It’s Wednesday night; not your typical party night. The kitchen sink in your apartment is full of dishes from dinner and you just can’t even. You are seriously contemplating putting on your jammies already and flaking out on the couch with a rom com, something with Katherine Heigl or Kate Hudson, something you’ve already seen way too many times. You have just topped up your glass of wine, a plonky chardonnay that you picked up on your way home from work. The wine is lukewarm and watery because you couldn’t really wait for it to chill so you just popped some ice cubes into it. You know, your typical Wednesday night.
The phone buzzes. One of your work friends, someone you don’t really know all that well except to bum a smoke or share a table in the cafeteria, sends you a text. She wants you to come out. A friend bailed on her and she has an extra ticket to a show. The ticket is yours, for free, so you just have to put your bra back on, grab an Uber, and get on down. Ugh. So much effort and you’re just not feeling it. “Can’t”, you text back, “I’m busy”. “No you’re not. Move. The ticket will be waiting for you at the front door. You’ll thank me later,” she replies. Ugh. So you get up off the couch, put your pants back on, slick on some lip balm, and drag a brush through your hair while you wait for your ride.
The live music venue at the back of the bar is small, steamy and crammed with sweaty revelers. You buy a tall can so you’ll have something to do, and then start mingling in search of your friend. “Hey”, you shout over the pulsating buzz of the opening act. “Hey”, she shouts back. Conversation is impossible so the two of you stand side by side and amiably sway to the music. Just as you’re wondering how fast you can chug that tall can and leave, the opening act departs and the headliners come on stage. You smile and clap encouragingly, more for your friend’s sake than for the band.
By the end of the first song you are done for. This band is amazing. You dance, fist-pump hard, and shout-sing along where you can. This music is smart and invigorating. You are brought in by the beat and stay for the lyrics. I mean, who writes protest songs anymore? At least, protest songs with a bluesy, Latin, doo wop sensibility. It shouldn’t work, but it does. You want the tour T-shirt, the CD, the poster. You are so grateful to your work friend that you think you might have to marry her later. This show must never end and you never want to go home. You are not just a convert, you’re an acolyte.
Maybe Hurray for the Riff Raff sells out velvet-seated concert halls, I have no idea. But I like feeling like I discovered them, almost unwillingly, in a grimy, humid, sticky-floored backroom bar.