one last song at the village



now playing: alison krauss, “now that i’ve found you”


saturday night, we played our last gig at the place where it all started for stone road…a little roadside tavern in a town about fifteen minutes north of reading called the village tavern.

we started there almost seven years ago…played our first gig there as a band back when we were a three piece band, careening our way through cover tunes. the room was a lot different then, too…we used to play in the corner under the tv set, next to the cigarette machine.

it was what it was…the village was a roadhouse, and we were a roadhouse band. it was me, darryl (the only drummer stone road has ever had), and dale, our first bass player. we’d do anything – if someone asked for a song and it was something we were even remotely familiar with, we’d take a swing at it. every now and then, we’d fall on our faces, but we usually pulled it off somehow. we didn’t use setlists at all…we’d play every night by ear, for the most part.

it was fun…and at the time stone road went from being the backup rhythm section for my original music to becoming an actual named entity, doing cover songs, it had been a long time since playing music had represented something enjoyable for me. at that point, i had been so caught up in my own songs and my own thing that i’d forgotten that this was supposed to be fun. and this was a breath of fresh air.

now, though, seven years or so have passed, and stone road has lasted longer than my first marriage did…but next week, stone road will join my first marriage in becoming a historical entity.

but i had figured that this past saturday night would be our most significant “last gig”, since it was at the village.

it felt more like we went out with a whimper, though, as opposed to a bang…aside from a few inspired moments (darryl tearing up a solo during “one way out” among them), it didn’t feel as though we put much into it. the crowds have been thinning at the village for some time…and i’m sure everyone has their own personal theories as to why this is, myself included – but it just didn’t feel like the Village of Old to me. hell, it hasn’t for some time. i miss the old days when there wasn’t so much separation from the crowd, when people danced right in front of you, when the response was more immediate and the connection to the people in the crowd was more tangible.

but those days are gone, now…and soon, so shall we be.

i think it’s only just starting to hit me, though…i had accepted this as reality after talking to darryl a while back, when he said that he felt that after the first of the year, he was ready to call it quits as well. i’ve been looking forward to it, in fact, on a number of levels…it’s going to be nice to have some of the weekends to myself over the winter, and there are things i want to do with the extra time…jayda wants to take piano lessons, dylan is making progress on guitar, and wendy got her own bass for christmas this year, and i want to re-approach guitar from a new perspective, too…i want to dig into some of the tools that i have at my disposal and take some lessons myself, in addition to working with everyone else in my family who wants to do this on their own level.

my plate always has some combination of things on it…and i’m feeling good about being able, for the time being, to see through the gravy to the porcelain at the bottom for a while.

donnie, our newest member, is putting a band together, and has asked me to be a part of that, and i’m going over at some point this week to sit in with them and get a feel for everybody…i had decided, in principle anyway, to take the winter off – to take some time and not do anything for a while. i don’t think i’ve ever allowed myself the luxury of that…and it’s still a pretty attractive proposition. it’s weighing pretty heavily in my head, and right now i’m feeling like donnies’ new band is gonna have to kick some pretty serious ass to beat that proposition out.

and the thing is, i’ve been looking forward to that…in fact, i’ve been looking forward to it so much that i don’t think i’ve fully taken in the finality of what’s about to happen here.

i got a healthy dose of it on saturday night, though.

it didn’t occur to me early on…i hadn’t had time to think about it. i was running late getting there in the first place, and i was playing through donnie’s loaner amp – a dual showman head with a peavey speaker cabinet (one thing i learned on saturday night – i’m pretty sure i’m a combo amp guy. i don’t think the “stack philosophy” applies to me. i don’t know if it was just that particular stack or not, but it was definitely a weird vibe, and i don’t think i sounded much like myself all night long…no matter how much tweaking i did) – and my energies were focused elsewhere the whole first set, really. it wasn’t until after the first set, when i had a chance to catch my breath, that i started taking stock of the situation.

i looked around the room – there were any number of the usual demographics present…a couple of guys latched onto the corner seats at the bar, one with a santa claus hat on….a beautiful girl playing pool who looked a lot like lisa loeb (she was with a couple of guys, one of whom asked for an allman brothers song later that night)…the usual array of dirty dancers, including a fifty-something couple who couldn’t keep their hands off one another….

…the village has never suffered from a lack of crowd-sponsored entertainment, to be sure.

and there, during the break after the first set, it hit me…this was it. there wouldn’t be any more of these nights after this one. this place, for whatever faults it might have, has been our home – our little gig oasis. we’d played here on a steady basis since late in 1998, and now it was ending. there wouldn’t be any more of these nights after tonight.

and that was the first point at which i remember actually starting to feel a significant sense of regret that this was ending. i had often told friends that a bit of the wind had gone out of my sails after quin left the band, and it was certainly true that we’d all fallen into autopilot for some time….and i still think this is the right thing to do. it’s time for this to be over, to be sure – but it doesn’t make the finality of it all any easier to digest.

at the end of the night, after the lights all came up, i took a couple of minutes to walk around the place and took a few pictures with my phone to remember the night by…and took a last look at the empty floor where we had been just an hour or so before, where we’ve been so many saturday nights and followed darryl and karen out the door.

one week from that moment, this chapter will be closed forever.


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