Up, Up And Away (High As A Kite On Music)

As I barrel down the highway that before year’s end will bring me to the road marker labeled The Big 7-0, assuming that I don’t kick off before then, I mean it when I say that I consider myself a fortunate guy. I’ve got a couple of biggies to worry about — who doesn’t? But for the most part I’m rolling along pretty nicely, doing most of the sorts of things that gave me a bang years ago, and still getting a bang from them. Such as palling around with my wife Sandy and with other pals; poking around in the great outdoors and in cities that have zing and depth; downing good foods and beers in taverns and restaurants.

And listening to music, which I’ve left for last to give it the space it deserves. And that’s because music sometimes takes me to realms — excellent realms — that otherwise I wouldn’t be setting foot in. Music, like nothing else, can get me high as a kite. Well, pot can get me high as a kite too, but I haven’t smoked any in, what? . . . 30 years? It’s a habit I dropped that maybe, to tell you the truth, I’d be interested in picking up again. But that’s another story.

It’s not as if listening to music always is a transporting experience for me, though. At home I usually am struggling with a Sudoku puzzle or thrashing through the Web as tunes play on the stereo, so the musical vibes sink in only partially. And in the car I make a modest effort to keep my eyes on the road, even if a great song is trying to liberate me.

Nor does music always lift me to the skies at concerts. A week and a half ago, for example, Sandy and I went with friends to see Peter Mulvey, a solid singer-songwriter who put his palette of emotions on display in a small space in Philadelphia. I dug him, but I remained Earthbound. Here’s why:

Volume. I need a lot of volume for liftoff to occur, and the Mulvey concert, consisting of  Peter and his acoustic guitar, was merely in the middle of the decibel scale. And, usually, there’s got to be strong drumming. And, usually, long and soaring solos from an electric guitar, though their counterparts from a piano or saxophone also might do the trick.

Hallelujah! High volume, crashing drum strokes and gorgeous guitar work soon came my way, because Sandy and I headed to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 15 hours after the conclusion of the Mulvey show. There, in an arts center built on the grounds of the defunct Bethlehem Steel Corporation, day three of the three-day Blast Furnace Blues Festival was marching on. We stayed for five hours, catching three acts and gazing at the rusting Bethlehem blast furnaces through the music room’s huge windows, before taking to the roads once again.

The Lee Boys, Victor Wainwright, Ana Popovic . . . I wasn’t familiar with any of them before arriving in Bethlehem. If you like rip-roaring music, then these guys probably are for you. They all bring the noise, and then some, with skill and soul. And they all tour a lot, so they might show up in your corner of the world.

None of the acts plays straight-blues-all-the-way by any means, though their underpinnings are heavily molded from the blues. The Lee Boys mostly serve up gospel tunes, though you might have a hard time recognizing them as such, heavily wrapped in funky R&B drapery as they are. Victor Wainwright is a sweet-toned shouter who can put a little gravel in his voice, a suspendered showman who loves feeling close to his audience almost as much as he loves to pound out red hot boogie woogie licks on his keyboard. And Ana Popovic is, at heart, a rock and roller. She sings well, but it’s her string work that you go to see her for — she’s an electric guitar goddess.

Sandy and I took seats 25 feet from the stage. The place was mobbed. The audience was pumped. And when The Lee Boys, the first group we saw that day, tore into their opening number I tipped my hat to the guy twisting and sliding the sound board’s dials. He had the music pouring out loud, really loud, but not so utterly powerfully that my ears ever felt like they were in danger. I was bopping with the beats, pounding the heel of my left foot up and down like a piston. And then the magic carpet rides began when Roosevelt Collier slid into the first of his lengthy, involved pedal steel guitar solos. Dreamy at times, growling at others, stuttering and whooshing, his electric journey rushed inside me. Closing my eyes I became lost in the sounds, bouncing my head back and forth gently, uncontrollably, as they swept me along, swept me upward, seduced me. When his solos reached their ends in each Lee Boys tune, it took me a few moments to decompress.

I’m not sure why the same didn’t happen during Victor’s set. He and his band were on fire, and Pat Harrington, the electric guitarist, tore into his instrument like a demon. But for reasons unknown, my eyes remained open throughout the wild ride. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t groove madly. I did, but I didn’t levitate.

But I floated and communed once again when Ana and her gang took the stage. Ana’s electric guitar solos saw to that. This girl can play. Pulling on the guitar strings almost maniacally, she had them snarling, moaning, pleading, testifying. Ana took me to regions even loftier than those where Roosevelt Collier had wafted me. Amen.

Yeah, music can be a temporary cure for what ails us. Me, I love rising into the clouds, feeling gravity and neuroses slip away. Whenever it happens I’m grateful. And amazed that my body is able to latch onto and meld with invisible good vibrations. One of these days maybe I’ll figure out how to transfer some of what I feel when afloat into my regular daily regimen. Whatever, this I do believe: Get your kicks while you can, kids, because you never know when the final curtain will descend.

Here now are videos from the Blast Furnace Blues Festival:

 

(Photos by Sandra Cherrey Scheinin)

(Please don’t be shy about adding your comments or about sharing this article with others)

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36 thoughts on “Up, Up And Away (High As A Kite On Music)

  1. sniderjerry April 5, 2017 / 2:01 am

    The writer Andy Rooney said, “Life is like a roll of toilet paper, the closer you get to the end the faster it goes.” I agree, I’ll be 66 in October. So rock on, Neil. Enjoy the music, food, and wine. And don’t forget to thank whatever God you believe in for making it possible. Have a great day! Jerry

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger April 5, 2017 / 9:27 am

      Jerry, this year seems to be going faster than any previous year. To me, anyway. We’ve already passed 2017’s one-fourth gone mark. Zoom!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Still the Lucky Few April 5, 2017 / 8:16 am

    Wow, “zing and depth…” May I borrow those words? I’ll write them on a sticky and place it above my computer. For those times when I just can’t find the inspiration to write! Living with zing and depth, and loud, pumping, good music should keep me on track as I work through a day of writing my next post. Thanks, Neil!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger April 5, 2017 / 9:32 am

      Hi, Diane. Yes, please borrow any words you like. We’re all in this together!

