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2009-01-10 - 4:21 p.m.

Youíd be closer to the stage, elbows on amps, but twenty or thirty kids got here even before the opening band and are packed tight up there near the stage, all of them wide-eyed, most of them mouthing the words. The girlsí hair is swaying like horsesí tails, the boysí glasses glinting purple stage lights. Theyíve got great spots and theyíre not leaving. Maybe thatís why they donít seem to be drinking muchóthe ones up front never doóbecause they donít want to have to go to the bathroom. You can admire that. This band makes you want to get closer. But youíve got a good spot too, because fact is, youíre here at the Ottobar on Howard Street and not anywhere else. If you were somewhere else you wouldnít be feeling the bass and kick drum through your feet or see, to your left, your girlfriend, who is smiling as big as her face will let her. To your right are three or four friends, a couple of them raising Yuenglings to their lips, arms moving like out-of-sync pistons, their heads going back to drink before they start in again on the head-bobbing. Just about everybody loves this band, this band from down South that moved here to Baltimore a couple of years ago. Everybody loves them except the hardcore cynical guys you kind of know who donít like to have fun, who think that every band in the world has to be difficult, or something. Theyíre here tonight, too, but in the back, where no one can see that theyíre singing along. They donít like to admit they know the words, but they do. Everybodyís here, it seems. Friends, half-friends, slightly weird kids up front who never have to take a piss, people you donít know but who like to come to the Ottobar on Tuesday or Wednesday nights, just like you. You feel warm. You drink from your beer. But it is a Wednesday night, isnít it. Tomorrow, youíve got to get up, put on the khakis you donít want to wear, and drive out to the suburbs, far away from this dark place with the smiling bartenders and your smiling girlfriend. And what you thought was gone from this club for a while but it turns out was there the whole time is the fact that just this morning, you were late for work again and arenít you a little old for that? Whatís also kind of here is the fact that once at the job, you didnít do any real work, any of the glowing, vital stuff, the work that probably helps make you who you are. You could have, you had the time and no one was looking over your shoulder, but you didnít do it. One more thing you thought wasnít here but was: that feeling you get when you wonder if youíre going to turn out to be the guy you thought you were going to be back when you were twenty years old, in love for the first time, and completely full in the belly with the brightest, fuzziest stuff to ever bubble up and out of the earth. You suspect you are on some kind of path. It wonít get you there as fast as you once thought, but probably youíll get there. Youíve got a bit of that feeling in your stomach, but, for now, fuck it. Your girlfriendís back and sheís got you another beer. Take a look around. This club, whatís inside it, is worth something. Tomorrow, maybe youíll write about this show. Youíll get at the essential truth thatís in this dark club, the band, the people, the disco ball overhead, the girl way up close who looks like sheíd rub the singerís feet, if she could. Tomorrow youíll do all the real work you can handle, enough to knock your three cubicle walls flat to the ground. Shit. No one else in that office will have any idea. Boom. Beautiful truth. Yes. Thereís something here. And oh, man. Here comes the song they wrote about their new home town, this town that you love, the one with the guns and the drugs but also the purple sky and the cheap beer and the heart thatís everywhere, too. Youíve all got fresh Yuenglings, a beer that people from Philly are always trying to call their own but youíve been to the brewery and itís up in the hills and nowhere near Philly. And when this band you love plays that song about your town, about this club, when they get to the big climactic chorus, when the piano player screams Baltimore you look to the left and to the right and everyoneís screaming Baltimore with him, thatís worth something. And then you think right about now would be a good time for another beer but you donít move toward the bar at all, or you canít, because youíre screaming Baltimore too, with everyone in the place, even the guys at the back, and, unlikely as it seems, perhaps with the whole world, too.

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