Some of us are High Risk; no one is invulnerable, immortal. So, to what lengths will we go to feed our souls; to see Art Live, to be present for art, and at what risk? For some communities, risks have been thrust upon us—a lack of mask and distance mandates, open bars, tourists, defiance of simple hygiene, the refusal of the infected to quarantine. To wade into such danger calls forth good cause: to see, perhaps, to experience live music.
An opportunity presented itself through a local gathering of Cars N Coffee, a monthly event in many communities that invites lovers of the internal combustion engine to congregate and glory in the intrinsic folk art of special vehicles (horseless). My local Cars N Coffee has gone from a dead strip mall’s parking lot to that of the local Harley dealer, and there was an advertisement for Live Music. Car shows are outside, and it’s possible to step away from the other humans, and it had been a very long time since I had heard anyone play their instrument live—so hungry, I was so hungry.
Cars N Coffee is a Noise Fix. There is an erratic orchestration of loud exhaust displays as a show of engine power, with sometimes a side of sheer American Art in some of the cars. Folks come and go all morning. If you are lucky, there will be some Classics, some Street Rods—handmade, homemade Outsider Art cars. To stand next to such an engine is a whole body experience; the timing, the intensity of decibels. I have heard someone tuning exhaust baffles as if the resulting song were to play a solo at a plush music hall, someone tuning an engine by ear for the percussion. When a few cars start up, the air is thickened.
That Sunday, in a drizzle from yet another storm (a cup of coffee sounds lovely—except we are High Risk, and we were a Hot Spot, and not everyone is in a mask), the stage stands covered, but empty; a stroll of the grounds reveals a back pavilion where a single man gallants the microphone, and the band from up front is taking a break. It was not difficult to stand away from folks under the remaining tree. The guitarist, Chris Ryals, was deft enough to know what he was about via triplicate riffs with a nod to the LatinBeat. For some moments, there was only that guitar, singing against the corner of green. Across the way, the other remaining tree saw a resettlement of a flock of displaced birds: the guitar’s perfect audience. For some moments, there was only the damp, open air and the sound of the guitar, purely. The fresh and liquid air and the song the man was making with his guitar.
Strolling past some vendors, painted poodles, other visitors—it’s that urban game of whose line of walking is this, plus who is in a mask (and better, who can rock their mask)—the stage up front is now live with a two-piece band called Peaches and Karim. The stage occupies a corner of the parking lot, where sits parked an old Ford Maverick with a modified breather, redone muscle fashion. I was once stranded by a red Maverick. Then comes a white GTO with a chrome stack of carburetion, but soft mufflers. During all this, the band plays—a man on guitar, a man on a cocktail kit. The band seems to match the various exhaust solos as instruments themselves. In the spectrum of our listening is the crowd, random clogging tones. A car will bellow and roar out onto US Highway 441. Sometimes there’s a motorcycle—an engine of a different timber and percussion. The band plays on; the drummer in a dark hoodie and shadow, the guitarist and the microphone: he sings vocables (I hear Ahhhh, I hear Ohhhhh) to the drummer’s 2-4 emphasis. If there are words, they are lost to these ears.
And so to take a moment and listen to live music is to glory in what’s left of my barely-legal hearing: to hear live music again, and to just listen. Perhaps there’s the professionalism of the band, for surely Peaches and Karim were cognizant of the easy-going racial mix of car lovers at this event; they are long-time local party favorites. Perhaps there’s only a guitar playing on a misty Sunday morning to the last local flock of birds.
Su Zi is a poet/writer and artist/printmaker and edits, designs and constructs the eco-feminist poetry chapbook series Red Mare.