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THE SPIRIT SPEAKS »
Cleveland, Ohio is a northern industrial Town, associated with that trenchant deconstruction of rock cliché, Spinal Tap. In this city, the eponymous combo of time-expired adolescents attempted to mount the stage gloriously but lost their way in a subterranean labyrinth. It might be the best place for us.
An air of Ennui hangs around the Alabama 3. We know this is a stopgap show, on a weird day of the week. The venue's a franchise called 'House of Blues’, and It's nicely done out in a sort of Voodoo-Victorian stylee, but we're playing away from home, and we're not expecting miracles.
The limbo between lunch and sound check is a grind at the best of times, but when you know the gig's probably not going to be all that, it's like a form of torture. It's a dangerous time. The simplest solution is to start drinking, but there’s a risk that five hours later you'll find yourself on stage nude, grabbing the mic, calling the audience a bunch of cunts, and attempting to asphyxiate the guitarist screaming 'sO yoU liKE FRoMaGE Do yOU, SHiT sTAIN!!!???’
I hate it when that happens.
So I decide to be a good boy, take a stroll down the boulevard and avail myself of America's bounteous retail outlets. I've been reprimanded by Devlin for the nineteenth time for blagging her make-up bag, and she also craves some sweeties. And we've all learnt that what Devlin wants, the girl will have. Some of us have learnt the hard way...
Walking back from the drugstore with pockets full of Butterfingers, Cherry Lips and Super-Sour Snakes, I spot D.Wayne in an Irish Bar. It's only four hours till show time. I'm sure one Guinness wouldn't hurt.
'Alright Tarquin!...Eh, check oot these Metal Gurus*, fefteen dohlla, nae bad eh, son?'
D.Wayne is sporting a pristine pair of white Adidas trainers with a green stripe on the side, demonstrating his affiliation with Celtic Football Club. They're identical to the shoes he bought in Bournemouth, Preston, Portugal, Los Angeles, and Rome.
'Oh yes, D.Wayne, they're very nice! So You!’
On the other side of the bar, D. Wayne gets into conversation with a charming couple from New Orleans, the Gieses, and their pretty teenage daughter, Amanda. They've come all the way from Louisiana for the gig. Pretty soon they're hanging on his every word...
I've noticed this about D.Wayne; he can talk to anybody. Paris, London, Munich or Phnom Penh. He makes friends wherever he goes.
It's the more remarkable for the fact his accent's so strong nobody can understand a bloody word he's saying. But D.Wayne transcends mere syntax. He communicates on the level of Spirit. He's the Tower of Babel. Everywhere D.Wayne goes he spreads the Word. I've seen him walk into a bar in Padua with only a smattering of Italian and fall into conversation with a bunch of locals who had only the barest grasp of English. By the end of the night they were slapping him on the back, laughing hysterically at his jokes and buying him double Grappas. The Greeks called it Charisma.
Half an hour before showtime, we always switch from lager to vodka. We put on our make up and our Cowboy hats, a little bump and the volume increases. Cruel laughter resounds in the dressing room, like pirates planning a slaughter. Har Har Har. Frenzied crabs scuttle about the stage, cursing, plugging, taping. The punters whisper and shriek, like peasants before a public execution...10 minutes before showtime, you'd have to be dead not to get excited.
Except tonight. It looks like the gig will be less like a blood ritual, more a village fete. So far the walk-up numbers 27, and you could hear a pin drop in the auditorium. Tonight, Jeremy, we're going to be Pirates, not of the Caribbean, but Penzance.
As it happens when we take to the stage the audience is surprisingly healthy, maybe 2 or 3 hundred, and they're totally up for it, so we all decide to make the best of it, and the gig's a blinder, as far as I can tell; I'm completely pissed.
Job done, we head for the bar, where the Gieses generously offer me a Margherita. They’re still recovering from Katrina, and the subsequent evacuation, which struck a short time ago. Luckily their home was relatively untouched, as was, interestingly, the French Quarter. This is where all the gay bars are situated, along with the legendary Johnny White's biker bar, which was the sole business to remain open during the storm. Itinerant musicians play music outside 24 hours a day, and its one of only a few places in the United States where the consumption of alcohol in open containers is allowed in the street. If Katrina was a judgement from God, then god loves alcoholic washboard-playing transexual bikers. But then, me and Larry have been trying to tell you that for years...
Mrs Giese, a beautiful, sharp and vivacious woman, is keeping a watchful eye on her daughter who they tell me is grounded for six months for pretending to be studying at a friend’s house while sneaking off to a party with a boyfriend. I go out for a fag and somehow we fall into conversation.
Amanda is a 17 year-old straight 'A' student from an all-girl catholic school. She looks kind of Italian, and the brightness of her smile could power the Louisiana electrical grid. She's planning to go to college next year to study criminal psychology, like on C.S.I. Like all healthy, self-respecting teenage American girls, she's into vodka, guns and Anne Rice. She runs five miles a day in her local gym, and when she grows up she wants to be a Vampire. I offer her a couple of pointers. Amanda is an attendee at the school's Etiquette Club, where, she tells me they 'learn how we are supposed to be and get bitched at cuz we are horrible and gross little girls'. She says last time she went she got into an argument with a 'loud mouthed bitch' about the presidential election. It almost ended in a catfight...
All too soon, the long - suffering Mr Giese rounds up his brood; they've got a long drive home. As she leaves, Mrs Giese wags a finger at me and says:
'Don't blog my daughter!'
As If I would.
*Metal Gurus - Shoes (Glasgow Rhyming Slang).
© Orlando Harrison 2008