Vagabond dreamin' takes me through the night
Sippin' whiskey by the river living out of sight
One hundred miles an hour in the fast lane
A hundred miles an hour toward the light
In front of us three college kids on Spring Break. One of them rips out a “hoooooyah!” in the middle of a song, upends a beer over his head and tries to catch the stream in his mouth at one in the afternoon.
This was the minting of the Bluegrass Bro - an inside joke, a “get a load of that guy” side eye glance between my wife and me.
Not to be confused with the Bluegrass Brothers - a very fine outfit out of Virginia.
Rather, Bluegrass Bro - someone who struggles to find the idea of an authentic feeling, lifestyle, or meaning, but struggles with the case because they have never held such a thing before. It’s hard to find what you are looking for if you don’t much know what it looks like to begin with.
We see the Bluegrass Bro again in Denver, by the hoard. Our friend invites us out to Bloodies and Bluegrass at the distillery he works. The band sets up on a stage in one of those rooms where it’s effortless to talk over the music. It’s loud, crowded; half the place is drunk off vodka by one in the afternoon.
Oh, and there was a bluegrass band playing. We like the idea of what bluegrass promotes, but it takes a lot to understand what it means.
For decades, nervous conservative types rallied against the dangers of the lifestyle rap music promoted. I imagine most country music fans do not own trucks or boats, and bluegrass bros likely wouldn’t stand up well to the size or quantities of bugs flying around while sitting on a porch at dusk.
Whatever the wave for the fad, it usually speaks to a reaction of something that has been missing. I grew up in a computer-centric household. If I was camping, it was with the Boy Scouts. Road trips with the family happened in mini-vans. When I left for college I stacked my camping gear in my parent's garage - which was eventually sold off in a garage sale - and didn’t try to venture outdoors for years.
When Mumford and Sons first did their thing a few years back, it instantly put me back in the mud of the Philmont Back Country, with staff making whatever they could with their time with whatever instruments they happened to have around. The idea of having everything you need on your back, or sleeping on the ground, or drinking water of questionable purity. The banjo has a strange way of conjuring up memories of sweat, silt, and rattlesnakes.
It’s a simpler sounding music - less production, more lyrics, more craftsmanship. Easier to enjoy, to take in. It calls to an easier lifestyle - making sure the day was used well and productive, having evenings without televisions or bedtimes without cellphones. It’s an excuse to wear leather boots and suspenders.
It’s music for the campfire, for the porch, somewhat improvised and wholly involved. Who can look into a campfire and see the stories the flames can tell if there aren’t many campfires left? It’s music for drinking whiskey with. Not a cocktail, so you had best be ready to drink it straight, and plenty of it, because it might be the only way you get any sleep on that cold, hard ground.
Be ready for that hangover.
Or, hell, maybe the bluegrass bro just really likes the way it all sounds.