DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: The speed of the sound of live music

WATER IN THE desert: That’s how it felt when I heard the little crowd cheer.

My reaction to “Save the Bob” came as a surprise. Here’s another virtual concert, I thought ruefully, with me watching the band on my screen at home. But boy was this different.

On Friday, March 26, Studio Bob in downtown Port Angeles — a gallery and event space where I’ve danced, admired all manner of art and had countless deep conversations — held a fundraiser.

FarmStrong, the honey-voiced quartet from Sequim, was up on the stage with a small invitation-only audience spaced out below.

“We were born before the wind / Also younger than the sun,” singer-guitarist Jim Faddis began, offering us Van Morrison’s classic “Into the Mystic.”

What’s up with these tears in my eyes? I knew I’d missed live music, missed that alchemy that bubbles up in a darkened room filled with vibration. I wasn’t yet aware of how a year without it had left me parched.

“You know, it felt great,” Faddis told me later. A retired police officer and a musician with a few hundred thousand miles under his belt, he doesn’t gush like me.

“I will say, I think we all felt an emotional response at times,” he allowed, as in “wow, this feels so good to be playing again.”

Over the past year, FarmStrong has done two gigs: a celebration of life and a wedding.

At such events the band is providing background music; it’s nothing like putting on a show for an audience who came to see you.

So there have been times when Faddis felt disheartened.

A socially distanced band practice is not very satisfying; it’s hard to hear one another when you’re so far apart, he said.

There’s something Faddis calls stage telepathy: when you’ve played with your bandmates for so long, you can sense what they’ll do next.

“We’re rusty,” he admitted. “The wires are down right now,” since FarmStrong’s eighth year arrived in that long, lonely time called 2020.

When the band — Faddis, fellow singer-songwriter Cort Armstrong, dobro player Rick Meade, standup bassist John Pyles — got word of Save the Bob, they also got back into rehearsal.

The four set about re-creating their pod of voices, stringed instruments and soul.

And that applause, at long last, felt wonderful, Faddis said.

During the show, he and his compatriots didn’t shy away from acknowledging the loss of an inspiration: John Prine, who, after surviving two types of cancer, died of COVID-19 complications exactly one year ago.

The band offered “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness,” one of Prine’s signature recipes blending wistful with playful:

You come home late and you come home early

You come on big when you’re feeling small

You come home straight and you come home curly

Sometimes you don’t come home at all

So what in the world’s come over you?

And what in heaven’s name have you done?

You’ve broken the speed of the sound of loneliness

You’re out there running just to be on the run.

Just as Prine — and Van Morrison’s “Mystic” — lift us out of our mundane days, venues such as Studio Bob provide us with a place to be a little less lonely.

In song lyrics, plays, fresh paintings on the wall and drag shows, we recognize each other.

And Studio Bob was buoyed not only by the live music of that Friday night, but also by a strong current of monetary support.

Nearly $11,000 in donations have come in, to tide the space over to its eventual reopening.


Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected] Her column runs the first and third Wednesday of the month. The next one is set for April 21.

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