Some years ago, I decided I really wanted to sing in a band, and through a sequence of serendipitous events I found myself involved in what was termed a “rehearsal group,” a group of musicians (or wannabes) who wanted to build some performance chops. Within a couple of weeks, the originator of the group had brought on a man who was a music director (for what, I’m not sure) to be an accompanist and provide some guidance for our group for the low, low price of $10 a session. (The original group was fee-free.)
I really, really wanted to be in a band, so I coughed up my $10, and for awhile, it seemed worth it. Eventually we were practicing in the studio he was building downtown, making progress, and began to discuss actually playing out as a group. There was some dissension in the ranks. The bassist wanted to get out in front of people immediately, whether we were playing decently or not. Seeing as we couldn’t actually all finish a song at the same time just yet, I thought it was premature.
One Tuesday night, I had to miss a rehearsal. The next day, I heard from the bassist, who asked me if I’d heard from the director dude. I said I hadn’t, and asked him “What’s up?” He told me that he and a couple of the others had shown up at the studio for rehearsal at the usual time to find the studio dark, the doors locked, and the phone number disconnected. The scuttlebutt was that he’d cleared out the studio, including some equipment belonging to one of our band members, and was incommunicado after a show he’d organized had failed financially. I recalled that he’d tried to impress us band members into service as brute labor for the show, which I passed on.
Some time later, I tried to get something going with the guitarist from our group, because he and I seemed to have a rapport, but on our own it just wasn’t a comfortable fit, and I let it go. The epilogue was that I joined one more band as a singer, a band that also disintegrated before we ever played out, and at that point I decided if I didn’t want to be at the mercy of instrumentalists anymore I would have to learn the guitar. If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself, so that’s what I did. Last Friday was the 4-year anniversary of my becoming a guitarist, and I’ve never looked back.
The Thursday night before that, though, found me in the audience prepared to enjoy the delightful musical genius that is Lyle Lovett and his Large Band. (It’s large, not big.) And large it was. Before Lyle came out, he sent his band out, 10 excellent instrumentalists, including 3 guitarists (one of whom also played mandolin), 1 lap steel guitarist, 2 drummers, a pianist, a cellist, a fiddler, and an upright bassist. They were ultimately joined by Lyle on acoustic guitar and 3 backup singers.
A word about Lyle. I can tell you why Julia Roberts married him. If you listen to his music, you will find it’s witty and smart, and therefore he must be, too. And then there’s that face. It’s irresistible. Lyle Lovett has a face like a crumpled up paper bag that has been smoothed flat again. He always looks like he’s on the verge of crying, especially when he sings, with his mouth naturally set in a sad frown. When he smiles, the change is so subtle, you can easily miss it. And yet for all that, there’s a dignified handsomeness to his face that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Yeah, I’m crushing hard on ol’ Lyle there. But back to his Large Band. Which, by the way, is large; not big.
If 14 skilled musicians on stage weren’t enough musical joy for you, they were joined by a local 10-member gospel choir, to excellent effect. Imagine my surprise when Lyle introduced the director of this gospel choir as none other than the musical director of my little rehearsal group from all those years ago. I wasn’t quite sure about the name, but I never forget a face, and it was he.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about someone who’d behaved somewhat shadily being up there with Lyle Lovett, who seems an eminently decent fellow. Hardly seems fair, especially since I’d happily give some barely used bodily appendage to be able to sing backup on the same stage with Lyle Lovett. But sometimes it just be that way. Though I suppose if he’d been more of a stand-up guy, I might never have ended up in that other failed band. And if that hadn’t happened, I might’ve never started down the road to learn the guitar. So perhaps I owe him my thanks.