I spent Thanksgiving in Austin, Texas with a family that celebrates. Now, this is different for me. I grew up recognizing Thanksgiving as a day of communal mourning– understanding the holiday to represent a time for reflection on the sacrifice of our Native ancestors and on the continued and unspoken suffering of Native elders, brothers and sisters across the Americas, and in the United States in particular. But this Thanksgiving was different. This Thanksgiving had an undertone of joy. More on that another time.
The interesting part is what I’m here to talk about. I landed after a long working day and a three-hour flight to take a car to a bar with black walls.
I found myself seated at a crowded, sticky pub table littered with drinks. The faces surrounding me all grinned with familiarity and sipped at amber beverages while they conversed over various topics I couldn’t discern over the trilling music. On the stage, in front of the background of shimmering crepe paper, was this baby-faced young man. He sat with an odd grin as he hugged over the microphone, his curly red hair bouncing as he played his keyboard, eyeing his drummer, bassist and the new guitar player he was clearly unfamiliar with. His fingers plunked a tune born of jazz and broadway’s illicit love affair but wrapped in swaddling of blues and rock and roll. He called himself a soul band, but his drummer was an old school rock head and his guitarist played bluegrass like it ran through his veins. The style peaked its head through at various points and reminded me of New Orleans, where genres mixed like flavors in stew and big bands pulled together sounds from all over the world. Once during the set, this young person was bold enough to invite two fiddlers on stage with him while his father played clarinet in a tone reminiscent of a crooner.
When I tell you I fell in love with the sound, I can’t begin to explain to you how I wished I could introduce them to one of those hood-kids I grew up hanging out with that had a passion for his beat machine and a little too much after-school time. This one, though– the one making the sound– he had quiet power, a voice that begged for falsetto, and still could belt with the best of them. His emotion was real. Micah had soul to him in this intriguing kind of way. He was this Dare To Be True kid that hits you in the face, refreshing and cool. He is more than a motto. So when he lets his music head show, it meets my neo-soul in the quiet bits, and I’m reminded of what it means to suffer in the rhythm. I bah-doop with his jam. And with his truth, I’m reminded of what it is to funnel your truth into the dissonance, and frankly, no matter how you play your blue note– whether it’s staccato or legato, mercato or tenudo– remember that it is what made you different in a sea of country headliners. It made your audience bop.
Check out Micah’s band, Motenko, on their website.