It’s Celtic Night at Passim’s, downstairs in the basement on a back street off Harvard Square. I’m nursing my mint tea in a corner while the dozen odd fiddles, mandolins and stray guitars tromp through a collective interpretation of Lord Caterwall’s March, or something. The surrounding tables are filled with Cantabrigians lost in a crush of conversation over their salads, desserts or cuppa whatever. It’s loud and chaotic, but whenever the fiddles reach consensus that the tune Is Over Now, the crowd pauses its conversation and erupts into appreciative applause.
It feels, suddenly and improbably, like home.
I haven’t written much about my time in Cambridge, I guess. Prose, that is. Looking back, I seem to rotate through media by location. During what I’ll call “The California Years” I’ve been writing travelogue – impressionistic prose of sorts. Pittsburgh, in retrospect, was all about poetry, and Cambridge – well, Cambridge was always music. Cambridge was where I found my musical voice – first connected to that tribe and learned how to use music to create community. All my best songs are from here, with a sense of the place woven into the fabric. Didn’t do it consciously, but somehow I mostly stopped writing songs when we moved west. Had a couple come to me in the intervening years, but when I look back, the ones that stick with me are all from… yow, over 16 years ago.
Anyhow, sitting here, in the crush of noise and casual musicmaking feels like a comfortable old sweater. It’s not so much a performance as a celebration – no, better, it’s a homecoming.