When Stephanie Jane decided she had had enough there was a vacuum created that really sucked. Big time.
The days that followed (and those days somehow turned to years) I found myself trying to recover from that and so much more, stumbling through the dark, in a tailspin, saving it for a rainy day, and then I heard the Jayhawk's Town Hall Music and it was such beautiful music and it was music I knew that had S.J. and I heard together she probably would have initially not listened to (she was much more prone to being a metal head rather than a country gal) but after some prodding by me she probably would have on an Autumn day where I wasn't around put the music on the stereo and tried to listen and eventually she would have liked what she heard.
The "last" time I talked with Stephanie Jane was in the days following September 11, and I don't want to trivialize any of the magnitude of that event but after a dozen years of deafening silence to hear her voice and then to hear her say when asked what music she was currently listening to, "Music isn't the passion it used to be... I don't buy as much as I used to..." made an already sad me go bitingly numb. Now a seamstress, formerly the finest connoisseur of what mattered that I had ever stumbled across to hear her say that made me feel how far the drift had been and I knew that was all ENTIRELY MY fault.
I was at First Ave Saturday night waiting to hear the Jayhawks live for the fourth or fifth time in my life. It was a benefit concert for the "Developing Arts and Music Foundation." The opening act, Kraig Jarret Johnson and the Program featuring the lead singer to the group Iffy (who I was introduced to by the lost in touch law school student Sarah McKenzie) grooved and was rather groovy as I'm sure the kids in the audience would attest to (did I mention I was carded at the door?). I was with the Feisty Garden Girl and her friend Dave Boquist (who played guitar and other instruments for Son Volt) with no skin on my right leg thanks to a spectacular softball slide (I was safe!) that caused my leg to burn and burn with a passion (I've been told by a couple of different people that the only time they've seen me truly happy was racing around the softball bases and that makes some sense. You never know how far you're gonna go or get or where you'll ultimately end up but as long as you can keep running and be safe you'll be OK and all eyes watching you know will know that and accede to your decisions. Run and run until you can't run anymore...). Ironically the first time I met Stephanie Jane was months after she broke her knee in a skiing accident and she was quite self conscious of the scar left after surgery and was noticeably limping which was one of the reasons I noticed her in my self absorbed dreaming haze and it all seemed so fitting in a novelesque way...
When the Jayhawks finally hit the stage I removed the Ace bandage wrapped around my limb and found my normally jiggling right leg hampered not only by my injury but also by the close proximity to the people around me. But it still found a way to jiggle during the second song, a tear inducing "Eyes of Sarahjane" from the latest CD. "I see the happy times again/and in the eyes of Sarahjane/I see happy times again/We couldn't sleep/Laugh 'til we weep/Then time stood still, so still, so still..."
I melted. Literally melted and drifted to times and ghosts past. I wanted to tell the FGG what was going on but there was a wall (of people if not of existing neurosis) and what can one tell these dayz?
The songs from the new CD Rainy Day Music worked well and seeped into cracks that weren't quite caulked by just listening to the recorded versions. When Gary Louris sang the lyrics to "Stumbling Through the Dark" my knees buckled as I thought about Stephanie Jane (and all her successors). "So much in love little girl/Running in circles, why?/You know it's a crime..." And how about a version of "Tailspin" that was a great example of how much the group has grown from the days I heard them opening for Dylan at the Orpheum years and years back? Forget that they will forever miss (in my ears) the country "Band-ish" influence former member Mark Olson used to provide (not to mention his harmonies) to Louris' otherwise devotion to Beach Boy pop the music in front of me was transcendental.
They closed with "Sister Cry" that had me alternating glances at the stage where Louris was playing the part of 'rock God' complete with feedback (most Moby Grapish) and with the Feisty Garden Girl who was swaying in a way that melted my already misplaced liver textured heart. I wasn't with Stephanie Jane, and I wasn't with whatever feelings being with her used to conjure, but I was in a place that for a brief moment I loved to be. Elsewhere in this publication you'll find an article about why music matters so much to the human soul and you'll find an article about why rock criticism is so dorky and you'll also now find this, a testament to an existing friendship that sometimes hurts more than an aching Jayhawks' melody.