It’s Friday, and I’ve decided to treat it like Friday ought to always be treated if the world were pure and responsibilities were few and all music was as important and central to everyone as it really should be: tenderly but intensely and with a fervent passion and focused dedication towards intoxicants both liquid and aural. The best way to do that on this particular Friday, it seems to me, is to head down to the Uptown VFW and watch Alex Rossi and his band release their new album, Echoes From The Arches.
It’s soul/funk/R&B glory and definitely offers up Fervent Passion and Tender Intensity and Aural Intoxicants (we’ll assume the bar staff at the VFW will provide the liquid ones, tonight) and also it’s the sort of show in which I can reasonably predict I’ll get laid after if I bring my girlfriend (R&B is just sex jazz, people), which is extra credit for the Friday checklist (not required but preferred) so all of my ballots are cast here, so to speak, and it’s just a matter of calling this Uber.
I’ve never been to this VFW before, even though I spent a year living right around the corner from it, but I’m pretty sure I know what I’m about to walk into: old guys in Harley Davidson shirts and baseball caps that tell you what war they fought in sipping domestic beers and taking turns trouncing the one youngster (likely the bartender’s teenaged son) at pool. You know, a VFW. As soon as I step out of the Uber I realize this is not, in fact, the vibe. There are door guys (two) and a patio-full of people sipping canned Sam Adams IPA’s (are they on special?) and not a single Harley Davidson t-shirt in sight. This is a good sign.
The band has just started the first song as we get in and hit the bar. The Sam Adam’s IPA’s are indeed only four dollars. Mahle has to pee and I tell her to meet me up front. There are a lot of bodies in here but as I slither my way through the crowd I see that shiny little empty pocket in front of center stage: The Semi-Circle of Self-consciousness. This phenomena manifests at many shows but I wasn’t expecting it here – Alex Rossi fans like to groove – but I capitalize on it and bust in there.
Center stage is the best place to feel, and it feels sexy up here. Alex has a cherry-red Tele (Americana) and the bass player’s making time with this gorgeous bone-white custom piece – all asymmetrical and curvy – and our organ player’s dressed like a Slavic futball hooligan with a red-suede newsboy hat and tracksuit (it matches the guitar), and the drummer’s got this loud button down on his chest and a scream on his face. They’re grooving. I’m moving.
Moving too hard, probably, because every time I glance back at my girlfriend and the ensemble of friends she found in the back and dragged up front they all look at me wildly and all eight of their eyes say “what are you DOING” but I can’t stop shaking because this music feels GOOD and it’s Friday night and godDAMN if you just let the music inside of you for an hour everything will be okay, it really will, I promise, and I think they get it, after a few songs, because we’re all moving now and I’ve got little goose bumps crawling all over me like bees and a good fourth of my beer is on the floor but no one seems to care and shhh…
They slow it down now for a mellow hold-your-lover-tight triple meter croon. This is the drummer’s moment – in this music, in this song, it’s all about that snare drum and where it falls and where it puts your feet. You must place the snare before the beat, most drummers can conceptualize this, but how far can you push it before you start to rush the song, how close can you play it so the audience is running toward you and not away?
It is so so delicate and unexplainable but this drummer describes it like he was born there and the bees on my skin bite me and I’ve lost any pretense of bodily autonomy now, the snare is moving my feet for me, and I smile wickedly because sometimes it’s better just to run without knowing where you’re going, sometimes that sort of uncertainty can free you from the myriad other unknowables that you’ve been telling yourself not to worry about all week and after all, it’s Friday night.
Set one is over now, it felt like a blink. My girlfriend has been feeding me sugary shots all night and we’re both quite toasted. Alex tells us they’ll all be right back, we beg him to stay, he doesn’t, we go smoke and evaluate our lives.
We all agree on a few points:
- We feel better than we have all week
- We’re each buying a copy of that fucking album
- If you plan to dance your ass right off and drink Grape Pucker all night you should probably chug a bunch water first or you won’t be able to stay for set two
- All of us need to leave, right now, and hop on the good foot and do the bad thing
Writer and reader in Minneapolis, Minnesota