Burn at Both Ends

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Last night I played at a bar in San Francisco. It’s a fun venue (the Amnesia), but them city folks like to party LATE! The time before when we played there, we went until 1:30 AM (this is on a Monday, mind you), and I was determined not to do that again. So, starting about 11:30, I began making the “OK, this is the LAST song” notices, but we still ended up playing till after midnight, and we only stopped because I insisted – my bandmates could have gone till 1:30 again, I have no doubt!

Energy is a funny thing. How much you have often depends on what you’re doing. Doing too much can make you tired, but so can doing too little. When you’re young, you can access extra energy that doesn’t need to be paid back – or so it seems. When you get older, if you use too much energy one day, you will be forced to pay for it, often with interest!

Music allows us to access energy reserves we didn’t know we have! Witness the all name jamming at festivals. You think all those folks stay up every night? Well, maybe some of them do, but most of them are riding that strange musical energy source, which allows them to skip the normal sleep cycle, sometimes for days!

I’ve only literally played all night a few times, but it was a perverse thrill to notice the night turning into dawn. It’s funny, you suddenly notice you can see things a little better or
maybe you notice the sky turning a lighter color, and in your funky state, it takes a moment to realize what’s happening. Then, it dawns on you (pun intended): “Hey. We’ve been picking all night!”

But even if I’m not usually an all-night-long picker, I find that playing music will let you go longer, on less food or drink, then you’d think possible. I don’t see 3 in the morning all that often anymore, but it’s routine at festivals. And I often see 3 AM on consecutive days. I mentioned a few columns back that my wife, Cassy, is usually an early-to-bed person, but when she’s dancing, that goes right out the window – she can dance all night.

Of course, unless you’re 25 or under, the bill for this theft of energy will come due. Generally, when I get back from a festival, I go straight to bed for a nap. My family is accustomed to this routine. My pickup arrives at home, dusty and messy, strewn with sleeping bags, camping gear and musical instruments. I carefully park the vehicle, then wordlessly trudge into the house and make a beeline for the bedroom. After about a 2 hour nap I have recovered enough to unpack, but I’m not really back to normal until after a REAL good night’s sleep.

I hope this doesn’t sound like it’s complaining, because it’s not. I look forward to those marathon picking sessions, and they’re a HUGE part of what makes these events fun. The whole reason I wrote this column is my sheepishness over being the Guy That Wanted to Stop Playing last night. I just knew I had a 40 mile drive home and work the next day. If playing bluegrass paid the bills, well, then it’d be a no brainer! But it doesn’t, so I had to be a darn grownup. Sheesh – that’s the last thing I want to be!


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