Welcome to Stones Night, where a ragtag group of aging teachers who have been banging away at these songs for the better part of a year finally put aside all of the interruptions, delays, and distractions to try to recreate a batch of songs by one of the acknowledged greatest rock and roll bands. With some struggles, with some success.
The playlist: "Honky Tonk Women," "Paint It Black," "Angie," "You Can't Always Get What You Want," "Brown Sugar," "Bitch," "Dead Flowers." And, long after the show was over, raggier, taggier versions of "Sympathy For The Devil" and "Gimme Shelter." As well as some strange stragglers during the encore--"Summer of '69," Manfred Mann's "Pretty Flamingo," Stevie Ray Vaughn's "Life By The Drop," and Springsteen's "No Surrender." Maybe even a "Happy Birthday" in there somewhere.
It isn't easy being or doing the Stones. But it sure is fun. Forget that there's a woman in the band and the other singer is more Roger Ebert than Mick Jagger. Forget that there is no bass player (but, what the hell, Bill Wyman left the band anyway). Two of the band members are in all black and look like caterers, one of the guitarist's wardrobe looks like a mix of Neil Young and Angus Young, and the other two guys look like they are average, middle-aged men. Who rock.
Forget, most of all, the screw ups--bad vocals, songs that go on too long, wrong chords, fumbled solos, missed cues. Because absolutely none of that matters. It might have mattered then, to the band, but it doesn't matter now, and it didn't matter then to the audience. And, now, no one but those of us in the band even remember those things.
It's why, if you're an amateur band, that you play to a group of supportive friends. They will cheer you, they will praise you, they will join in, they will ask for more.
But there's something deeper that goes on during a Stones Night, or any other live night, for that matter. There were two choices in our fair city last night--the place where a fledgling band was doing their best on some Rolling Stones songs, and all of those places where they weren't.
If you were with us for our imperfect endeavor, you got music of varying quality, but I think you got something far more important. You got to be part of a family and to enjoy families, an all-ages show with all-ages food and drink, where an 8-year-old could come up and sing "Summer Of '69" with the band, where "Stones Trivia" required the knowledge of a wide variety of ages, where children made new friends, where adult friends came up and lent their voices to songs, where everything from the water to the beer was green (in anticipation of St. Patrick's Day), where Trout, our keyboard player, did his usual "all in" approach to making the house feel like an homage to Mick, Keith, Charlie, and the rest.
When you think about it, there really aren't that many things better in life than a group of families and friends sharing a common experience that is safe and positive, but a bit of distance away from the norm.
Of course, for those of us who are teachers, who live by the mantra of "life-long learning," and who play in this band, the journey it provides outside of our own comfort zones is both challenging and rewarding. Anyone who thinks it's easy to get up in front of people and play live music has never gotten up in front of people and played live music. You aren't exactly nervous, but a lot of your decision-making goes out the window as a song that you thought you owned suddenly owns you and it isn't going to let you out of its clutches until you serve its desires. You live players know exactly what I mean.
And, yeah, we have groupies, but we're married to them and they're aging right along with us. It's easier that way, and more satisfying.