Don Dixon's been a fixture and a mentor in my life since I was a kid. His band with Robert Kirkland, Arrogance, is one of the most revered institutions in North Carolina rock history, tearing it up since 1969 when I first saw them shaking the stage at Ardmore Methodist Church coffeehouse.
When he asked me and Chris to be a part of Arrogance's fortieth anniversary show, it was flattering and humbling. When he asked if I'd play organ on their debut single "Black Death", possibly the heaviest record to come out of Winston-Salem, it blew my mind.
This would be the first time that the original Arrogance band would have taken the stage together since 1971. Lead guitarist Michael Greer and primal drummer Jim (formerly Jimmy) Glasgow practiced with Dixon and Kirkland, and everyone was buzzed about how great it sounded.
I realized that I'd never met Glasgow, as improbable as that seemed, so Greer was eager to fix that. Jim and I and Smart Wife (we got a sitter !) chatted under the familiar scrawl of Will Rigby, emblazoned on the wall when he'd played there with Steve Earle some years before.
Other celebrants included Debra Demilo from the Fabulous Knobs, Parthenon Huxley, Mitch Easter and Shalini Chatterjee, all of whom were on the side of the stage when Greer and Glasgow joined Dixon and Kirkland.
In the finest tradition of dB's equipment failure, I couldn't get the organ audible so I plugged into Rod's Fender amp so the song could start. And I gamely played along, although I have absolutely no idea whether I was audible or playing the right notes.
But it hardly mattered; I was transfixed, watching Greer, one of Winston-Salem's legendary lead guitarists, running up and down the neck, making the best guitar faces ever. I looked over at Jim Glasgow, now bald like me and Dixon, wailing away on the drums like no time had passed at all since I'd seen them. Dixon was big and threatening sounding on the voice and Robert Kirkland sewed it all together with his guitar. It was a definite time warp for me and for a few of us who grew up watching, listening to and loving Arrogance as kids.
I left the band onstage and they lit into "Race With the Devil" by Gun, a cover they'd popularized in Winston-Salem and one of the earliest recordings Arrogance did at Crescent City Sound Studio in Greensboro. They tagged it with a bit of "N.I.B." by Black Sabbath; this was significant as Arrogance got ahold of the first Sabbath album at least six months before it was released in the US, and they'd learned it front to back and played it to the adoring crowds, many of whom undoubtedly thought they were hearing original songs by the local band!
We had to leave after the first set concluded with the original band; the rest of the evening, people joined the more enduring, less heavy and better known version of Arrogance in their celebration. (After Greer and Glasgow left the band, Marty Stout joined on keys, followed by Scott Davison on drums and Rod Abernethy on guitar--this version of the band made a few albums and became far better known in the Chapel Hill area. In fact, they had Rittenhouse Square open for them in 1971 or 1972 at a gig at the Fire Station, one of R2's few out of town gigs.)
But I can only say that sharing the stage with the original Arrogance is the single most exciting musical event I've gotten to participate in this year. I hope it's not the last time those four guys play together, and it sounded so good and so right, I don't think it will be.