living room

He gently turned the pegs to tune his guitar in the other room while we polished off our desserts and glasses of wine. We laughed like old friends even though I barely knew some of these girls. We made plans for roller derbies and 80s dance clubs that may or may not pan out.
We rinsed our plates off into the sink and headed into the living room bringing our glasses with us.
We settled into couches and extra chairs or even onto the floor.

Kids flung open doors to get to the trampoline.
Dogs wove in and out of our feet.
Glasses were refilled and this guy at the front of the room began to sing.
Soulfully. With his eyes closed and knees moving to the rhythm.

I have seen pictures of house concerts on blogs. But they always seemed pretty hip and things that only people in Nashville or at least younger than me seemed to do.

As he sang his opening song I thought of crowded college coffee shops with bands singing on "stage" while we sipped our expresso shakes and tried to impress boys. I was reminded of more talented roommates and friends strumming their guitars to Jennifer Knapp or Caedmons Call songs while we sang along of begged for another. Capos were moved down the neck of the guitar while we crammed five deep on goodwill sofas worrying only about midterms or date parties rather than having enough cash to pay the babysitter.

It reminded me of that, but couldn't be more different. Chris finished his song and we all clapped, but I think he could sense the slight discomfort in the room.  One I couldn't quite put my finger on.  Until the singer addressed it.  Still almost singing he asked how many of us had been to a house concert before. Only a few hands shot up and he sang this, "There is nothing between me and you which might be a little bit frightening to some of you."

And then he got out his harmonica. While I let that statement sink in a little.

He nailed the awkwardness..that I couldn't quite put my finger on.
In his performance but more often how we offer up ourselves.

It was immediate intimacy which is never entered into easily.

I go to a lot of concerts.
I have favorite venues and they are not the huge ones, but usually ones that come with an actual seat and a view that makes the artist look larger than an ant.
But even then there are things to separate us.
A stage and lights and speakers and generally even a bouncer.
Things that keep me and the artist apart. Remind me that it is a show and that I am just there to watch and clap at the appropriate times.
Things that clearly make me just an observer.

I have learned that people respond one of two ways to vulnerability. To openness. They either move towards it or away from it. But you can not sit there in the living room and not move one way or the other. You are drawn to the nakedness. You are part of the show. Or you run for the door. And I have experienced both.

I don't perform house concerts myself. I  never really mastered bar chords and I certainly can't sing....although if you give me enough drinks I might strum a few lines from Closer to Fine for you.
But. I know well the awkwardness of intimacy.
I was ruined long ago for flat friendships. I am absolutely horrible at pretending. Titles and tax brackets do nothing for me. I hate pretense. I don't mingle well and I certainly don't network.
Instead I am drawn to anyone that I think has a good story.  Or that wants to hear mine. People who I think are willing to show up. People with traits that I don't have enough of.  People who don't look away when you say something hard and honest. People who instead are willing to say, "me too."
I jump in to this way before I should.
Sometimes it pans out. Sometimes I crash and burn.

But eventually the lack of something between us catches up with me.
I get tired of going first. Or second. Or even third.
I get tired of trying.
Of being naked when it feels like everyone else is so well dressed and protected.
If you have known me long you have seen patterns of this over and over in my life and my incredible oversensitivity to it. I keep thinking that eventually I will figure out a better balance. And I occasionally attempt for a season to be more of an observer. To put a little more distance between me and everyone else in the room.
But it never lasts long because it is not me.
I do not want to watch from the cheap seats.
Even if it is nice and safe and a whole lot easier to sneak out after a half dozen songs and a second helping of cobbler.

My friend Tina's desserts were delicious. Her home welcoming as always. And Chris Williams had lyrics and soul in his voice that made me forget for a moment that I was sitting in her living room rather than at the House of Blues.
And I do love the House of Blues or any good show.

But I think that I'd rather sit on the floor of my friend's living room than in any audience
and be glad for the discomfort of having nothing between us.

I have been listening to this song on repeat for the last week or more. Ingrid is welcome in my living room...any time.

I should admit that I stole the picture above shamelessly from my friend's facebook page and if you check out Chris here...