How was your summer?

It’s a benign question that easily comes up in conversation now that school has started back, as routines change and schedules are readjusted.  Memories of travel, or summer sports activities or family gatherings come to mind. We remember fondly times that were fleeting and yet satisfying, like the burst of an aerial firework display on the 4th of July; beautiful, then gone in an instant.

Mine was what I call The Downbeat.

One beat of one measure, one moment in time I hope I never forget.

In June, my daughter surprised me with a trip to Chicago for a Father’s Day/Birthday roadtrip. Included in this experience were tickets to see the Mumford and Sons show at Montrose Beach on Lake Michigan.  Since I love surprises, and live music, and time with my girl, the stage was set for a very special time.

We left for Chicago on a Wednesday and about 6 hrs. into the drive,  we found out the show was postponed till Friday. The decision was a no-brainer. We didn’t drive all that way for nothing. The disappointment of the announcement turned into a new gift that gave us two extra days to explore the city and eat really great food. It also allowed us to get to the gates early on Friday to get the best possible seats. {which really means place to stand for several hours before the music began)

Live music is an important part of my story.  I love conversations that include best shows ever. On the top of my list was seeing U2 at the Kemper arena in November of 2001.  Post 9/11, the songs of my youth were brought forward as an anthem for hope against a despairing time. This Mumford show ranks #2, and it was sealed in The Downbeat.

The sum of the parts, the surprise, the drive, the meals, the views, the laughs, the music; all were punctuated by The Downbeat.

The Downbeat came about midway through the last song of the night, The Wolf. As a 50-something boomer elbow to elbow with a sea of millennials, I was riding the surge of their rising tide. I looked around to take account of it all, resisting the urge to take a picture, instead trusting my visual memory. Thousands of fists in the air, bobbing up and down with the time signature, including me and my daughter.

Unity. Harmony. Accord. Everybody singing along:

“you are all I ever long for…”

A sudden stop, followed by The Downbeat, then toward the finish of the song

It was a surge of sound I can’t really describe because it was more than just sound.  It was the exceptional musical talent of a band of ordinary men. It was collective emotion of an abundance of unique individuals.  It was me and my daughter on a road trip.

The band was so in sync, they weren’t even looking at each other, nor did they have to be. Winston had his eyes closed when his jump accented The Downbeat. Ted was visually keeping time with his mouth. Marcus was lost in a quiet rage. Ben punctuated it with a bob of his head.

The best word picture I can come up with is the band and the stage started moving toward us, like a big semi-truck. The band wasn’t about be held back, neither would the audience. It was a magnificent collision, followed by everyone singing these words:

“Hold my gaze love, you know I want to let it go
We will stare down at the wonder of it all”

No one wanted it to end. It was heavenly.

Moments like these can’t be manufactured or predicted.  But they can be missed or overlooked.  They require eyes to see, ears to hear and patience to wait for them. They produce feelings that can’t be captured in a photo or video or posted on Facebook.  They are personal. They are intimate.  And therein lies their importance.

That’s how I’ll remember the Summer of 2015


The Downbeat