It’s been awhile since I’ve seen some live music and I was definitely jonesing. rtb mentioned Fashion’s Night Out and I wasn’t planning to attend since I’m not a fashion person and the events in Queens were raffles and cocktail wienies but then she sent a link to a celebration of Buddy Holly’s 75th birthday by Warby Parker (fitting since they make eyewear) at Partners & Spade, which is a combination studio/gallery/store (the Spade is Andy Spade). It’s a commercial art studio during the week and a store on the weekends. But what was important was that Justin Townes Earle, who contributed a song to Rave On, the recent Buddy Holly tribute album, would be performing. I was so there.
Outside of the store were a bunch of hipsters and fashion people and I was already feeling out of place. At the door there was guy standing there texting and when I approached he asked if I was there for the party. I told him I was and I was hoping there wasn’t a guest list. There wasn’t – he simply opened the door for me. I’m not sure why he even asked. Inside were more hipsters and more women who looked like they worked at fashion magazines and I flipped through a book of Andy Spade photographs of air conditioner graffiti and rtb arrived and we went over to the bar. The choices were club soda, beer, wine, or Ketel One. Well now. It seems they set up this bar just for me. I relaxed a bit. The small space got more crowded and hotter and hotter. There were some interesting displays – one of old Playboys – and a case filled with Buddy Holly glasses.
Justin is known for his great clothes so I was surprised he showed up in a work shirt, jeans, boots, and fedora. He was wearing glasses with big frames instead of the more modern ones he usually wears. He tuned the guitar and started playing and you would have hoped that the crowd would quiet down. But that hope went unanswered. I slowly crept forward until I was standing right in front of him. There was no stage and even his height didn’t help him to stand out. The people in front were respectful and you could actually see as some became converts.
Justin was sweating a lot and it was dripping down the front of the guitar, his jeans and shirt were soaked, and he kept using the mic to push up his glasses until he finally toodk them off. But despite the noise and the heat, he gave it his all. He told us right away that he wasn’t going to play any Buddy Holly. He didn’t play guitar on the record, he only sang, so he didn’t even know the guitar part. Plus he thought the originals were too good to mess with.
I don’t remember all the songs he played but we did hear “They Killed John Henry,” “Harlem River Blues,” “Wanderin’,” and the beginning of “Can’t Hardly Wait.” One of the guitar strings broke and since it was the last song he did another (which I can’t remember). Another covers were a Buck Owens song and Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “I Been Burning Bad Gasoline.” Any needed train sounds were made vocally instead of with the guitar but he still wowed me and others by strumming the melody and picking the bass lines at the same time.
Since I was so close I took the opportunity to lean over and shake his hand and tell Justin that I’m a huge fan. Because I am.
Afterwards we went across the street to Screaming Mimis and passed Justin shirtless talking to a gaggle of women. I love Justin but shirtless is not a sexy look for him. Screaming Mimis was having a country fair with a ring toss and live fish for a prize. I was marveling at how much used clothing sells for nowadays. I used to live in those kinds of clothes and now they’re out of my price range. Oh well. I’m probably too old to get away with wearing them anyway.
By Carene Lydia Lopez