There are days that I wish that my car windows were tinted so dark that no one could peer inside. You see. It’s just that. My car is my sanctuary. It’s the first place that I get to road test and familiarize myself with new artists, songs, albums, etc. And more importantly it is the most likely place that I can be found gushing like a little girl, fist pumping the steering wheel in time with a kick drum, or shredding my vocal chords as I sing along to the music that corrals my sanity. I may just be a little weird when it comes to this. It’s almost as if I experience the emotion and feeling of the music that then exits my body in a Joe Cocker like spaz-out whilst in traffic. I go through a stigmatism weekly, except no marks are left on my wrist or in my side. I merely bring this up not because I totally want to let you behind the curtain but because on Easter Sunday Reese, Gentle John, and myself were three of very few audience members at Madison’s Café Montmarte to witness Strand of Oaks pour his heart out in song.
On this night, Timothy Showalter’s words and voice, pregnant with what might be the most emotion ever put to music, hung in the balance and lingered in the air long after the last note was played. During his set he told brief and comical stories to momentarily move away from the loaded content of his lyrics, like when he joked about the night’s previous performance in his hometown where he nervously played “Sister Evangeline,” a song about a failed relationship that yielded a child and a broken heart, in front of his grandmother. Joined on stage only by the rhythm guitar work and hushed vocal echoing of his cousin, Tim glided through the majority of his first album, Leave Ruin, with a delicate and focused nature that was more than fitting as an Easter night cap. The live version of “Dogs of War,” stripped down and bathing in its naked truths, instantly became my favorite song of his. Very soon after, similar qualities that brim from “Two Kids” returned it to its place as number one. A back and forth battle similar to this goes on nearly every time I push play, usually ending with a different answer each listen. The autographically tragic “End in Flames,” closed the book on the set and we three music lovers were to finish our pints and head back to Milwaukee. Only we didn’t…
While the rest of Madison slumbered and prepared to return to classes the next morning, Ryan from Muzzleofbees introduced Tim to Capital Brewery’s Mai Bock as we all talked about music, politics, the Midwest, and the probability of Huey Lewis & the News playing a basement show in a small town. We got to know each other as much as we could in the short few hours that we spent together. The only reason I bring this up is because of how it relates to the first paragraph.
To say Leave Ruin moves me is a bit of an understatement (see earlier post titled Music for the Harvest). The electrical charge given off by it is enormous and has affected me since my first listen. But I found that when I listened to track five, “New Paris,” a song purposely omitted on Easter for personal reasons on Easter, on my way to work more than a week after that glorious night, I felt my eyes begin to moisten in their corners. And as the song built up steam and the tempo increased, I began to bob my head and stomp my feet on the floor mats as my Mazda crawled past Miller Park. Surely onlookers may have thought I was nuts but the choice to flail that way was not my own. The music owned me in a way that it might not have ever owned me before.
Tip: If a band or artist that is gaining momentum or popularity but is still relatively small is playing in your area, you go. Each and every time you go. Because maybe, just maybe, you will amass a connection to the music that you never thought possible. Or, maybe you’ll have a horrible time that will go down as the most forgettable night of your life. But believe me, the small entry fee is always worth the gamble!