An envelope of light


I went with a friend to Palmer’s bar, next-door to the Cedar Cultural Center.  After she left, and I was enjoying my second hot pineapple juice, Cadillac Kolstad sat down at the piano. This time it was the sudden and explosive quick first tap to the keys that made me sit back down and say to the bar back, “ I’m staying!” … a  wild, heavy, masterful, shrill beat that eased the lead-crystal heart inside my chest. Tuesday, when I went back to Palmer’s looking for my glasses, I learned a house band, The Guilty Grins, would be playing at nine o’clock. Since it was almost 9 anyway … and since I was hungry enough to order a pizza (and suppress my own guilty grin, as I realized I was getting yet another night of live music), I settled in at the bar and enjoyed every riff, every string, every moment, of the kind of music that changes the energy around you, and makes you want to shout for more.
This was when I met Patrick Mavity who was sitting in with the Guilty Grins and happened to have a need to step to the bar near my pizza.  I complimented him on his fine playing and learned he was the consummate musician.  It became quite clear very soon that he was also the consummate champion of all things musical in South Minneapolis going back to his early years in the youth symphony as a cellist.
Through Pat, I was brought into a sphere of musical majesty that then led me back to Palmer’s on a Sunday night to hear his friend John Fenner play with Cadillac Kolstad. The night before, dressed in Christmas sweaters,  I had gone with my 24-year-old son to the Cedar’s annual Christmas Sweater Gala to hear Pat fiddle with the Pistol Whippin Party Penguins and several other groups.
John Fenner and Pat, part of the band the incomparable Strange Friends, pointed me in the direction of another creative performer within their wide-sweeping sphere, Katy Vernon of the Vernon Dixon band. They didn’t want publicity unless she got some, too. That’s the kind of support these musicians give one another.  I am  completely smitten by her beauty, wit, talent, courage, musical integrity and grit.  To date, I have listened to this beautiful woman’s CD “Corn Whiskey” so many times, I know every track by heart.  She makes you want to swim the Mississippi River all the way to Mississippi, pay tribute to Robert Johnson, punch a hole in your guitar to sound like Willie Nelson’s famed guitar Trigger, and vow to attend and support the performances of others in their flock of beat-driven, stringed birds of original music, who effectively cheer each other on until the rest of us take notice.
A longtime resident of our beloved Southside, I spent an enchanted morning with her recently at the Blue Moon where she sketched my likeness as we chatted, and impressed me with her travel to the Mississippi Delta to further learn the Blues, meet B.B. King, have Leon Russell tattoed upon her person, and come back to tell us all that we live on a magical river that runs through our land.  She eloquently proclaims this river is accentuated and punctuated with great and original, lively performing musicians who play for the purpose of unembalming our moth-balled selves.  At least that was what I heard her saying.
The New Year is here.  Resolutions have been made.  We have jewels in our midst … a balm of Gilead in the form of resined bows, plucked strings, and lightly-caressed ivory and ebony keys.  Do you hear music?  Will you hear music?  Can we, as a family of icebound kin, keep the music going, the toes tapping, and a commitment to reinvesting in our treasures?

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