4/27-28: Chattanooga – Cherry Street Tavern (with Hunger Anthem & Loud Humans) & Sluggo’s (with Old Time Traveler)


I came to Chattanooga a couple hours before the show and practiced some songs at Stringer’s Ridge, where I used to walk around, exploring, sometimes while speaking into a tape recorder. At they time there weren’t surprisingly well-appointed bathrooms there. I was practicing “Carousel” because it’d been requested back at JJ’s Bohemia on the first night of the tour. The chords are hard to predict on that song, but maybe not as hard as something off Bill Bruford’s album Feels Good To Me. I’m listening to that for the first time right now. Go ahead and listen to it with me. Or, on the other hand, why not listen to something completely different? Because the crazy rhythms, odd musical experiments, virtuosic musicianship, and interesting vintage 70s sounds that you could hear on this album might not be strong enough to draw you away from reading. And, though it’s what I’m listening to right now, it will certainly have a different effect on you than it’s having on me, because two people, experiencing separate spatial and temporal circumstances with different ears and brains, different histories and memories, in which different musical structures have been constructed over a lifetime, will, when listening to the same album, hear two distinct albums. Any sensory experience produced by reproducible media, no matter how supposedly identical it is thought to be – will produce itself differently in each listener. Furthermore, one recording listened to by one and the same person will be heard differently in all subsequent iterations: any given person is as subject to evolutionary flows as a stream of water. Recordings, though reproduced uniformly and identically, only exist in a virtual state beyond which their uniformity does not extend until they are heard by a listener. At the moment of reception, it is recreated heterogenously in each unique and irreproducible physical apparatus, which, additionally, infuses and is infused with its spatio-temporal context. So, even if you were to listen to Bill Bruford’s Feels Good To Me, you wouldn’t be listening to the same album that I was listening to while writing this paragraph. Anyway, it’s taken so long this much that the album is finished, it’s 1 in the morning, I’ve got a silent earbud in each of my ears, I’m falling asleep, and it seems wise to start writing about the Chattanooga shows tomorrow.

Now it is tomorrow. On April 26th I parked on Cherry Street between 4th and 5th streets in Chattanooga, near the court. There was a big pile of white trash bags whose excess plastic was being buffeted by the wind.

Alan was running the door at Cherry Street and I said “Hey Alan!” just like I had never left Chattanooga. Inside, Joey, who was running sound, was razzing me right from the start, then we pretty soon had a really deep conversation. He also told me a great story about being defended from a security guard by Iggy Pop at a concert of his. He also regaled me with a story of seeing the Cramps in the early 90s.

It was decided that I would play last, after the two rock bands that were sharing the bill, Hunger Anthem from Athens, Georgia and Loud Humans from Atlanta. These are not bands that I know personally, but they asked me to share the bill not long after I had secured the date and I said, “OK.” It turned out well, though it was not very stylistically cohesive. I hope they were OK with how it went, especially Loud Humans who I only ever saw when they were onstage. They were certainly loud! I was having a good time with Bill (Heavy Comforter) and Caroline while they were playing, drawing some pictures and goofing.

What I remember of my show was that – it was probably the best one I did the whole tour. And I forgot to record it. I felt very loose and comfortable. Rolly Lighthouse from Valdosta, Georgia (Al Scorch discovered her birthplace) and Roy Sessick, who we picked up hitchhiking outside of Monteagle, sang their songs (“Angel Horse” and “Healthy & Great”). Matt Downer witnessed a guy walking out of the bar while flipping the bird at Roy Sessick. I felt pretty proud about that. If anyone was there that night and got it on film, would you please send it to me?

I thought Joey really dialed in the sound well, and I enjoyed the heck out of playing all my new songs and Tendernessee. It was the first time I got to play “Chico” – which is a song about a local musician who often played on the street, especially in front of the Ben & Jerry’s by the Tennessee Aquarium. He also played at my Chattanooga wedding and once at a show I put on at JJ’s Bohemia. Still, nobody knew anything definitive about Chico. I wish I could have been closer to him.

At the end of the night, Caroline and Bill helped me carry some things to my rental car, and I gave them a ride back to their car that was parked a couple blocks away. By this time it was around 2 in the morning. I parked by their car and, in order to show off the rented Toyota Corolla’s sound system, I started playing Rust in Peace by Megadeth, and we kept talking until most of the album was done. By the time we parted ways and I started driving back towards the Downers’, where I was going to spend the night, I realized I had to pee so bad I didn’t think I could make it even that far. I thought of a nearby empty lot where I could stop, but then reckoned that it probably had a building on it by now. But, then I spied a row of bushes on an empty street alongside a parking garage and went there, in the mulch. I was sure thankful for that spot!

