Austin City Limits Festival
September 18, 2004
I moved my way through the crowd at the Blues tent fifteen minutes before star time at the Austin City Limits Festival Saturday night. I was determined to get a good spot for Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, and luckily, I landed in the second row of people. I NEEDED to be close. Brown was recently diagnosed with cancer, and I wanted to see what he could do before he possibly passed away.
Sure enough, the tent got packed, but there was just enough room to dance. Brown was about ten minutes late to the stage. Understandable. He could have been thirty minutes late. Brown moved across the stage slowly and landed in a chair at the front of the stage. He launched into one of his amalgamations of genres. His whole set was one big hop-skotch. It was like he was saying, “See what I did with that Funky Jazz-colored number? Ok, now watch this stripped-down Blues song. Still not impressed? I’m gonna follow a straight swing song by jumping on the fiddle for a Cajun shuffle.” Brown was backed by a pianist, saxophonist, drummer and bassist.
The concert was so life-affirming and fun. There was so much positive energy in the tent. The people loved Brown. So many hands upraised. So much applause. It was a great moment in time.
Brown looked thin, and it was hard to watch his heartbeat move up his neck quickly when he wasn’t expending any energy. At one point, my eyes welled up. His music felt like home to me.
Brown was in good spirits throughout the show. He threw smiles and flirtatious glances and winks. And then there was his finger movement. He moved along the guitar like a twenty year-old, and I was so happy he didn’t miss a note.
I was happy. I’m still happy. Brown is life. Life is music. Music is Brown.