Friday, September 3, 2010


Drove up to Great Barrington with my twelve-year-old son to catch my oldest son, Miles, and the newish band he's been playing with, BELL ENGINE, playing a pig roast at the Route 7 Grill.

The regular menu's hit-and-miss for some folks (the wings are always terrific and so are the sweet potato fries) but the service is great, including the owner's jumping in to help wait tables and generally make you feel like you're in his home.

The pig roast was enjoyed by a good sized crowd at tables outside, under a tent-top, open-air kind of set up, with the band at one end. Me and some friends and family (I know grammatically that should be "I" but idiomatically "me" sounds more natural to this "I") sat on the "patio" as they called the deck where we ate from the regular menu and could see the band as they did their three part set.

Basically the band does a very old-fashioned, deeply traditional big band, traveling show kind of format. They start out with just the two singer/acoustic guitarists, John and Lisa, playing as a duo some of John's compositions and the effect is celestial. That's because they're harmonizing is angelic. Their voices blend so well you feel you know their music, as if it's already part of your life, at the same time you recognize it's uniqueness.

Miles joins them on bass adding depth and a groove for a few more numbers and then the rest of the band—Sam on drums and electric guitarist Dan—complete the entire group broadening and expanding and electrifying the sound of John's songs until you feel the musical genius of his creations.

For the third part of the evening John and Lisa, who started the musical evening by themselves, step out and let the instrumentalists have the bandstand as they improvise jams that never last too long, never repeat themselves (if one extends a funk groove, another might embody the coolness and nuances of an original extended jazz riff, etc.) but always make you move.

They started around six and went 'til around ten and pretty much everyone stayed for the entire show. And picture this all happening with a big stretch of green lawn that ends with giant trees extending up into some Berkshire mountains as the day fades and the light coming through the threatening clouds that never do more than threaten reflecting off the lush and various shades of green, kids of all sizes running around on that lawn and between the tables under the tent top and around the band and dogs too, it was the perfect end-of-summer evening.

Especially for me, watching and hearing my oldest son groove on bass, while dancing and catching up with my daughter Cait, my oldest, as her daughter and Miles' son and their uncle, my youngest, run around laughing and smiling in the midst of a gaggle of other kids, and my daughter-in-law joins us and good friends from Jersey are there too as well as friends from up here in the Berkshires. This is my idea of heaven. The only thing missing is just the rest of my friends and family that I love and love to be with.

I couldn't help thinking that in different clothes and minus the electronic devices that weren't in sight for the most part, this could have been a hundred or three hundred years ago or more. The simple, but basic, things have always meant the most—family and friends. At least to me.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a lovely time....I am listening on CD to a book you might like, titled AMERICAN BLOOMSBURY, by Susan Cheever (John's daughter).
It's about how Hawthorne, Melville, Emerson, Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and the Alcotts all lived practically on the same street in Concord etc...and how they were in and out of each others lives.
It's nicely written...not too long either.

Lally said...

Suzanne, I did like it. In fact I did a reading with her just after her book came out and she read from it, which turned me on to it. I love books like that.

Anonymous said...

Have you read Susan's memoir of her father, titled HOME BEFORE DARK? A good read. Also, I might have already mentioned this book, but Blake Bailey wrote a fascinating bio of Cheever called A LIFE.
It is full of stuff about Iowa City and the workshop.