Neil, Chris's husband, is the solo lead guitarist extraordinaire, and nearly every performer asks him to play for them. He plays cleanly, subtly, never overwhelming the performer he's with. He might leave the stage twice during the night.
Meredith owns the place the cute shops attached and recognizes me from our press kit when I walk up to say hello. She says how she's surprised to see us, thinking it was a long way for us to travel for just an open mic. I told her I'd heard and read good things and it had been special on my list. They do just music in the space now. They used to rent it out for other uses, but a fire in the eighties made them rethink that.
My favorite of the night, though is Greg. Greg makes me think it is possible to be COMPLETELY satisfied and content with one's simple and gratifying life.
Greg is quiet, also - I think - in his thirties or early forties like most of the rest of the crew, and sings back up as the third part harmony for a lot of the beautiful folk pieces whipped out over the course of the night. He has a face like a marionette. Happy and surprisingly smooth. He has thin eyebrows that look painted on by Gippetto or something and they raise a lot as he talks as much with his bright eyes as his mouth. He is personable and easy. When he finally gets up to play lead, he charges into a beautiful version of "Wicked Game," backed on guitar by Neil and on vocals by Chris (Sasha still strapped in for the ride). His voice is incredible. Clear as a bell. His range, heavenly. He then does a version of "Summertime" that brings the house down.
When he gets off stage we get to talking. He's a grade-school art teacher who makes guitars on the side. Oh, really? Like this one? I begin inspecting the guitar (there will be pictures on the website soon enough). The sound hole is surrounded by the painted faces of women swimming in golden hair. The neck is inlaid with mother-of-pearl Celtic knots and symbols. When I pick it up, the heel of the neck is hand-carved with a Celtic knot.
Then he starts explaining the mechanics to me. The inside isn't cross-braced like regular guitars, but a starburst of spokes extending from the underside of the bridge, which is also of a strange shape, huge on the low end to allow the full frequency to develop and short on the high end to be the apporpriate size for those sound waves. The neck is mahogany and part of the body is rosewood.
We ask if he has a website. No. He couldn't keep up with the orders if he did and he loves his job. Where did you learn to do this? From books, he says. Oh, and his grandfather was a master carpenter "who worked on ships in the shipyards of Boston when ships were still made of wood." He let young Greg play in the shop once he felt he was ready.
He hosts an open mic at a Borders in nearby Nashua and Sue is playing there this weekend. He bursts into Irish accents now and then to imitate the local "Joel" they have at his open mic, who talks that way and always badgers people loudly through their performances about whether they have a CD or not.
And we all hang out outside in the cold telling dirty jokes and playing Indigo Girls and Doobie Brothers and Traffic songs. "We're almost there boys ...." that's the one I have to remember to tell people when I get home.
We didn't sell a single CD. But I guess it's all a matter of how you measure success.
And I had to smile when we pulled out of the parking lot, and someone was driving away listening to We're About 9.
October 21st, 2003.
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