Low City Groove Community of Rock
Published on 08/07/2023
It was a typical Friday night at the Rebel Renegades Bar & Grille. The walls were adorned with vintage rock ‘n’ roll posters, instruments, and memorabilia of legendary local bands mixed up with graffiti from drunk bar hoppers over the years. A fresh ocean breeze drifted through as the sun set. On stage the night’s local band, Low City Groove, played their latest set. A lonely neon sign on the backdrop flickered from passionate drumbeats in sync with heavy melodic bass lines. The booming percussion resonated in the chests of the audience too. But despite massive talent pumping out fresh music live on stage, the crowd remained subdued. It was an odd juxtaposition, people in the audience were not booing or grumbling, it was almost as if the band just didn’t exist. The band members quibbled between themselves a bit between sets, contemplating whether to continue or not. They decided to go on with the show.
After the final set, the drummer, Crash Emerson, headed towards an empty spot at the end of the bar.
Same whiskey as my old man he thought to himself as he finished his second shot.
What can we do to get the audience jumping? he wondered, but his mind drew a blank.
He felt a little bit better as he worked on his third shot. Then he leaned back a bit to scan the crowd. They were lively now, dancing and laughing as a classic rock tune boomed out over speakers in the bar. Crash continued his deep contemplation.
We were as good as ever tonight he thought, but these people didn’t seem to care?
Maybe my old man was right, maybe music shouldn’t be my life.
He studied the crowd a bit more, they all seemed so happy. Some of the girls were really dressed up, reminded Crash of his high school prom date. Some of the guys were looking sharp too. Other folks were far more casual, old jeans and grunge style pullovers. But they were all mixed in on the same dance floor that night, everyone enjoying the music, the evening, themselves.
Just then an old friend surprised him from behind.
“You guys rocked tonight, what is up with this audience?”
“Yeah, I was wondering the same thing. Well at least we have one fan here tonight, great to see you again man. Your next drink’s on me!” Crash said after a quick hug.
“Thanks! Hey listen, forget about this crowd tonight. Your drumming was so intense up there, took me to another plane of existence. I know a group that would really appreciate you.”
“Who could that possibly be?” Crash asked.
“So I started this group, this workshop just a few months ago. It’s a music workshop. We teach and we learn, and we heal.”
“Heal from what?”
“Look, everyone’s got their own story, we all come from someplace different. But no matter who we are, or where we come from, music unites us all; heals us all. And your drumming up there tonight was truly special, my workshop kids would really love it.“
“Haha, I mean you make some great points. But why would these kids like it any better than this crowd out here tonight?”
“Your technique is good. Kids at my workshop could really benefit from some new beats. And besides, don’t be so hard on yourself.”
“I’m just not sure. I mean you were here, you saw how we pretty much fell flat tonight.”
“Don’t be so focused on yourself man. Have you ever even tried to help anyone else? You might be surprised!”
Crash exhaled sharply and widened his gaze.
“OK. Alright then, I’ll give it a go” he said, surprising himself to feel a tinge of inner resolve.
That Saturday morning large double-doors stood wide open, allowing a gentle breeze to carry the fresh scents of freshly cut grass through the high school gymn where the music workshop was being held. The hardwood floor reverberated sounds of playful chatter and footsteps from kids settling in. Gleaming brass trumpets and trombones stood by, reflecting golden sunlight. Clarinets and flutes rested patiently in their cases next to worn wooden bodies of violins, violas, and cellos showing a history of love. Front and center was a shiny drum set Crash Emerson couldn’t help admiring from the corner of his eye as he introduced himself to the kids coming in. Appearances were as diverse as the instruments in the room. Concert t-shirts were popular, many from bands of a previous generation. A few of the kids were more in more formal attire, a reflection of their commitment to this workshop, and music itself.
“We got a special guest this week, Crash Emerson from Low City Groove!!”
A few low key cheers and applause revealed the kids lack of familiarity with Crash and his band, but made him feel welcome anyway.
“Alright guys, let’s start out with some free play like we always do. I’ll blow my whistle when it’s time to re-circle here for our meditation minute. Go ahead and grab your favorite instrument!”
One kid in particular, Max, was drawn to the drums from something deeper inside, he rushed over to the set even before Crash could get there.
“OK kid, let’s see whatcha’ got” said Crash.
The low murmur of voices in the room was busted down with a drum fill as Max closed his eyes to let passion fully loose.
“Wow, you’ve got some talent there kid.” said Crash.
“Let me show a new beat that’ll really build on your fill”
With that, Crash and Max swapped places and Crash let his sticks fly. He started out with some wild improvisations to get used to the set, and the room. Then he smoothed into a riff with a technical piece Max had never heard before.
“Woah, that’s fire.” said Max.
“Here, you give it a try now”, and they swapped places again. Max picked up this new riff immediately, and the beat elevated everyone in the room in a way that made time seem to stand still.
“Phooweeeeeet …” as the whistle brought everyone back to reality.
“Alright boys and girls, let’s circle up for meditation minute.”
All the kids gathered in a circle on the floor, Crash sat in next to Max like a regular. After a few moments of quiet, the kids rustled back up and mingled around as the workshop drew to a close.
“Thanks for that riff Mr. Emerson!” said Max.
“It really helps me focus, I feel my anxiety going down already.”
“My pleasure!” said Crash, not knowing what else to say, but he did feel strangely better inside.
