Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Accordions and That Time I Stalked Matt Hensley

Earlier today, I was joking with a friend of mine about how more bands should use accordions. They're such a versatile instrument, but really? Always awesome.

"Seriously. If I had one, I would learn to play it and I would serenade you. It would be so romantic," I told him.

He apparently did not find this romantic at all, and remarked that this was yet another reason why I am single.

"Obviously," I said, rolling my eyes. "Obviously, I am still single because I don't have an accordion for romantic serenades."

This discussion reminded me of the time I stalked and was socially awkward with Matt Hensley, the accordion player from Flogging Molly. Well, maybe "stalked" is a bit strong. ...maybe.

This started back when I had just graduated college, and was spending my summer at home looking for a job and going through severe boozing withdrawals. In my small town, there are only three bars, the newest of which was an old restaurant that had been converted into the most blessed of all establishments: the pub. Additionally, the new owner of this pub supposedly hailed from Carlsbad and was besties with Matt Hensley, who had *just* left Flogging Molly to move back to Carlsbad (his hometown, I gather) and spend time with his family, and also open his very own bar down there. On occasion, Hensley would visit his friend's pub in my neck of the woods and play with the live band that had a residency there. I found all of this out in the local newspaper one Friday, and promptly strapped on my boots and braces to go meet this incredible musician.

I'm told it's wrong to drink alone, so I spent a good 20 minutes trying to get friends, relatives and neighbors to go with me, but everyone was still preoccupied with stupid things like "work" and I wasn't about to miss out, so I went by myself anyway.

The pub was somewhat crowded, but I found a stool and sat down to wait while sure enough, Hensley showed up and started warming up with the band. Can I just tell you how thrilled I was to see him sitting up on the teeny tiny stage, absent-mindedly playing along to the Flogging Molly coming in over the loudspeaker? Oh. I was thrilled... and also nervous, because I had no idea what I was going to say to this man, other than something brilliantly blond like, "I LOVE FLOGGING MOLLY!" but even then I was an experienced journalist, so I figured instinct would kick in and something amazing would come to me. I decided to calm my nerves with another pint and a shot of whiskey, and sat back to listen.

Hours passed. Seriously, I sat in a pub on my own and was rapidly nearing 3 sheets to the wind while I worked up the courage to go say something - anything - to one of my musical inspirations. Never mind the fact that I had already started drunken conversations with just about everyone else at the bar, most of whom had given me the proverbial pat on the back and thumbs up, convincing me that I couldn't go wrong.

Finally, I saw Hensley sitting alone and I got up - rather unsteadily - and swayed over to his table, pint sloshing (but not spilling because I don't waste good booze), cardboard coaster clutched in my hand and stood in front of him.

He looked up, expecting me to say something and stop staring at him like an idiot while the words that were *supposed* to miraculously appear in my brain did not, in fact, appear.

I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and said, "You, sir, were the glue that held Flogging Molly's sound together. They may get another accordion, but they are missing a Matt Hensley. I feel completely ridiculous asking you this, but will you sign my coaster?"

He raised his eyebrows at me and said, "Why do you feel ridiculous?"

"Oh, because... isn't that weird? An accordion player signing a coaster?"

"I don't think so," he said, and reached up to sign my awkwardly outstretched arm.

Well, crap. Had I just said something offensive? Did that happen all the time? Did he think I was making fun of him for playing the accordion?! I started to panic, and stood there staring at him, which in retrospect was probably pretty creepy, nearly fell over and then blurted out, "You're really awesome!"


He smiled in that go-now-before-I-press-charges kind of way, and I stumbled back to close my bar tab. One of the barflies sitting next to me had paid particular attention to my story about wanting to talk to the accordion player, and he laughed at me as I got myself together enough to head home.

"Did you get his number?" the barfly asked at seeing my coaster and obviously misunderstanding my interest in the musician.

"No!" I said, somewhat triumphantly. "I got his autograph!"

The barfly looked at me like I was crazy, which I guess was fitting because I stomped out of the bar singing "Rebels of the Sacred Heart" at the top of my lungs. I passed out in the front seat of my car in the parking lot, still clutching my coaster prize, because drinking and driving when one has such a precious commodity is just *not* smart.

And that was the time I hunted down and had socially awkward times with Matt Hensley.

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