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no room for hipsters

the occupation of Ashley and Levon

(by Levon who is listening to Bill Evans “Make Someone Happy”)

I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz this week.  Last week I paced around downtown Bristol and found an Italian restaurant that needs a piano player for a weekly dinner gig.  I practice the standards in the morning with my coffee.  When my voice warms up I rehearse my covers for the bars.  This I love to do, because it invites influence directly.  Still, I’d rather be writing.  There are scratch recordings I made in Mexico which I’d love to devote more time, but I have boxes of unsold albums that I need to convert into groceries.

A coffee shop had an open mic the other night, and when I showed up there were only three on the list so we all played full sets.  It was on State Street where the Victor recordings in 1927 marked the birthplace of commercial country music.  Names like Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family found their national audiences.  I was thinking about Nashville before I got up there.  I went outside to tune my guitar and looked at the big sign in lights that say, “Bristol TN, VA a good place to live.”  Honest and straightfoward.  I tried to imagine what Nashville would say about itself, and would it be honest about where country music came from.  I believe truthfully that they stole it from Knoxville.  But hillbilly music was everywhere:  Blue Moon of Kentucky, Take Me Back to My Old Carolina Home, Rocky Top, which everyone knows refers to the concrete summit of Neyland Stadium.  I suppose it doesn’t matter who gets the title of “magnet for the most surrounding hopefuls.”  On this particular night, it left only three of us in Bristol- the birthplace yet not the capitol of Country Music.

I was hopeful in Nashville myself once.  Worked in a restaurant and joined a band like everybody else.  Then I cut my hand on a growler of beer and called it quits.  Put on a tie and tried to sell insurance.  Three years later, I was full circle and hopeful again in New York City.  I am only convinced of one thing from all of my failings, and that is if there is something that you want to do with your life then you have to pull out all the stops.  I’m just looking for what I have in there, which is a better living than other definitions.

There is another open mic on State Street tomorrow, this time at an Irish Pub.  Hopeful in Bristol for the next couple weeks.


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