The following Friday Low City Groove was the headliner at Flashback Lounge, a new venue for them. The stage was well lit, neon was the aesthetic theme of this place and there were signs new and old hanging from everywhere, even the ceiling. Low City Groove was peak in their groove that night. Crash Emerson’s drum riffs laid down a beautiful rhythm, and the bass lines were in perfect sync. The vocalist was in exponential harmony with the band for a virtuosic performance. But the Friday night crowd just didn’t resonate. There were a few heads bobbing, a solitary cheer from the bar, but no raving crowd, no galaxy of cellphones shining. In the break after the first set, bandmates stared back and forth solemnly without saying anything to each other, they knew. Not Crash though, he was cheery inside. But he didn’t want to seem silly so he refrained from any display of emotion.
“Listen guys, let’s just play for us tonight. Might as well get some practice in, at least they’re not throwing bottles at us” he said.
“Yeah, OK. Let the show go on.”
Low City Groove finished out their second set with passion and precision, skillful performance was becoming their thing. But the audience never really kicked in, and the night was drawing to a close. After clearing the stage, Crash went off by himself for a beer.
Maybe it’s me? he wondered as he rolled the bottle cap from his third beer back and forth across his knuckles (or was it the fourth? Who’s counting?)
At the workshop the following month, things went along the same routine. But Max kept looking down, and passed up his turn at the drums.
“What’s the point of music in the first place?” he argued.
“Ultimately it’s up to you.” Crash responded.
“Yeah, it’s true, you can’t get more out of it than you put in. But the beauty is that there is no limit to how much you wanna put into it, even if only for yourself.” Crash said to his own surprise.
Max looked up, making eye contact with Crash for the first time that day. He didn’t play the drums, but he did stay through the workshop, after the meditation minute he even seemed to hold his shoulders back and head up just a little bit higher. Crash walked out of the other side of the gym, and over to the the local pub.
Why do you even want to be doing this? he asked himself, working on his second beer. As he finished his beer, he resolved himself to finish his wallowing too.
It’s not like I have something to prove he realized, if these local folks just don’t get Low City Groove, that’s fine by me.
And my my old man doesn’t even come to my shows anyway he laughed to himself. Crash stood up, and squinted his eyes as he walked out of the pub into the afternoon sun.
Crash Emerson continued to teach at the music workshop over the following months. Max still attended too. His attitude waxed and waned, but his drumming genuinely started to get better. Low City Groove got more and more gigs at various local pubs and beer gardens over the summer. A small following started to build, but they couldn’t seem to blow up like they wanted to. Crash started to practice more regularly, sometimes without the band. He came up with some new riffs, and debuted a killer drum flow at the End of Summer Festival where they got main stage in the park that year. Crash Emerson and Low City Groove hung out at the festival long after their set, mingling with other musicians and festival fans. There was an electric party atmosphere in the air, everyone was enjoying their favorite beers. Crash lost himself in deep conversation with a drummer from one of the other bands, enjoying a beer, a special local brew created just for this festival. Energized by musical kinship he didn’t realize that he only had one beer that night, enjoying it more than the chaotic revelers dancing around him seemed to enjoy their three or four. Two weeks later, a few of the kids at the monthly workshop told him that their grades had improved because they were able to focus better after getting into drums. Over time, Max stopped attending the workshops regularly, and eventually not at all, but Crash didn’t notice.
A few years later, a new video popped up on Crash Emerson’s Twitter feed. It was a video tweet of Max going wild on the drums, with a mention to Crash.
“Music is my life now, but without Crash Emerson I might not have any life at all!”
There was a link to Max’s first gig, he started his own indie punk band and had their upcoming debut set up at that same park where Low City Groove played in the End of Summer Festival a few years back. Crash went to the show, attending a performance as a spectator for the first time in quite a while. Max’s band was pretty good for an indie punk band debut. The audience was a bit mixed, most weren’t quite sure what to think, and a few raucous in the back row booed and jeered. But the band didn’t slow down, instead Max took over the show with his specialized drum fills in a wild solo unlike anyone had ever heard before. There was a brief pause of quiet of wonder in the audience, but then a moshpit busted out in full force. Max’s band transitioned back in with the next song, and the audience danced long into the moonlight fueled by fresh punk beats.
Crash continued to follow Max’s Twitter over the next few months with a sense of pride to see Max explode on the scene. Their new style of punk captivated local audiences, and quickly went nation-wide with a full force punk rock tour. A few days later on a quiet Sunday afternoon, Crash Emerson was inspired to write a new song, a crisp rock ballad about music as community and each generation helping the next. Low City Groove performed Crash’s new ballad at a local pub the following weekend. Their performance carried a new depth of emotion and musical synergy between the bandmates. The audience seemed to enjoy the music, but were not overly engaged. Low City Groove continued to get a steady stream of local gigs over the summer. Crash wrote two more new songs, and his bandmates also wrote some new music. Crash enjoyed his music, a sense of gratitude for his bandmates and these local audiences eclipsed the void of doubt and loneliness that once weighted down in his heart.
One Saturday afternoon Low City Groove was playing in a local festival with a few other indie bands. In between sets, Crash hung out with these local musicians, trading stories and riffs. His sense of community felt like the summer sun gently warming his face. He turned around to start walking back to the stage and perform in the next set. But he was stopped in his tracks, he couldn’t believe who was there standing in front of him.
“Proud of you son, good thing you didn’t listen to me all those years ago.” said his old man.
“I, I didn’t see you before; I didn’t know you were here?”
“Right, well I wasn’t sure if you’d really want to see me now.” said his old man, looking down.
“Of course I would, in fact I’m really glad you’re here. We have a lot to catch up on pops. Listen, I’ve got to get on stage right now, come find me after”
“I will” said his old man as Crash rushed over to the stage for his set. Crash Emerson kicked off the next set for Low City Groove with his freshest drum fill. The audience danced in groove with the beats. He closed his eyes as he rounded out his solo, with a satisfying realization that music was his life.