superfans in Bearsville
Tuesday, October 6 2015
I gathered 114 pounds of firewood late this morning from skeletonized trees mostly downhill from the north end of the Gullies Trail. As I worked, Gretchen and the dogs came through, returning from their morning walk. Eleanor did a double-take on seeing me, though I wasn't as much as a surprise as the mountain biker & rescue dog from Cantina Road whom Gretchen stumbled upon the other day at the Canary Falls. That guy had been coming through these forests regularly for the past eleven years, though that had been the first time the two had ever encountered each other.
This evening Gretchen had arranged for us to meet Jenny & Doug at the Bearsville Theatre to catch a performance of the Wood Brothers. I knew nothing about this particular band, though the fact that they had "brothers" had the effect of lowering my expectations. (Not that I hate all bands with "brothers" in their name; I like a lot of the early songs of the Avett Brothers, for example). Before the show, Gretchen and I had dinner at the Little Bear (the Chinese restaurant nearby), though it seemed they'd run out broccoli, as that crucial ingredient was missing from all of our dishes. My stuffed deep-fried tofu especially needed something like that to impart some necessary whole food gravitas, and snow peas, carrots, water chestnuts, and those little mushrooms weren't cutting it. As for Gretchen, she just ordered a big bowl of chewy rice cake soup. We didn't drink any alcoholic beverages at all.
Eventually we were joined by first Doug and then Jenny, who came from two different directions. They've moved their animal sanctuary to that place south of High Falls, though they're still living in Willow. Doug had the news that they had an offer on that place, which has been difficult to sell due to its massive scale and somewhat-unfortunate location. Somehow Doug and Jenny managed to order and then scarf down their food in record time and then we walked to the show.
As always happens, someone had told Gretchen that there would be no opening band and that there would be seats. But of course there was an opening band and the Wood Brothers hadn't wanted seats, presumably because they like it when people to do arrhythmic hippie dances. There were some seats available in the balcony, and Gretchen reserved them, but they were in the second row, meaning our view would be blocked by people sitting in front of us.
There had been some changes to the Bearsville Theatre since the last time we'd been here. The glass behind the bar had been removed, opening up a clear view (and audio path) to the stage, particularly for those sitting at the bar's west end. We filed that info away for the next time we see something there.
Eventually the Wood Brothers took the stage, causing a complete shift in the ticket population. I took the seat Gretchen had reserved for me in the balcony and did my best to enjoy the music. But did not. It just wasn't my thing; it sounded like The Band, which I don't much care for, though with perhaps a bit of a New Orleans inflection, which didn't improve things at all. I'm just not a fan of roots rock, and nothing will change that. I won't deny that the musicians themselves were talented, particularly the bassist (who seemed classically-trained and able to make any sound he desired come from his upright; he kind of reminded me of Zach from back in the days of Big Fun).
Throughout the all-white audience there were plenty of superfans present. These people tended to be utterly conventional in appearance and highly vocal. There was a guy behind us on the balcony who kept whooping at every little thing at the absolute top of his lungs, and to protect my right ear I kept having to stick a finger into it. Gretchen saw me doing this and decided to do something about it. She turned around and very nicely told the gentleman that, though she loved that he was enjoying himself, his loud whooping was bothering us. At that point his girlfriend got into it with Gretchen and said a bunch of hostile things. But the proof was in the pudding: the whooping stopped.
Still, sitting there on the balcony craning my neck to watch a folksy band getting jam-bandy with the roots rock was depressing. So eventually I got up and went down to the floor. I had a little Southern Tier IPA left in my plastic cup, and into that I dumped about 70 mL of gin from a flask I was carrying. The color from the trace of remaining beer made it look like I was perhaps still drinking that, though there were no bubbles whatsoever. Interestingly (and suprisingly), the flavor from the beer and the gin combined to make an entirely new flavor that was both pleasant and hard to identify. This unexpected discovery means that I will probably be using IPA as a gin mixer in the future.
I took up a place next to the woman running the lights (and possibly sound) for the show. At times, she played the buttons in time to the music like some sort of piano so that lights around the stage would change in coordination with the music. In some sense, then, she was another musician, though one whose performance was entirely visual.
There were plenty of superfans near me near the sound board. They were singing along to all these songs I'd never heard, and a few were whooping as loudly as the gentleman Gretchen had shut down. But the advantage here was that their mouths were more than three feet from my ear and sound is beholden to the inverse square law.
As it happened, Gretchen wasn't enjoying the Wood Brothers as much as she had at Bonnaroo. Here in Bearsville, perhaps in response to the Woodstock vibe of the place, they were being too jam bandy for her liking. So we all left before the encore.
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