Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sweet sounds of Evil homecoming

Is there anything quite so sweet as the sudden feeling of normalcy that flowers after the last Yankee has safely-but-thankfully returned to wherever he spends the other 354 days of the year, when the sidewalks and streets have been cleared of vehicular and human congestion and you can breath again, when you remember the reasons you like Newburyport, when the real Yankee Homecoming begins, when we take back the streets and return to happier, simpler, fry-doughless times? Nah, not even the first day of school when we finally get those rotten kids out of the house. It's like when that nasty, old swine flu fever finally breaks.

We celebrated by spending a little quality time with the Evil Gal. Yeah, Michelle Willson was in town for a Sunday Soul session with Curtis Jerome Haynes at Glenn's Galley, one of the longest-running and seriously cool gigs in town. We waited until night fully descended, just to be positive the stake had been driven through Homecoming's heart, drove into town from the Left Bank and found a spot in the municipal lot . Ah, those little joys! The place was packed. In a good way. Warm, close, comfy, not the please-please-please-get-me-outta-here-downtown Homecoming crunch. Willson was a powerhouse. No surprise there. She belted out the good stuff — Ruth Brown, Etta James — in a performance where chilling authority combined with a friendly, engaging spirit. Awesome. She was backed by an all-star line-up that included saxophonist Robert Lyons; Ken Clark Organ Trio guitarist Mike Mele; bassist Randy Bramwell, a longtime member of the Love Dogs currently playing with Commander Cody; drummer Seth Pappas, who keeps time with James Montgomery these days, and, of course, Haynes, the ex-Roll and Tumble and current-Chicken Slacks keyboardist who has been running these Sunday sessions for, yikes, close to fourteen years.

But, looking back, it wasn't the music that made the evening so memorable. You know these guys are monsters going into it. You expect they'll tear it up. It wasn't just the spillover joy of post-Homecoming relief. Or even the fact that Glenn’s sells Pilsner Urquell, co je samozrejme nejlepsi pivo v svete, at a reasonable price — only four bucks, are you kidding me? But it was the more than that. There was a palpable feeling of community in the air, an easy-going sense of family. There was no real separation, physical or emotional, between audience and band. We were all just pals hanging out together and it was fun, like the first couple of days at family reunions.

And maybe this, boys and girls, is the true spirit of the much-dreaded festival because, you know, in the Clipper City, they say that the Homecoming Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that night, and, from all indications it appears to be true — until next July rolls around.

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