Friday comes right after Thursday; I think they move it closer in New Orleans to squeeze every ounce of weekend out of visitors. I woke up with barely a voice left from rocking the Circle Bar and then visiting with old friends there. Gee, good work, I only have the main show I came down for left to do...
Carrollton Station is my old haunt in New Orleans. It's a former workingman's bar, located kitty-cornered from a 'car barn' for the St. Charles streetcar line. I played every Sunday there for years, inviting visiting and local songwriters to join me on stage. It was there that I was serenaded for my birthday one year by Graham Parker and Bob Andrews AND Pat McLaughlin. The huge wooden sign on stage with the streetcar on it had fallen on my daughter's rental violin once and shattered it; I was pleased to note that it was now permanently secured on the back wall. I'd spent many nights there, starting years before I moved to New Orleans, so coming back was a trip to familiar circumstances.
We had decided on a noon soundcheck so that those who wanted to get over to Jazzfest would have the maximum amount of time to spend there. Equipment got set up as it trickled in once the extra PA gear was in place. Eric, the proprietor, had gotten a huge police barricade and was going to use it to protect rented floor monitors from overeager patrons who would ordinarily rest their beers on them. The problem was that the barricade, if set in front of the low stage at Carrollton Station, was as high as the performers' thighs; they looked adjustable but they had only one height. I'm not sure how, but we talked Eric out of using the barricade, and it spent the whole day and night out on the back patio of the club.
(from the monitor board, looking across)
For soundcheck we were joined by by our opening act, A Fragile Tomorrow, who had driven down from New York to play with us. The band are friends of mine from Hootie days; three brothers and a friend who write and play thoughtful and intelligent rock music. Susan and I guested on their last album (via the miracle of internet technology and their producer Malcolm Burn), and they completely flabbergasted Don Dixon when he heard them.
Miranda joined us, having left school early. Robert's daughter Vivian came with him, and the two of them palled around the empty bar.
We got monitor levels, everything seemed to be working and we tried a couple songs before breaking. Susan had an appointment to meet someone at the Fairgrounds, and many of us were starved so a crew went to Liuzza's for lunch.
I tried to spend the next few hours silent or at least quiet. Silence is hard for me, being an inveterate chatterer; many of the people I've admired the most in this life are the ones who are the quietest. I always feel like an alarm going off around people like that. So in my effort to preserve my voice until the show, I napped for a couple hours, since that's one of the rare times in a day that I'm not jabbering.
I dropped Mark and Dana off and sought a parking space near the Station. Rich had let me print up set lists on his printer, and Robert, Mark and Vicki did a little red-penciling to shore up some 'mid-tempo gluts' that Drifter sets have historically been prone to wallowing in.
A Fragile Tomorrow got the show going, and they played great. If you get a moment and give a listen to the music on their myspace page, you'll understand why I enjoy them so much. Crowning moment for me was Sean Kelly telling his li'l bro' Brendon "you know what to do" and then the young lead guitarist swung his Gibson Melody Maker behind his head and began choking out the Hendrix riffery. Then he picked the strings with his teeth (we had a short discussion about orthodontistry after the set, but I doubt it'll dissuade this guitar hero in the making). I couldn't find my accordion when they called me, Susan and Russ up on stage, but Susan located it and we went up a song later to reprise our roles on "Zydeco Girl" (a song Sean wrote about Susan). To me, the most exciting thing to discover about this cool band was Sean Kelly's showmanship and easy control of the stage and his band. I hope for great things for these guys; they deserve it.
(L to R: Brendon Kelly, Sean Kelly, Shaun Rhoades from A Fragile Tomorrow)
Then it was time for us to get motorvatin' up to the stage.
Without the anxious/sleepy monitor guy we had at the Threadheads 'patry' riding herd over us, we got everything together in a comparatively short amount of time. Then we assembled offstage and came on, one by one, to a roar of applause. It felt great to be back.
I can only say that the gig we did a couple days prior was greatly outshined by the length and strength of the Continental Drifters at Carrollton Station. We had rehearsed about fifty songs, made two sets of about fifteen each with the plan to do more if time and interest on the audience's part warranted it.
