Breakfast at the La Quinta Inn: Raisin Bran and Mello Yello. I looked down at USA Today just now and thought, “What day is it? Where am I?” Ooooh, right. Raleigh/Durham. North Carolina. Friday morning. Ok, allgood. Everything in it’s right place.
This time yesterday morning, everything looked pretty bleak. I was exhausted. My brother dropped off the tour. I had a 450 mile drive down I-95. And it began raining. But I had a show to do, so I pointed the Escape south around 10:30, and got to it. The interstate was obviously lame and ugly and choked with traffic. It was a white out for a good portion of the drive. Pretty unfun. I listening to Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” a few times, some Elton John, Incubus, REM, Coldplay. I listened to Colin Powell, Madeline Albright and Henry Kissinger debating the potential of war with Iraq on CSPAN. While the hawkish tone is larming, at least there’s an iota of dialogue. Also listened to lots of NPR. Drank lots of coffee and Gatorade. And about 6:30, I pulled into Raleigh as the blue sky actually broke throught the clouds.
My friend Jyl from high school hooked me up with the show. She works at a 96 Rock, which I was listening to on the way into Raleigh, all 50,000 watt flamethrowing radio towers and big radio voices. Just as I drove past the venue, a bar called Ruckus on the NC State campus, the 96 Rock DJ was like “We’re gonna’ be out a Ruckus Bar later on. 9′ til 11 with the Bottom Dollar Blues Band! Dancing on the bar guaranteed!” I was like, “Fuuuuuuuuck. This is gonna’ be weird.”
So I get to the hotel, ‘cuz I got nothin’ left in my cell phone. I call Jyl. She tells me I’m opening for the Bottom Dollar Blues band and everyone’s excited and that she and her roommate’ll be right over to pick me up. So I grab my guitar and start cramming “Let It Bleed” and “Hide Your Love” and all these rocknroll covers thinking that these folks don’t wanna’ here me cover The Pixies and all my sensitive stuff, but Jyl and Jessica show up and we gotta’ roll.
We walk up to the place — it’s a bar and pizza joint — and there are 96 Rock banners and a 96 Rock 4×4 and radio folks everywhere. Jyl inreoduces me around to all these nice people, the owner and manager and stuff, and everyone’s smilin’ and being so cordial, and the place is already rockin’ at 8:30. So I set up, and Andymon — who is doing remotes from the bar — gets on stage and does the big radio voice, “Hello Raleigh! All the way from Hell’s Kitchen, New York City!” etc etc and just whips ‘em up and then, bam! I’m on, in this crowded, smokey, rockin’ little bar where people are kinda’ listening, but not entirely. There’s a Florida State football game on. There’s video trivia at the bar. You get the idea. So I come on as fast and loud as rhythmic as I can with “Play” then “Interstate” then “Difference” then The Replacement’s “I Will Dare.”
I was just doin’ my best to project over the din, and keep it rockin’. And miraculously, people were boppin their along and smiling and whoopin’ it up. I was kinda’ amazed, ‘cuz I was so wound up about a potentially hostile bar crowd. But these folks were pullin’ for me from that start, so I just stood up there, kinda’ laughin’ to myself havin’ a good ole’ Paul Westerberg kinda’ night. I (not surprisingly) skipped the quiet stuff, though I did sneak in “Dear Elizabeth,” which went over well. As did “California.” Then the manager, Ryan, popped up on stage to whip into an encore frenzy, and I launched into “Summer’s Gone” (with the “Yellow” intro, which always gets people smiling and nodding knowingly) and nail it at 110%.
So I stepped off stage, sweating like mad, Ryan hands me a shot of Jaggermeister, all these nice people flood around me being so kind, so complimentary, buyin’ CDs and askin’ about the next show, signing the mailing list. And it’s so allgood. I’m having such a good time. I go outside and sit a while with all these new friends — Jessica (who found my CD online months ago and has been encouraging me to play the south), 96 Rock’s Andymon and Brad and Jyl, Elizabeth, Kara, Neil — talkin’ about the South and New York City and music and life and it’s like a college party. People are partying hard. They buy me beers. Dinner. And at some point (the endpoint), Andymon suggests we shotgun at Budweiser. So there I am, sitting between these two DJs from the big rock station in Raleigh/Durham, sucking 12 ounces of Budweiser through a hole in the bottom of the can in record time (beating them both), crushing the can and dropping it dramatically onto the concrete floor. Now THAT shiznit’s rocknroll. Thank you Raleigh!