Date: Sat, 20 Mar 1999
Spring is sprung at last, although we got an early sampler down in
the bayou country last week which ill-prepared us for the return to
winter on our arrival back up north. After a few days in deepest Louisiana,
assisting the honest denizens of Baton Rouge to celebrate their 300th
birthday (well, the city's tricentennial anyway - none of them looked
that old frankly, though a steady, heady diet of file gumbo etoufee
and jambalaya could possibly prolong life beyond our accepted northern
norms) we were becoming suitably laid back, and humid with it.
The Saturday skies were clear and blue and we were all cursing our
lack of foresight in having neglected to bring shorts with us - not
that we'd have performed in them, although some of us have fairly
kilt-worthy legs, you know; but then there's Fred.....................
Anyway we had about 25,000 singin' dancin' fools in front of us by
the banks of the Mississippi River, in full carnival mood. WAR played
immediately before us, and got the whole place swaying to their groove
which set the stage for us to go on and be as funky as we wanted to
- and with Gap Band., and Kool and The Gang to follow, we had to be
some kinda' funky to please this crowd.
It's occasions like this that make one glad to have some powerful
items on the menu, and once again Schoolboy Crush, Pieces, I'm The
One, and A Love Of Your Own proved to be everyone's favourites, dropped
on the plate at exactly the right moments.
Thanks to Phil who pulled the sound together without the benefit of
any warm-up or preamble from us - I sometimes think he just sticks
a wet finger in the air and lets his instincts do the rest - the quality
left nothing to be desired, either. Oh, and talking of instincts,
he had to use all his native ones the next evening when he walked
to the corner store for some cigarettes, and a local punk suggested
that Phil should make a voluntary monetary contribution to his cause.
Our boy, in true generous Brooklyn form, begged to differ, when the
guy suddenly decided to up the ante by telling Phil that he was ready
to enforce his demands with the knife he was carrying. Without missing
a beat, Phil drew himself up to his full 5'4" and as casual as
you like replied, "Oh, really...........a knife, eh?...... well,
that's tough 'cos I gotta gun!!"
End of Mexican standoff, and proof positive that imaginary gun beats
imaginary knife any day. As I said in the last bulletin, you can't
make this s*** up.
Life imitates farce.
So we moved on into New Orleans for our annual visit to the famous
House Of Blues, and another heaving, sold-out-an'-sweaty show there.
They decided to can the opening act on the night, so we really got
a chance to stretch, and play for a good couple of hours which afforded
us the chance to air just about all the tunes we love to play - even
some we had almost forgotten, it's been so long since we played them.
Anyway, we needn't have worried with the crowd we had there. As we
were going over "If I ever Lose This Heaven" (badly) at
the afternoon rehearsal, we kind of ground to a halt feeling that
all was just not right with the feel, or the tempo, or something,
and said let's not do this one tonight, when the house's monitor engineer
came onstage and said, "Man, y'all could do that mother******
any tempo you like, an' they gonna give it up to y'all. Now, come
ON!!" Needless to say it was brilliant on the night, and the
entire audience sang the 'mother' for us, too.
The only downside to the whole visit was having to go straight from
there to the airport for a dawn flight back to New York, which we
were literally poured on to, and which went via Memphis for a stop
en route. I don't think anyone was even aware of takeoff, and the
first thing I knew, we were parked on the tarmac in Memphis on what
appeared to me to now be a completely empty plane. As I looked around,
however, there were the seven other, barely-visible, snoring heads
of our sleepy gang, and one cleaner furiously doing his thing before
the new arrivals came aboard in all their disgustingly bubbly, bright-eyed,
bushy tailed clamour to remind us of the fact that, no matter how
much WE stick our heads in the sand, reality is an ugly business that
can suck you into its turgid grasp the minute you're not vigilant............and
it's all around!
Still, it could be much worse. Just imagine, all those businessmen
that have to do that day in, day out, wrestling with each other to
fill the overhead bins with their overstuffed garment bags, then vying
for the last remaining ounce of elbow room to outdo each other for
laptop computer endurance tests the minute the doors are closed, pausing
only to breathe occasionally or eye the flight attendants (should
they be under fifty - a sight seldom seen anymore in the USA) and
of course to siphon the drinks trolley as soon as it's within three
rows of wherever they might be. We simply carry our own.
Till next time,
Au Reservoir, Dogs.