      Like

  3. Joyce April 5, 2017 / 8:44 am

    I enjoyed the article but was disappointed that l couldn’t see the videos. It said my browser didn’t recognize it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger April 5, 2017 / 9:28 am

      Morning, Joyce. The videos play on my end. Don’t know why your computer won’t play them. Computers can be very touchy creatures.

      Like

  4. greenpete58 April 5, 2017 / 11:45 am

    It’s not easy conveying how music can make a person feel, but you did a great job. Your words took me back to some red-hot blues shows I’ve attended, where the music just fires you up. Happy upcoming 7-Oh!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger April 5, 2017 / 1:22 pm

      Hi Pete. I’m not thrilled about the idea of turning 70 soon. But all you can do is keep on truckin’.
      Take care —

      Like

  5. Alyson April 5, 2017 / 12:02 pm

    Keep on doing what gives you kicks and I agree, music can do that in spades. Glad you enjoyed the “high volume, crashing drum strokes and gorgeous guitar work” at the defunct Steelworks/rejuvenated Arts Centre. Oh and haven’t you heard – 70 is the new 50!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. andrewcferguson April 5, 2017 / 3:47 pm

    Neil, another great piece, big fella. I love your description of how music can transport you – let me tell you, the other side of it, when you’re playing in a band and you have a crowded venue (however small) feeling it, it’s something else! Look after yourself, and keep those blog pieces coming.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger April 5, 2017 / 4:45 pm

      Hi. You know, I’ve thought about what you say. You and your musical peers probably get five times the thrills that the audience gets. Music’s powers can be amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • andrewcferguson April 5, 2017 / 4:59 pm

        Neil, honestly, I like it both ways! There’s a lot less anxiety about mucking up when all you have to do is stand and listen!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. artdoesmatter April 6, 2017 / 1:10 pm

    Happy birthday, Neil! And that Blues fest in Bethlehem must’ve been amazing to see. As a musician who hasn’t played her guitar much lately – I DO understand from playing in rock bands for years that “high” of needing the volume turned up and the strength of the drumbeat! Here’s to many, many more!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger April 6, 2017 / 4:08 pm

      Hi, Patricia. How’ve you been? I’m not thrilled about closing in on 70, but what can you do? Anyway, thanks for your good wishes.

      Like

  8. cincinnatibabyhead April 6, 2017 / 1:51 pm

    You do know that the louder you play it the younger you get? Real good Neil. Like Pete above said, “it’s not easy conveying how music can make a person feel”. You do a great job. I’ll pop back in later to give those bands a good listen. Listened to a taste off the Lee Bros. Yup!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger April 6, 2017 / 4:05 pm

      Afternoon, CB. This was the second time that my wife and me went to the blues fest in Bethlehem, PA. It’s a really good event. The building is modern, the restrooms are clean, the beer is flowing . . . and the music is terrific!

      Liked by 1 person

      • cincinnatibabyhead April 6, 2017 / 4:41 pm

        Sounds like you’re enjoying life. Mixing some goods things in there. There are some great summer music fests where I live. All with in a few hours easy drive. I think I’ll take some inspiration from you and hit a couple this summer. Continued good listening!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. dcw0731 April 7, 2017 / 3:16 am

    Happy soon to be Birthday. I got turned on to Ana Popovic a while back and hopefully soon she will be back out here in my neck of the woods so we can go see her. Great post!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Aunt Beulah April 9, 2017 / 5:09 pm

    I think you described perfectly what any of the arts can do for us and why they are part of a well-lived life when you wrote “Me, I love rising into the clouds, feeling gravity and neuroses slip away. Whenever it happens I’m grateful. And amazed that my body is able to latch onto and meld with invisible good vibrations.” Wonderfully put.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Martin April 17, 2017 / 5:15 am

    Great post, and thanks for putting the videos up. I played them while reading the article and the comments. The music enhanced blog experience is obviously the way to go!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger April 17, 2017 / 7:09 am

      Hi, Martin. Talking about music videos, it’s incredible how much stuff is on YouTube. Endless universes of videos to watch.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Martin April 17, 2017 / 11:40 am

        There’s almost too much sometimes. I can waste hours looking for the one song to listen to while I do a 3 minute job!

        Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger April 17, 2017 / 2:28 pm

      Hi, Anthony. It’s a real good venue. I guess there’s all sorts of music there during the year, but I’ve only been for the blues fest.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jerseydreaming April 17, 2017 / 2:51 pm

        I saw a Rolling Stones tribute band called The Glimmer Twins there a little while back. They were surprisingly good.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. aprilswopegreene April 21, 2017 / 12:45 pm

    Happy impending 70th, Neil! If you try smoking that wild green lettuce again sometime, let us know how it goes 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger April 21, 2017 / 1:59 pm

      Maybe I should try and write a story for this blog while stoned. It might turn out to be a classic!

      Like

  13. Fictionophile April 27, 2017 / 6:54 am

    Happy 70th! My husband of forty years turns 70 in July. You are in great company!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. JC May 4, 2017 / 10:17 pm

    . Thanks for visiting my blog. Great post you have here.

    Liked by 1 person

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