Running with the pack…

AlisaRosePathSparklyMoment of honesty here… I found myself getting uncomfortable and walled up in continuing to write on this next phase of the journey. Why? I have no idea, because its awesome and amazing. Writing is a fascinating process in which we came face to face not only with our known fears but also unexpected ones that don’t bounce out from the shadows, but seem to have been hiding in plain sight. So here goes…

In the last installment my amazing friend, then teacher, Tiffany Colonna introduced me to the awesome work of Robert Burns through the equally awesome work of the Old Blind Dogs, and I had a drink with Jonny Hardie… who equalled celebrity-status to me in my nerdy little world. And it would be through this resurfacing of an interest lost in the wake of life that a small prayer would come full circle.

Following meeting the Old Blind Dogs in the summer at Grass Valley WorldFest, I followed them later in September to a small SF Bay Area tour, they had turned me on to. While they had invited me and told me we would all have a pint, I didn’t really believe this, it had to be just a way of getting another person in a seat… why would they remember me? But, of course, being a fan-girl, I absolutely wanted to go. So, it was off to San Francisco I went.

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Rachelle and I, glowing with the joy of dancing.

I stayed with a friend who came along with me and still being veritable babes-in-arms we were stopped at the door of the Plough and Stars while trying to gain entrance. I think the doorkeep knew we were lying about our age and that we didn’t bring our ID’s… but she did believe us that all we wanted was to see the music, drink or no drink, and let us in. Unlike the festivals I had followed them to, this was just a crammed, divey pub with a small stage stuffed in the back. Jonny’s wife Kim, who is native to California, was there with a gaggle of her local friends. There were also a few of those whom I would come to know as the usual lot at bay area celtic concerts, some randomers who just happened to be at the bar… And then little me and my friend, Rachelle.

And true to their word, the lads said hello, even gave me a hug, asked after me, introduced themselves to Rachelle… WHAT WAS THIS WORLD?!?! On what planet were musicians of SUCH a high caliber this down to earth? They got themselves set for the show but one member was missing; the heavily flirtatious piper. In his place was a young man whom I immediately had this response of deep familiarity towards but I could not place where I knew him or how I could possibly know him.

The music started and Rachelle and I danced and bounced around with the gaggle of other ladies. At that age and that time of my life, this was my kind of heaven; the woody, boozy smell of the pub, the laughter and camaraderie, the music I loved so much and a perfect autumn evening. What in this world could be any better? All the while though I watched the piper who was standing in for their missing member and it pressed on me why I would have any reason to recognize him… who was at the same time blowing us all away with his talent, musicality and incredible spirit.

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David Brewer piping along with Jonny Hardie on fiddle and Aaron Jones on bouzouki (drummer Fraser Stone, not shown)

The lads took a break to get pints. The drummer let us whack around on his kit… his drum kit… and we all chatted a bit more. Then, the piper came round to introduce himself, David Brewer… and the name rang another bell of familiarity. I searched the annals of my mind for why I would have occasion to know this face and this name… and his incredible playing. I shook his hand, complimented him on his piping and I asked after how he came to sit in with the band. He told me he was part of a band called Molly’s Revenge out of a little town, Santa Cruz, and suddenly these pieces snapped together in my mind and I could see his face on the cover of an album I once had and lost. “Wait. Didn’t you used to be part of a band called, Isle of Light?” I asked. David was taken aback that I even knew who they were, “Yea! We don’t play as much anymore.”

And, there it was, this little prayer that even in that moment I did not recall, had come around and begun an answering or manifestation. However one wants to think of it, it’s hard to escape the magical feeling things that weave themselves together in such a way invoke. David and I continued to chat. He asked after what I did, and at the time I was a student and a poet; an aspect of myself I no longer actively pursue except when it takes me suddenly and completely and usually in the form of song. He said he’d love to read my work sometime and then another band member said the same. I couldn’t believe the sense of mutual curiosity from these talented individuals.

It turned out that David had learned all of the Dogs material in just a few days… and let me say, these are not simple arrangements. These are gorgeously crafted and well-selected tunes laid alongside each other in the most artful of ways. And, he was going to be playing with them at the Sebastopol Celtic World Music Festival the next night. Another thread showing itself again; finally seeing the Dogs play at this Festival that would eventually come to be like a kind of home to me until its retirement by the Sebastopol Community Center, years later. I told him and the lads I would be there to see it. And they blew me away (again) with their kindness, by offering to put me on their guest list. Yet again, I was stunned by the personal and humble relationship these incredible artists had with their fans.

I went the next night and I watched them, again, with so much joy. And, David ROCKED the show… even on such short notice, he brought his full set of skills and owned every tune, every moment of that concert and I couldn’t help but feel proud for him. And like we were already old friends, when the show was over, we chatted at length and I told him how happy I was for him. I knew how great and honor this was for a piper in this little world of Scottish music. And then just like that, we were friends. We exchanged information and began a communication that would turn into a great friendship filled with encouragement and collaboration. And it would be another full year before I would remember the prayer and the desire I had to meet and work with this individual.

Until the next installment in this series, here it is for posterity… evidence of David owning the show with the Old Blind Dogs. Catch the Old Blinds Dogs on their return tour to the states this spring (though David won’t be touring with them).

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