Every once in a while, we have to shake a leg and celebrate. Sometimes, that's easier said than done. It used to be a matter of deciding whether or not to go out or stay at home. Living in Hancock County, Maine, that is not a simple thing. When I saw the Toughcats had announced a show on a Friday night in Rockland's famous Fog Bar, I thought to myself, That's only two counties and 65 miles away!
Of course, a Friday evening after a long week of being a high school teacher can challenge the best of us. On a warm September evening, the backyard and warm green grass beckon. Why not simply lounge around and watch the sky transition colors until the mosquitoes come out? Why not ice down some beer, make a fire in the grill and cook up some barbecue? Well, why not pile in the car, and make the nearly 140 mile roundtrip trek to Rockland to boogie for a few hours?
Few bands will make such a trek worthwhile, but the Toughcats are an exception. Shake your booty infused Americana with nary a song exceeding four minutes, this band excels at juicing a crowd. Many audience members who show up have seen them multiple times, anticipate the changes and can dance as if choreographed to fit the band's floor show. That makes for an exciting reward after a dark drive.
Deep in the throws of a quiet exhaustion, feeling the cool of the night settle in on waves of Atlantic mist, imagine walking down a nearly deserted, Gilded Age street. Rockland is mostly shuttered by 9 p.m. on a September evening. Tires roll down the main street, streaking their way off to other destinations. The few bars appear to be shuttered, featuring a few stragglers here and there, but the enormous plate glass windows to the Fog Bar don't belie the name: they run with condensation.
Opening the door, we were greeted with a blast of hot air, music and chatter. Voices yammered away above the Toughcats signature sound. Jake Greenlaw's shrieks and grunts and sharp cymbal thrashing punctuated his precise beats. Joe Nelson's steel resonator licks thumped into the floor with the foot-stomping, rising here and there above the fray. Colin Gulley's amplified banjo licks blistered away the trebly side of the conversation he and Joe so earnestly banter.
We throw around some banter to folks we rarely get to see these days (having moved a walloping 70 miles away), and we dance. We dance. Yes, we dance. And when it ends, all too soon, we are flushed out into the quiet night. The drive back to Ellsworth doesn't seem that long, especially with the energetic conversation on the way back. Saturday, it's back to the books, and wouldn't you know, the yard was still waiting.