The past and present and future collided in new and interesting ways this afternoon, after I’d run ten miles and bought the week’s groceries.
I think I’ve mentioned here in the past that I sometimes go walking in an old mental hospital in the next town over. It closed maybe 20 years ago, and now the town owns the grounds and buildings, which are available to the public as a giant park. People bring dogs to run around, and it abuts trails and open land and the Charles River.
This situation, however clement, can’t stay as it is forever. The buildings are getting older and the land is valuable. Plans are in place to turn two of the old buildings (one of them a chapel) into an arts center and convert most of the rest of the buildings into housing.
I’ll miss the freedom to stroll the grounds once the complex goes residential. (I assume much of it will be closed once that happens, or at least it won’t be as freewheeling-open as it is now.) But, again, it can’t stay as it is forever. I’ve been fortunate to have access to it as it is now.
Anyway, the people behind the arts center are having a series of free concerts on the lawn this summer while they restore the interior of their two buildings. The second in the series was today, featuring seven or eight performers, and I went over for a while to listen.
They opened the old chapel building to the public, and for the first time, I went into a building on campus (the others are locked and boarded.) It appeared to be in decent shape, with a stage on one end and an old wooden floor.
A couple had brought their young kids into the darkened interior of the chapel — probably to keep them cool, as it will approach 90 degrees in the area today — and they ran circles around the floor, with the young girls swooping in and out and through the squares of light from the overhead windows. It was a cool effect; you shoulda been there.
Inside the chapel. (My flash kicked in; it looks brighter than it was.)
The first band I saw was called Salem Wolves. They’ve been at it since 2015, apparently. Their bio says they once shared a stage with Diarrhea Planet, which sounds like it merits some kind of award for valor.
They had a guitarist and bassist who mostly stood there, and a drummer who worked and sang and occasionally yelled, and a guitarist-singer who mach schau‘ed to the extent the little stage would allow.
They were loud, no-frills, a little punkish, and I liked them fine — enough, even, to come out of the (mostly full) shade and stand on the (mostly empty) lawn for much of their set. If the band was gonna give it up in the sunshine, the crowd oughta do the same, I figured.
They also, in flashes, gave me that nagging feeling that with two or three like-minded compatriots I could probably get up at a venue like that and do something similar. I’ll find something to lay down on until the feeling goes away.
The next two bands … well, things got a little weirder.
The first was a guitarist-singer named Gatch. (He was subtly explicit in his stage remarks that he was Gatch, not that they or we were Gatch. I assume the distinction means something.)
I saw a trombonist getting ready and I feared the worst — please, Christ, let this not be ska. It wasn’t. It was yacht rock! In addition to the ‘bonist, Gatch’s band included a keyboardist using a nice warm Seventies Fender Rhodes patch, as well as a percussionist with congas and shakers, working out on mildly funky love-grooves that reminded me of Boz Scaggs.
The set bogged down, IMHO, in some mid-tempo meandering in the middle; I was not particularly left wanting more, although they were good musicians.
After that came a four-piece from Worcester called the Blue Light Bandits … and damned if they didn’t strike me as yacht-rocky too. Gently funky muso music, well-drilled and flawlessly professional, with mildly extended chords and clean three-part harmonies and the guitarist playing nimble, glassy-toned Fender Strat solos.
I imagine if you had gone to see one of those one-hit wonder bands from American Top 40 countdowns from the late ’70s — like Player or Ace or Toby Beau — they probably would have sounded like the Blue Light Bandits.
I’m trying not to read too much into two bands on one stage on one afternoon … but as I left I wondered if “Baby Come Back” was the spiritual parent of the music people go out to venues to hear in the year 2022.
I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t that.