Chapel Hill, N.C.
One will begin to detect subtle elements of the south in Washington D.C. while traveling the appropriate direction.
To me, the nation’s capital is an alien outpost in the center of an otherwise southern territory. The smell of the air and vegetation usually attacks my senses before I have a chance to interface with potentially rogue southerners but, eventually, we have to stop somewhere in Virginia for gas or food and that makes it official.
I love the south, more than most other places, really. I have noticed that that’s a rather uncool persuasion to be under in my line of work but it’s very much the truth. The entire southern region is often labeled as being hate-filled, racist, and backward but I see that wherever I go, even in New York.
So I often write off those accusations for what they are, which are ignorant and cheap. The undeniable power of the south is that everything and everybody has an intensity to it that I miss in other parts of the country.
This makes me think back to my thoughts on Hushpuppy in Texas and the Harry Crews quote: “The simplest conversation in the South has a theological basis.” which I think applies to about everything in the south. If it’s worth talking about and doing, it’s worth putting the mind, body, and spirit behind.
It’s probably rooted in mass mental illness or deep-rooted beliefs in the afterlife. I have a deep interest in both so it all agrees with me in some form.
Whatever the cause or the shape it takes to every set of eyes, I have found that everything is HARD in the south. People have a more difficult time, work harder, and aren’t as concerned with their “earthly vessels” as in other parts of the self-help/self-improvement/self-self-me-ME parts of the country; therefore, people tend to not take care of themselves and focus their energies elsewhere.
With all of that said, we knew that crowds would likely shrink in the South. Yet, it has been my experience that the people that do make it to these shows are very, very grateful and very intense about music.
We arrived in town a little early on a rainy day. Burritos were had and I walked down to a great record store where, again, I was well-behaved and didn’t purchase anything.
We were to play the Local 506; a place where I had been to on occasion, yet, only have a foggy recollection of attending the appropriately named Sleazefest years back. (I drank too much and often but did meet an early punk rock hero of mine, Ed Crawford, aka “ed fROMOHIO”, as he complimented my Minutemen shirt.
I think I attempted to say nice things in return but they probably made very little sense. Past that, I saw great sets from Bob Log III, Greenhornes, and the always wonderful Southern Culture on the Skids - complete with strippers. Oh, the compromised memories!)
The bartender was a young lady whose voice was recognized by our bassist as being in a band whose name eludes me at the moment. She was awesome and friendly. We had a pretty good time visiting with her, and I reminisced a bit about my Sleazefest memories. Hers were comparable.
Acid Mothers Temple arrived a little earlier than usual so I said “hi” and asked if they had hit any record stores. They said they hadn’t so I suggested they check out the one I went to which enthused them. I walked them down rather than let the language barrier send them the wrong way. Those gentlemen loooooooooove them some record shopping ….
Scotty was/is more-or-less from the Chapel Hill area so we were to open. The set was OK, nothing great.
It was hard to hear and I know our drummer couldn’t really decipher anything through his monitor which seemed to only be half-working. But oh well. We plowed through the set and the room began to get as much of a crowd as was going to be in attendance on this particular evening. I remember leaving the stage thinking that we had salvaged a decent set despite the difficulties and abnormalities.
When we were done some very enthusiastic kids came to the stage and were very kind and complimentary. They wanted to talk gear, influences, and such. When I meet younger people like that I still see myself there and do my best to respect them as much as the circumstances will allow (in this case, tearing down and getting out of the way).
I watched a bit of Clang Quartet before going for a walk when I spotted a break in the rain. Walking down the street it seemed as if there was a band playing in every single bar. I guess that’s how I’d like the world to be, right?
Acid Mothers Temple were tearin’ it up when I returned and it was fun to hear the locals walk by – many of them middle-aged and rather “normal”- and the sounds of Japanese-psychedelic-jazz-kraut-weirdness register on their plain faces.
After the show was when she shit-show initiated.
We were under the impression that we were going to be allowed to stay in the top half of the venue so we hadn’t secured a place to stay (hotel or otherwise). The word we got back was that we couldn’t because it was for the headliner. AMT had gotten a place elsewhere so they wouldn’t be using it and gave their blessing for us to take it. Again, the answer was “no”- that it was not going to be used if the headliner wasn’t going to utilize it. So, the options were for AMT to stay and all of us cram in there or it was not an option. Strange logic and certainly an unprofessional hour to get this bad news.
As we carried stuff out in the downpour we were still getting a weird treatment. A large, oily sow of a woman began yelling at us when she encountered Scotty’s stuff, yelling “Someone needs to get this shit out of the fuckin’ way…”
“It’s not our shit, ma’am.”
“IIIII don’t care whose shit it is…….get it the fuck outta’ here now…”
So the night was ending on this note of class and professionalism. What a bummer. It just depressed me more than anything, to be treated that way, at this age. The next hour or so was spent in the van, in the middle of the night, as rain poured down, as our drummer searched and searched for us a hotel room. (Thanks, big guy.)
