don’t listen to music as often as I used to. Our home stereo configuration is still something of a mystery to me since dear hubby wired it so creatively with the television. (Wanna play a CD? Just flip about 40 switches and click through three remotes and you’re there.) Close and play, it's not.
Living in the self-proclaimed Live Music Capitol of the World, we have plenty of opportunities for hearing terrific live performances everyday in Austin. With hectic lives, it's rare that we get out, but last weekend, we treated ourselves to the pleasure of an amazing performance by John Prine at the Bass Concert Hall.
I’ve probably seen him at least a dozen times and will go few a dozen more as long as he keeps traveling south from Nashville. When you’re hooked, you’re hooked.
His followers are often called “rabid John Prine fans,” which is a pretty funny description for a crowd so mellow they would only be foaming at the mouth if their plastic Shiner cups runneth over.
This ardent following is not about drinking the Kool-Aid—or the beer—it’s about eating the peaches. It’s about biting into the sweet fleshy melody, letting the sticky lyrics of life run down your chin, and savoring a soulful of sunshine.
We found ourselves in good company amidst the denim-clad cadre of hippy-fied working class folks sporting their long hair, beards, and cotton clothing. It’s not really a Spanx kind of crowd, or at least they’d all peeled themselves free for the night.
His fans seems to float in on a happiness high with beaming faces, emitting a positive, karmic vibe. In fact, there’s such a spiritual connection at his shows, it’s kind of like going to church (except that they pass the collection plate in advance, online, and charge you a “convenience” fee).
At first, I found the choice of venue odd for a folk artist. It’s where the flashy Broadway shows stomp through town. There’s not much that’s funky or Austin-hip about it. It doesn’t have the bourgeois charm of some of our bygone venues like Liberty Lunch, the Backyard, or the Armadillo, long blazed over by the bulldozers of the bully developers.
Basically it’s a giant beige space with terrific acoustics and some interesting lobby wall art, and nearly enough seats to house his many followers. And there they filed in, like worshipers streaming under the tent at a revival, packing the pews from orchestra to balcony.
Each of these die-hard fans would readily share their stories of the first time they heard one of his albums, their inaugural John Prine concert, the show where they met their spouse, or even the sultry summer night where, afterward, they were almost arrested for a midnight, post-concert skinny-dipping splash-in at Barton Springs. (Oh, yes, you know who you are.)
His music feels so authentic and personal, it’s like he wrote the lyrics in a letter just to you. Yet here you are with a couple thousand people swaying and singing along. In fact, most of the upper balcony around us kept chiming in, but the guy sitting next to me wasn’t even humming. I figured with tickets the price of two weeks of groceries, maybe he didn’t need me warbling along with the rest of the choir loft.
But there in the dark, I lip-synched every single word.
What was the last song that you sang along to, recalling all the words by heart? Do you have a personal anthem? Whose music speaks to you and makes you feel connected?
I’m still tapping my toe to “The Spanish Pipedream”:
Blow up your T.V.,
Throw away your paper,
Go to the country,
Build you a home
Plant a little garden,
Eat a lot of peaches,
Try an’ find Jesus
On your own.
Now, I do like fresh peaches, and I loved living in the country as a girl. And, there are definitely days when blowing up the TV sounds like a pretty good idea.
But that’s never going to happen, now that I’ve finally figured out how to turn on the stereo.