Sunday, March 1, 2009

RED AND BLUE IN THE BERKSHIRES

A quick overnight trip to celebrate my oldest child's birthday, my daughter. My older son and his wife and boy, and my younger son and I, all meet her and her husband at a restaurant in West Stockbridge.

Driving down the main street on a cold, dark Saturday night, you'd think the town had been evacuated for some emergency. There isn't a sign of life. Turning onto a side street with a few businesses, there's some parked cars and a warm glow coming from a low slung building indicating life inside.

You enter into a room the size and shape of a small diner. Across from the door where the diner counter would be is a wooden bar with stools, all occupied, tables against the outer wall you just entered through are also full of dining customers. The place is called Rouge, a restaurant bar with several different sized rooms branching out in a mild maze of who's eating where?

We're in the largest room way in the back, or side, depending how you look at it. Dinner is good. Presents are opened and appreciated. Dessert comes. My daughter Caitlin's has a flaming candle in hers enshrined under a dome of spun sugar that looks like spun glass lace. We all sing Happy Birthday.

After dessert the music starts, in a room up some stairs at the other end of the restaurant. Actually a room within a room. The interior room isn't much bigger than a small bedroom. The entrance is an arched doorway with no door, and to one side, facing down the stairs into the bar is a double-window-wide opening through which drinks and food can be passed or spectators can look in and see a band—drums, electric bass and electric guitar.

The group is Don McGrory and the Delta Soul Trio. McGrory plays guitar, well enough to have been voted one of the three best guitar players in the Berkshires (with James Taylor one of the other two). By day he has a rug store—more like a rug art gallery—in Great Barrington. By night he fronts various bands, this being his latest.

The bass player is my oldest son, Miles, The drummer I only know as Sam [woops, Bob Jones]. This rhythm section helps make the night cook. My eleven-year-old son and 10-year-old grandson are the only non-adults in the place. Many of the diners are middle aged, and some seem on the elderly side of that broad category. But before the first tune is halfway through, the room with the band and the surrounding area is filled with people dancing, from the two boys to people who look like senior citizens and probably are.

The joint is jumpin' and it doesn't stop as the trio works its way through two sets, with a short break between, of all kinds of country and blues and rock'n'roll tunes. But not the usual bar band repertoire. They play "Little Sister" and "Spoonful" and "T is for Texas T is for Tennessee" and medleys and roll into one song after another most of the time non-stop. It's hard to keep up. But we do.

Maybe as many as forty people ate dancing at once, jumping and shouting and moving to the beat, being driven by my son's bass lines and the drummer's solid rhythm and the guitarist's screaming riffs and bluesy extensions of notes bent as far out of shape as Western music is capable of, or Western musical instruments.

It's a great night, exhiliratingly exhaustive. A fitting celebration of my eldest's birth and a tribute to my oldest son's musicianship, and that of the other two in the trio. I look forward to hearing them again, and dancing myself out of whatever disappointment life might throw at me and partying for my daughter's next birthday and the rest of my descendants as well.

And now I'm back in Jersey in time for a last blast of winter. At least it means a lot of municipal and city workers will be making overtime plowing and clearing the streets and sidewalks. A little mini-stimulus from Mother Nature. We'll take it where we can get it.

4 comments:

Miles said...

Dad, thanks for the kind words. One correction (which I emailed you as well) the drummer's name is Bob Jones, Sam is the drummer you saw me with in the Hendrix tribute.

harryn said...

happy birthday caitlin and congrats to miles for musical perseverence and fondest wishes with love to all ...

Robert Slater said...

It seem like just a few years ago that Cait was a baby and I pointed out that folks were throwing their coats on her at a party at Michael Dennis Brown's house in Iowa City.
--Robert

Caitlin said...

Yeah it seems a bit unreal to me too! Thanks Paul. And yeah, Miles rocked it hard!