I wrote this story to focus on a local band called the Prairie Creek Ramblers. I say that the gig is at a local coffee shop, but purposely don’t say the name so that you, the reader, doesn’t focus on the fact that it’s in a coffee shop. Instead you should focus on the averageness and closeness of the venue and how this enhances the music experience. It hopefully encourages you and others to slow down and go listen to a local band. It shows you the positive aspects of supporting local bands.
A Time to Rest
The brisk wind whistles through my thin, black jacket as I rush into MoJava, a local coffee house. The warm air washes over me as the small bell rings above the door, announcing my entrance. I’m not there for the warmth though, or even the coffee. It’s currently a Friday night, and on most Fridays, this small, corner cafe invites a band to come and play for the customers.
Tonight a local bluegrass band called the Prairie Creek Ramblers is playing in the back corner. With the twang of a banjo, the deep strum of the upright bass, and the soothing melody of guitar, they fill the coffee shop with a smooth and relaxing tune. I’ve walked in on a slow song, one where the instruments play softly and the lyrics are sad and sweet. It sets the tone of the shop as I walk up to the counter to give my order. In line I cast my gaze to the other customers in the shop. Some faces I recognize from previous visits, others bear the face of a stranger, but both kinds of faces hold a serene look, reflecting the mood of the song. Conversations are held in low whispers and chairs pulled and pushed silently. The song then came to a beautiful resolution as I ordered my drink and the customers end the song with spattering applause.
After ordering, I walk to a seat near some familiar faces. One is Anita, the mother of the lead singer, a good friend of mine. She greets me loudly as I approach, and the banjo strums the beginning of the next song, this time a more upbeat and rolling tune. I return her greeting as I drape my jacket over the wobbly chair. For a short while I relax and take in the atmosphere. The ceiling is low and the floor creaky, giving me the feeling of a log cabin more than a coffee house, creating a homey feel. I can understand a person coming here to relax after a long week at college to feel as if they really had been transported back to their childhood home. But the walls are also filled with art created by local artists advertising their prices, giving the feel of an art gallery. My eye settles on a piece with a wolf howling in front of the Aurora Borealis. I wonder if I should buy it, see the price, then wonder how anyone could ever buy art at such a steep price. I’ve never been one to truly appreciate art though. I mostly enjoy the contemplative feel that develops when I look at it. These covered walls encourage a thoughtful outlook, again bringing to mind the peaceful atmosphere that this place holds.
I return to the counter to retrieve my drink carefully walking back to my seat to relax and enjoy the music. I tap my foot and absent mindedly stare into my drink while I allow my mind to wander and forget for a while.
Often in this busy world I can’t find time to slow down and relax like this. I’ve lived most of my life constantly going from one activity to the next while also trying to balance school and family. Music provides a means of escape from this, if just for a mere moment. But a blaring iPod, booming radio, or even a live concert in a large arena can’t quite match the serenity I find when I immerse myself in the live music in such a casual place, like a coffee shop. I can actually feel the hum of the instruments without having to worry about the hectic and stressful crowds of a large concert. I can sit down with a cup of coffee and enjoy pleasant conversations with those around me.
I stay seated for another few songs before the band announces that they will be taking a short break before performing another set of songs. This is another thing that I love about a local bands because I’m able to directly talk and hang out with the performers instead of being separated by a screen or security detail.
We converse and laugh for a while before they make their way back to their corner and settle in to continue playing as I settle back into my chair. I clear my mind again as the banjo starts the next flood of songs. I hum to myself some of the more familiar tunes and occasionally glance up to observe the mood around me.
Inevitably, the last song begins during which the singer invites the audience to sing along. I sing the final chorus with the band before the cafe breaks into applause. I remember the feeling of the music, but reality comes back to me as I review all the things I need to accomplish for the weekend. I attempt to catch myself, but it’s too late. The music is done and I must again return to my responsibilities, but at least for that little while I was able to clear my mind. While responsibilities are important fundamental, it’s also important to stop and relax for a while by enjoying simple pleasures like a local band.