There are good nights of music. Then there are exceptional nights of music. Then, there are absolutely MAGIC nights of music. All apply here.
This Thursday was our last chance to visit our favorite open mic at the Bowery Vault in East Nashville. It was the best way to bookend our trip for so many reasons. The usual cast of characters was there, from moving and passionate instrumentalist, Jo Corso, to seasoned veteran of song and story, LH Halliburton. Our friends, fellow husband and wife duo Defern showed up, and the incomparable sound guy, John Dennis, also gifted us one last tune. We were also graced with the raging talents of two Nashville newcomers from Australia, Sinead Burgess and Blake O’Connor, a return performance from last week’s showstopper, Cory King of Ohio Weather Band, only this time he brought a band mate, Ray Lumpp, to accompany him on keys and cajón, and a gut-wrenching piano ballad from our bartender for the evening, Stevie Rae Stephens. Along with these were so MANY others who absolutely FLOORED us. These are some names you should 100% check out!!! Wes Dorethy, Hugh Trimble, Bronwen, and Barie, including the incredibly talented Brett Lynn, who was our darling server from a couple weeks back at the Frothy Monkey.
Brett was really amazing in a few ways. First off, he was a wonderful guitar player, had a huge soul/RnB voice, and was also a compelling songwriter. Definitely a triple threat! But what I loved most about him was his gigantic heart for every person who got on stage. He would scream and cheer and clap so enthusiastically. He made everyone feel special and loved just for being brave enough to get on stage. He was the ultimate cheerleader for the artists. Not one person felt left out or unappreciated. And it wasn’t like he was alone in his joy. He just seemed to lead it. Everyone was happy to join in the praising of one another, and the night rolled on with each act being ushered on and off stage with a barrage of smiles, hoots and hollers, claps and hugs. I’ve never been a part of anything quite like it.
We brought my brother with us, as he wanted to sneak in a little more time with us before we left. One of my favorite parts was watching him. For the most part, since the Vault is super small, it’s pretty limited to whoever is playing (the list holds twenty-four sign-ups. People start at 4:30 and the list is full by 4:35). Some people are duos, but there are mostly solo acts. Every so often, a friend or spouse will come to support, but the seats are limited and it is a long night, so not a lot of outsiders come to watch or even know about it. It’s really just a lot of musicians playing for each other and getting to stretch out a bit from the typical stuff Nashville is popular for. Thus, the Vault is revered as one of the most artistic and creative spaces to see original music. My brother didn’t realize how it all worked and about thirty minutes in said, “Wait. I feel like I’m in a secret society or something. I can’t BELIEVE hundreds of people aren’t here to see this. I’ve never heard music this good!!” All we could do was smile and say, “We know.”
It was a really bittersweet evening. After coming out each Thursday for the whole month we stayed in Nashville, we’d made several friends and felt like we found a place of acceptance and encouragement. It was an anchor spot for us. A place of rejuvenation and peace. No matter what other gigs, rejections, or trials we went through, Thursdays were a time for everyone to get together and work through it with music. And you could feel it all over in the air. Everyone was part of the experience. Everyone needed it just as much.
This Thursday was no exception, except it was. But in an outrageously untouchable way. You know when you’re part of something so special, you barely want to call attention to it? It was like that. Like the perfect iridescent bubble, tipping ever so precariously on the end of the plastic wand. Big and beautiful, sitting there so full of color, the warm afternoon sun catching every swirly movement of each soapy ocean trapped within its marbleized surface. You are captivated by its uniqueness and you hold immensely still…You whisper-yell to your best friend, “Heeeey! Come quick and see! But don’t move too close!” And you both stare into the magic sphere, holding your collective breath so as to be able to lean in just a bit closer and see if you can observe the world inside the bubble. And you know in that shared moment with another beating heart, you have witnessed magic.
And when, at last satisfied, it has lived its entire purpose in that moment, suspended on the yellow plastic ridges of the wand, your bubble pops. You are left with a slimy film on the end of your nose and a bittersweet memory of the perfectness of that vision. All the knowledge of the frailty of a moment settles heavily on your heart and you are at once sad and grateful for the seconds you got to spend with it and the wisdom that comes with the appreciation of such a simple thing.
That was our night. And I should barely speak more of it or I may begin to forget the real parts and exaggerate the fake ones. Just know when I tell you that Jared and I (and my dear brother) got to be part of something that was so lovely, it may rank as a top ten experience in my adult life, and I dare not trivialize the experience with a “this happened, that happened” narrative any more except for this.
Music is life.
Magic is real.
Music is magic.