Friday, August 13, 2021

A Louder Sort of Quiet

I literally don’t remember the time I saw Nanci Griffith in concert.

I remember the concert, more or less. I was in college, back in the mid-1980s, and my friend Rob wanted to go to see a folk duo named Buskin & Batteau who were playing at a local bar that was ambiguously off campus depending on how you defined the campus. I had heard a lot of Buskin & Batteau songs by then – Rob and I were in a band together with Jack and we actually covered one of them at the irregularly scheduled concerts that we’d play here and there. I don’t know why Jack wasn’t with us. It was a long time ago.

I remember the bar. It had a stage at one end with some round tables in front of it, and some bar stools and counters around the edges. Jack and my dad and I saw Leon Redbone at the same bar not long after this, actually. It was a nice place.

Rob and I sat on bar stools on the edge, enjoying the concert for a while until he saw some friends of his at one of the tables and went over to sit with them. He asked me several times to join them, but I wasn’t the most sociable person at the time and didn’t know them so I stayed on the side until the concert ended.

It was a fun concert. Buskin & Batteau were a midlevel folk band with some really great music (though their lyrics could be hit and miss). There aren’t many folk groups with violins played as violins rather than fiddles.  One of their songs has a heartbreakingly beautiful two-part violin bit, and it turned out that someone in the audience had learned one of the parts so they brought her up on stage and had her perform with them.  I remember that part, at least.  She did a good job.

Rob bootlegged the concert, which in the mid-1980s meant bringing in a bulky tape recorder, putting it on the table, and hoping the band didn’t mind because there really wasn’t any way to hide it. He made me a copy afterward.

It wasn’t until I listened to the tape that I realized the opening act was Nanci Griffith. I knew who she was, but I didn’t remember her part of the concert at all even then. They brought her back for the encore. I still have the tape somewhere.

I listened to a lot of Nanci Griffith songs after that, but I never managed to see her in concert again. Never met her. Never traded so much as an email. But she had a distinctive voice and a writer’s talent for lyrics, and she was one of those small pieces of the background music of my life that I enjoyed.

She passed away today, another little chunk of my past irretrievably lost to time, much like John Prine last year. The ghosts accumulate as you get older.  The quiet gets louder.

But the music plays on.


LucyInDisguise said...

I would have responded to this a little sooner, but today is the 35th anniversary of our marriage, and my Viking and I have spent the weekend hiding from any part of the world that actually knows us.

I had never heard of Nanci until your post sent me in search of her work. Talented Lady, she is.

Beyond a certain age, which is different for each of us, the ghosts do not accumulate, they multiply.

And merely a few months beyond that, it feels as though they learn to do so exponentially.

And the music plays on, but, increasingly, just a touch more melancholy.


David said...

Well happy anniversary to you both! May the years be kind and the world gentle.

There is a comfort to be found in ghosts, if a melancholy one.

I'm glad you went exploring into her music! She was long a favorite of mine.