A couple of friends and I went to a (very) small show tonight. We went out for drinks after, so I am posting-under-the-influence. Hemingway would be proud.
Anyway, the show was to benefit the University of South Florida chapter of To Write Love on Her Arms, which is an organization that acts against self-hatred, suicide and the like. The good cause is the only reason I was alright with paying a ten-dollar cover to go to a place filled with young kids and no alcohol. And an unpredictable lineup.
I had seen local musician-god John Gold play many times back in the day when a few friends had a band that played around town at the same venues he happened to play. Everyone loved him then, with good reason. He is an extremely talented musician and gets the audience involved in ways today’s top artists can only aspire to match. I hadn’t seen him perform in years. When my friend mentioned he was playing this show, and when we found out TWLOHA was benefitting from it, we had no choice but to lace up the chucks and attend.
I had never been to Transitions for a show before. It’s located on the same property as the Skate Park of Tampa, thus it is a grimy little hole-in-the-wall that is teeming with sweaty pubescent adolescents. I have nothing against grimy hole-in-the-walls, in fact I’m quite partial to them. They have character. They have stories. As a writer, I appreciate anything (or anyone) with a good story. It’s too bad the kids get in the way of such delicious filth. With their own filth.
Seriously, son, put on some damn shoes.
I’m getting irritated. Back on topic. (Whatever that is)
We pull into the parking lot and find a space directly under a power-line that is ominously bending under the weight of about fifteen pairs of sneakers (Maybe that’s what happened to that kid’s shoes). We take notice. Typically, a pair of sneakers thrown over a power-line and left hanging by their laces is intended to be a sort of memorial for someone who died. I’d like to know if the large amount of shoes is meant for one person or many. Or if the artisan of the hanging footwear exposition was even aware of the implied meaning behind his piece.
Either way, it was quite an entrance. As if to say, “Welcome to the Skate Park of Tampa, be fucking careful.”
Good thing we came for the music.
We walk into the cramped room. Our wallets are then raped by charity. We are banded. And we find a place to sit while the first band sets up. They begin soundcheck.
I can’t sit through this. It’s a 12×12 room and the sound technician is under the impression it’s an amphitheater. The double-bass drumming begins. The depths of hell open up and surge out through the gaping mouth of the band’s front-man. We get the hell out.
And so does everyone else, apparently. There’s a pretty large gathering around the entrance. We sit outside through the entire first set. It was unbearable. We watch as people file out of the building, a little bit disoriented and with pained expressions on their faces. It’s ok, we understand. You’re in a safe place now.
Forty-five minutes later, the noise eases. John Gold goes back inside to set up and we follow. So do about thirty others.
We re-claim our seats and the show begins. Even John’s sound check was beautiful.
The tiny room is full again, and a feeling of optimism has filled the air at the site of an acoustic guitar. John picks up his roughed-up old instrument. With the improvised shoe-lace guitar strap around his neck, his back faces the crowd. A distinctive drumming begins and is sent cascading over the crowd from the speakers. John continues beating on the body of the old guitar.
Fueled by the heartbeat of the percussion, the melodic guitar begins and John Gold is in action. Every single person in the room is immersed in the aura of John’s talent. He is infinitely better than I remember. No amount of written words can aptly describe the music John so deftly and fluidly creates and performs. It must be experienced.
The skillfully picked strings, effervescent beats and unrestricted vocals are backed up by the distinct passion John puts into every lyric, chord and rhythm.
This is the gold of local music. This is why we go to shows. This is why we sit through ear-piercing screeches and set after set of mediocrity. This is where it all becomes worth it. This is when we are truly moved.
It takes sifting through a whole lot of dirt and commonplace rock in order to get to the Gold. (How’s that for a metaphor?)