Friends sometimes want me to see bands, likely because at one time I wrote music crap in New York and LA …very much yesterday’s news. That experience left me jaded with a visceral aversion for musical artifice and musical pleasers who confuse art with popularity contests.
At most clubs in Austin, I look for a quick exit because self-congratulatory “music city” is full of merely OK bands. Solid OK bands. But bands that don’t play from passion. Too many reek of contrivance, and shallow calculations of what might be popular. They usually guess wrong. Few Austin bands are urban edgy or authentic enough to cause national buzz. Austin’s full of solid OK bands that would be celebrated in Indianapolis or Albuquerque. But artistically – nothing more.
So I’m sitting in the Saxon Pub, one of the classic old time music dives, somewhat stunned by Patrice Pike singing her original music with that inner joy that rivets you song after song. It’s a wowzer! In your mind when you isolate the bass player, Glenn McGregor, you hear the rock solid work of a pro who can glue a group together. (Aside: The public usually treats base players as secondary add-ons. They often go unnoticed. But a great bass gives a group foundation -- without it the music flies apart.) The two percussionists are national class. John Bush adds melodic polyphonic rhythms that give the group more sophistication than one usually hears in 4/4 beat Texas. And Patrice Pike sings with passion from some genuine core place of a woman who has lived a life, not just watched one on television
My New York/LA self starts thinking like an agent: “This woman could be a star!” Besides her powerful Aretha Franklin belters, I could see her singing her own evocative songs, solo, like a quiet Billie Holiday wringing out your heart with every note. Of course being talented is not enough, to hit big an artist has to be authentic and original. In my reverie I put on my agent’s mind and conceptualize scenarios what would make Patrice take off.
The Saxon Pub is rocking. People are dancing. I turn to my pal Rick Fine and ask, “What is her ambition?”
He answers simply, “I think this is it.”
This Bodhisattva message jars me out of my reverie. I look around. The Saxon Pub is great. Over the years its weathered wooden walls have absorbed so much real music they reverberate. It’s like listening to a band within the sounding board of an instrument.
So in this moment Austin too is great. Why dream of clawing for fame in NY/LA when everything a human could ask for is right here? Ric and Patrice are there embracing the moment. And I, instead of being centered by this lovely experience, am foolishly manifesting discontent! Stupidly so, for NY/LA dreams I well know wouldn’t produce more joy than being right here.
So in Austin, you can sometimes still go to a honky-tonk, hear something exceptional and get a bit of Buddhist enlightenment.
Jeff Nightbyrd Shero © 2016
Jeff Nightbyrd Shero along with Michael Eakin organized and were the original editors of the Austin Sun.