Moving to Freedom, .Org(on)

Ryan Montbleau Band at The Dakota Jazz Club

I feel like I’m in possession of a secret. A secret known by a lot of people, but still, RMB is a Big Secret. I want to tell the whole world about these guys, yet… I don’t want to have to share them with too many people at one time. I would love to always see them play at venues like The Dakota. On the main floor and mezzanine, there is seating for about 160 people, and my guess is that there were at least 120 people at the show on Sunday. Maybe more; the place was pretty full. It was perfect: An intimate, classy setting, an enthusiastic crowd fueled by good food and drink, and a band that casts magic spells. Truly enchanting.

The show changed my life. I’m finally going to quit my job and… No. That’s not true. Not yet.

But I was inspired, as always.

Ryan Montbleau Band 'Quickie' Flash Drive

I’m listening to the show as I write this. They sold “quickies” at the end of the night. I gave $15 to bongo player Yahuba and he loaded up a flash drive with a recording of the performance. Ryan promoted it during the show, saying, “You can take it home with you. Stick it in your computer and boom, you’re right back at the show. Without the fine dining, maybe.” And I am. I’m back there. And so happy to be, because the night passed too quickly, and would have faded like all dreams do, except for this physical artifact that crossed the waking boundary.

My wife and I brought fresh recruits to the show this year: our new neighbors and friends. They loved the show and I don’t think they said that just to be nice and spare my feelings. I was delighted at being able to introduce them to the mystery. I say mystery because Ryan’s music is uncategorizable. When I invited these friends to come along, they asked what kind of music the band plays. I said, “Don’t ask dumb questions. Just trust me.” No, not really. What I actually said was, “They’re an americanafolkrockfunkblues kind of band.” And still they were willing to join us, even in the absence of a comprehensible marketing strategy. (No doubt they perceived that I’m a man of great refinement and discerning taste when it comes to music.)

Bringing new people to a show like this is similar to having a child that helps you to see the world through their eyes and lets you relive some of your own lost childhood. (Also similar is that you hope, narcissistically, that they will like the same things as you.) At the show, and again while listening to the recording, I can imagine hearing the music through their ears and seeing the band perform live for the first time, and recall that moment when first I was bewitched.

It’s a great feeling to share it. To share something new. Something joyful. (Thanks again for coming out, Nate and Shelley.)

At the same time, I have no regrets about my familiarity with the songs and their previous shows. It creates a different experience: Happy memories combined with pleasant anticipation of the next show, and trust in the guys to make the magic happen. (And there was something — someone — new. New guy Lyle on the guitar. I liked the new sound!)

My wife, Kathy, is a veteran of several shows. She enjoyed it, with the possible exception of some guy that sat behind her and whooped it up loudly. She had to plug her ear repeatedly. (I don’t think I was being that loud.)

The sound quality of this “quickie” is extraordinary, by the way. (You can even hear Kathy telling me to shut up.)

They put on such a show. Hearing the cheers of the crowd reminds me of the energy that night. Now I’m listening to the clapping and cheering, the wooting and the whistling after their last song, before the encore, and I’m getting shivers.

There are so many concerts I’ve attended in my life where I’ve received the show passively. Productions put on by “bigger” names and in “bigger” venues. I may clap, but it’s often as perfunctory as the performances. I’m waiting for the show to end so I can go home. I only occasionally experience joy and immersion at these “bigger” shows.

On Sunday, I was consumed by the moment. Thoroughly entertained and enthralled by the beauty of the music and the craftsmanship of their performance. The band absorbed and reflected back the energy and love from the audience. In addition to appreciative comments during the show, I later saw that Ryan tweeted, “Wow, I needed that. AMAZING feeling show at The Dakota in Minneapolis. Thank you, thank you!”

There was magic in that room.

I admire these guys for doing what they love. For working so hard to get this far. I can imagine what it must be like for them on nights when it all comes together. I’ve felt what it’s like for the audience. It’s one of the best things in life, to feel the joy that music brings.

From following Ryan on Twitter and reading his blog, I’ve also gotten a glimpse of the hardships. Not that he’s complaining — he’s simply providing a view into the life. Long hours on the road in a small van, in and out of hotels and cities, being away from home and loved ones. The usual stuff for a touring musician, of course, but I think about it with these guys — all that goes into what they’re doing. For all this sacrifice, they have nights with small, tepid crowds, and it must get lonely and feel unrewarding, and bring doubt and disappointment. That’s where the inspiration for me comes from: That they keep at it.

They keep chasing that dream.

They keep making great music and “giving it away.”

They inspire me to do the same.

Maybe I’ll take what I got and maybe give it away. Maybe today…