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Friday, December 30, 2005

Eine Kleine Nacht Musick

I'm sure that if it hadn't been that our son, Alex, and his band, Turncoat Fanatic, were playing at the Roann Community Center last night, we wouldn't have gone to the program.

At the same time, living a block away from the Community Center, there may not have been a need to go.

The music was loud, loud, loud.

Which we expected.

Alex has a passion for rock music. Not Top 40 rock. Not rock-a-billy. Not even rock that anyone else has written. He loves to take the milleu of heavy metal rock and shape it to express his own thoughts, feelings, humor, perspectives. He almost never 'covers' other bands' music.

At the Roann Community Center, four other bands joined Turncoat Fanatic in what was to be an evening resplendent with thousands of decibels of electric guitars, bass guitars, and drums. One group even brought dancers.

The community center is normally a docile place, home to wedding showers, square dancing, benefit dinners, and family reunions. Years ago it was a furniture store. For those in northern Indiana who know about Tom Spiece, this building was the first-ever Speice Store, started by Tom's father, Dick, as an Army surplus store.

This night, the community center was filled 150 youths from Wabash, Fulton, Howard and Miami counties, dressed in a "rural-ized" urban rock attire, a mix of band geeks and jocks, friends and co-workers, couples and lookers, brainiacs and slower students. They were there for the music, mostly. They were there to be seen, partly. They were there to support their friends in the bands.

Alex was not only a performer this evening, he was also the organizer. As parents of this 17 1/2 year-old, Karen and I knew where our boundaries needed to be - with the other parents of band members, on the metal folding chairs at the back of the room. That is, until performance time, when we would be permitted to near the stage discreetly for pictures and admiration.

Our daughter, Allison, joined the experience in a freshly made, hand-painted "Turncoat Fanatic" t-shirt. She was the evening's ticket taker and hand stamper (and de facto bouncer).

With the notable exception of the first band, the young men who comprised the four remaining groups were highly talented. Though the format was essentially the same - lead guitar, bass, drums, and vocalist - the separate bands created sounds and lyrics unique to themselves. All were punched with a sense of adolescent anger and frustration. All were vividly independent of anything their parents would have created. All were happy middle-income kids expressing themselves electrically.

These were not bands from wide and bizarre places like Seattle or Chicago. Alex's band is based here in Roann, although the two other members live in rural Wabash County. Another band is from North Manchester, a college town of about 4500 near here. And the other two good bands were Christian bands from the Kokomo area.

I would be remiss if I did not tell you that Alex's band was, indeed, the best band there. You might accuse me of 'proud fatherhood' if I told you that Alex was the most talented guitarist of the evening. So be it. They were and he was. :-)

There was another kind of music in the evening that took me a little by surprise. It was the music of human conversation.

Between sets, when each band had to tear down and allow the next band to set up, there was a five or six minute interval. The crowd took on a life of its own during those short breaks. In one corner, a group of 15-20 sat to play a few quick hands of cards. In another corner, girls preened and twisted their hair. The parent group on their metal folding chairs laughed and talked about work and how big their kids had gotten.

The music of pleasant conversation. My personal favorite sound. It is the music that occurs when there is no other obvious music. Whether it's on the lawn at the Deer Creek Music Center in Indianapolis or at intermission of the Manchester Symphony, that music of conversation comes to life when the performers aren't performing.

It was a good evening. My ears have recovered. The community center is clean. And Roann is back to its sleepy little self.

Until the next concert, that is. :-)