What’s that Sound in the Distance?

Have you ever had the experience of hearing music in the distance and realizing it isn’t your neighbor’s stereo or  a distant boombox, but real, honest to goodness music played by live musicians? What did you do? Did you wonder for a minute and then pick up where you left off with your previously interrupted activity? Are you like me, drawn to the siren sound and whatever fate it might present?

Marquette Marching Band outside the Crown Plaza Hotel, Knoxville, March 2011

The first time I remember the experience I must have been around fifteen years old, sitting outside in the darkness behind my home. I heard a haunting sound through the fog. A fender guitar called from the night and led me across a pasture and into the backyard of friends where I discovered the coolest guy I’d every met had just moved in from Germany, his hair falling across his waist as he played guitar, fronting a band comprised of some of my friends and belted out “Locomotive Breath.” I still can’t hear that song without thinking of that mystery-filled night.

A few years later it was the sounds of a band by a hotel pool in Fort Lauderdale during spring break. I hung out with the band and talked to the lead singer about who he had played with (Lynyrd Skynyrd before they were famous) and generally had a blast. Many years later I heard the distant sounds of live music and got in the car with my teenage daughter and drove until we found a fun cover band at someone’s wedding reception. We parked where we could see the band and listened until they stopped playing. From my home in downtown Knoxville I’ve listened to the distant sounds of music at festivals on the World’s Fair Park and the high octane volume of Sundown in the City.

Marquette Marching Band and Cheerleaders, Knoxville, March 2011

Recently, as I walked past the southern end of Market Square I heard music, once again. This isn’t rare between the buskers, The Square Room and bands playing in Preservation Pub. But this was different. This band had an unusual sound for the square – and they were no where to be seen. I followed my ears and crossed the square headed north. They weren’t around the corner on Wall Avenue. I climbed to the TVA plaza – nothing. I descended the steps on the other side and spotted the crowd.

Marquette Cheerleaders, Band and Mascot, Knoxville, March 2011

The Marquette Marching Band ripped through a dozen songs while waiting for their lady’s basketball team to emerge from the hotel. The mascot (a Golden Eagle) worked the crowd while the cheerleaders cheered. It was quite the festive scene. Admittedly it was tinged with sadness because, inevitably, like virtually every team before them who slips into Knoxville, the Lady Vols would send them home a little sadder for their journey. But this morning was about hope and possibility, faith and music on the street.

So, the next time you hear music in the distance, my suggestion is that you follow it wherever it may lead. I’ve never regretted it one time and I bet you won’t either.