Almost exactly a year after our last big performance, we’ve starting coming out of hibernation. We pretended it was warm enough to rehearse on Tim’s patio. We worked on new stuff for the summer, including for an upcoming wedding. We’re hopeful about the prospects of vaccinations and outdoor gigs. And, frankly, just being able to setup in a familiar space felt good from the moment we sat down and plugged in.
Even as we were starting to freeze in the wind and cold on Friday evening, we wanted to play just one more song for no particular reason. And, for all the reasons. We were feeling good.
When we’re working out new songs the process can be just as entertaining as the finished product. It was fun to find and edit snippets here that showed how songs could start out as rhythms or melody lines and just run away from there. And it’s fun to see the comedy that initiates some rehearsal pieces and the fun that ensues.
Like you, we’re at home. It’s ironic that we have brand new business cards. All 500 of them sit here in a box with their fancy rounded corners not finding their way into anyone’s fingers, at least for now.
This pandemic promoted change is tough, both because it means we can’t play in public — our slate of gigs uniformly canceled through April and May — and because we can’t work on stuff together. I think it’s safe to say that we’re all better musicians when we’re working together, and we’re probably all better people when we’ve had a chance to mesh our musical gears. Plus, in a time of crisis, music is a great cushion to soften things. Being socially distant makes the spread of disease more controlled, but it removes one of our usual ways of coping, too.
Still, we’re working on things. We all have other stuff we’re tied up in, working and child-raising and home-schooling and breathing, so it’s tough to be particularly creative. Yet, when we each have moments we have projects we’re trying to tie together, like a 4-track mixtape where we each contribute bits and pieces and learn new things. Hopefully we’ll have stuff to share, sooner or later. It will make our own days a little brighter, at least.
As we’re experimenting with different ways of recording, I just demoed this piece that I sit down and play for my own solace. It’s what I test pianos with, just to see if how they feel, and it’s what I play to myself just to settle into my own breath. For a long time, just to myself, I’ve called it “Home.” That seems fitting now.
Maybe someday we’ll have to write a song we can call “out” or “not at home” or “hugs for everybody.” We’ll look forward to that day, with more to come before that, too.
Quick update: We sold a couple of downloaded albums last month, and we’re donating those proceeds to Lavender Vinyl. While Lavender doesn’t have their physical doors open, they’ll bring stuff out or deliver to you directly from their store. (I’d bet they’d even deliver our CD right off their own rack.) Or, you can order from their warehouse. I ordered from them directly, and I’m pretty tickled that I have a used copy of Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson on its way to me now.
I don’t know if we’ll look back on the gig last night and know for sure it was objectively a wise decision. This was the night before the country completely shifted gears and went into all varied states of lockdown. Today, universities are seemingly universally switching to online instruction, large gatherings are canceled, and we’re being told to stay home. And for good reason. Even while we were playing professional basketball turned off the lights and went home. Ian noted after that it felt like the whole world collapsed while we played a 60 minute set. It’s as though everything deteriorated because we weren’t paying attention for a couple hours.
But while we were playing, it was all just right.
I’m not really sure what we’ll feel accountable for when all is said and done. Hopefully we’re just enough outside of the wave of the pandemic that our gathering wasn’t a point of concentrated viral spread. People kept their distance; there was no coughing; we sang a song to help everyone concentrate on washing their hands.
What I am sure about is that we would have played in that grand hall of the old train station even without anyone showing up. That’s what we started to picture, actually. And then people showed up and cheered and clapped (we love that, we’re not ashamed to admit) and were into the music and the focus on a collection of jazz standards, the most challenging part of our catalog. But most of all, we just got to play and people just got to listen, and for those 60 minutes we didn’t have to worry about the rest of the world. We just got to put the music out into space. It was a salve to the soul to be able to just push the keys and play the changes.
And when Caryn belted out “Feeling Good” and Tim played down that bass line I thought yes, yes that’s what feeling good is, and this is where I want to be. Ian kicked the drums into the second verse to drive it all home.
I start to wish that it could have been for more than that hour, that we could just suspend reality and stay in that hall and just keep playing and ignore the world of anxiousness and trouble. But I also know that everything is temporary, the good and the bad. I’m grateful we had that time and that reminder that, while there are things to endure and muddle through, we have these hubs of joy and art to tie it all together. I’m grateful I get to play in a band that gives me those moments and that perspective. It will carry me through until our next gig, whenever that may be.
We know there’s legitimate caution about coming out to public gatherings and shows while everyone is concerned about disease spread and public health. Certainly, some people may stay home more often and people should be mindful about how they’re interacting with one another. Social distancing and waving instead of hugging and hand-shaking are perfectly good ideas.
But, also, most especially, hand washing. The key ingredients include soap, water, and 20 seconds of scrubbing. But how do you keep track of the time you’re washing your hands? People suggest different songs to time your good hygiene, but here in the corporate offices of S&S we recommend the bridge of Sing, starting at about 1:20 on this track:
Just sing along to the “la la la la la, la la la la la la, la la la la la la la” line (you can’t say you don’t know the words!) three times at our tempo for plenty of washing thoroughness. Twice through will work if you’re singing it a little slower. We don’t care exactly how you do it, but we’re happy to help.
We’ll teach you the song at upcoming gigs as a public service, and we’ll listen to hear all of you putting this to good use in the restrooms. As the song goes, “Sing out loud, sing out strong.”