Jack of the Wood
We arrived back in Asheville on Tuesday night pretty late and tired. We finally manage to find our accommodation; a small but perfectly formed self-catering chalet on the hills overlooking Asheville’s Downtown area. Although it’s late and it feels like we’ve been driving forever we dump our stuff and make one last push to hear some music in town. Our destination is the ‘Jack of the Wood’ pub on Patton Street. There’s a singer/songwriter night tonight, but we want to check it out as there’s an old-time session here tomorrow. Finding parking takes a while – the town is busy and American cars; it’s like parking a bus! We take the short stroll down the street passing a raft of bars, cafes and restaurants, all of which are busy. Outside Jack of the Wood are a small, relaxed crowd sitting on benches chatting and smoking. The atmosphere inside is fun too. This place feels like a real pub. So often over here the bars somehow feel just a little off kilter. But the ‘Jack’ feels good. There’s a good crowd all paying close attention to four performers who are taking it in turns to play on a small stage tucked into the triangular section of the far corner. On the walls there are a series of ‘Jack of the Green’ plaster facemasks. Anyone who has a passing interest in the pagan iconography of churches in England will recognize these. They are representations of the pagan gods who were thought to inhabit the woods and green spaces, and they often denote a sense of mischief and fun – just right for a place like this. We grab a seat by the bar but eventually move to a table in front of the performers. The four guys are a lot of fun with a wide range in musical styles (and abilities). But whatever they’re doing they are certainly keeping the punters happy. A large over-sized tip jar sits stuffed with dollar and five dollar bills in front of them. Peggy, the promoter who organizes this night (amongst others), periodically does the needful and whips it around the bar. We get to chat briefly with Peggy later on before we move onto The Thirsty Monk across the road for more hoppy, sweet beer. It’s late and we’re bushed. Time to call it a night.
When we arrive back to the chalet the trees all around are drumming with the heavy throb of cicadas. The sound of these insects in their thousands moves through the dense humidity of the air like a slow boat pushing through water until it almost feels like the sound is pressing on your ear-drums. It’s almost deafening and even as we drift off to sleep you can hear the incessant pulse press through the windows.