Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Rhythm Alley Redux - 10 - March 1986

"Talk about fishin', you can't give the fish away, and everybody's lucky" - The Coastal Cohorts, "King Mackerel and the Blues are Running"

01-06 - "King Mackerel and the Blues are Running"
14 - The Phantoms
15 - Bluegrass Experience
17 - Midnight Court
20 - Bullets of Blue
21 - The Woods
22 - Foreign Bodies with the Flat Duo-Jets
23 - Rad-Aid Benefit (with The Connells, Snatches of Pink, Flat Duo-Jets, 1+2, Land of Giants)
25-26 - Riders in the Sky
28 - The Othermothers
29 - The Dayroom Monitors with Leopard Society

It was sometime around here that someone walked in and asked if we knew that the Cradle was closed (or was closing - I don’t remember which).  Many people seemed to think that that was going to be good for us, since it meant we’d somewhat cornered the market for live music in the western part of the Triangle.  First of all, that wasn’t quite true - the ArtsCenter was alive and well, although I thought they ought to be doing more experimental music than they were.  A handful of restaurants in Chapel Hill were doing live music on occasion.  But it was true that with the Cradle gone, there was a big hole.  And contrary to popular belief, we thought that was really bad for Rhythm Alley.  With two clubs only a few hundred yards away from each other and with cover charges usually fairly low, it was not unusual at all for people to go to both clubs in a night, switching back and forth at breaks.  People would also go to one show then duck into the other club for the last couple of tunes and maybe another beer before last call.  It made the whole going out on the West End much more attractive and we did not see DR closing the Cradle as a good thing at all.

For the time being, we were mostly concerned about surviving an 8 night run of King Mackerel.  I don’t mean that to sound negative about the show or the guys in it or the audience - it was just a very, very long run for us and a LOT of nights open that we would normally have been able to get some rest and take care of other things, like life and such.  We’d at least had the sense to not book anything for the weekend following the run, which left us with an odd hole in the schedule but there was no way we were going to do 11 nights without a break.  

I really liked “King Mackerel” - I thought the music was good, I thought the performances were excellent, I thought it did what it tried to do and captured the spirit of the coast of the Carolinas, which is different than any other place on the East Coast.  But by the time the run was over, we were so tired of hearing those songs that years later I’d pull the cassette out just to annoy Jeannette.  Which all makes me wonder how crews for touring bands deal with hearing the same show every night for months.  Gotta respect that.  Now, of course, I’d love to see it again!
I didn’t mind being closed that particular Friday and Saturday as it was the weekend of the ACC Tournament, which was (much more then than now) a state holiday in North Carolina.  With UNC going out in the first round, I’m guessing I spent the rest of the weekend sleeping.

After we rested up, we had the Phantoms back on Friday night.  If anyone knows whatever happened to the guys in that band, please let me know - both of us liked them a lot but I’ve not been able to track them down.

Poster for the Phantoms - I think Jeannette did this one.

That Saturday we were pleased to host the 15th birthday party for Bluegrass Experience.  It seemed like they’d been around forever - now I guess they really have and I understand they still put on a wonderful show.

Poster for Bluegrass Experience - I know this one was one of Jeannette’s

Sometimes I can be a little dense, like when I was looking back at the calendar and trying to figure out why in the hell we did a Monday show with Midnight Court.  It took Jeannette reminding me that that particular Monday was March 17 and that Midnight Court was an Irish band for things to click.  Like I said, dense.

The end of the month was another period when we were open more nights than not.  For any other club that would be great news, but it was tough on me given the Greensboro-based day job.  I pretty much refused to take a night off since that was the only time I was able to be at the club, but I was wearing thin by the end of the month.

Thursday night we brought Bullets of Blue back, an easy show to do from our perspective but it still meant I only got 4-5 hours of sleep before driving to work the next morning.  Friday night was the Woods (no longer Woodpeckers) - our first date with them as a trio.  I have no doubt that once again the guys tried to buy beer from us after hours and once again they were thwarted.

Saturday night we had two of my favorite bands - Foreign Bodies and Flat Duo-Jets.  I’m thinking this was the first show Dex and Crow played for us that wasn’t an all-ages show, which led to some confrontations at the door.  Given a drinking age of 19, we had to be pretty careful about carding and we weren’t well equipped to have unescorted underage patrons.  If you wanted to bring your kids, that was fine, but you had to stay with them (I do remember a couple of parents trying to drop their kids off for that show).

