Sunday, March 18, 2012

Dance Music: Seems To Want To Hurt This Time

Donna The Buffalo: Seems To Want To Hurt This Time


It was our first and last year volunteering at the Hudson River Folk Festival, a venue notorious among the folk crowd for demanding far too much of its staff. In our case, this meant opposite shifts for both my wife and I, as we could neither volunteer nor camp unless both took a turn; I forget what she had done during the day, but by the time this story begins, I had been up for two days after a midnight to morning shift in the security tent, and couldn't nap during the day because it was always my time to be with baby.

To say I was feeling a bit wobbly is an understatement. But it was father's day, and only my second ever. The music wasn't going to start until 11 or so. And so at my wife's urging, my daughter and I skipped off-site for the morning for some grub. We found a diner, and after about as much small talk as either of us could muster in my almost delirious state, a large gathering of fresh-faced middle-aged bohemian types at the next table over noticed my festival bracelet and gratefully interceded, asking if there was anyone good playing that day.

"I've heard really good things about Donna The Buffalo", I said. "Lots of other great singer-songwriter stuff on the docket for the day, but they're the ones I'm really looking forward to." And then the kid wanted something - more eggs, probably, or juice- and I turned away apologetically, missing their reaction entirely.

Moments later, check paid, coffee seeping slowly into my consciousness, we returned to base just in time for the morning sets, a set of sunny acoustic performances which passed quickly in my exhausted dream-state. Somewhere along the way, I handed the kid and her little red wagon off to her mother, the better to have my hands free for an hour or two to wander the grounds with lunch and festival program. And then, as promised, I headed off to the dance tent to catch Donna The Buffalo, and to meet the family.

Only to find that the band setting up was the same group I had breakfasted with.

Everything clicked into place as the band began to play. The exhaustion didn't fade so much as pass out of me like water down a drain as the music took over my body and brain. The funky bass adopted its reggae beat. The drum began to tap and crash, the washboard and fiddle brought the cajun roots and rhythm in. I kicked into the moves that every jamband engenders in its audience: head weaving, shoulders hunched, knees gently pumping, elbows up and arms akimbo in a sort of scarecrow's hop and shuffle. One of the band members - I forget which one - caught my eye mid-verse, and winked, and grinned, to let me know it was all good. And instead of bringing chagrin, the kind recognition lightened my step, sending a wave of gratitude to the universe up my spine.

And then, just as the chorus crescendoed and the ecstasy of the dance and music reached its peak, I looked out across the sea of bouncing, jumping hippie folk fans and into the sunlight on the far side of the dance tent. And there, in the field, I saw my wife passing, pulling our little red cart behind her.

And just behind her, like a mardi gras dancer on parade, I saw my beautiful child, legs stomping, body leaning into the music, chubby arms akimbo, dancing just like Daddy in the sun, the green grass all around, the river beyond her shimmery and wide.

Some moments live in your mind's eye forever. This one will never fade.

But just in case, I'm glad I've still got the pictures to prove it.

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