Multiple times a week, in the bars and public spaces where we run programming, I get to listen to others’ stories and last week was particularly great. On Tuesday and Thursday evening we played Eric B. and Rakim’s Paid In Full (if you want to read up on it, Bruce, Skye, and George all have excellent articles) and I guess the late 80’s vibe really connected with our crowd, which makes sense when you consider how much Chaka Khan gets played on the jukebox before and after our albums. Though the best way to understand the intimacy of the places we’re invited into is to join us, time constraints and distance keep many of you away. With that in mind, here’s a little glimpse into those last Tuesday for those of you who couldn’t make it:
The first person I want to talk about is a guy who goes by T, a Camden native born in ’76, who’s probably attended four or five of our events. T is reserved and genuine, the sort of guy who doesn’t jump at an opportunity to hang out with a stranger but will chat for hours with those he trusts. Aside from 2Pac’s Greatest Hits, most of the albums we’ve played haven’t really connected with him. But from the first hit of the bass on I Ain’t No Joke, T was with it, reciting lyrics with clarity and passion. I spent the entire A side of the album listening to stories from his childhood, stories told with the fervor of a living flame ignited by nostalgia. The content of those stories belongs to the confidence they were shared in, but they were meaningful, welcoming stories that helped us connect more with one another.
While T and I were talking, half the bar was dancing, plastic cups and bottles in hand. A guy no less than twice my age sporting a seersucker-slash-zuit-suit-esque combo dusted off his toprock skills and almost broke out a windmill or two, while four others bounced to the beat. Even the bartender had a spring in her pour throughout night. At the request of the crowd, we rolled the B side right over into the beginning of the album to keep the party going. Three months ago, we weren’t sure if our partnership at this bar would pan out. Now, we’re an expected part of Tuesday evenings and the owners have begun sponsoring our youth programs because they believe in our mission. Guess that’s growth, kids.