On Travel & Music

 Music is an element of the human condition. 

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I was standing in some bar slash music venue in the Old City of Montreal with one of my best friends from high school. We had just finished playing eating a delicious meal at the French bistro, Bonaparte. John wanted to go clubbing. I wanted to go pubbing. As we walked the cobbled streets of Old Montreal, John noticed a bar with a band playing. I walked right passed, focusing on our original plan of heading back to the college bars, where we went the previous night. 

“Duff! Wait up!” John yelled as he catches up to me halfway down the block. 

“What?”

“Dude, there’s a band playing in there.”

“Wait, really? I didn’t even notice.”

“Wana go in?”

“Uhh sure.”

John and I turn back and head toward the old, stone façade of Les Deux Pierrots, before running into the bouncer. He was speaking French.

“Sorry, English.” I say.

“IDs please,” he responds in his thick French-Canadian accent. 

The bouncer took a good two minutes to examine each our foreign IDs before letting us enter. Having been abroad last year, I was accustomed to this hesitance and would often have to just point out my birthday to them on the flimsy card. Although this wasn’t a club, it’s as close to one John was going to get, since I really wasn’t in the mood for loud noises and over crowded rooms. We enter through the fogged up door and hear the echoing drunkard calls of French-Canadians. The stark contrast between the ambiance of dinner and the ambiance of the bar couldn’t have been any different. Having just come from a very pleasant and classy dinner with classical music, to a rambunctious group of singing Canadians, singing along with the lively Dany Pouliot on stage was a bit overwhelming. I could not understand a single word. John and I exchange a look of “what the hell did we just get ourselves into,” and head to the balcony section to watch. We were truly living like a local. Despite the foreign language, music was still music. 

***

Music brings people together. 

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I was making my way toward the front of the crowd at Scala, a unique tri-level music venue in London, to see Trampled by Turtles, a bluegrass folk-rock band from Duluth, Minnesota. I found a good place in the middle relatively close to the stage, and stood my ground so that no one taller would get in front of me. Suddenly I see this group of what looks like people my age pushing through the crowd toward me. “Please don’t be rowdy and make a mosh pit,” I thought. The group settled their territory to my left. I look over and saw this girl with long wave brown hair, standing next to me. “Wait, I know that girl. Wait is that Chase?” I thought. “OK this could either be really awesome or really awkward. Just go for it.”

I tapped her on the shoulder. “Sarah? Sarah Hughes?” I asked nervously.

Her face went from, “Who the hell are you,” to “Oh my God hi!” in about two seconds. 

“Ah! Wait Duff?” She asked trying to remember my name.

“Ha-ha yep!”

Turned out that Sarah and her friend, Lauren, were visiting their friends who were also abroad in London. They were two years ahead of me in high school. “Small world,” I thought as I stood there catching up with long lost connections.

 

***

Music is history. 

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Kenze and I leave our Airbnb guesthouse we rented and step out into the cold, Icelandic fall air. It was our last day in Iceland before returning to London. We stayed in the town of Keflavík, apart of the great Reykjanes Peninsula. Kenze and I walked down the hill from the guesthouse and turned left onto the main boulevard. After, scrounging, the what seemed like abandoned town, for breakfast, we arrived at our destination and the sole reason for our stop over in Keflavík (besides being close to the airport for our flight the next day): Rokksafn Íslands (The Icelandic Museum of Rock ‘n’ Roll).  

“You have arrived,” my Google Maps narrated as we approach the huge, all white façade with Rokksafn Íslands written in large cursive red letters with the English translation beneath it. We entered through the glass double doors and saw the whole history of Icelandic music before our eyes; everything from folk music of the 17thcentury to modern day legends. Although the history was interesting, my curiosity lied with Of Monsters and Men. From nothing to something, this Icelandic band rose to prominence after their debut album “My Head Is an Animal” back in 2011.

“No way! Kenze come here!”

“What is it?” she responded as she walks over to me.

I looked up to the pale yellow guitar with a lightning bolt strap in the glass case.

“D’ you know what this is?” She shrugged. “This is the lead guitar from Of Monsters and Men!”

“Oh cool” she said passively. 

I knew she didn’t care, but it was no matter. I was so enthralled by the history of the band and how they rose to stardom I didn’t care that she didn’t care. To see all the history of music of a culture I knew nothing about was incredible. Before, I had only heard of three contemporary Icelandic artists: Björk, Sigur Ros, and Of Monsters and Men. It was amazing to live over 500 years of Icelandic music in only two hours.

 

No matter where you go in the world, music is one of the factors that unite us all. From the streets of Old Montreal to the far-fetched corners of Iceland, to know the music of the place is to know the culture of the place as well. Music is history. Music brings people together. Music is an element of the human condition. 

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