The Sunday of Labor Day Weekend, I had a few things to get off my to-do list. Since they involved a lot of writing, I referred to it as my ‘homework’ since it wasn’t the fun sort of writing but more of the necessary kind. It took a few hours and a lot of brain power, so when I was done, I decided to reward myself and have a little fun.
It was later afternoon, so I headed to the Riverfront Jazz Fest. I didn’t even check to see who was performing, because it didn’t matter. I just wanted to get out and enjoy the park, the people and some great music. I did take my umbrella, just in case.
I got to the park and walked over to my usual sitting spot and plopped myself down. As I settled in and began to bop to the jazzy rhythms, I took a look around and had to laugh. I know people like to camp out a bit at Jazz Fest and enjoy good food and drink, but the group next to me had a spread fit for a king.
There was a large table with a tablecloth set with all sorts of yummy things, but what really impressed me was the matching flowered centerpieces and matching candelabras. Very nice.
As I continued to look around, I saw a lot of similar groupings, but not quite as ornate as my neighbor’s. I thought it was great that people decided to go all out and enjoy the afternoon in such a classy way.
The crowd was lovely, all chatting away with their friends or moving to the music, some doing the salsa, some sharing a romantic moment on a blanket and a glass of wine, and some munching down on the great food that was available at the park. People had brought kids and dogs and who knows what all, and it was just a general mélange of happy going on.
I always think it’s neat when a large group of diverse people can get together and enjoy a happy, peaceful common experience. We need more positive juju in the world, and nothing builds good juju like music.
As the music played, the sky slowly began to change. I kept looking westward, checking the clouds, but it didn’t really seem too threatening. I figured it would pass. And it almost did. But the wind picked up at last and sprinkles began to fall.
The singer on stage said she would keep on singing regardless, and comically added lyrics and entire songs about the changing weather, as a few patrons began to pick up their things and head out.
An announcement was made about the weather that was approaching, but many decided to stay – until it was obvious that the rain was determined to come, and all those lovely spreads started to get dismantled. But too late, as those patrons were soaked by the time everything was put away.
A small group in chairs, huddled beneath three large umbrellas, sat closely to each other, clutching their still-lit candles very close to their chest. I laughed out loud at their determination to stay put.
And myself, I was still enjoying it all. I had nothing planned for the evening, and a little rain never bothered me, so I stood under my big umbrella and watched the mass exodus with great amusement while the jazz continued to play. Eventually the ducks took over the park, combing the grounds for dropped food while the remainder of the crowd gathered in the three or four tents on the grounds.
Once the rain let up, the music had stopped. I was getting a bit hungry and thought I would grab some supper while waiting to see if the last band would perform. I wandered over to the food truck and was delighted to discover an old friend working inside.
We chatted a bit and she teased if I was going to write about the festival getting rained out in my weekly column. At the time, I didn’t think I was, but in a few more paragraphs, you’ll see why I changed my mind.
I had a chicken taco and just a few minutes later, a quesadilla. The chicken taco was fresh and delicious, but there’s nothing like a hot, freshly made quesadilla in your hands on a rainy afternoon. Perfect. But I couldn’t stand and eat, so I headed over to the closest tent to grab a seat.
There were several groups already taking refuge there, and all were chatting away and interacting with each other about all sorts of things. The weather, the food, the wine – and then a gentleman from one group spoke up and told the rest of the tent that he really didn’t want to lug all the food he had brought back to the car, and was happy to share. So he invited everyone over to his table, and within minutes, most of the group migrated to that end of the tent to partake.
I thought it was a really lovely moment between virtual strangers. I was really loving the vibe of the whole experience when I saw the stage manager walk up to the tent. I figured this was the seemingly inevitable, “Sorry folks, no show tonight.” But what he said instead was that the final act was ready to perform, but without any electronics.
The crowd seemed to misunderstand, but I pointed out that simply meant no amplification. The stage manager proceed to say that if we would like, we were all welcome to join the band on stage while they performed!
Well I can’t say that I have ever scooted across a field of wet grass so fast in all my days. When I got to the bandshell, the staff was setting up chairs for the remainder of the patrons along the front edge of the stage. We were all giddy with delight, and some friends of mine snapped a photo of us to post on Facebook just before the music started. Believe it or not, there was even a dog up there with us, which really made it feel like we were all sitting in someone’s (very large) living room.
The band played in this little intimate setting until about 9 p.m., and it was an amazing and unique experience. It’s hard to describe the talent of these musicians and the delight of sitting practically in their lap while they performed. The wind and rain continue to wax and wane throughout the performance, but we hardly noticed.
One of the pieces performed was a duet of trumpet and piano, and forgive me for not being able to find the words to properly describe it, but it was a lovely, deeply moving piece of music. What made it even more magical was in the pauses of the piece, you could hear a soft rumbling of thunder, timed perfectly, as if it had been written right in.
It was as if Mother Nature herself was playing right along with them. And I thought, no one’s ever heard this song performed like this before, and unlikely to ever hear it performed like this again. I couldn’t help but wonder if the musicians felt that way too.
When I left my house that Sunday afternoon, I never imagined that I’d end up on stage with a master trumpet player. And it just goes to show you that it’s true, good things do come to those who wait.
Originally published September 18, 2015.