All Night, She was a Young American

by Lisa Donovan

I went out a week or so ago to see a friend of mine play at a local venue — he was opening up for a very tightly polished band that will undoubtedly be successful in some aspect of music in the future. It was the first time I had ever seen my friend Travis play, he was fronting his band The Invisible Kids. Travis and I have a lot in common music and personal philosophy wise. It is one of those rare relationships you make in your adult life, besides your husband/wife and children, that mean something. I want people around me that have passion and work ethic associated with their art and Travis is one of those kids. I think I’ll know him for a long time to come — or at least I hope I do.

What hit me that Saturday night, besides the blistering cold rain that wouldn’t stop, was that there is something really beautiful about young Americans. Perhaps I’ve jumped ahead of myself. Let me first explain my lack of vision first. I was raised in Europe, and as such, have had a very Eurocentric point of view about a great many things in my life. I moved back to the states when I was 13-years-old — this was, apparently, just the right age to feel as if everything I was leaving was idyllic and that everything I was going toward was a cultural wasteland. I have to admit, I still feel some of that is true. We are a young nation with a very shallow history — not shallow as in meaningless, shallow as in not well developed yet. Our traditions are slight and our sense of community is weak. These are things that you can deny but, in reality and compared to countries with thousands of years of history, are true. I’m getting away from my point though. My point is this: I saw, for perhaps the first time, a beautiful and amazing sense of innocence and naivety that night that was altogether shocking and breathtakingly beautiful. It happened when the band took a break and Travis brought up a friend of his to play a couple of duets. This said friend was German — his name was Gandalf. Gandalf had all the appropriate clothing and plumage for the part. Don’t get me wrong, he was a super talented boy who could write a brilliant song. I will, though, interject here that if I learned anything about stereotypical German behaviors living in Germany all those years, it’s that Germans like for things to be exactly as they “should” be. Hence, Gandalf was wearing his snakeskin cowboy boots and just the right amount of “metro-wear” to make him look edgy and not too country. Again I feel as if I need to interject my own point in saying that this has nothing to do with wardrobe — it has to do with passion and spontaneity and that innocence that I realized is very attribute to our culture. I will end the description of Gandalf by saying plainly that while I found him immensely talented, there was something too calculated about him that I couldn’t relate to. Everything was as it should be. There was no room for lovely, spontaneous interjections or sweat or, what did Bob Ross call ‘em, “happy accidents” — things that I have come to love as very typically American qualities.

As those two boys, Travis and Gandalf, stood inches apart from one another singing the same song the imagery was so defiantly contradictory. Travis — full of so much love and passion for what he was doing that he could barely contain it within himself — became this metaphor for what I had been missing in my own culture for so long. In my lack ability to see only the decrepit sides of our country I was missing this — but how could I miss this when I felt it so strongly within myself? This fervor and idealism that I thought made me separate from my American heritage was really, in fact, because of it. Watching Travis on stage, with his very proud mother somewhere in this dark, dank bar watching her son as proudly as if he were a surgeon or a lawyer, was essentially watching a “becoming” that I think define our nation and set us apart from those other wizened older ones. Travis was the jazz age, the postmodern movement, the punks of the 70’s all standing before me in raw and unpenetratable energy — watching that sense of wonder embodied in someone I know and realizing that it is only in America that you can find that kind of dire, passionate, beautiful innocent and wonderful glory made me feel redefined and, finally, happy to be a young American.

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This entry was posted on Monday, February 13th, 2006 at 10:00 am and is filed under Lifestyles, Arts and Crafts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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