Thursday, April 11, 2013

Why get down

Pert 'Near Sandstone in River Falls, 2013-04-06

A good dose of the boogies

This past weekend I attended the Roots and Bluegrass Festival in River Falls, where I boogied all day and all night to banjos, fiddles, acoustic guitars, mandolins, upright bases, washboards, and ukuleles. I stomped and shouted refrains and chain vocals, slapped open-hand on thigh, and watched regional and local acts alike pour their hearts out over riff after riff blazon with thirty-second notes. To summarize, things got sweaty quick.

The specialty of boisterous bands like "Pert 'Near Sandstone" and "Boys n the Barrel" were different than those harmony driven acts like "High 48s" or "Ditch Lilies," yet they came together to make the event broader and more complex than any of them could have been alone. Putting all the different acts together gave the entire three-day event much more flavor, and it drew people in to see different acts that may have otherwise been overlooked.

The bands played in the bars and restaurants lining main street, 15 acts in seven locations, and there was never a dull moment. People of all ages and walks of life came out to hear rough and tumble music, be part of a folk movement, and support talented musicians that have day jobs and live next door.

That was the best part, feeling compelled to support such talented regional art. A hundred extra voices, two hundred extra clapping hands, call and response lyrics, and feeling an instant connection to people that were strangers a mere hour ago. Seeing the songs grow into giants like this, filling the rooms, bars, and halls to the ceilings with high spirits; celebrating life, love, and happiness. After that, it was easy to find a few extra bucks in your pocket for the five-piece sweating it out on stage.

This music was not a simple product for consumption. It was not a digital download in a cold and lifeless online store set with pixel-perfect graphics and no living connection. This was live, raw, flawed, and imperfect, and it rang with compassion, honesty, and truth.

See, I think there is a shortage of truth in this world. There is a shortage of people who do what they really want to do and even fewer of those maintain conviction all the way through. Most people are prepared to answer who, fewer are prepared to answer how, and fewer still will be able to tell you why. Surround yourself with people who are willing to tell you why.

Someone who answers the why has given the subject a lot of thought, because although we can attempt to construct the answer with logic (as we do the rest of the humanly-perceived world), logic is often not enough on its own. Logic can construct a portion of the truth, but without intuition, without heart and zeal, it builds nothing but an empty house.

What I really mean to say - "why" is not easy to pin down, but it's worth it. This worth evolves out of human struggle, and human struggles deepen our understanding of the world. Pushing and fighting to evolve and adjust our answers is really all that any of us have. Endeavoring to make tomorrow better than today is actually altruistic because struggle makes us stronger, and the world craves strong people. The world needs people who can stand tall, who can weather the storms, and who know exactly what they have to offer - why they do what they do.

Many of those musicians I saw last weekend have the guts to answer "why". They have what it takes to make sacrifices in the name of their art, and they have the guts because they listened to their intuition. Like I mentioned, these people were not making it rich. They were not on American Idol or a major label. No, they would be like the rest of us come Monday morning - getting up to clock in at a day job. What they had to offer, though, were the stories of their own human struggles, their own failures and shortcomings, doubts, sorrows, and defeats, all in the shape of music.

My hope for you is that you start, pick up, or continue the quest of why. In my example the answer comes across in the creative space of rhyme and rhythm, but that's not the path for everyone because the world needs all types of people to function. Just keep that in mind while you're formulating your answer, and when you're ready, bring your dancin' shoes.

“A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”
- Maya Angelou

See you out there,
A woodsman in training.

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