Sunday, March 30, 2008

Cravin Melon/Lincoln Theater

I was working for a couple days in Charlotte, but when I got home to Durham, I knew I had to go see Cravin Melon's show in Raleigh Saturday night.

My Hootie pal Gary Greene was back in the engine room for the band. I never get to see him play, so this was my chance. Plus we'd just played together, along with Doug Jones, Cravin's splendid singer, down at the Sewee Outpost show.

I'm not much of a clubgoer anymore. Especially solo, like Saturday. I wrote out the directions in large longhand and put off leaving the coziness of home until the very last moment, even reprogramming my iPod with a little Idle Race/Move/Roy Wood mix for the ride over. I left and locked the house without remembering the garage had lost my car key last week. It was a foregone conclusion that I was going, but the prelude to actually getting on my way was fairly inept and time-consuming.

So much so that, approximately forty-five seconds after I set foot through the door, Cravin Melon struck up the first acapella notes of "The Great Procrastinator". The audience roared their approval, and the first gig by a beloved band in seven years had begun. I lived elsewhere at the time so I never got to see these guys in their heyday, but from the response they got Saturday their following has been laying in wait since they packed it in.

I did, however, spend a few days with the band, before Gary joined them, writing with them. They were very sweet people to hang with, and even though I'm not much of a co-writer, we came up with a song they recorded, "She Loves the Fire" and they played that next.

I had forgotten how bad-ass a bass player Rob Clay is. And Jimbo Chapman, with his finely sculpted tone, made every note in every solo count. Gary, as expected, was subtle and powerful.

Doug Jones' voice is expansive, cutting across the tops of songs. His delivery is deadpan, distracted slightly. His voice is always sure and strong, even when it's quiet and reserved. Some people are born singers, and I think Doug is certainly one of those people.

The crowd sang along to all the songs, raising their beer bottles and cell phone cameras in the air.

Back at the bar, the Carolina game was finishing up. Somehow I hadn't expected to hear any cheering for the Tarheels in a Raleigh club, but sure enough, after they'd dumped Louisville, a few yells were audible between Cravin songs.

Sad to say, my old bones didn't make it to the end. The prospect of an early-rising four year old on Sunday morning, expecting pancakes, necessitated me booking about an hour in, and I'm sorry about that. It was wonderful to see the outpouring of love from an audience who'd obviously been missing Cravin Melon. The band gave it back to their fans with interest, and their songs resounded through their listeners like shared memories at a party, sweet, funny, happy and wistful.