Looking out at the bright lights into the audience was nostalgic. This was the place I was familiar with from over twenty years ago when I was in a popular college band. The same, but different. This time around the haze was not from cigarette smoke in the bar, but from my aging eyes now sensitive to light. The rowdy crowd wasn’t a hoard of college-age partiers, but a lively group of children and parents dancing with abandon. My band mates were not the guys that were kind of like brothers to me, but they were my own two children and niece.
The Top Hat Family Friendly Friday was indeed family friendly. I would laugh at the irony of returning to my old stomping grounds to play music in a bar with my kids, but for the two hours we were up on stage it didn’t feel like a bar. It felt like a family gathering, with a mix of familiar faces from my past and present, unified by the desire to expose their children to some live music and relax after a long week.
This is Montana, after all. Lots of people bring their kids to the bar, right? I admit, I was a little worried to have the Blue Mountain Music Makers perform. It was labeled family friendly, but the maternal voices in my head were telling me that I wasn’t being a good parent hauling my kids into a bar. What about the creeps? The drunk idiots? The stupid behavior that impinges on the innocence of my impressionable growing tween and teenager?
I carefully placed my freak-out thoughts into the file in my brain that is labeled “save for later.” I trusted my friend Caroline Keyes, who started FFF and decided I needed to see what it was like first-hand before I overreacted. What was the worst that could happen anyway?
Needless to say, the only thing that happened was quite humorous. The kids couldn’t figure out what order they wanted to play the set list, so there were moments of disagreement and discussion going on onstage while we were between songs. But no matter. The audience was awesome and supportive. We saw a few teachers, a few neighbors, and some friends of mine who were around all those years ago when I played in the old band, now with their own children at their side. We enjoyed the stage, with the luxury of a sound man and good equipment. I felt really fortunate to share the moment with my music makers, and even more grateful I hadn’t placed undue judgment on the venue.
After our gig was over, I was invited go get a drink and a bite to eat with my sister and my good friend. We headed over to the Red Bird while Mark played his old familiar role as roadie. Ironically, that is how we met all those years ago in college, when he was invited on a road trip with the band to help load equipment. Little did he know that hauling instruments would come with the marriage, along with babies and toddlers and then their instruments as they grew into musicians!
After some dinner and a beer we ladies decided, just for fun, to should head to the Depot for some coffee by traipsing through all the bars we used to frequent when we were younger. We wanted to reminisce. I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I walked through all the establishments from Main Street to Alder Street. Apparently, not long enough.
As we shuffled our way through one haunt to the next I continued to say to myself “was I this stupid when I was in college?” Everyone was loud, obnoxious, and pushy. When I thanked one bouncer for carding me and tried to joke with him I got a stone-faced response. He was just doing his job…no reason to feel flattered! He stamped my hand with a BE GOOD stamp. It was upside down, and if it were twenty years ago I suppose I would have been pondering what the hell DOOGEB meant.
The pivotal moment of irritation came when the last two bars we walked into made me very, very aware of my age. The first one was a new, small dance club. One girl was wearing lingerie and the bass on the music was so loud the throbbing in my brain was sure to kill more brain cells than I lost in my college days. The second one was one of my favorite old-time bars, where we sought out the way to the bathroom.
As we made our way back the narrow hallway a flash of clothing and fists flew past my eyes. Two young men (that looked like boys) were getting into a raging fight. They knocked over a pail full of hot, scalding water, which splashed on my sister and I. We were furious. Our temporary repressed motherhood authority took over as we started scolding all the people in the hallway, whether they were involved or not!
I spent many years earlier in my life trying to be someone I wasn’t, simply because I wanted everyone to like me. I avoided conflict. At this stage of my life I find myself spending a lot of time getting to know the person I have become…..accepting but strong, passionate and creative, and not concerned with pleasing everyone I meet. I have entered a new stage of my life titled "self-acceptance" and this is the best stage of all, bar none.
The after-show events were just what I needed to remind myself of all the blessings in my life. I appreciate the Top Hat for allowing a good, safe, environment for families to enjoy music on Friday nights. But aside from playing music, I don’t think that I will be bar-hopping again anytime soon. For I love that I have so many full, wonderful, healthy activities to enjoy where I can be who I am….a forty-something mama, content to BE GOOD.