The Free Fridays concerts have been diversions for me as the news out of the Gulf seems more alarming than ever.  All it takes is one mention of the word “nuke” to give me an exciting episode of reflux and I swear I smelled oil in the air last night.  “Must be a truck,” my father said when I mentioned it.  It wasn’t; I know the smell from hanging around it for four days.  It’s here, kiddies, right under our noses.  The wind only need blow the right way.

Hartley Leacock blew on Friday night–his trumpet, that is.  Hartley and Collective Format played what I suppose should be called an extended jam that seemed all about internal dynamic and not about outward focus.  I felt as if I were watching a rehearsal and I had a hard time getting decent pictures.  It seemed to me that just as soon as I’d frame a good shot, someone would turn his back to the audience and I’d have to start all over again.

After innumerable snaps that would be deleted when I got home, I focused on taking pictures of Cowboy instead.  Cowboy is a downtown legend. He’s an elderly African-American guy who wears the boots and the hat.  And he dances, Lord, how he dances.  This might be a dull story if Cowboy did an electric boogaloo or a jazzy boot-scoot, but Cowboy’s got his own thing going on in the form of signature moves that have no relation to each other and which transcend any known dance form.  I am all for creative self-expression, especially when it involves idiosyncrasy and innovation.  You should see what I do in my own home when I think no one is watching, and what I do in the community pool when I know people are.

So, pull on the boots and get yer ya-ya’s out with the following dance moves, or make up some of your own.  We can’t do diddley about that spill, so we might as well dance.

The Bird Dog, named by security officer Sloan, involves balancing on one leg while lifting the other and bending it at the knee in a right angle.  The arm opposite the bent leg is then raised, with the index finger pointed skyward.  That’s it.  That’s the Bird Dog.  You should try it right now in the privacy of your home.  You are permitted only vocal embellishments like shouting your name (COWBOY!) or emitting a bear-like growl that is designed to keep the dance floor around you clear for…

The Barre.  No doubt this move has its origins in the ballet, probably Les Ballets Russes.  To do it, go to any public place that has a waist-high railing, lift one leg, and extend it lengthwise down the “barre.”  Then switch legs.  If you are any good at this, you will not be arrested.

There’s also The Constipation. Crouch down as far as you can go, as if sitting on the toilet,  while keeping your back straight.  Walk.  Yes, walk, while walking in this crouch, try pivoting your hips from side to side. It’s impossible to do, isn’t it.  Takes years of practice.  I have tried.  Keep in mind that someone is out there doing this move with septuagenarian knees.  Be impressed.  I can’t even get up from this position.  I’ve been known to try it in supermarkets, while questioning why the creamed corn is always on the lowest shelf.

Pictured below we have a new, and I might suggest lazy, move. This is generally a reaction to a lack of excitement in the music or a lack of appreciation for the music being played, which is all subjective. Cowboy loves his Delta blues, but he’s walked out of a techno-pop concert.  I guess that Collective Format was just that mellow that it caused one to want to lie down and extend one’s leg in the air….giving us The Hatrack.


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