Since my arrival in Austin I have been in a bit of a funk. Not having a sense of purpose or a source of income has not allowed me to be my usual fun-loving self. However, when my friend proposed we go to the Elephant Room (a renown jazz venue on South Congress) on a random Wednesday to hear Monster Big Band, I realized I desperately needed to get out on a "school night" (it helped that there was no cover charge). So we get dolled up and head downtown generally feeling great that we now live in a place where you have such a fantastic live music opportunity on a Wednesday. The club is great; basement level in an old building, low lighting, exposed brick, and the palpable feeling of days gone by. The band is even better; sixteen piece big band plus a great singer. There is a mix of young and old (literally a grandfather and his two grand kids at a table one over from mine) rich and poor (me representing the poor in this case), and everyone is there for the music, and everyone is having a great time; but no one is having a better time than Crystal Funk.
From the second I saw Crystal I started thinking about what I would write about her that could adequately describe what I witnessed on this otherwise banal Wednesday. Let's start with the physical description. Black pleather snake skin fancy lad hat (I just learned this term "fancy lad" over the weekend, but basically it is the little beret type hat golfers wear), red suede sleeveless knee length dress (to show off unshaven underarms and allow the freedom of movement to do high kicks, and yes, there were many high kicks), and black jazz shoes such as one would wear in an actual jazz dance class. As soon as the band strikes up the first chord she appears on the left side of the stage. Please keep in mind, there is no dance floor in this joint, she's just wedged between tables and the stage. She begins a series of movements that, for the sake of simplicity, we will call dance. This is an odd combination of every tribal dance ever witnessed on the National Geographic Chanel, interpretive dance from New Age churches, and the choreography from the movie/musical Chicago. I know a lot of words and I can't come up with any combination of them that could ever truly describe Crystal's dance. During the first song it is a bit distracting for the audience and, judging by their faces, several members of the band. There is a lot of pointing and giggling and many a confounded glance exchanged. I figure she just really likes this first number and will take a seat when it is done, but I could not have been more wrong. She continues to dance to EVERY SONG of the entire night. She never once sat down for a break. So as not to deprive anyone of the magic of the dance, she moved to the front of the stage, then to the right, and continued to circulate at intervals throughout the night. At one point a brave soul from the audience joined her for a slow dance, but it was obviously too restrictive for her, she needed to have the freedom to kick and slide without the interference of a partner. Later on a woman who seemed a bit vexed by Crystal stood up and did her own impression of these unique moves, much to the delight of the other patrons, but Crystal was too busy dancing to even notice.
Was she high? Probably. Was she mentally ill? Possibly. Was she drunk? She was drinking beer, but just enough to refresh between songs. All I know is I have never in my life, on my very best day, in my most shining moment felt as good as Crystal Funk did dancing to Monster Big Band at the Elephant Room on a Wednesday night. This was either the craziest, highest, or most confident woman I have ever seen in my thirty-one years of life. Which ever of the preceding adjectives truly apply, I think I learned a few lessons about life from Crystal: 1) Enjoy every moment to it's fullest 2) Don't be so concerned with what other people think about you 3) Never ever for any reason stop shaving your underarms.
Thank you Crystal Funk, for pulling me out of my funk. I will never forget you.