Don’t you love it when Life delivers a happy surprise?
Last night, there was a street festival in our town. The downtown streets hosted jugglers, bands, all sorts of artists displaying paintings, jewelry, sculptures. Crowds of folks flowed through the streets to see, be seen, hear, be heard, and have fun. Liveliness everywhere.
As you walked the downtown core, you could hear different music on every block. I heard heavy metal, some 60s redux, and folk. But the hit of the evening for me was when this nondescript, khaki-green army truck drove into an empty bank parking lot. Sitting in the back were two guys, one beating the drums and one guy playing an electric guitar.
The vehicle rolled to a stop as the two guys in the back of the truck wailed out some blues. The drummer, in his early 20s, thin, wore sunglasses and kept a good beat.
The guitarist, I’d say in his 30s, soul patch on his chin, black t-shirt, blue jeans and a leather belt (the belt figures later in the story) sat on a box and played lead guitar, singing some blues classics, like John Lee Hooker tunes. You could tell he knew what to do with guitar strings.
He played a medley of other blues classics, and his work set the air humming. A crowd slowly gathered, lured by the sounds.
The driver of the vehicle remained in the cab. A black guy in his 30s, he too wore dark sunglasses, and sat slumped in the driver’s seat, window rolled down, and stared at the side mirror, presumably to see the small band’s affect on the growing audience behind the truck.
The audience liked what they were hearing. More folks wandered over.
Finally, the driver threw open the door and climbed over the back of the truck to the box. The drummer kid got up and moved out of the way to let the driver sit down. He plunked himself down in front of the drum set and began hammering out a syncopated accompaniment to the guitarist, who by now was just getting warmed up.
The guitarist played the blues in earnest now. He owned the stage; the guitar sang. The drummer kept a steady beat rolling forth; all while looking cool, dark sunglasses, no smiling, khaki-green jacket.
These guys were concentrating.
My feet wouldn’t move. I had no choice but to stay. Delighted, I listened to several of my favorite blues songs as the scruffiest band at the festival wailed out the best music.
Some listeners in the crowd clapped along. The singer/guitar player began lifting the guitar to his face and singing into it, his voice took on a kind of warbling sound. Next, he put the guitar behind his head and continued to pick out great notes.
He went back to regular playing. Then he jumped up on the roof of the cab, guitar still in hand, playing the whole time. From there, he sang some more warbly music.
Then he jumped back down into the box of the truck. This time, he pulled out a knife. Not a pocket knife or a Swiss Army knife. No. It was a long-bladed knife with a black handle. He used it to slide along the neck of the guitar and play even more awesome notes. When he was done, he put the knife back in his jeans pocket… he played the guitar the whole dang time.
They rendered more blues numbers for the enthralled audience. The guitarist began asking audience members for a lighter. I didn’t want to know why, but I stayed to find out. Yes, I did.
Getting a lighter from someone in the crowd, the guitarist, guitar still in hand, hopped back up on the top of the cab. He took out a yellow plastic bottle and poured fluid on the guitar.
I couldn’t look away. I watched as he lit his guitar on fire. Then he pulled off his belt and lashed the fire out.
He asked for a cell phone, again from the crowd, so he could take a picture of the gathered folks.
A cell phone came his way immediately, and he ended the show by taking pictures of the large crowd. Everyone was holding up their hands at him and the drummer. Folks were signaling the universal ‘Love you’ hand signal, (thumb, forefinger and little finger open, third and fourth finger closed).
I loved every moment.