Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Rhythm Alley Redux - 16 - August 1986

"Watch the flesh on your hand go transparent waving your last goodbye" - Fetchin' Bones, "All Clocks"

01 - Shakin' Sherman and the Blazers
02 - Southern Culture on the Skids

I couldn’t have scripted a more anti-climactic ending to it all, for me at least.  After rarely missing a show since we bought the club, I wasn’t even in the state for our last weekend.  I was still desperately hanging on to my job in Greensboro so when the opportunity for training came up, I really didn’t have the option of turning it down.  So I spent our last week of club ownership in a hotel in Columbia, Maryland while Jeannette was left to finish up.

The last couple of shows feel like they were just right for our last weekend.  Our friends Shakin’ Sherman and the Blazers played for us one last time - somewhere I’ve still got a t-shirt that Sherman, Ronnie, Brian and Lee signed for me.  I know I called the payphone next to the door during a break to say goodbye to the guys.

The Blazers.jpg
Photo of the infamous Blazers LP, still in shrinkwrap

Saturday was our first and only show with Southern Culture on the Skids, back when Stan, Leslie and Chip were playing with Rick (you know, that Rick, not the other Rick).  We’d been flirting with dates for months - me trying to talk them into playing back when they were more associated with DR’s Cat's Cradle and then them trying to work something out with us after the Cradle closed.  By all accounts (why the  ^$%@@%^@ wasn’t I there!?!), it was an excellent wake, which included Jeannette and the gang giving away mementos from the backbar (thankfully saving the bar monkey for me).

The next day Jeannette got on a plane and flew up to BWI to meet me, where we spent the week with me at an IBM mainframe class and Jeannette resting and recovering at the Columbia Place Mall.

Just like that it was over, and a couple of months later we were gone, heading down to Charlotte for my new day job. I went down first to sign the lease on an apartment down at the end of Park Road near Pineville.  Fetchin’ Bones was at the Milestone that night so naturally I went - somehow my friend Tom Beckett ended up crashing on the floor of the apartment with me (I honestly don’t remember whether that was planned or if it just happened).  I worked for a company down in Rock Hill until they consolidated the data center with one in Lancaster, which was a bit of a drive but at least it was against traffic.  In the meantime we spent our time learning Charlotte from a different part of town than I’d grown up in, seeing the occasional show at the Milestone or going dancing at the Pterodactyl Club.  Another year and we were back in Chapel Hill, but it was obviously not the same.


30 years later, it’s not Bo Diddley or King Mackerel or New Grass Revival that I usually think about when I’m reminded of the Alley.

It’s Sonar Strange filling the room with her incredible voice before a sound check - just warming up with no one there other than me and Jeannette getting the place ready for the night.

It’s the first time I heard a 17 year old Dexter Romweber ripping “Riiiioooooottttt” from somewhere around his groin as he and Crow launched into “Riot on Cell Block Number 9” at a Flat Duo-Jets all-ages show.  (That one still gives me chills.)

It’s the smell of Obsession that mixed with the smell of sweat and stale beer for days after a Connells show.

It’s the intense focus on the face of Andy McMillan of Snatches of Pink sitting on the front row and watching the players in Lo Jai after winning tickets from WXYC.

It's the Othermothers going from an excruciating sound check to one of the tightest, most spot-on sets I ever witnessed.

It's guys like After Hours and Uncle Bonsai and Antic Hay and others playing their best for an almost-empty room because that's what you do.

Most of all, it’s the huge grins on the faces of the crowd on those nights when the band was cooking, the beer was flowing, the feet were moving and there wasn’t a damn thing wrong in the world.  Luckily, that’s something I can still get at Frank's Cradle or the Haw River Ballroom or the Artscenter or any of the other venues that have taken the place of the Alley.

Go listen to live music, people!  And support your local rock club.

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At 6:02 AM, Blogger Tony Plutonium said...

Jeannette's comments:

There’s very little that I can add about that final night.

Fact is: I really don’t remember it. Not the details. Not who was there. Not what the band played. It’s all a blur.

Here’s what I CAN remember:

I remember the VIBE. The place crowded with happy/sad people. The dancing, hugging people declaring “Man, this SUX!” and “I’m gonna miss you guys!” and “It’s not gonna be the same!”

I remember the LOVE.

I remember our friends and loyal patrons asking for souvenirs. And me giving assurances that it was just Tony and I that were leaving …but that the club would still be there.

I remember my utter confidence that this would be true.

I remember feeling so bad for Tony, because he couldn’t be there.

I remember stretching the phone cord out of the office and into the bar and hoping that Tony could hear the kind of send-off we were getting. (I must have spent a fortune on long-distance, that night!)

I DON’T remember closing. Or going home. Or how I got to the airport the next afternoon.

My next clear memory is the view out of the airplane window and a strange exhilaration as I finally relaxed enough to let all of those good vibes – all of that love – sink in.

~ Jeannette


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