After work, we climbed into the Jeep and drove the hour and a half to the town where I attended college. I hadn’t visited it in nearly half a year because most of my friends had graduated and moved on to other places, but I was excited to see it anyway. Since my college days, the town had been close to my heart — it was there that I spent my first true time away from home, there that I made lifelong friends, there that I learned the genuine value of hard work, and there that I discovered my passion for graphic design.
We took the exit that led us through the outskirts of town, past familiar neighborhoods and the community pool, through the heart of my beloved college campus, and finally into the quaint uptown. Consisting mostly of one road lined with historic brick buildings restored and repurposed into college-town haunts, it looked the same. There was the ice cream shop, the bookstore, the record shop, a handful of eateries boasting post-bar food, two more dinner-worthy restaurants, a pair of coffee shops, and a boutique specializing in home goods and trinkets. There was also a beautiful fountain surrounded by a unique, albeit whimsically confusing, roundabout.
The sidewalks in the uptown were wide and accommodating. Vintage-looking street lamps, trees sparkling with lights, and small groups of friendly people conversing over drinks at petite, outdoor tables accompanied us as we made our way toward the pub. It was one of the more dinner-worthy restaurants and my college friends and I had visited it regularly.
We were welcomed by the hostess who ushered us through the softly lit, brick and hardwood-laden alehouse to a cozy, corner booth with a window. She asked us our drink order — a hard cider and a Guinness — and he listened as I reminisced about my college days. He said that the pub seemed like his kind of place and a feeling of happiness enveloped me. After placing our dinner orders — two plates of fish and chips — we lamented over the fact that we hadn’t known each other during our college years.
Following dinner and with plenty of time left, we said farewell to the pub and, once again, climbed into the Jeep. We traversed through the city and into the larger downtown area. As luck would have it, we found a parking spot directly in front of the concert venue — an old theatre complete with its original marquee. Emblazoned on it’s surface was the name of the night’s headliner — Gregory Alan Isakov — and, below that, the opener — Reed Foehl.
We were drawn by the glow of the marquee lights out of the night and into a warmly lit vestibule. An attendant accepted our tickets and showed us in. We walked through the gatherings of good-spirited concert-goers and into the music hall. After selecting some refreshments from the bar, we chose our seats — a comfortable pair in the middle of the room — and waited with quiet excitement for the show to begin.
The opener took the stage and charmed us with a show consisting of folky, Colorado-inspired music interspersed with stories and bits of humor. My favorite song from his performance was called, “Once An Ocean." It was a somber and pleading ballad with a slow, yet insistent cadence and a hazy twang.
The ending of his set was bittersweet. We didn’t want him to go, but we were eager to hear the main act. We cheered as he took the stage and delved into his performance with informal grace. We were immersed by his lyrical; folky; and somber, yet hopeful sound inspired by rambling travels and finding beauty in the ordinary.
During intermission, a familiar face called to me from across the venue. She waved ardently, then made her way through the temporarily vacated seats. It was a friend from college! We talked briefly about school, old friends, and current preoccupations. It was a short, but sweet encounter and it added some unexpected delight to an already captivating night.
Slowly, guests filtered back to their seats and the concert recommenced. We had finished our drinks and he and I sat arm-in-arm letting the melody, magic, and warmth of the night wash over us. I knew the concert was drawing to a close, but I didn’t want it to end. I breathed in the memory of the night and the feeling it gave me. I wanted to savor it forever.
Following the third and final curtain call, we reluctantly rose from our seats and drifted out of the music hall, through the warmly lit vestibule, beneath the beckoning marquee lights, and into the night. We, again, climbed into the Jeep. Affectionately, we exchanged looks that contained our shared astonishment at the enchantment of the night. We clutched each other’s hand and began our journey home.
The video at the top of this post, by the way, is a piece of breathtaking stop-motion animation crafted by Laura Goldhamer for Gregory Alan Isakov's "Amsterdam." Impressively, in addition to working in stop motion animation, Goldhamer also exerts herself as a folk songwriter, guitarist, “old-time” banjo player, and instrument inventor. ...yeah.