"Is this really the last time?" SG asked me during one of the breaks.
Somebody else at the party says, "I heard this is the last one! Tell me you'll be back!"
How should I know? The first time we talked about gathering The Bearded Pigs in Memphis we thought it'd be a once in a lifetime event if we could actually get everyone's schedules to mesh. Then we went back six years in a row. Every time we gave it everything we had, 'cause it might never happen again. Marriages came and went. Loved ones died. People retired. Age and illness took their toll. After Boston in 2013 we decided to stop playing the annual MLA gig. But I never said the band was finished.
After I blew a fuse in my spinal cord I couldn't play guitar anymore. But I could still sing and Boston was one of our best performances ever. Russell picked up my rhythm guitar parts and on we went. More of the same in Memphis a month later. Then Sue fell ill. The pigs rested in their various thickets.
Last year we had dinner in San Antonio with Singarella. He was grieving Sue's loss, but he'd been thinking maybe it was time to have us come to Memphis again. He was thinking of The Band's Last Waltz. I told him I'd check with him again at the end of the year. If he was still in the mood, I'd see if we could pull everybody together. If we could, we'd call it, "When Pigs Waltz."
The next evening, at the Armadillo Ball, Boutch gave me his traveling harmonica, the one he kept with him on the road. He said, "Maybe you won't be able to play guitar again. But don't ever stop making music." A few months later, Boutch was dead, too. So I learned to play the harmonica.
TomCat pointed out that we've never quite had the same configuration twice, the same people on the same instruments. And in Memphis, SG was back, for the first time in years. It was like he'd always been there. TomCat played mandolin. I played harmonica. A new band every time. Cogman was in Germany, but really, he was in Memphis, too.
On Thursday, we were terrible. That was as it should be. Friday we started to fall into place and by Saturday night the pieces all fit. I even played guitar on "Helpless" (Tambourine Grrl softly harmonizing, "You're not...") I called songs that only one or two of us knew and somehow we played them. I have no idea how this happens. I just know that when we get The Bearded Pigs together, it does.
We put pictures of the gig up on Facebook. Someone commented that it was "the end of an era." Nonsense.
So no, I don't have plans for when we're going to get together again, but I'm not foolish enough to say this was the end.
For each of us, when we step into each new day, the rest of our life will be very long or very short. If it's very short, the future doesn't matter. If it's very long, anything is possible.