August 13th, 2015
Happiness is a journey, not a destination, unless you’re headed to the streets of Asheville. On any given weekend, and most week nights in the summer, the downtown section of Asheville is teeming with entertainers busking for the crowd’s enjoyment. Nothing fills my soul quite like listening to music and watching performers on the streets. I’m not sure if I’m more impressed with the talent they possess or the courage it takes to stand on a street corner and perform, but either way these acts give me goosebumps when I watch.
This past Saturday we took to the streets of Asheville again. The Pack Square area and the blocks surrounding it have an act at every corner, and often mid-block as well. Mimes, singers, drummers, bands, and occasionally a magician, vie for space along the crowded sidewalks. We always look for the biggest crowd when we enter the area since they indicate a great performance. If you’ve never been to Asheville, the town has a laid back, hippy vibe. People are friendly, and everyone is made to feel welcome, but the best part is the street acts.
Earlier in the evening, a mime in a wedding dress and painted all in white stood on the busiest corner, enticing the crowd to take pictures with her ghoulish presence. Though interesting, her act did not hold our attention for long and so we were happy to see a new act had replaced her as we made our rounds. Three gentlemen stood on the corner. One played an acoustic guitar, another strummed a banjo, and the third played an unusual looking acoustic guitar with a metal, slotted plate in the middle and S curls on top of the body. Bluegrass sounds filled the air.
As we approached, we all snapped our fingers and danced as we walked. The music didn’t allow for anything else. When we reached the spot they played, we tucked ourselves into an alcove formed from a store’s entryway to move out of people’s way, but we needn’t have bothered. Anyone walking toward the corner had to stop, listen, and watch the charismatic musicians. Halfway into the second song, a guy ran up to the musicians holding a metal tub with a stick jutting out. His fingers, covered in tape, started playing his bluegrass bass before it even settled itself on the ground. The deep thwunking sounds rounded out the sound and I was mesmerized by his ability to create so many different pitches with his instrument.
Bopping to the music, I noticed another woman across the sidewalk doing the same. She caught my eye, nodded her head toward the open space in front of the band, and danced her way to the open area. I couldn’t pass up the invitation. She and I, two middle-aged women, threw caution and inhibitions to the wind and danced and jigged, whooped and clapped, in the middle of a crowd of at least 50 people. The fast-paced bluegrass music incited optimism, hope, and at least for me, a devil-may-care attitude. I saw cameras flashing and people shooting video, but I didn’t care who might laugh at our little dance hours later when viewed on tiny screens. I felt free, boundless, as if I could soar. Music, especially street music, provides my spirit this escape. The energy of this band unzipped my protective shell and stripped me of my worries, if only for that moment…that one, precious, unfettered moment.
During a break between songs, I took the band’s card. Their name, Ain’t Nothing Much, belied the impact they had on the crowd. Faces split from ear to ear, toothy grins, tapping feet, and people throwing money into their open guitar case didn’t feel like, “Ain’t Nothing Much.” In fact, it felt like a whole lot of something! I’ve attached a video for your perusal. How can you not tap your feet and snap your fingers? The music is infectious.
I’m grateful to Ain’t Nothing Much for contributing to my love of street music in Asheville. They lifted my spirit and helped me step outside myself and experience the energy of the people surrounding me. Street music forces you to be in that moment, to be present, to allow yourself to be impacted. Their music touched all of us who watched and listened, and I cannot wait to hear them in Asheville again! Happiness is a journey, and I’m so glad my path crossed theirs.
I hope you’re finding simple bits of happiness along your journey! If you’d like to share in mine, you can follow this group on Facebook by following this link. https://www.facebook.com/aintnothingmuchband
Without music, life would be a mistake. Friedrich Nietzsche
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