The time before last that we saw 4onthefloor lead singer/guitarist and bass drum operator No. 1, Gabe Douglas, was up near Duluth, Minnesota, closer to his home that it was to ours. It was inside and outside a barn, but the last recollection we had of him was bundled into what looked as if it were a more than adequate cold weather coat, something industrial strength, like the kind that those working in the meat packing plant coolers have to wear, only this coat looked like one you could be proud of.
The memory could just be having its way with me at this point, as my soaking wet feet and ill preparation for the conditions may have caused some kind of delirium, but we remember him looking comfortable. He had a beard that one could be proud of and we like to think that he was toting around some homemade concoction that was coating his insides with a smooth layer of hot coals, reinforcing what that great jacket was doing on the outside. Douglas is about as nice and as warm as a man can be. He was that night and he's been that way before and since. It's the way that we know him and yet, he's a barrelhouse of sparks and anguish, of grumbling and steam.
He takes on the voice of the everyman, the guy who, even when he's down takes a kick or two in the ribs from some unknown steel toe or a hardened heel. He sings for himself and all of those people out there struggling to get what they deserve - even if that might just be a day away from their troubles or some time to get out onto an open lake to simply float. He gets riled up and he sometimes sounds like Jim Morrison when he does. I often picture their beards holding hands.
He gets fired up and out comes a rolling grief, the poetry of a chapped ass and a tanned hide. These are the words of the big men who have been belittled or taken advantage of for too long. It's the kind of music that you stomp to, that you listen to when you're a couple drinks in to let yourself feel a little bit better. It's the kind of tear in your beer music that a man listens to when he's still got his wife or his girl, he's got a job, he's got a place to call home and yet there's still little fulfillment. It's not about being unhappy, just being unsatisfied and unsettled. It's about knowing that a lot's being given up and there could be a lot more out there. Douglas sings, "Comes to me in stormy weather/Comes to me whether I'm bigger or better," and we hear that line as a way of suggesting that the hits just keep on coming - when times are good or they're bad, or when they can be handled or not handled. No matter what, they're coming so it's best to have something tucked away in our front or side pocket, a secret stash of something that's going to keep us warm no matter what it's like outside.
*Essay originally published July, 2011