Luckily, our next show didn’t necessitate an early rise since we only had about four hours to drive. I remember feeling a sense of maturity within the group that, despite the shitty, prior evening, that there was little discussion about it – just gotta’ keep on going.
I really love the natural beauty of the Carolinas. It brought back fond memories of only last year when we did the tour with Bonnie “Prince” Billy and played the somewhat remote town/island of Marshall, North Carolina. Gorgeous area and great show.
The town of Columbia was somewhat ghostly; shut-down on a Sunday. We reported to the venue and as I entered recalled that I had been there before. I don’t fully recall when. Alas, the Alzheimers Army claims another small territory in my aging brain .…
Staff was outta’ sight awesome. The soundman was awesome and super nice. The other band on the bill, Can’t Kids, were super nice and awesome as well. Positive vibes all around which was much needed.
It was on this night that we invited Scotty to play with us since he had proven how much ass was kicked when he played drums, cymbals, and such. He was very kind and agreed to do us that great honor.
Can’t Kids opened the show and were fantastic. Great dual vocals between the guitar player and the drummer (I am always a fan of male/female vocals) and I was a huge fan of the cello. After their set, I got to visit with the cellist a bit and babble about my recent obsession with Arthur Russell. I ended up scribbling some suggested listening…
Our set went pretty well, but the room was only about 1/3 full. Scotty came out at the designated time with a pile of cymbals, laid them out in a scatter on the stage and proceeded to kill it with a sonic shower. The guy plays with so much intensity that I couldn’t help but smile and felt my heart rate rise with the energy. A great, great time.
Alas, I was a tad bummed at the lack of turn-out. I knew this was likely but, still, you always hope you can play for more folks. I felt a little better as Acid Mothers Temple played and I saw one rather rough looking fiftysomething woman, who had been walking around with a difficult limp, dance like an entranced banshee. Ahh, one of my people!
The evening ended without much event or excitement. All and all, a pretty good time and met some new friends.
Hello there, Atlanta.
It had been a while for me. The past number of years had taken me around the Georgian capital, usually landing me in Athens or the likes. I believe the only show I recall having ever played in Atlanta was one of my last few with the band Bodyhammer, when we played a ghetto bar at which had a few too many skinheads in attendance for our taste, to tell the truth. We played our cover of “Helter Skelter” to close- which is a good way to piss off any and all punk rock posers- and, somehow, weren’t murdered. Oh, to be young again!
That particular long weekend was somewhat documented here:
We arrived early and were treated to some southern sun. After locating the venue, the colorfully named Drunken Unicorn, we went back to a more trendy neighborhood and dispersed into our own little scouting expeditions to find records, drinks, or whatever our respective vices may or may not be.
I located two pairs of pants at a thrift store for a nice price which instantly and easily elevated this visit to Atlanta as the most successful one to date. I planted myself at The Porter Beer Bar, a place that I rather liked. But it was an ill-timed break for me as we were nearly due to get down to the venue. We returned to the Unicorn to heavy rain and no one to let us in just yet. So, I then went the additional steps to another great drinking hole, The Brook House Pub. And waited.
The soundman and other staff eventually arrived and we were granted entrance. The soundman let it be known, almost immediately, that he was not in a good mood.
He was a big guy and his bad day was rippling off of his sweaty hulk like gasoline fumes in the Georgia sun. I’ve been doing this for long enough that I know the type and know the attitude – but I also know how musicians can be the most bitchy, unreasonable, and childish lot that you could ever find yourself in the rank company of – and he likely put us in the default category of typical musician.
SO: kill ‘em with kindness. It’s all you can do. Be polite and be all “please” and “thank you’s.” He didn’t like the idea of us soundchecking but, hey, it had to be done. And it was. Amen.
(Consulting my notes, I honestly don’t recall if the following adventure occurred before our after our set. Heh.)
A couple of bandmates and myself made the short walk down to the notorious Clermont Lounge. Yes, another strip bar.
But not just any strip bar: it is in the former Clermont Hotel (now closed) and was once home to punk rock icon, GG Allin. The strippers there are also infamous for their gruffness and “authenticity,” if you will.
My bandmate wanted a T-shirt (I did, too, but saved the cash) but I mainly just wanted to see this place that has assumed an odd sort of monumental status; this place where Allin’s ghost resides, in the very least, in those who visit there only because of its part in his legacy. We walked in, a shirt was bought, and walked out. I was not against being entertained by what the place had to offer for shits’n’giggles but….uhh…this was not to be the night.
The soundman eventually did the last thing I expected him to do: He apologized. He had had a bad day, lots of traffic, and I believe someone else was supposed to work this particular show to begin with. So I surely appreciated and respected that.
We returned to the venue. I read some. I visited some. It was an odd night but not a bad one.
What can I say?
There were ghosts around.