Okay. So about a week ago, I went to a meeting of the St. Louis Banjo Club (and you’re damn right they’ve got a website!).
I found out about this through some friends of my dad’s (pictured below). I am unclear on how they came to hear of it. All I know is that one day my dad told me that a couple of his friends heard about it and based on the knowledge that I own a banjo, they thought I would appreciate it. So Dad filled me in and I agreed to go. I figured it would be stupid if not tedious, and maybe would be good for a laugh.
What I did NOT expect is that it would be genuinely fun.
I thought I’d be surrounded by about 30 very old guys who had no idea how out of touch they were and played terrible music on an irritating sounding instrument. In reality, I was surrounded by probably about 100 people (of whom only about 20-30 had banjos) who were only a little-bit out of touch and played REALLY GOOD music on an instrument that sounded great…and were accompanied by a tuba. (Yes, tuba.) The rest of the people in the room were people who were sitting around, enjoying good music, good company, and good beer. (I myself was at a table drinking Schlafley Stout, which I’d never had before but which was excellent. Schlafley has never let me down.) It was real, good, honest fun.
Okay. The music isn’t going to be for everyone. They play nothing that was written later than 1930. They play it all on banjo (and tuba) and the crowd sings along, assuming they either know the words or somebody remembered to project them onto the wall. It’s an aesthetic that a lot of people would find irritating, and I’m not going to lie about that. But in my eyes, it spoke to me of what a tavern/bar SHOULD be like (as opposed to what most of the places I’ve played in my lifetime are like), but with banjos. (And for the record, it isn’t exactly “country” music…but “Americana” might be an appropriate label. Most of it was war-era and earlier…like “My Old Kentucky Home” and “On Moonlight Bay.”)
And shockingly, there was a pretty decent range of ages represented among the crowd and the players. I wasn’t the youngest person there. In fact, there was a girl I’d place at about 25 playing one of the banjos. My Uncle Dan (who is not actually my uncle) kept trying to get me to go talk to her. I didn’t. (I figured that if I got shot down by the only 25-year-old female member of a banjo club, I’d never recover.) I was surprised by the number of people and even more-so by the faces among them.
It was fun. I’m going to go again. Maybe every month. And if you’re up for it, I invite you to come with me, and have a good time in a way that you just don’t get to in most places anymore. Come on…it’s not like you’ve got anything else to do on Thursday nights!
Here are a couple of pictures of the night. Unfortunately, they don’t do the size of the room/crowd justice…but they do kind of capture the atmosphere. Both taken with my dad’s cell-phone. (I think he’s rocking a “Droid” these days. Not bad, but like all cell phones, the camera isn’t really designed for low-light settings. So pardon that.)
(And note to self: If you ever end up going out with the banjo-girl, delete that part of this post.)
Brief Political Rant:
Look…I don’t like how the elections turned out yesterday. I think it shows an extreme weakness in my party of choice and speaks volumes of how badly we’ve done at maintaining our promises. I’m very, very disappointed in my party right now. But I’m even more disappointed in the sore winners, especially among my “friends” on Facebook who just don’t know when to shut their mouths. If your candidate won, be happy. Don’t be a dick. (And for the record, I even went as far as saying “Congratulations” to one of my friends who expressed his happiness with the Republican victories tastefully last night…so I AM practicing what I’m preaching here.)