Since I wrote that profile of bluegrass legend Mac Martin last spring for OSV, I’ve been looking for an opportunity to see him play again so I could introduce myself. Maybe even hang around backstage and do another story.
I saw that he was playing on June 6th at the Mt. Lebanon First Friday Concert series. It had a Catholic ring to it. With St. Bernards being right there on Washington Rd, I pictured Rt. 19 closed, a big stage set up in the middle with food vendors–gyros hopefully. The paper said he was playing at 6:30. Perfect family event.
I don’t know what I was thinking. They would never close Rt. 19 at rush hour. But I still thought the road would be closed as I drove down Rt. 19, and there was Mac Martin and the Dixie Travelers playing on the sidewalk in front of the National City bank for about 12 people.
One advantage of watching a band play on the sidewalk is that you are looking across the band. Mac’s son playing guitar has the same profile and had the same drops of sweat rolling off his nose in the 90+ degree heat. Bluegrass is a vocation passed down through generations of a family. I wish I had the focus. I wish I could be totally into bluegrass.
“It’s a beautiful form of music. You can express so many different emotions through it,” Martin told me between sets. He was getting a book for someone out of the trunk of his Suburu, and Celeste, James and I were standing there.
“Bluegrass comes from here (he pointed to his heart). We don’t play a lot of notes. The music comes from the inside,” he said looking at my son. He had caught the attention of some of the audience by keeping time with the band on the front of his stroller.
“At least we’re not playing in the mud,” Martin said when I mentioned it wasn’t much of a stage.
This year on their tour Radiohead is using environmentally friendly lighting. Colin Greenwood is concerned it may get a little cold on stage so he’ll wear some extra clothes.
A bluegrass legend is happy not to play in the mud. A bunch of his children and grandchildren were there watching. It looked like they were asking for money to go get ice cream during the break.
The First Friday Concert was interesting. Lots of double strollers and 20somethings drunk on three beers at happy hour. We opted to head north and check out the Mt. Lebanon Firehouse–which has those classic arches over the bays of the garage. Even though they pulled the fire trucks out two minutes after we left, it was a successful family outing. Bluegrass and fire trucks.