Tonk, or Do Not Let Me Buy a Pedal Steel Guitar

Sunday afternoon I went to Sadlack’s to hear some Tonk.  I was a little travel-weary after a too-short mountain trip, but I’m glad I made the effort before I collapsed in a heap on my couch while my neglected chores glared at me.

I love Sadlack’s.  I love the shiny red building.  I love the homemade chips.  I love the “you’ll take it and eat it and like it” attitude.  And you will.  In fact, I think there’s even a sandwich on the menu called the “Shut Up and Eat It.”  Given that it’s within stumbling distance of the College of Design, it was where we usually ended up going for lunch breaks during all-day design reviews.  Those who won the lottery and had a morning review could have a beer at lunch (those, anyway, who could drink a beer after about 72 sleepless hours, and still stay awake during an afternoon of design criticism.)  My friend Virginia and I used to do the call-ahead on rough days in studio, and one of us would walk over and pick up a California Club for us to split while we cursed the architecture models in progress on our desks.

It’s a fun place to hear a show; open-air patio, with picnic tables and dogs, and you can sit on the wall and enjoy the sunshine.  On a Sunday it’s best described as “chill.”  I went to see Tonk partly someone who knows a lot more about music than I do told me to.  But mostly I went, because how do you not love a band named “Tonk?” And, if you know me, you know that honky tonk music will take you straight to my heart.   I was hoping for some pure honky tonk. I wasn’t disappointed.  Tonk is the band with cowboy hats, ponytails, and chucks.  There was something for everyone;  they played a face-down-in-the-bottle song called “Backslider’s Wine,” and a broken-heart song called “Mental Revenge,” and threw out some great lines like, “The more I get to know you, the less that you know me,” and “she’s easy to please, but hard to satisfy.”

What I really loved, though, was the pedal steel guitar.  I have had a crush on the steel guitar since high school, when I first heard this one. But I have never seen a pedal steel up close before.  And now I want one.  Once I heard how perfectly dramatically honky tonk it sounded, how absolutely dripping in honky tonk resonance it was, I wanted one more.

I can not have any more instruments.  Lately I am tripping over instruments in my house, which is ridiculous because I can’t play any of them well enough to play them in public. I have a classical guitar.  I have a fiddle.  I am babysitting a mandolin.  I have a set of musical bones.  I have small African drums. I was tempted to take on a banjo to raise this week. The one teeny-tiny instrument I have managed to remove from my house this year? The harmonica, which fits in your pocket, for crying out loud, went to a better home.  I have an instrument problem.  I do not need a pedal steel.

But give Tonk a listen.  You might suddenly want one, too.

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