Blues and Beet Gazpacho

Brian Farrow knows everyone in this city. Last week I won tickets to see Shakespeare Theatre’s performance of Noel Coward’s Private Lives, which, side note, was wittily interpreted and had me laughing throughout (Second side note: What kind of couple dissolves imminent fights by playacting as if they were Tunisian harlots, gentile aristocrats, and lions? Not sure, but I love it. Also, if all fights could end with a snappy piano rendition of “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” that would be bomb.), and afterward, Brian, who had been my guest, invited me to a house party in Mt. Pleasant.

If you haven’t figured this out yet, Mt. Pleasant hosts a substantial number of house parties. All of them are great. You should always go.

This one was at Brian’s friend Sitali’s house. Sitali is another musician. He had invited Robert Lighthouse and some other musicians over to play some blues.

I love the blues. My dad spent a lot of time in New Orleans, and we often had the blues playing in our house when I was growing up. When I was 17, I formed a one-girl blues band that sometimes included my eight-year-old neighbor. It was called Sugarpie Stanton and her Kingbiscuit Swingers. The name was a lot flashier than the band itself, I’m sorry to say.

Anyway, point being, when I heard this was not just any house show but a blues house show we were going to, I was pretty excited.

When I walked in, I was handed a square cup of beet gazpacho. There were trays of ribs, pickled watermelon, and giant s’mores out back. We sat around on the porch a while chatting and playing the kazoo. I carry one around in my purse, because that’s the type of quirky person I am.

After a bit we went inside. The guys were going to start jamming. A bunch of us crowded into the living room, where there was a keyboard, a mandolin, and four or five guitars. In the middle of the room was an empty one-armed rocking chair, and someone indicated that I sit there. The bluesmen started playing: The Swedish guitarist Robert Lighthouse; trumpeter and keyboardist Joe Brotherton; a man named Wayne on the washboard; and my friend Brian playing the bass line on the guitar and later the mandolin.

Man was it good. There is nothing like a jam session in a hot, humid night to set you straight.

The best part was the trumpeter tossed me a shaker egg to play along. Do you know how long I’ve wanting to play with a band? It’s a dream of mine. And to sit with those storied blues musicians, shaking that shaker egg and rocking back and forth in that one-armed rocking chair … That was incredible, surreal. Sometimes you wonder if the heat makes you a bit delusional.

Later, when we walked out, it was misting and it started to drizzle. Brian had borrowed the mandolin and began to make up a song.

We walked along the sidewalk, a little bit giddy. On nights like these you feel a bit like children, partly because it’s raining and what person in their right mind skips in the rain without an umbrella, and partly because of the night itself, because at 1:00 in the morning you’re so filled with wonder and just … love … for this world, this life, the things you do and the things you discover, that you feel like you’re coming into your own again.

We waited for the bus at the top of the hill. In the bus shelter, we sang one of my favorite songs, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” You can hear me almost laughing. So much happiness packed into a single night.


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