Author’s note: this piece was originally written in July of 2009. I’m posting this here for the first time in Anywhere The Needle Drops to coincide with a series of podcast interviews of artists from the Woodfire music legacy (the first interview in the podcast, an interview with Michelle Jewell, daughter of jazz great Franz Jackson, was released yesterday). Though the piece laments times no longer present, I’d like to make note that the music and the magic still continues. The Midway Tavern. Trio’s. I even dare to say that the old Woodfire still has some magic left. So continue on, but fear not, dear reader. We still have a few more dances in us.
I remember the music at the Woodfire.
Last night, I had a conversation with Larry, proprietor of the Woodfire, a restaurant which most of you know as my favorite joint to hang and enjoy the occasional adult beverage. You may also recall my tales of the music, amazing blues and jazz artists, many of incredible name and credential. The nights were magic, the way the energy birthed and grew each Friday, the music moving through the crowd. Eventually, often with the help of myself and my crew, the music would take the crowd. Tables were pushed away. Diners hit their feet. We danced into the night, crowds singing, sweat dripping, feet stomping…with the occasional concern about the condition of the floor beneath us. And then, it was over. Busy schedules, financial constraints and the need to please the bread and butter dinner crowd…all of these led to a downgrade of the music to more dinner-friendly fare…and an end to the magic.
We all hold our share of the responsibility there. I, for one, can admit to taking the magic for granted…missing often my once routine Friday visits. Our crew weakened…we had friends move away, friends working nights, friends other places…and, as I’m now told, we were an important part of making those nights happen. And, of course, it was difficult for the restaurant to maintain. It was, after all, still a restaurant…not a dance hall.
At some point, a few years ago, it was all over. Now, still, the Woodfire is my favorite joint and a good place to find me on a Friday. Still, talented artists come to play their music for us. Leon Redbone himself is coming back for yet another visit in just a couple of months. But that magic time is over, that energy has dissipated.
My conversation with Larry had little to do with those nights. It was about him wanting me to shoot some video for the restaurant and my wanting him to give me money for it. Still, one can’t talk about making a video of the current musical acts without brushing on the subject of the magic nights, nights I could often be found toting my camera, capturing live video of the scene.
I’m paraphrasing to an extreme here, but Larry essentially said “I’d love to have those videos for the archives, the videos of those magic days, those days that were so amazing, those days that are now over, in the past, gone. Man, those were good days. Those days that are over.”
Larry, man, you’re killing me here. You’re breaking my heart. It’s a bit like I had this girlfriend and, well, we never really broke up. You see, she just went off to “find herself.” And, sure, you know, a few years have passed and I don’t exactly expect she’s going to show up at my door. Mostly we just don’t talk about her. But she never did actually say goodbye and I haven’t been dating anyone else, so…
And now you’re telling me that she’s married to some guy named Chaz and she’s living in the suburbs brokering stock deals over the Internet. That she’s gone. And not returning.
I guess I should be happy with what we had. I don’t expect most people had the luxury to experience what we did. This was something special. I can imagine, as an old man, seeing Woodfire tales pop up in some music documentary, talked of as one of those magic little places that no one knew yet was significant all the same. Hell, maybe I’ll even make that documentary one day.
Still…I do miss it. And I wonder if I’ll ever experience something like it again. It’s like an addictive drug in that way…it feels a little empty without it.
Actually, it’s probably more like sex. Those magic days, they were my first time. New, amazing, powerful and, sure, even a little awkward. And then it was over. There have been other girls. I’ve had other awesome nights outside the Woodfire. But you never forget your first. And, hell, the “dating pool” has been a little dry these days. A lack of places, a lack of music. Those magic nights are hard to find.
Still, what we had…what we did…it was amazing. We’ll be telling tales until we’re drugged up in rocking chairs at the nursing home…and I’ll have the videos to prove them. We’ll talk about Jeremy, the head chef, making his way to the band to sing “Ice Cream Man.” We’ll brag about the big names in the small town. We’ll remember the New Years Eve conga line that took us out into the falling snow, where it suddenly broke down into a massive snow ball fight in the street, well-dressed party-goers ducking and racing like children. We’ll remember the music. And the magic. And, though it’s gone, we’ll remember the things we have because of it.
I remember the music at the Woodfire.