I couldn’t miss this concert. Blanco White had become the hottest music celebrity on my list, and the three-and-a-half-hour drive to Chicago wasn’t a choice.
It all started in a coffee shop in Breckenridge this summer. Cell service was sparse where I was staying, so I whipped out my laptop for the important business — finding the perfect dress for a wedding four months from now.
Click, click, click. I was in my own little virtual world of cocktail dresses.
Coffee shops are known for mellow music. It’s even become its own genre in recent years. At its worst, it’s the background noise to a cappuccino machine growling loudly. At its best, it’s tune you hum on the way to your car.
Click, click, click, I carried away.
But then a wave of sound hit my ears. I couldn’t ignore the tune that was filling the shop. The rumble of coffee grounds became the mundane background music, the tune headlining the stage.
“Quick,” I said to my best friend, breaking away from my computer screen. “We need to figure out the name of this song right now.”
Later, when we were driving home, an ideal situation for soft music and light conversation, I remembered the song and pulled out my phone.
From its opening notes, the song was an experience, a plucking ukulele juxtaposing the sound of an electric guitar and a softly shaking maraca. The lead singer’s voice moved seamlessly over the instruments.
When the song finished, I clicked another. And then another. Violins, accordions, and flutes wove together to create a unique folk sound with unmistakable Spanish influence.
Blanco White: He wasn’t famous. In fact, I’d never heard of him before. When I dug deeper, I found he had only 127 followers on Twitter, and 6,000 views on one of his first Youtube videos. His music was incredible, but who was there to applaud?
Painters miss the gasps and silent tears of the viewers who walk past their work in an art exhibit. Composers seldom see the reactions of an audience hearing their commissioned work for the first time. Music artists aren’t in the car with their listeners as they smile at each other and click another song. And another. And another.
These moments that are our greatest joys are the composer’s motivation for the lonely hours with a pen and a paper or in a recording studio, but they’re never there to witness.
I walked into Space Theatre in Chicago on Tuesday night for my first Blanco White concert and smiled. It was darkly lit, 70 or so people scattered through the room. To my left, bartenders entertained their guests, mixing drinks and handing out a good time.
The familiar sounds slowly hit my ears. Immediately, I was carried back to the cozy mountain town and the coffee shop.
I talked to Blanco White after the show, and the band’s humility matched its sound. They loved what they did, and maybe that’s why I loved their music. I’d heard the passion months earlier, in the car.
It was a celebration of the joy of simply making music.
So, to the artist who can’t fly out to his latest art exhibit, thank you. To the musician who can’t sit in the backseat of my jam-popping car ride, thank you. To the composer who wasn’t a part of the audience listening to the premiere of his piece, thank you.
Our applause may be silent, but we clap our hands nonetheless.