News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Equalizer: We’re All The Boss Sometimes
BY JONAS BEALS
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
I lie awake at night thinking about the foundation of my house.
It cracked slightly along a cinder block grout line during the Aug. 23 earthquake. My daughter was born the same day.
I’ve also developed a slight obsession with Bruce Springsteen. I think it might have something to do with my foundation.
Californians rightly mocked the overblown news coverage of our magnitude-5.9 earthquake last year. Damage was relatively minor and no one was killed. But it freaked me out.
I grew up trusting the stability of the earth below me and the integrity of the roof over my head. Last year’s quake was a moment of betrayal so profound that I haven’t been able to get my footing since. Every rumbling garbage truck and passing train tickles the same instinct center of my brain that had me unsuccessfully drag my wife’s hospital bed into the bathroom doorway.
I don’t mean to belittle people who are actually shellshocked, but I have felt phantom tremors over the past few months. I don’t dive under the bed when it happens, but it’s certainly more disconcerting than a phantom phone vibration.
I used to be a firm believer in my own stability. That crack in my basement was just wide enough to let doubt slip in.
Which might explain the Springsteen thing.
There was a time when I couldn’t stand The Boss. Well, I still can’t stand anything he recorded since 1990, but my appreciation of everything before that has skyrocketed.
And the things I love about that music are the same things that used to drive me up the wall: “gritty” portraits of blue-collar America, bombastic anthems for justice, decay and sweaty moments in the back seat of an Impala. It all used to seem like simplistic pandering. Now it sounds raw, authentic and strong.
My foundation is cracked, and I know I can’t fix it. Not by myself, anyway. I went down to the basement the other day and ran my finger along the seam, imagining what kind of disaster the next earthquake could bring to my living room and the little girl playing on the floor.
And I feel those earthquakes all the time, gently shaking me as I stand in the kitchen or walk to work. Each is a subtle smack from the worries I never considered before.
But Springsteen considered them. At his best, each song sounds like a finger in the dike cqholding back the tragedies of life. Every verse is a valiant attempt to keep the world from caving in on everything familiar, comfortable and safe.
It’s an impossible task, but that’s the appeal of Springsteen. It’s not that his characters are optimists, but they do fight in spite of impossible odds. They often fail. Maybe they always fail.
That sentiment used to seem so hackneyed and overwrought. Maybe I finally possess the proper amounts of worry and hope to connect with the music. It took years, but I no longer doubt the gospel of Bruce Springsteen.
I go to the basement and run my finger along that crack in the wall, wondering if I have enough fingers to hold back the earth, hoping my little girl is safe after it all falls apart.
JONAS’ IN-TOWN PICK: Fredericksburg Rock Lotto at The Otter House. A must-see battle of the insta-bands in its second year of creating music by pulling names from a hat. Saturday at 10 p.m.
OUT-OF-TOWN PICK: Joan Osborne at the Birchmere in Alexandria. She can flat-out sing, and she’s touring with a great soul/blues band. Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
LISTENING TO: “Butter” by A Tribe Called Quest. Yeah, I’m one of those old people who misses the days when hip–hop was at its most ambitious. It was smooth like butta.
Jonas Beals: 540/368-5036