By Alastair Scheuermann
The house, dressed in decor generally reserved for midwestern banquets, holds a happy number of bright-eyed locals. Anticipation fills the room, calmly held in place by the familiar sandalwood aroma. The lights dim, and Velour opens up its story book for the long awaited yearly tale of songs and slumbers. Although, this year is different. The Fox is away from his den. Resting for a short season, he’s made arrangements to ensure the show goes on.
With beautiful lights and lanterns about, Jake Buntjer greets the audience. Knowing we were counting upon a certain faculty from a Velour concert, he warms the house with his words and prepares us for our experience that night. To end, he gives a heartfelt thanks to Corey Fox, who was watching from a webcam as he recovered from his surgery, for trusting him with the charge of directing the Slumber Party this year. Jake was an excellent choice for a host. His artistic vision is similar to Velour’s aesthetic, and his creation, Boxcar Studios, is just a few blocks away.
A quartet filled the stage; the girl on guitar, the man with the mandolin, the lady and her accordion, and the good gentleman with his collection of drums. Pipes, a folk band with its roots connecting the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians. “Let us tell you a story,” printed on small books, eagerly shared throughout the crowd. Emmalie hushed the audience with a look from her eyes reminiscent of a wise, old storyteller – the one you knew had seen parts of the world because those parts of the world were lingering on her smile.
Songs and stories came tumbling out of the instruments, and we in the audience were gladly drinking in the moments we were given. As the chords began to ring on guitar, and the accordion swelled, I felt community in the room. Not being the largest venue, Velour always holds room to meet new people as I’m crowded with others so as to be closer to the stage. Tonight was different. Not in the fact there was more space, but in the feeling of familiarity with those around me. Pipes was telling the story out loud, the one that I had kept dormant in my heart until I knew it could be sounded out loud. As it rang through the air, I saw the story in the eyes of those around me. For a brief moment, us hundred-or-so concertgoers were a family, gathered in a living room as our brothers and sisters told our story.
Pipes left the stage and the long-awaited Book on Tape Worm arrived. They were the brother on our doorstep, the kindred for whom you tore off calendar days to be closer to. Promptly bringing their melodies between the ceiling and rug covered floor, the narrative began again.
Songs came and songs went, each with a hope to connect. That hope was always filled as Scott told his goings and Catherine carried the harmony that went with each tale, each shadow puppet, each red alert. We longed to hear those heartbreaks, because we knew some magic in the chords would heal us like it healed others. Those dozen songs were the breakaway from unfulfilled expectations and the connection to contentedness. The night’s renditions simply couldn’t stay long enough. In those parting songs, an interceding sense of euphoria finally settled between our yearning hearts and that gracious, consolatory den. From left to right, each person was glued to the front of the room, each musician telling their story. We were all little kids again, being told the most riveting bedtime story – the one we wanted to know the ending to, but never to finish.
Warmth shown through the string lights, music lulled us to that mellow before sleep, and the Slumber Party was the success we hoped to experience. Jake hosted the event to a caliber every visitor could appreciate. No soul wanted to leave that warm room, those warm feelings, for the cold winter outside. But that warmth would still stay in our memories. And all this went on as the distant yet omniscient Fox watched over his den.