Thursday, February 26, 2009

Leo Kottke at the Iron Horse and a very sad story

Tonight Susanne and I went to see Leo Kottke, one of my musical heroes, at the Iron Horse. It was the second of a two night stand. Kottke is a tremendously talented acoustic guitarist; the exhale to John Fahey's inhale. He's a hilarious, surreal storyteller, disarming any cliched stage decorum and elevating the evening to divine hilarity.

I grabbed a four-top on the rail for us before Susanne arrived, and knowing that we would share the table with two strangers, I started scouting for amicable candidates. A couple who looked a little dazed but pleasant accepted my invitation. When we were all four seated we introduced each other and Susanne and I fell into a conversation. They were none too chatty. Our table-mates seemed to be on a different wavelength. Eventually we tried to draw them in and the husband told us this story. This was the first time they had been to the Iron Horse since the last time Kottke had played six years ago. They attended the show with their 15 year old daughter. On the way home from the gig, somewhere outside of Springfield on the highway, a trucker fell asleep at the wheel and plowed into them. The man received severe head trauma which triggered a stroke. The daughter was killed.

We were stunned. We realized that he was speaking in a slurred fashion. We asked them all kinds of questions, not knowing quite how to behave. They were entirely open to talking about it but every reference felt dangerous. What subjects would sadden them? We realized that they were permanently saddened. He must have felt some level of comfort with us to have brought it up at all. When Leo came onstage, we resumed our spectator roles. Susanne noted that the woman would smile and laugh at Kottke's banter but catch herself and adopt her default sullen visage. We winced when Leo went into a monologue about a stroke.

How can people enjoy music ever again after such a tragedy? I hope I never find out.


Mary E.Carey said...

Wow. It was probably helpful for them to be able to talk about it with you.

Max Hartshorne said...

IT was a sad story. I like how you took your time explaining the headline that piqued my interest. And the last observation about returning to sullen is priceless.