This week, two musical kindred spirits are coming to my area to perform. And I will see neither of them.
One is Ben Harper, who will be appearing tomorrow at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. I first became aware of Ben from his scintillating cover of the Beatles “Strawberry Fields” for the soundtrack of the 2001 film I Am Sam. Ben’s vocals floated through the song, reinterpreting the already very familiar tune to become something fresh. After that I went out and bought “Fight for Your Mind” and “Diamonds on the Inside”. The songs from these two albums remain alive to this day. I heard one cut recently on an episode of the CBS series The Good Wife.
The other is Robyn Hitchcock, who will be performing on Wednesday at the Barns at Wolf Trap in Northern Virginia. Robyn launched his career in the London punk scene, but I became enamored when I heard him play on the radio on “Mountain Stage,” which broadcasts from West Virginia, of all places. I ran out an bought his 1991 CD “Perspex Island,” which fit right in with the Richard Thompson CDs that I was also buying at the time.
It would seem to be a no-brainer that I would go see at least one if not both of them. But there are many things to consider. First, there is the question of who I would go with (going alone is not an option). My wife would probably hate both of them. Our musical tastes overlap by only a thin slice. After our decades of marriage, we have reached an understanding that we like what we like, and it is not worth the effort to try to convince each other otherwise.
Secondly, neither of my children are quite old enough for a night on the town (and if I were to bring one, I’d have to bring both, or neither). Which brings me to reaching out to someone outside my family, and that only gets complicated. These are the trade-offs one makes in life.
Additionally, I have always been a skeptic when it comes to paying money for a live experience. It has to be pretty much a guarantee, or I will feel ripped off. Buying a ticket to see Ben or Robyn would be a pretty safe bet, but it becomes much less so when I have to convince the companion to come along. I can’t make a promise to someone who does not already know the music, and I’m not enough of a good time myself to make up for any deficiencies (real or perceived) that might become apparent at the concert.
I’ve seen some of my music heroes before–Richard Thompson, John Gorka, Colin Hay–and I’ve been pretty happy. And yet some bits somehow don’t fall into place, and I’m left wanting…what? I don’t know.
I do know some people just spend the money and go to concerts enough times to finally experience that right moment. I just see that as a lot of money to spend that I don’t have. I need each penny to count.
I realize that maybe it’s me, that I may be making too much of it. That maybe I should just suck it up and go.
And maybe I will someday. But not this week.