Scouring my Twitter feed recently for information on “my” bands, I discovered that Alabama Shakes would be performing in New Orleans at Jazz Fest this year. I’m actually getting to the point in my life where, if I can avoid a music festival, I do. I would much rather listen to music from the comfort of a balcony seat, where I’m not jostled by a crowd, or have the music blasted at me at ear-bleed level. Yes, I suppose that reveals that I’m a woman of a certain age, but hey, I can’t help that.
So I gave up the thought of driving hours to go see the band at a festival in New Orleans before the idea blossomed. Sigh. Maybe they’ll come back again, and next time, maybe they’ll perform at a stadium.
Presto! “Must be someone up above,” to quote Brittany Howard, Alabama Shakes lead singer, because just a few days later, I learned that they were coming to Shreveport the Thursday before Jazz Fest! And they were going to play at the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium – a beautiful historic building adjacent to the Red River. Seats. Balconies. Indoor plumbing. Perfect!
That April evening, we drove north to Shreveport, crossed the Red River and made our way to the auditorium. We promptly found our seats in the balcony (no, not on the floor anymore!), then high-tailed it downstairs to find a t-shirt. Any rock fan worth her salt knows that the first thing you do at a concert is buy a t-shirt. The one I purchased had a picture of white Japonica camellias – my very favorite flower, so naturally, it was meant to be.
The opening band was an act I’d never heard of (I’m no longer in the loop), Tank and the Bangas. I would try to describe their music to you, but you know that it’s almost impossible to put into words the sound of music, and even more so with this band. They defy categorization, but I’ll try: progressive metal laced with traditional rock blues funk. Does that make sense? If not, have a listen on YouTube.
Alabama Shakes took the stage and I was far from disappointed. As the French would say, I was ravie, which is like saying happy, excited, pleased, but intensely so – all that wrapped up in one little word.
Brittany Howard and her gang rocked the house with several songs from both their Boys and Girls and Sound and Color albums. Brittany’s voice reminds me of Janice Joplin – that bluesy rock, a little raw like grains of sand, but powerful nonetheless, like the waves of the ocean breaking against the sand, coaxing it, caressing it into smooth glass, pebble by pebble. Hints of Janice, but uniquely Brittany. The influences I hear in their music range from the old R&B sound of Sam Cooke to the 70’s hard rock of Led Zeppelin, and the lyrics resonate with themes of sense of self, loss, love, the freedom not to worry. Brittany said of the song “Boys and Girls” that she wrote it about a friendship she had as a little girl. Her little guy friend (upon discovering that there was a difference between them) said that they could no longer be friends. She didn’t like that. It stuck with her, fortunately for us, because she wrote a song about it. That’s what artists do – they turn ugly into beautiful. The universal struggles of humankind are turned into splendor, and for a brief moment, we are here in all our glory, innocent enough not to consider life and the outside influences that steal our joy. Nope. Just us and the music and the beautiful world.
What a night!
After the spectacle, Norm and I headed back across the river to Bossier City to spend the night. The following morning, we woke early to spend an enchanting day along the Red River. We admired the murky red water and strolled along the boardwalk. The sights along the river remind me so much of France, where pedestrians rule because cars are not permitted along the tree-lined streets, outdoor cafes line the sidewalks, and boutiques of every kind welcome you with open doors and tantalizing goodies. The carousel was reminiscent of the one across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. It was too early in the day for children at play, and before long our playtime had expired and it was time to head home.
It’s never too early to go home when the time you’ve spent in a place was perfect. Perfection never lasts, but home always does.