So last week I broke my rule about going out on weekends and went to a bar I don’t really like because a friend’s band was playing. There were three acts booked, and his was the headliner. The doors opened at eight or something, so I figured if I showed up at nine, the opening act would be done and I wouldn’t have to sit through what I figured was some sad dude with an acoustic guitar.
How wrong I was. I arrived at probably a quarter after nine, and the opening act hadn’t even started yet, so I was forced to do a lot of standing around: this if nothing else is a sure sign I’m becoming a decrepit old man: why do we have to wait so long for the bands to go on? Some of us don’t really want to be out until three in the morning. But I digress.
There were a lot of people there, a lot of people I know, or sort-of know, or at least have seen around enough over the years that I feel like I know them. I found myself pleasantly wandering arou
nd, able to find someone to chat with without having to turn more than ninety degrees or so.
The opening act, as it turns out, was not just some doofus with an acoustic guitar as I’d feared, but a full band, and they churned out some pleasant Whiskeytown-ish country stuff, the kind of thing that seems tailor-made for me, but, at least in a live setting, is rarely better than Good Enough, and this was exactly the case here.
The second act, though. Oh boy. I’d been told they were good, and I had my doubts, mainly because 1) I have incredibly high standards and 2) they have the worst band name in history: Them Notorious Cadillacs (a reference, I’m told, to the pimps and drug dealers the band members would see pulling up at Big D’s Barbecue downtown when they were playing their earliest shows). But I put these doubts aside: I’ve known Stephen, the drummer, for years, and I’d just met their singer, Van, a week or so previously, and liked him a lot: I was a little surprised to hear this guy at the bar, a middle-aged black man, talking about Scat Records and all these Cleveland-based bands like Guided By Voices, Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, Pere Ubu, and others: he was being so geographically specific I asked him if he was from Ohio, but he is a native of Shreveport. My fault for judging a book by its cover.
So I was more than surprised when everything people had told me about them was true: they are an intense and fun live act, the usual bass/drums/guitars setup augmented by some dense, heavy organ trills and baritone sax. I don’t know if you’d call them a punk band
with a soul edge or vice versa, but they were really good. Most of their material was covers, but they were of songs I either didn’t know or didn’t recognize (I think they did a Morphine song?) apart from Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Ain’t No Love (In The Heart of the City)”, which is one of my favorite songs ever, and their cover did it justice. Van is not the greatest singer in the world, but he is a great frontman: I regret I wasn’t able to get a better photo of them, but the floor was packed: everyone in the bar was jumping around and dancing and just having a generally good time.
The openers, Ghost Foot, my friend’s band, are a two-piece. I’d only seen them play once, years ago, at a record store opening, playing on the street, and really didn’t remember what they sounded like. They haven’t played in years, because the singer/guitarist moved out of town, but he’s either moved back or they’ve decided to work together long distance. Something like that. Regardless: they were great, too. It’s just the two of them, but they work up a considerable, Nirvana-esque head of steam: the kids in the crowd at the base of the stage went ape shit, and I just sort of watched, wishing in a way that I was able to whip up that kind of inno
cent, unselfconscious joy.
People were still really lit after the show; a lot of them, including me, made their way across the street to Ivan’s, where people played Whitney Houston and Madonna and such on the jukebox and danced like crazy.
It was a really good night: it felt very positive and communal in a way that going to shows doesn’t always, and I was more than glad I’d gone out to bathe in a little of its glory.