My Dad is a bluegrass musician. You gotta a problem with that? Well, not like you should. Bluegrass has a long, ignoble tradition that is endearing – it’s easy to listen to, fun to play, immensely satisfying but keeps you hooked. If done well, bluegrass can rank among the more complex and subtle artforms – it’s not just for hillbillies and socialists anymore. My Dad does it well as a flat-picker and song-writer. I’m pretty sure it’s what he’s always wanted to do, but instead had familial obligations to fulfill as a responsible husband and parent (not that musicianship and family are mutually exclusive, but it’s easier on the bank account (and therefore parental conscience) to become a pulp and paper executive). Now that all that sticky business is out of the way (retired, kids gone), he’s back to music. Good for him.
Good for us. He had a ‘kitchen party’ at his house last night. All the grand kiddies, neighborhood kids, and friends were invited to party it up. It was nice. The music was terrific, the kids had fun, and my mom was dizzy with the romanticism of it all. When we lived in Newfoundland, kitchen parties were the norm. You invite folks over for some drinks and as a matter of course they bring instruments. Everyone gets loaded and jams until the fiddles, guitars, and bottles are bloodied. All in the kitchen, of course. It’s a central part of Newfie social life where romances, feuds, politics, and business all begin and end.
When I sat down to write, I was posturing to compose a blistering j’accuse at my parents for attempting to manufacture an event, a memory, how all of it was unentitled cultural pretension, the kind of forced celebration I really dislike because it’s more spectacle than substance. I wanted to argue that gatherings such as these are formed in and belong in tightly composed community-cultures, not outside them in the wistful, Rockwell-ish manner such as this. We’re not in Newfoundland. We’re not even Newfie. This wasn’t a kitchen party, I wanted to say. The musicians sat down in a more or less arranged manner. No one fell over. And it was in the living room. It was a house concert, not the spontaneous kitchen party some pretended it to be.
However, the picture above helped me achieve some perspective. Namely, it was what it was: a bunch of people got together and made music while the rest enjoyed it immensely (especially the kids) while eating, drinking, talking, singing, and dancing along – it was fun and I’ll be happy when there’s another one. Regarde!