Here are the sets:
1. A Song for You - by Gram Parsons, the first song most of us recorded together
2. Christopher Columbus Transcontinental Highway
3. Drifters - not a dry eye onstage or in the audience, I think
4 Mixed Messages
5 Spring Day in Ohio
6 Don't Do What I Did (featuring Miranda on tambourine)
8 You're Gonna Need Somebody - Robert's big turn at the mic on a Richard Thompson song
9 Way of the World
12 Daddy Just Wants It to Rain
13 Get Over It
14 Highway of the Saints - Drifters' founding drummer Carlo Nuccio joined us for this one on guitar and vocal
15 The Mississippi - Carlo switched to drums for a song he wrote with Ray Ganucheau
Carrollton Station audience before set one
After a short break we returned with:
1 The Rain Song
2 Some of Shelly's Blues - Mike Nesmith cover from our first album
3 Live on Love
4 I Want to Learn to Waltz With You
5 Look at All the Things - Crazy Horse cover, in honor of Neil's turn at Jazzfest that weekend
6 Na Na
7 Invisible Boyfriend
9 Anything - me, Robert and Vicki - the 'pee break' song of yore for the rest of the band
10 Farmer's Daughter - Beach Boys/F. Mac fave of ours
10 Tomorrow's Gonna Be - Susan on bass, Mark on guitar and vocal, another big fave
11 Peaceful Waking
12 Who We Are, Where We Live
13 Meet on the Ledge - our take on the Fairport Convention song, great inspired harmonies
and then we came back for an encore with:
14 Dedicated to the One I Love - Drifters do Mamas and Papas
15 Tighter Tighter - the Alive 'n' Kickin' hit
And then it was over.
I think we played really well and sang our collective asses off. We actually had a lot of fun playing, which, as Alex Rawls noted in his review, had been notably absent around the time of Better Day. I guess we followed the advice in Mark's song, and we got over 'it'.
Lots of sweet compliments from old friends who'd traveled a long way to come see us specifically. I was left reminded that the Continental Drifters meant (and apparently still mean) a lot to people. I discovered that Miranda had left with the Kellys for Cafe Du Monde in the middle of the second set. It was great that they all enjoyed each other's company so much, BFFs I believe is the term used in today's nomenclature.
My task now was to gather up my gear and pack the van for the ride back to NC. I was going to have to miss Susan, Russ and Vicki take on Sgt. Pepper the next night, but Smart Wife had one of her biggest craft shows on Sunday and I needed to get back as soon as I could. It took no time to get myself ready to leave.
I said my goodbyes, thanks and see you soons to all the Drifters I could find (Russ was getting paid, so I had to miss him). It was sweet and a little sad, as I might have stuck around, hanging out 'til the bar sent us packing, just like in the old days. But it was also good for me to go, as I don't feel as comfortable in a bar anymore.
My reflections on this whole rigmarole could be condensed to this thought: even if the Continental Drifters never play another note together on again, we showed that we COULD do it this time after eight years of disquiet and sadness and bitter feelings finally gave way to love and peace and friendship again. It's hard to hold grudges and dislike for so long, especially with such great music at stake, and it felt like a giant albatross had finally been set free. I'm glad we did these shows, I'm proud of what we accomplished both onstage and in our respective hearts, and I thank Mark Walton, Robert Mache, Vicki Peterson-Cowsill, Susan Cowsill, Russ Broussard and Carlo Nuccio for making this wonderful band happen again so sweetly.
Thanks to the folks who posted the videos, and I hope you don't mind me linking to them.
Thanks to the Fra-gi-lays for making the trek to NOLA to play with us.
Thanks to Rich for his hospitality and stewardship.
Thanks to DC, Lee and Joe for rocking me at the Circle Bar (and Joe, thanks for all the Beatles in mono).
Thanks to Eric at the Station for having us back.
Thanks to Ace, Pete and Jeff for making us sound so good.
Thanks to the Bluebird for all the fine breakfasts over the years.
Thanks to Sarah, Webb and Maggie Jane for the week away from home.
Thanks to Miranda for keeping me apprised of Nick Jonas' whereabouts and making me smile.
Thanks to the little Town & Country that got me there and back.
And thanks to you for reading this blog.
Fade to real life....