Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Eve 2011

It's been a long time since I rang in a new year from someplace other than my couch. Or my bed. I'm not much for going out.

But I said goodbye to 2011 this year out in public, and it was more fun and more meaningful than I ever expected.

Local band Nick Reams and the Moonshiners have been around longer than I've been alive. Nick was headlining The County Seat on New Year's Eve, and while renting a PA system from Powhatan Music & Sound, he punched a winning ticket and got a bass player to boot. With my husband signed up to be a Moonshiner, it was pretty clear where I'd be on Saturday night.

Turns out most of the band members have been playing together for decades. Or they're kinfolk. Or both. Nick, Harvey and Pat are all related, and their musical bloodline was obvious. They know the same songs, the same way. They share that unique resonance that only happens when the band shares the same blood.

Turns out about half the crowd was kinfolk as well. That made for lots of hugging and kissing.

I met some wonderful people, just sitting out in the audience watching my husband. I must add that I was grateful for that vantage point; it's not often I get to sit out in the crowd and watch him. I really enjoyed it.

The band got cranked up, with great versions of "Gonna Find Her" and "Brown Eyed Girl", and even a cock-eyed version of "My Ding-a-ling"(bringing back my own unique memories; I actually owned that 45. Chuck Berry's version.) The empty space in front of the bandstand quickly filled, and initially I was amused. The median age seemed to be 68. The crowd was old. I saw familiar faces - some of the same folks who frequent The County Seat at breakfast and lunch time, local business owners. A few kids, home from college. The occasional waitress, boogieing her way across the dance floor with a pitcher of water held aloft.

Here I was, out on New Year's Eve, with the geriatric crowd. Woo hoo.

I nursed my goblet of water and watched the folks in front of me. The "old people". And then slowly but surely, I started to see them.

I saw a beautiful woman, easily on the other side of 70, nose to nose with her husband as she mouthed the words along with the band.
You'll never, never know 
The one who loves you so 
No, you don't know me
A man closed his eyes and remembered, as he clutched his wife close to him and swayed along to a Bee Gees song.

The entire crowd, laughing, smiling and carefully throwing their hands up as they sang, "You make me wanna SHOUT!"

A couple easing onto the dance floor, finding an obviously familiar rhythm, their feet moving in perfect tandem.

These folks knew the band; they knew each other, and they knew the songs. I watched as 2012 drew closer and realized I was witnessing more than just a party. A bit of history passed right before my eyes, as the crowd responded to the music, connected with their memories and let themselves respond.

I found out later that many of the people in the room had followed Nick and his band for years. As in forty years or so. He cut his teeth on the east coast dance hall circuit playing music. At seventy-two years of age, he led his friends and family into 2012 with a great gift; the opportunity for people to remember, to relive the past, to revel in the ingrained melody and rhythm of songs that undoubtedly connected each one to unique places and times in their own lives.

I was connected last night, if only as an observer. I saw the evidence of lives well-lived, of treasured relationships, of aged romance. There is something to the enduring legacy of a community gathered around a common love of a good time.

I daresay it was one of the best New Year's Eve I've ever experienced.

And I got to take the bass player home. Epic win.


annie said...

You write so beautifully of this experience!

Brandee Shafer said...

I love how most people become better right along with older.

Anonymous said...

thank you for such a wonderful article on my dad's band....It was a wonderful evening..I grew up hearing this music-glad others enjoy it, too....