I don’t remember when we were approached about doing a benefit for a grassroots group trying to stop the nearby Shearon Harris nuclear plant from going online.  It was before NC-WARN existed and I no longer remember the name of the organization.  We hadn’t tried to do more than a couple of bands at a time but Matt Matthews, who we knew from working sound for Three Hits, volunteered to come over and stage-manage the changeovers.  I’ve been to a number of shows like that where there is way more time spent changing the stage between sets than there is music being played, but Matt did an incredible job working with the bands beforehand to share equipment and managed the changeovers so well that there was never more than half an hour or so between bands.  There was no lack of volunteers - I don’t remember if Kenny Hobby from the Brewery and I worked out who was going to play which club or if the bands did that themselves, but it worked out well.  With a showcase show like that, it didn’t matter so much where else on the calendar that bands showed up, so Dex ended up playing two nights in a row.  This was our only appearance of Holden Richards’ 1+2 for us - they were one of the bands that really wanted to play and that I should have booked but they just never clicked for me.  Snatches of Pink and the Connells finished out the night.  At some point during the festivities one of the local TV stations sent over a camera crew to interview us (WPTF, probably) - Jeannette made herself scarce so I ended up spouting inanities for the camera that turned into what was probably 6 seconds of airtime.  It was a long, long day/night but it went very smoothly thanks to Matt and the bands.

We only got one night off before doing a rare 2-night stand, with Riders in the Sky.  Jeannette had been a big fan for a long time and had met the guys, while I had only heard a couple of things from them.  By the time they performed for us, they’d developed their show into a more “family friendly” variety show (I can’t tell you how much I hate that phrase), which didn’t help our beer sales at all.  But I enjoyed meeting the guys and talking Nashville with them and the audiences seemed to really enjoy both shows.

Publicity photo for Riders in the Sky

Friday was a complete change of pace, with the Othermothers arriving from Greensboro.  Their “No Place Like Home” EP had come out a few months before and quickly become a favorite of mine, highlighted by “Rodeo (88 Seconds)”, a wonderfully snarky take on the Greensboro Klan/Nazi killings and the subsequent joke of a trial from a few years before.  They were loud, fast and really good.

The last Saturday of the month was the first time Dayroom Monitors headlined, with Leopard Society opening.  I need to pull out the Leopard Society demo tape as they were a favorite of Jeannette’s but I’m having trouble remembering them.  I certainly remember Dayroom Monitors’ jangly power-pop but if you need a refresher, there’s some grainy video on Youtube (not from the Alley unfortunately).

That also might have been the only night that neither Jeannette nor I closed.  Jeannette reminded me that we took our first trip out to the Outer Banks together that Saturday, staying in Manteo for a couple of days at a little place her friend Bill had recommended.  It was the first little break we’d gotten since Christmas and was badly needed.  I imagine it was sort of like the first time you leave your baby with a sitter and we were probably on the phone to Diane and Bryan that night making sure things were going okay, but of course they were and we got a little bit of the real King Mackerel spirit into us.

So February was packed and the March calendar was a bit odd, but crowded.  April’s schedule was looking a bit… sparse.

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At 7:16 PM, Blogger Lex Alexander said...

Re the benefit: It was the N.C. Radioactive Waste Watch,and the issue wasn't Shearon Harris per se, it was plans to put a low-level radioactive waste site somewhere in the vicinity -- Rolesville sticks in my mind, but I can't remember now whether it was the town or some geographic feature like the Rolesville Fault or whatever.

Also on that show was Other Bright Colors, which I recall your being not too pleased with. I didn't much care for their sound either, even though I knew a few of the guys from Davidson. And then the second show, in Raleigh, featured the reunited Arrogance as headliners, and I collected a check from Rolling Stone for writing about that. (They paid fast, too, bless 'em.)

The show at the Alley was also the first or second date for my ex-boss at WLVV-FM, Keith Smith (then with Capital Broadcasting in Raleigh doing satellite work), and Melinda Penkava, then working for WUNC. She later made the jump to NPR. They got married down in New Bern by the river sometime in the late '80s or early '90s, and their dog was the bridesmaid and there was a rowboat full of ice and beer. I remember thinking how much you and J. would have enjoyed it.

At 7:26 PM, Blogger Lex Alexander said...

Also, I got that Leopard Society demo cassette too and found "Tear Down the Walls" so catchy that even though I probably haven't played it in 25 years, I can still hear all the notes, if not remember all the lyrics. Shame that song never became a country hit.

At 8:29 PM, Blogger Tony Plutonium said...

Now THIS man knows how to comment! :) Thanks, man! I appreciate you filling in some gaps. You're probably right about the benefit, although it was also a few months before Shearon Harris went online as well. I do remember the controversy over the Rolesville storage site proposal.

I honestly don't remember what it was about OBC that rubbed me the wrong way but I do remember them (as well as 1+2) using the benefit to get a gig with us. I was probably just being a jerk.

At 8:46 PM, Blogger Lex Alexander said...

Also, I know you and my frequent commenter Fred Gregory don't agree on much, but he LOVES Riders in the Sky. That, beer, and Carolina basketball. I'm sensing that's enough for the two of you to bond over. :-)


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