Next day I cleaned up the rental car and got it ready to return to its owner, who actually came and picked it up at the Downers’ – I appreciated that. Soon, my mom came by in an Uber and we three – me, Mom, and Matt – went to Sluggo’s where we would have our early show. We were going to eat before playing, and we sat at a table on the back deck, since the weather was beautiful. We were chatting so much that I didn’t think of looking at the menu until the server came. I said I’d go last to give me time to look at the menu, and I decided on a Caesar salad with a side of collard greens. A few minutes later, when the food came out, I realized that I had ordered the exact same thing that Matt and Mom had ordered. Ashley Krey came by and sat and talked with my mom and me for a long while, it was so nice to catch up with him. I love his current style!

We had a hard time deciding whether this show should happen in- or outside. As I wrote, it was a beautiful day, and it seemed wrong to go inside. There were security concerns, now that there are more businesses in the area using the road outside of Sluggo’s, so people had to stay out of the traffic. Luckily, it never get that bad while we were playing.

Before many folks arrived, Matt and I got a chance to play a bit of old time fiddle-guitar duo music like we did in the Old Time Travelers. That was fun. I played Matt’s heavily detuned, nylon string guitar so there was a lot less projection than usual. We played “Old Chattanooga” with the lyrics we’ve made up over the years, and tried a little of “Three Little Babies,” a sad, ballad-type song from the John Jacob Niles songbook that we used to play. We considered playing it during the show but ended up not doing it. It got a bit crazy trying to greet so many friends – this has happened several times now, when I’ve come back to Chattanooga to play since moving away in fall of 2015. It feels just like a family reunion.

Matt started off the show with “Wino” by Cast King (I think this was the 1st song). Since we decided at the last minute to move the show outdoors, we weren’t using any amplification. Matt’s detuned guitar and low-register singing were so quiet that I didn’t notice he’d started until he was already a verse or two in to the song. Then I moved up and just hoped people would notice and listen – otherwise it would be totally inaudible. And they did, as they realized that he was playing. I was most surprised when Matt started playing one of my nearly-forgotten songs, “The Ears” from the Face Suite by Dos Bros. I walked up and sang the high harmony, and it was a strange feeling to try to learn a song on-the-fly, when it was a song that I actually made up. It had just been so long that I couldn’t remember some of the words–the last verse in particular. That was a really special moment – and I love singing harmony!

So, this was the 31st and final show of the tour, and since it was mostly for old friends, I wanted to take a simple, campfire approach and to sing more old songs. I asked for a lot of requests and played several songs I had neglected on the tour, like “Apple in a Tree,” “May,” and a few others. I got to see Liz & Adam’s newborn Avery Ann and Mom held her while I was playing. Rolly and Roy weren’t there but I did sing “Angel Horse” for her. I sang up until the time limit, which was the 9PM start of the Saturday Karaoke night at Sluggo’s. And when they say it starts at 9 o’clock, they really mean it! I was trying to stretch my time by playing one extra tune, because I had just played “New Sadnesses” and wanted to end on a happier note, but the first Karaoke tune came on quite punctually. So, “New Sadnesses” was the last song I played on this tour. With the exception of “That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra, which I did soon after on the karaoke stage. Bryan Hensley is the emcee and it was a blast to see him again and catch up. I hadn’t seen him in “many’s the long year.” Then Matt sang “Cracklin’ Rosie” and I tried to keep up with him – but I’m sorry to say I didn’t remember the song well enough!

We hung out till midnight at Karaoke with Emalaya and her friend Zoey. I also got to see Terry and Josh Mayfield. I read all the old flyers decorating the wall of the bar and was so amazed that one of them was a Big Kitty flyer that I drew! I felt so, so deeply honored by that. I was also so heartened to see how big of a crowd of people I didn’t know who were coming to party at Sluggo’s! I thought that was great. I heard all the Cranberries hits, some Oasis songs, Toto’s “Africa,” and a whole lot of stuff I didn’t even recognize. Couldn’t imagine a better scene to end this tour.

Thanks for reading my tour diary. I’m glad I made the choice to write this, but also I had to sacrifice the time I probably would’ve spent writing more song/poetry oriented stuff. But I’ve also had a lot of fun with some of this writing. But, I wrote almost all of it in great haste and with regret at not being able to include but the most salient details. So, I hope in the coming days to be able to find the time to go back and add in more things that I remember. If I do manage to get to it, I will go back through and correct any obvious typos and grammar errors but will leave it intact like a historical document, but will add any interesting stuff about that particular time in a separate section underneath the original blog post.

Thanks for being a part of this beautiful experience.

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