Friend Jamie down in Raleigh tweeted a link to a newly surfaced Ryan Adams concert, an early 1996 show. The tape has better than average sound, and you can hear a rough draft of Whiskeytown’s Bar Lights. On the Pneumonia album, the song was the ramshackle closer (before lots of silence and a sweet-and-slower hidden track). There weren’t many lyrics. The bar lights shined on the bottles. The narrator put moves on an undescribed woman. The narrator admitted likely failure. The end.
But what I never noticed in the song until I heard the bootleg cut was how much was wrapped up in the lines at the end. I’d gotten the five dollars for another drink, but the futility I’d missed. It was some bizarre opposite of a short poem I’d read earlier in the week, where what you imagine as horrible wind destroys a house but lets you see moonlight.
Some days, we snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Other weeks — to repeat, weeks not days — it’s the more positive opposite. But aside from all overused jaw phrases, I think of music, sometimes, as a roof.