My little brother plays Neil Young the way Neil Young wishes he could play Neil Young, and I taught him everything he knows. Ha. Kidding. I attempted to become a guitar player when I was in junior high. I lasted a couple months. Then, Matt picked up my discarded acoustic guitar, and well, at the age of 23, he’s been playing for about fifteen years. On and off, we play together. He rocks out on guitar; I do some wailing on vocals. It’s a semi-Partridge Family situation, without the bar haircuts and bell-bottoms.
The Exodus Series is about me leaving Charleston and moving to Phoenix. So what does my brother have to do with any of this, you ask? Matt moved to Charleston back in October. He did not specifically move here to be near me; he moved here because he likes Charleston and he likes my friends. (Luckily, Matt also likes Jake, but that’s a whole other story…) Anyway, he moved here, and it was a great comfort to me, because Matt and I have always been close—more like best buds than siblings. He moved here. He met my friends. He became accustomed to my haunts (Griffon Pub on Vendue, in particular), and then, he became accustomed to the music scene.
And he decided to walk in and take over the entire operation.At present, he runs an open mic night in West Ashley, SC, but it’s more like a Matt Dobie showcase. It’s not like most open mics, where a bunch of talentless yahoos play acoustic covers of Coldplay. No, Matt’s open mic is comprised of a full band—drums, guitar (electric and acoustic), bass, vocals—and anyone can do it. For instance, the first time I went to see him, I ended up singing. That was also the night when an old man walked up to my brother, pointed at him, and said, “I want to play music with YOU, kid.” And they did. Johnny Cash. Neil Young. Blues. Jazz. All the good stuff. And I was reminded that my little brother is truly a fantastic musician.
I’m not the only one who acknowledges this. Other musicians who’ve seen him play often end up saying he’s a “guitar god.” Guys twice his age shake their heads and wonder how a kid so young could be so dang talented. Even I do embarrassing dance moves and toe taps every time he goes into a screaming guitar solo. It’s impossible not to. And I—a vocalist who is intimidated by nothing—often fear being outshined by my younger sibling. This, of course, is an elder sister’s nightmare. That being said, I know there is no hope for me on stage. Matt will always be better than me. He will always be better than a lot of people.
Last week, he covered Tom Waits’ “Train Song.” The lyrics:
I remember when I left
Without bothering to pack
You know I up and left with
Just the clothes I had on my back
Now I’m sorry for what I’ve done
And I’m out here on my own
Well it was a train that took me away from
Here but a train can’t bring me home
I can’t listen to the song anymore, because it makes me cry. First off, I cry because my brother is better than Waits, yet Waits’ version is the only recording I have. Secondly, I cry because perhaps the worst thing about leaving Charleston is leaving my brother. Like trains passing in the night, we keep missing each other. As soon as I graduated from Ohio University, Matt began his freshman year. Now, as soon as we found a city to share, I’m leaving it.
I know Matt and me will play music together many, many more times in the coming years. For now, I just gotta tell him: Sorry I gotta head west, kiddo. Keep playing that Neil Young, and next time we’re together, we’ll rock some “Helpless” by Neil Young, because we know that Mom and Dad love it.
If you’re in Chucktown, here’s the website for the bar where little Dobes kicks some guitar ass every Saturday night: http://www.rpubonline.com/. If you wanna here my meager vocal stylings, check out my MySpace music page: myspace.com/sarasingstheblues.