The year of pandemic means that it’s difficult to figure out a way to celebrate special occasions. Our anniversary plan this year was going to be the Sawtooth Valley Gathering but that first got postponed into September before it was finally postponed into 2021. With no ideas, I was excited when I saw a Facebook post to a Seattle jambands group announcing that there were artists staging driveway concerts on https://www.curbsideconcerts.rocks/. One of the options in the Seattle market was Fruition’s Jay Cobb Anderson. It had been over 4 months since I had seen any music, so I figured it would be worth a shot.
The booking experience was a tad weird. On the plus side, it was very straightforward to use, with a calendar system for openings, a list of the requirements to make it run smoothly (enough room that you can stay 6 feet away, a power source, a provided heavy duty extension cord, etc.), and a space for requests which I judiciously filled in. On the other hand, I’m a bit extreme about not being able to deal with uncertainty and I was directly dealing with a musician; by definition they lead more fluid lifestyles. I’m used to dealing with an intermediate turnaround to a meeting request at work, but this one took a few days with some twists and turns, such as the moment when he corrected his name on the site which meant that my request – which I most definitely was not checking hourly for status updates, because I’m just not that kind of person at all – suddenly vanished. Mind you, I got the commitment email with days to spare, so this was much more a me being neurotic issue than a site having issues one. It’s just something to be aware of. Musicians operate on their own schedule so have some patience.
Saturday came and at 4 PM we were waiting outside. It was one of those Seattle summer days that cause visitors to move here; after the morning clouds burned off, it was sunny and a humidity free 75 degrees. A car pulled into the driveway, and out came Jay. We spent a few minutes setting things up and we were ready to go.
Two things became immediately apparent from the show. The first is that it would be really interesting hearing songs made for a band end up rearranged for a solo performance. Right out of the gate, “Mountain Annie” sounded different than it did with the band, but it didn’t sound bad. I stretched him a bit with the requests, but even the full band jammed number that is “Fire” sounded quite impressive with just a single guitar. The fear was that maybe it would feel too watered down, but even with the moments where I thought, “I wish Mimi [Naja] were playing now,” or, “I would kill for T-Tom [drummer Tyler Thompson],” Jay managed to come up with interesting ways to rearrange the material. The second is that set and setting are indeed important.
So many music events right now just seem frustrating. Drive in sets – while something I’d definitely see with the right artist if they were allowed in my state – frequently confine people to staying inside of their vehicle. Outdoor shows with circles painted on the ground give you a little more freedom, but again, almost taunt you in showing you the social event that you’re almost having but aren’t. This somewhat inevitably leads to people breaking the rules (especially at events where alcohol comes into play) which is why these are no longer welcome in many states. A front yard concert was something completely different. Instead of being a lesser simulation of what used to be, this was something completely different, a world where my cats watched the show from the window, joggers passed by the show, and we danced in front of the house.
The other difference between this and a normal show was the informality. Jay was playing to an audience of 2… well until the closing “Labor of Love” where two neighbors who were trying to figure out where the music was coming from finally found the concert. There was a lot of back and forth banter and casual story telling between songs. When none of us could remember the words to “Misty Night,” I desperately tried to Google them. The casual nature will help to make it memorable.
And that’s what this whole thing has always been about. The reason why I travel and sacrifice to see music is to have those experiences where I will remember forever. I’ve been blessed to have so many of them over the years, and the day where Jay Cobb Anderson played in my yard in a global pandemic will be another one.
There’s definitely a privilege factor that comes into play before ordering one of these shows. You have to have a space for the musician to play and neighbors who will accept it. You have to be one of the lucky people who still are employed during this year. I know I was fortunate to have the creator of many of my favorite recent songs living in my town and being in my price range for an anniversary present. But if you’re in the situation where you can do this, there’s a local musician to you that you love, and are just wondering if the experience was worth the cost, there is no question in my mind about that. You can check out Curbisde Concerts or just contact a band directly and see if they’re willing to make a deal.
Someday, we will be able to gather together, hang with friends, sing along to the songs we love, and enjoy shows the way we used to. For now though, it’s about figuring out how to make it through this year. I don’t know when I will next see music again, but this recharged my batteries enough that I’ll be able to live off of it for weeks!
Just One of Them Nights
The Way That I Do
Falling on my Face
Just Close Your Eyes
Warm Summer’s Night
Meet Me on the Mountain
Labor of Love
If you want to see it, there is video on YouTube”; if you just want to hear it, the audio is on archive.org. My advice to anyone who orders a concert like this is to do what I did and just set up your phone against a water bottle, take a few seconds to zoom in a bit, hit record on the video, and let it go. There is little music these days; that seems to maximize the ability to enjoy the show as it is happening while also letting you have a way to listen to it later.
David Steinberg got his Masters Degree in mathematics from New Mexico State University in 1994. He first discovered the power of live music at the Capital Centre in 1988 and never has been the same. His Phish stats website is at http://www.ihoz.com/PhishStats.html and he’s on the board of directors for The Mockingbird Foundation. He now tweets and has a daily update on the Phish Stats Facebook page.
His book This Has All Been Wonderfulis available on Amazon.
He used to see a lot of music and he misses it a lot!