My recent vacation was my first in years without seeing any music. That is, without seeing any of my music.
Music used to be a mainstay of my vacations and even work travel. On trips longer than a weekend, I’d always find some evening to slip out for a show, even if it was a tepid rock show in downtown Cincinnati during a family visit. In 1999, during a three-week trip to Europe, our itinerary intersected Tim Berne‘s three times. My wife still talks about that with disbelief.
But we have kids, and it was Washington D.C., and it was humid and exhausting. I didn’t mind. For me, the sightseeing thing to do in New York is to see a show at some place like The Stone, and I’m disappointed if I don’t get time for that. In Washington, I was plenty satisfied just doing the obvious tourist things.
We did managed to see some music. The President’s Own U.S. Marine Band was doing free Thursday-evening shows near the Washington Monument, so I dragged the family along.
I was dreading an all-marches program, but this band turns out to also be a stringless classical ensemble. We arrived during the first number, an upbeat modern-classical piece with lots of tuned percussion. Like Zappa for beginners. A really good sign.
That was followed by, of all things, a three-song Klezmer set. They didn’t go all John Zorn on us, of course, but the clarinet soloist got to play some nifty solos (probably composed), and the whole atmosphere put a dash of downtown NYC into my trip. That was a real highlight.
The band also did some Harold Arlen jazz numbers with vocals, and an obscure Sousa march.
The Web site notes that the following week’s program was packed with country favorites (“country” meaning Garth Brooks-style rock, not real country music). We got lucky, and I’m thankful.
By the way — I do know about the Adams Morgan neighborhood and the Black Cat and all that. I saw The Magnetic Fields there on my last trip, doing portions of 69 Love Songs. At the end of our trip, we were staying in Dupont Circle — walking distance — but I just didn’t have the energy or the inclination this time. I did try to stop by coffeehouse Tryst, on 18th Street, for some Monday jazz, but the musicians had canceled that evening. I enjoyed a honeydew mint smoothie instead.