A THURSDAY EVENING ON THE CUMBERLAND 1995


i honestly don't know why i bother.....

i'm just a fan of good music and i am continually beset upon by bad playing conditions, no consideration for the fan, and shoddy production values. Not to mention Murphy's Law, that follows me around like a stalker.

A few days ago, i talked to rising blues singer Keb Mo on the phone and asked if it was okay to join him onstage that evening with my trusty mandolin for his song " Am I Wrong?" He said to come on down and we would rehearse said song backstage before the show. We were to meet there at 5:30 PM.

Now at Riverfront Park in Nashville, where this Dancin In The District season’s finale took place, there is only one road to the backstage area. When I arrived in my car, there were police emergency vehicles everywhere. Ten minutes before I arrived, some poor soul had leaped off the shaky Shelby Street Bridge sans bungie cord, into the cumbersome Cumberland River. He actually survived the jump, which is quite considerable. The police threw him a line, but he flipped them the bird and dove under a passing barge. The Harbor Patrol then began to search the water in four boats, with the addition of frogmen and one chopper exactly in the area where the performance was to take place. If you’ve never been, the stage at Riverfront Park is actually a barge that floats on the river secured to the dock.

Needless to say, the road to the stage area was blocked off by the cops, operating under Murphy’s Law. My car was now trapped in the intermediate area by the emergency vehicles. I just pulled it to the side, got out and walked half a mile in the 95 degree heat to the backstage area. It was now 6:15.

Mr. 'Mo was right in the middle of a videotaped interview so I chilled as best as one can "chill" in 95 degrees. I was soaked, angry, and I could just feel that Murphy guy towing my car away as I sat there sweating buckets. Keb’s interview dragged on as the chopper lazily cruised back and forth in ever- decreasing concentric circles rendering interview microphones useless. Finally at 6:45 they somehow finished, and while another band furiously blasted onstage, Keb and I tried futilely to hear each other while rehearsing in acoustic mode. Through musician’s telekinesis, we acknowledged that we could do this musical thing in spite of it all. The Kebster then retired to his own personal space anticipating a 7:30 start.

I chose to stay in the backstage area, which seemed to have as many occupants as the audience itself. The iridescent meats in the deli buffet gleamed in the twilight. Many self-proclaimed “afficionados” came up to me and said many moronic things . I began simmering close to the boil, but I amazingly hung in there. The opening band played twenty-five minutes past their allotted time. They proudly anthemed a Jim Croce song which really caused me to begin seething. I was standing with Mr & Mrs. S. Winwood who are fellow Nashvillians and Mr. 'Mo fans. Weird white flying river bugs were swarming into everybody’s mouths and nasal orifices, so as to further increase the uncomfortability factor.

Mercifully, the band concluded, and Keb's roadie attempted to get the stage crew into high gear. The local sound company, in my humble opinion, were woefully inadequate; i.e. they had massive difficulties setting up an artist who performed all by himself. They just could not get the sound together. Even Mr 'Mo was freaking in his own controlled manner. Finally, he consulted his timepiece and told his roadie "Screw it - let me go on right NOW before dawn breaks".

Keb took the stage and slowly but methodically charmed the unruly 10,000 plus crowd. This was a free show and the enormity of a solo artist commanding that many free-loaders into rapt attention is monumental. Finally, it was my turn in the barrel. I limped out to a surprisingly rousing reception and we played Keb’s song. Bugs flew freely up my nose and I was positive that the mandolin was only heard in the stage monitoring system and not in the speakers reserved for the actual audience. Still I soldiered on and took my brief bow and quickly returned to the side of the stage.

Now I REALLY felt like a jerk....
• Some guy jumped off the bridge and died -
• I sweated gallons in the last four hours -
• I swallowed and inhaled a battalion of bugs -
• My car is probably stripped or impounded -
• And not one listener in the entire audience heard my little,
perfunctory mandolin doodling!

Under a cloak of darkness, I beat a hasty, embarrassed retreat. My car, in a stunning display of luck, was actually still there, summonsless, in one piece. I drove home with a vengeance, using the Friday night shortcut and sat right down at the computer and vented.

I'm gonna take a cold shower now and then watch the Sundance Channel...
...Goodnight & don't ever ask me to jam with you at Riverfront Park, okay ?

 

back to words

 


home | bio | words | photos | live | contact | store