I will not try to describe most of last night’s show at the Station Inn – the Haas, Kowert, & Tice trio, augmented by dancer Nic Gareiss for the evening. I’m not nearly a good enough writer to adequately convey what it was like. And truth to tell, the best art must be experienced in the moment, so there’s an inescapable loss of fidelity.
I’ve put a YouTube link below so you can get a whiff of what was happening, but please, go and see it for yourself. You’ll also note that most of the clips are just that – brief subsets of entire pieces. That’s because each time I started filming, I would realize that part of my attention was devoted to the smartphone camera, so I’d put it down and re-immerse myself in the moment.
I’m not even going to give you a backstory about the musicians – you can read that at their website. Here’s what I remember…
During Padiddle, Paul was playing a beautiful line in the upper registers of his instrument; he stopped playing but the note he was playing continued – it had passed seamlessly onto the lowest string of Brittany’s fiddle, where the line continued. The beauty of that handoff alone was worth the price of admission.
Nic Gareiss is ostensibly a dancer, but dress him in Robin Hood green, put him in a forest, and you will be sure that every folk tale of faeries, sprites, and wood nymphs that you’ve heard must be true. His face radiated happiness as his feet glided over the plywood dance floor, not only in perfect time to the music, but in direct accompaniment to it (watch on the YouTube as his feet duplicate a complex rhythm in Brittany’s fiddle tune).
Paul playing a fiddle tune at the top range of the double bass – an area on the fingerboard that most bass players don’t even approach, with tone that most cellists would envy. My companion, a bass player herself, shook her head in wonder – “You’re right – that’s almost not human.”
God only knows…
Each member of the trio did a duo with Nic. Both Brittany’s and Jordan’s sparkled and were glorious interludes. But toward the end of the two-hour show, it was just Paul and Nic onstage. Paul seems usually willing to let his bass do the talking,  but he smiled a bit and said “I hope this works.” Nic pointed sternly at Paul’s bass: “Work!”
And they were off. Nic’s clicks and slides on the floor were like quiet rim-taps with a stick and a brush on the snare. Paul glided through various melodies, some romantic, some with exquisite baroque trills. I’d occasionally hear something pass by and think, “I know that – don’t I?”
We were watching what wound sound like a parody for an avant-garde concert if you saw it on a poster: “Duo for double bass and dancer”. And yet here at the historical home of the Nashville bluegrass world, in the most blue-collar setting imaginable, a double bass player and a dancer had the audience holding their breath with delight. You didn’t hear even a glass clink.
Then, as Nic’s shoes made a gentle backbeat, another snippet on the bass… But this time, there could be no doubt: God only knows what I’d be without you… You know it – go ahead and hum it out loud. It came around again. You could hear – I don’t know, maybe you could only feel – the audience relax into the familiar tune.
Paul stepped up to the mic and sang in a beautiful tenor, “God only knows what I’d be without you…”, Nic stepped to his mic, never dropping the beat, “God only knows what I’d be without you…” Paul’s bass line became a counterpoint to the melody, and then Brittany and Jordan were there, adding their instruments and voices.
Suddenly, it was the most exquisite cover of the Beach Boys ever heard, just the single sung line in four-part counterpoint with the three instruments as orchestra. When they finished, there was that moment of silence that such performances demand, while the memory is carved into every heart in the room. Then the place went nuts.
It is not a good time for our country. The republic is under attack from within, and those who attack it simultaneously attack the weakest and most vulnerable among us. They cut at the bonds that hold us together and amplify our differences to better control us.
But the arts, at their best, bring us together in ways that even venal politicians can’t stop. For two hours, four young artists created a thing of beauty that was at once ephemeral and yet permanent and unassailable. I was deeply proud and moved to experience the beauty that Brittany, Paul, Jordan, and Nic created.
 I was once at a Punch Brothers concert where he made some comment during the stage banter. The entire rest of the band turned and stared at him. Chris Thile then turned to the audience and said, “Paul just said words; there is no telling what will happen now.”