"Huh, I guess lesbians like folk festivals..."
The Lowell Folk Festival is held on the last weekend of July every year in Lowell, Massachusetts (my new home-town). I've been running back and forth from downtown all weekend to catch acts, taste local and traditional food, and just generally ham it up, as usual. I even got my parents to lug all the way up from the South Shore to see Diunna Greenleaf and Blue Mercy for some comfortable 12-bar blues, and the Lost Bayou Ramblers to satisfy my mother's francophilia and my unhealthy love of the fiddle. Eventually my parents got bored and went home, but I stuck around for a while, juggling sticks and people-watching.
This festival, like most open air, free admission folk festivals, sort of stretches itself out along the restaurant district of downtown. There were eight stages, and about thirty bands, all required, by the festival's design, to have a "traditional" focus. So we're talking about bluegrass, blues, Congolese (Waconga) and Brazilian drumming, French-american folk, and Khmer wedding ritual dance and music. Traditional is kind of a funny word to describe these musicians, since every one of them was plugged into an amplifier and speakers, but that's a bit like telling SCA warriors that in the 1600's, people didn't make swords out of PVC tubing.
Anyway, there comes a point at every festival where you get tired of standing, and you have to decide whether to sit down and enjoy the show, or wander to the next tent and hope that there's something better there.
When that fatigue hits me, I am standing outside the audience for
Dorado Schmitt and the Django Reinhardt Festival All Star Band. Now, I don't know Django from a D-hole guitar, but I've heard good things about "gypsy jazz," and at first glance it seems compelling, so I sit.
So as I sit here, the fiddle is the voice I'm listening to. It's winding around in a piney-way, like it has a new girlfriend and she's...so...wonderful. I lean back into the midsummer, half-dry, spiky lawn and it strikes me how sensual this night has turned out to be. I can smell the dirt after a day of not-quite-rain, and there is a film on sweat even on the trees and pebbles. And I'm thinking how intimate this would be, with a lover beside me, someone on whom music has just as much of an emotional effect as it has on me. We'd be just lying back, knees in the air, looking at the sky with mostly bare-backs pressed into the sand-soil and straw-grass. I imagine an idle hand moving to cradle the back of my neck, and when I turn my head, I can see eyes that I know to be green, despite the darkness, lit only with the ineffective glow of the big full moon.
Soon, the music is turning flips in a fever, the high notes just flat enough for a musician to detect, but it doesn't matter so much, the pitch, right now, because the lovers that this reel is written about are fighting. She is throwing plates at him and the wind is turning the leaves upside-down outside the rattling windows. The pitch isn't as important as the anger. We're just...waiting, breath tight, until the bow dips and the fingers slide into "I'm sorry."
And my lover catches me watching him with goofy affection, rolls onto his side to face me and ruffles my hair with his free hand. He tilts his head a little, and leans in. The night is so hot, and if it was anyone other than him, I would be annoyed by this added temperature. But since it is this anyone, I am leaning in and tilting in return.
Yes, I'm a bit lonely without you.
Please come soon to feel the grass with me.