Green Rooms and Restrooms:
Ranking Cheese Doodle: Herr’s Nacho Cheese Flavor – These were waiting for us in the green room in Albany and they were magnificent. Herr’s is an east coast company, or at least their product is available mostly there. They make some of the best potato chip flavors anywhere. They’re the only company that we could send to the Crisp Olympics if we wanted to have a chance against England.
Texture: Smaller and less dense than a Cheeto but not rough.
Flavor: Super salty and cheesy.
Idiocy from the Van: Dil-don’t
It’s been a rough couple of days in the brain department so I’m going to combine Cleveland and Albany into one post. I fear I’m not going to catch up at any rate, but I think it’s important to run out the clock with a modicum of decorum.
A wonderful thing happened overnight outside our hotel in Columbus. A classic car show sprang up and out. Since everyone in the band is a middle-aged man except one this was custom made to delight us. It was mostly American muscle cars with a few oddities thrown in. I saw a Model T covered in wicker, these tiny BMW Isetta’s that were just insane, more Mustangs and Corvettes than you could shake a withered stick at, and a hundred men with towels in their hands buffing their chrome like a 15-year old. It was a wonderful start to the day. Since Cleveland is only a two-hour drive we went for lunch at Katzinger’s Deli, which is I think the best eats in Columbus, before we took off. It’s right off the highway – go there.
The Beachland Tavern/Ballroom is another place we’ve played since the beginning and shares a similar problem as Columbus in that our fans are loyal, long-suffering, and supportive, but haven’t really grown beyond their core unit. Mark and Cindy, the owners, treat us like family and have known Chuck and John since the ‘90’s. Most of the clothes I wear come from This Way Out, the vintage store in the basement, and the owner of that knows us all by name. The sound is great and the shows there always have a little extra something to them. The green room is whatever part of the basement isn’t the vintage store, and this time it was filled with Bluegrass players (playing the Ballroom portion of the Beachland, whereas we were in the Tavern) who did things like unbuttoning their shirts all the way, kicking off their sandals and picking scales on their wooden instruments. I don’t know, Bluegrass seems to have solidified into an inert form of music. In order for it to be Bluegrass it has to follow certain codified rules or it is not Bluegrass. But then how is it different than those old men polishing their classic cars? It’s not like they’re slowly transforming the car into something else. Which is fine of course. If it makes you happy and it’s not hurting anyone? Cool, go get down with your mild self. If you’re interested, listen to the Columbia Classic Country two-disc set of early Bob Monroe. You can hear him and his band inventing Bluegrass right there in chronological fashion. And it’s thrilling. It’s a living thing* and full of energy and possibility. Now take James Brown when he’s creating Funk. All those same descriptors apply, but Funk exploded in lots of different directions. There are some musical hallmarks needed for it to be Funk, but for the most part the main requirement is that your booty has been affected in some sort of physically insistent rhythmic fashion. I’m not saying Funk is better than Bluegrass, but just that it has retained the openness to tinkering or wholesale reinvention that is to me the sign of a living art form.**
I titled this picture: “Sandals and a Banjo Case – Portraits in Virginity”
Anyway, the show was again a silly, sweaty, and sloppy affair. Good people those northern Ohioans. Then off to another city that doesn’t always get the best press, but is one of our favorite stops every time. The Low Beat in Albany is similar in size and feel to the Tavern in Cleveland. Their green room is also in the basement but is more a comfortable cubby-hole*** tucked in near the bottom of some old wooden stairs. When we got down there waiting for us were three different bags of cheese doodles and a ‘fridge full of good beer. There’s something about this place. The people who run it, and the audience are just so sweet. They take care of us like we’re family. Here’s an example. The first time we played there I wanted to buy a black Low Beat shirt but that color was reserved for staff. When we came back, a year or more later, the guy I had talked to excitedly says, “I’ve got something for you!” He comes out with a black shirt in the right size and tells me that there had been an extra one someone hadn’t claimed or something like that, so he hid it in the bar until we came back. I love that shirt.
We were happy to see that Amy Rigby and Wreckless Eric, (“Whole Wide World”) who are married, were in the audience. Lisa opened up for them a few years back and we had a delightful time talking rock with them. I’m a big fan of Amy’s, in particular her “Diary of a Mod Housewife” album. It’s a brilliant record that’s not just a great breakup album but an adult view of the dissolution of a marriage, having kids, being in a band, and a shared, complicated history with someone combined with the first inklings of your heart coming back to life. Here’s a small sampling of some lyrics:
“Everyone’s cheering while you’re taking those vows,
They’re hard of hearing when you’re asking them how,
What to do now…”
“We’re stronger than the fairy tails, diaper pails
Lack of heat, urge to cheat
Shattered hopes, tired jokes
Doctors bills, urge to kill
And when we have another argument
You wonder where your feelings for me went”
After the show I was talking with Amy and she said they’re about to re-release that record on vinyl, and while looking through things from back then she found a letter from her child asking when she was going to be done touring. Chuck was talking to Eric as well and he paid us one of the nicest compliments a band could ask for. He said that everyone in the band plays unconventionally but that it all comes together to become a bigger thing. He said it’s like a train wreck that sounds brilliant. Or something like that. I’m paraphrasing like a madman here.
Speaking of Eric and Amy, while we were playing, a couple next to them were behaving in a way that caused me some consternation. They were standing right behind the first row of people in the very crowded area right near the stage. One of them was wearing a Grateful Dead shirt, which may explain everything, but they kept breaking into couples dancing consisting primarily of holding their partners hands and spinning the other. From my vantage point I could see the irritation of those surrounding the couple as they smilingly and repeatedly spun into them. Now if it’s someone trying to mosh, or some other aggressive behavior not really appropriate at our shows it’s easy. You tell them to knock it off and move on. But was I really going to go all John Lithgow and ban dancing at a rock show? On the other hand there was plenty of room for ballroom moves in the back. These are the thoughts running around my head. Regardless Wreckless Eric took the matter in his own hands with a straight up palm to the dude’s forehead after he had run into Amy three times. The dancing king looked at me like, “Did you see that?!” I gave him the universal, “You must chill”**** hand gesture and with a look of aggrieved outrage he grabbed his tan cloth jacket and they stormed out. Obviously I don’t advocate violence but neither is obliviousness an entitlement either.
It was the first of two shows with our friends the amazing Paranoid Style and between us all and the warm folks of the Low Beat, we had a lovely evening.
- It’s a terrible thing to lose.
** Remember, this is just my opinion about an entirely subjective subject. Relax. Breathe.
*** Did you know that Cubby O’Brien played drums with Spike Jones Orchestra and Carol Burnett’s? It’s true. When he moved on they said he left a cubby-hole that could not be filled.
****I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that. 20