Monday, February 25, 2008

Busy weekend

Sorry I've been remiss as a correspondent, but the passage of time has a way of prioritizing one's activities, especially with a busy weekend.

Thursday night, I performed several blocks from my home at the Broad Street Cafe. I've done kids' shows there and the family likes to come and drink coffee and let the four-year-old play on the Thomas table (usually with an oversized jet fighter, making real the issue of strafing the Island of Sodor). This evening, I played with Jason Herrod and a duo called the Water Callers. We held a strategy meeting before the show, and all the acts were unsure which slot they got. It occurred to me that both the other acts had called people and told them when they were going to be playing, so since I had done nothing of the sort, I took the last slot.

The Water Callers had a lovely vocal blend, somewhere between the Louvin Brothers and Seals & Crofts. They are highly recommended to hear, if you get the chance.

Jason Herrod won the bluegrass songwriting competition at Merlefest a few years ago. That said, his repertoire is full of beautiful songs that recognize the influences he lists on his myspace, rather than favor old-time country music. He has a straightforward voice with a keen falsetto that emphasizes the great craftsmanship of his lyrics.

By the time I got up to sing, the audience was down to Jason, the Water Callers and a few more stalwarts. I did a clutter of songs from throughout my storied career, and as always, did my cover of "On Obsession" by Peter Blegvad, truly a tiny miracle of a song. I think they liked what they heard, but we all got the hell out of there after I was all done.

Friday morning, after I got the four-year-old to school, I began the drive to Knoxville to perform that night at the Time Warp Tea Room. I've never been in the presence of so many old racing motorcycles in my life, and the place is decorated appropriately. I admired a couple of custom-painted toilet seats that adorned the wall. My friend Kim who booked me there told me the story that Dan, the tea room's owner and a racing bike aficionado, was a big fan of Britten motorcycles from New Zealand. (She described them as "really fast, if you could get them to run.") One of Dan's friends is a professional bike painter, does repair work on Jay Leno's machines among other things. He's the guy who painted the toilet seat, and when he presented it to Dan, he said "I figured this is as close as you were going to get to riding one."

I actually took a nap in my car before the show in the parking lot that the Time Warp shares with a gay bar next door.

My old pal Todd Steed offered to open the show, which he did with his Suns of Phere bandmate Ed Richardson slapping time on a cardboard box ala Buddy Holly. Todd's a guy I've known since about 1981 when I cruised through Knoxville as an REM adjunct. His old band, Smokin' Dave and the Premo Dopes, made really good music and Todd's continued that work; I see him as the Lou Reed of Knoxville, a storyteller, a news anchor, a commentator. It was great to see and hear Todd and Ed, and I hope Todd's cold clears up soon.

I played a bunch of songs and decided this was the most apropos place to do my cover of Richard Thompson's 1952 Vincent Black Lightning. Dan said even though he knew the song (possibly from the Del McCoury bluegrass hit rendition), this was the first time he'd understood the words. Glad I could clear things up.

I played probably an hour and a half, short by my Circle Bar/Carrollton Station show standards which Todd had experienced ("Four hours! And no pee break!") Again, due to my own lack of self-promotion, there weren't a lot of people there, but the ones who did come enjoyed the songs.

That night, I slept on a couch at Kim's house, frequently brushing her ancient doddering cat Dot from my feet. I tried to wake up at five to get going, but the body rejected the idea and insisted I sleep until seven.

Got back to Durham after a brief stop-off in Winston-Salem to check on my mom. We had a cup of coffee and she told me about the golf she was watching for the weekend. Then it was time to roll along.

Saturday night, I packed my Danelectro bass (the unfortunately named 'Danoblaster' Rumour) and my Phase 90 and some cords and headed to Local 506 for a set at the International Pop Overthrow. I was part of Absolutely the Maybes, featuring my dB's pal Chris Stamey, Matt McMichael from the Mayflies USA and drummer Chuck Garrison. As I will tell anyone who stands still long enough to listen, I am a frustrated bass player. Of all the instruments I can play, and there are quite a few, what I REALLY want to play is bass. So when Chris called me about holding down the bottom in this band, I jumped at the chance (not to mention the fact that I don't have to sing or even play my own songs!)

We played great on Saturday night, I thought. Of course, I was just the guy thumping along on one string at a time, so what do I know? We did a bunch of Chris' songs from his solo albums, and we did a bunch of Matt's songs, both from the Mayflies and of a newer vintage. Chuck was nervous before the show, but watching part of the first half of the Memphis/UT game on the bar tv and talking a little Tarheel basketball may have eased his mind from any worry he might've had, because he, too, played really well. Mark Simonsen from the Old Ceremony joined us on organ for a ripping rendition of the Beatles' "It's All Too Much" and Chris Bell's "I Am the Cosmos". The powerpop crowd (mainly middle-aged guys and hot college girls) seemed to enjoy us immensely, and people who came up to me before and after the show were really sweet and humble and appreciative of what The dB's had meant to them in their lives. I don't think I could ever get tired of hearing that, especially thirty years down the road. I'm grateful that, even though we didn't sell a billion gazillion copies of our records, the ones we did sell got listened to and loved.

2 comments:

Jeff Hart said...

so sorry i couldn't be there for the thursday broad st. show. being able to walk to a show so close to home is one of the best things about living in durham. but i had our first rehearsal for our notorious byrd brothers project in chapel hill thursday and got away much too late.

saturday, i was at surf city (two girls for every boy!) with durham bull pen (http://durhambullpen.blogspot.com/) for an oyster roast. glad the 506 gig went well. i'm like you, i love playing bass though it's not my main instrument. i tell people that all i really need are the top 3 strings. if the D breaks, i'm still in good shape as i can't say i have ever played the G.

Matt said...

Happy Birthday btw.
Todd Steed! I was in a band with Todd in 1981 called "The Real Hostages" We also played in the UT new wave ensemble or something. I have to say Bass is the way.