My love affair with the Royal Southern Brotherhood lasted about 12 hours.
The RSB (I will call them that to save time, and also because their full name sounds uncomfortably Klannish) is a soul-jam band made up of Cyril Neville of the New Orleans Nevilles; Gregg Allman’s son Devon; and a couple of vets of the likes of the Derek Trucks Band.
They performed in the Lehigh Valley tonight — in fact, are probably still performing as I type this — as part of Musikfest, a mostly free musik festival that konsumes Bethlehem, Pa., for two weeks or so every summer.
I read about the RSB in the paper at 8 or so this morning and decided I would enjoy going, even though I could imagine their sound in my head — some slow blues here, some N’Awlins second-line there, lots of long solos — and I don’t usually go in for that.
I set out for Musikfest at about 8 p.m.; flailed around Southside Bethlehem for a while looking for a place to park; and then finally gave up and came home.
So they could be tearing it up and I’ll never know.
A shame, I suppose.
I am sanguine about it. There are not that many gigs I could have seen in my realistic lifetime that I truly regret missing.
I’ve told the story in other settings about how my brother and dad saw Stevie Ray Vaughan two months or so before he died, and how I didn’t go with them because I was scheduled to wash dishes at Perkins.
That would have been fun to see. But on the other hand, I get farther and farther from honky-blues string-strangling with each passing year, so I no longer feel any great sense of loss over missing that one.
I probably missed at least one chance to be in the same room as the Kinks, because I didn’t understand their genius when they were still together. The late-era Kinks weren’t the same band that did the Kinks’ best music, though, and the more recent tunes they were flogging didn’t have as much to recommend them. So, no tremendous loss.
Similarly, I intentionally skipped this year’s reunion of the Beach Boys, because 70-year-old Mike Love and no Carl or Dennis Wilson ain’t how I like to think of the Beach Boys.
On the other hand, some of the musical performances I remember best are things I never thought I would enjoy — or even things I never even anticipated hearing.
When I was a kid, the great jazz drummer Max Roach performed at my high school (we had a big jazz program.) At one point he played an entire solo, several minutes’ worth, using just his high-hat. I happened to be sitting in the front row next to three or four student drummers, and will never forget the sight of their jaws dropping in unison as they watched a legend practice his craft.
More recently, I remember sitting under a tree outside Lehigh University’s Packer Chapel on a sensational spring day, hearing a choir rehearse for Bethlehem’s annual Bach Festival. The combination of the weather, the setting and the music was about as close as I have ever come to a religious experience. I thought any Supreme Being who could guide me into such a confluence of sunlight and counterpoint must have a pretty strong argument for Him/Herself.
The moral of the story, then: There is no use crying over missed gigs.
The world is full of wonderful music. Keep your ears open, enjoy what you can get to, and let the rest go.
The RSB? I’ll see ’em next year. If there is no next year, I’ll see someone else. And maybe that will be the show I talk about for the rest of my life.