Last month, I wrote about two occasions I can remember when I walked out of a movie because it was so bad. Yesterday, my friend David Craig and I were discussing concerts we’d seen, and I flashed back to one of those that I walked out of, too.
In the 1990s, we were living in Washington, DC, and went to the famed outdoor music venue Wolf Trap several times each summer to see a large variety of performers. One year, I saw a listing for the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the legendary group of musicians from New Orleans whose average age was about a hundred. I’d never seen them, and in the era before YouTube, there was no way to catch a glimpse of them other than to go to one of their shows. I told Martha I’d like to see them before they all died, and she agreed, so I got tickets.
On the night of the concert, the stage was bare except for a half-dozen hard-backed wooden chairs, a piano, and a drum kit. The band members shuffled out, sat down, and plunged right into their first song, which sounded like “Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey?” During the tune, they traded solos between the trumpet, trombone, banjo, clarinet, piano, and tuba players before bringing it to a rousing conclusion. Everyone, including us, applauded.
Since no one was going to sing, there were no vocal microphones on stage, but that also meant that no one in the PHJB was going to speak. And they didn’t. They just rolled right into their second song, which also sounded like “Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey?” Once again, each musician did his solo (in pretty much the same order as before) before they wrapped it up together. We applauded again, but with a little less feeling.
Without a word, the band then proceeded to play the third song of its set. My wife and I shot each other a look as it occurred to us that this one also sounded exactly like “Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey?” Sure enough, they each did their solo thing, but we were beginning to squirm in our seats. Martha leaned over and said, “If the next song sounds like the first three, you can stay if you want, but I’m leaving.” I shook my head and replied, “No, I’m with you.”
Sure enough, song number four started and I began to realize why Bill Bailey wouldn’t go home. But we did.
Previously on Harris Online…
- The column in which I revealed the two movies I remember walking out of — despite the fact that I’d hosted the premieres! (10/19/18)