20 July 2012

Why I Had to See Black Joe Lewis Last Night

You may recall, Dear Reader, I had a minor freak-out/depressive episode in anticipation of the Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears concert that I had hoped to attend. In the span of a 30 minute chat, I had gone from excited to fearful and too ashamed to go. I know I can be a very open here, but that piece effectively live-blogged an anxiety attack and I think it's probably the most candid thing I've written yet. I don't say any of this in the interest of self-aggrandizing, but so that you understand 1) my emotional state as I went to bed after sharing that piece and 2) why I hope it may help someone get a better sense of what it's like to face depression and anxiety.

Anyway, I went through the motions of sharing a link to the post as I generally do. When I got to Twitter, I absentmindedly changed "Black Joe Lewis" in the title to his Twitter user name, @BlackJoeLewis. Apparently, he checked it out and shared it or something because while I was asleep, I received the following tweet:


O_O

Now, I don't share this so that you might think to emotionally blackmail Joseph Woullard, Black Joe Lewis or anyone else into adding you to their guest list and I'll be very upset to learn that someone tries to exploit the generosity that Mr. Woullard graciously extended to me. I wanted to note his kind offer here, though, because he deserves recognition for being such a cool cat.

I naturally felt guilty, thinking that by blogging the way I did that I had extorted the offer. Of course, Black Joe Lewis didn't have to even read the tweet, much less did it ever have to reach Joseph Woullard - and even if so, I never had to know about it. But they did collaborate to get me to come to the show, and I knew I had to go. When someone goes out of their way to help you, you don't leave them hanging.

I actually pulled up at the same time as Black Joe's white van. Once I parked ($3 in the lot across the street; thankfully I actually had a little cash for once!), I went in and explained that I was on the guest list. Unfortunately, they had to wait to even get the list from the band, who had only just arrived. No worries, though. They got me in within a few minutes.

Once I got inside, I discovered three small tables set up just in front of the sound booth, and then the rest of the place was pretty much just an open dance floor. Today was a rough day on me physically, to the point that I used my cane for the first time in about a month. I was glad to have arrived early enough that I could snag a seat at one of the tables. It didn't take long before I began to feel anxious, being there by myself (my plus-one couldn't make it and I couldn't find a substitute) and surrounded by what can best be described as a "bevy of beauties." Seriously, y'all: Black Joe draws the hotties.

The opening band - The Bad Reed - went on around 9:00. Their instrumentation sounded pretty good to me, but I have no idea what any of the lyrics were. I don't know if it was the singer, the mixing, the acoustics or just the fact that I'm getting old. Anyway, during their penultimate song, I saw her. My former classmate.

I waited until the end of The Bad Reed's set to approach her. I definitely surprised her, but she seemed happy to see me and we chatted throughout the break. The questions I had feared she would ask came. I just answered them, though I tried to get through them as quickly as possible so as to minimize how much of a downer things have been. To my relief, she never appeared to judge me for being a failure or anything that I had feared I might face. I started to share the story about my freak-out and blog post with my former classmate, but didn't. Why make her feel uncomfortable knowing she had symbolized the judgment I had feared?

My hips and my back hurt from standing with her, but then Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears took the stage. I didn't want to leave her, so I remained where I was. I didn't even bother trying to keep up with their set list as I normally do. I was happy just being there. As I mentioned, the hottie ratio must have been about 5:1. I admit to a certain bias but my former classmate was the most impressive of them all. You know the line that encourages you to "dance like nobody is watching"? Well, she does that. Others were doing that stand-and-sway thing while the band ripped through song after song, but not her. She had her entire body going from her arms to her feet. I think a few people thought she was "with" me. I confess, I kinda liked that.

However energetic she was, though, the band was even more so. I've been to my fair share of concerts and I'm here to say that I don't think I've ever seen a band run at full throttle like they did, for so long! Their set ran around two hours. I'm not sure exactly when they started, but I would ballpark it around 10:45 and it was well after 12:30 when they finished their encore. Bear in mind, Black Joe's idea of a slow song is "Scandalous." For those two hours, the entire band was this amazing ensemble of enthusiasm. Instrumental bridges became an entire jam session, no player willing to be the first to crack. I've heard Garth Brooks talk about how, when things are going the way they're supposed to, the band has more fun than anyone else because they feed off the audience's energy. I saw that tonight. I scanned the room periodically and everywhere I looked, I saw people having an absolute blast.

You can tell when a band is just going through the motions. The Honeybears didn't do that. They were there to play and by God, they played! Just when I thought they had to be wearing down after a non-stop, 10 minute jam version of something, I looked up and saw my benefactor Joseph Woullard having the time of his life or the other horn players, Jason Frey and Derek Phelps, jumping up and down or laughing during a rest (a musical rest; not an actual break in play!).

At some point, they played "I'm Broke." It made me smile, because it's such an identifiable song for me! Of course, it's identifiable for most people these days and I think it was the one where the crowd sang along the most enthusiastically.

That brings me to an interesting point. Unlike most concerts I've attended, tonight's wasn't much of a sing-along. For one thing, the band jammed quite a bit and Black Joe himself stepped back from the mic to just play his guitar and jump into the bass player (whose name escapes me at the moment and I can't find online). Also, Black Joe's vocals are so unique that it's hard for me to sing along with him and I suspect it's that way for a lot of people. I don't even worry about it. I just enjoy hearing the music and this separates Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears from nearly every other artist or band out there. The songs aren't even important in some ways; you come to see this band to watch and hear them demonstrate their skills and talents. It's like going to a baseball game; you don't expect to play catch with anyone or step into the batter's box yourself. You just sit back and watch the pros do their thing. Same thing with Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears.

My classmate left around midnight because she had to get up early, but I hung out till the end and managed to chat for a few minutes with Joseph Woullard. I was able to properly thank him for the invitation, and I asked him how the band managed to play that hard for that long. He just smiled and shrugged, "It's like that most nights." He confided that the band had even more fun than we did, which recalled Garth's commentary on the subject.

Not that it's a competition, but I've rarely had as much fun as I had tonight. I'm in no small amount of pain, and I'm supposed to catch a noon showing of The Dark Knight Rises (just over eight hours from now), but I'm still riding high. How often does one get to attend a show as a guest of the band and stand next to the sexiest woman there?

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