Sunday 8 May 2016

amERICa Coast to Coast 2

I was already on the outskirts of Knoxville but I drove about fifteen miles in the wrong direction to get an espresso at a new place I’d heard was good. It was quite ok, except that there were bakery attached (always a bad sign) and the accent was as much on the baked goods as it was on the coffee. There are several things that should not come with an espresso: little biscuits, chocolates, After Eight Mints, cartons or jugs of milk or cream, pieces of cake, miniature Easter eggs, twists of lemon peel… The espresso at this place was pretty good but the mini shortbread biscuit was annoying and I really didn’t need a second one with the second espresso.

The guy who made the espresso and served me, which is a roundabout way of not using the awful term barista, said he was looking forward to the Record Store Day show at Lost & Found, said he’d be sure to be there. I don't think he was there of course but I’m skipping ahead a day.

Mammal Gallery in Atlanta is a bit of a fiasco. The place appears to be run by hipsters, slacker kids with low expectations. There was a good turn out but when it came time to get paid apparently only twenty five people paid to get in. They didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with that as a result so there wasn’t much point in arguing. I don’t imagine I’ll be playing there again.

I returned to Knoxville the next morning with my friend and art agent Shawn Vinson for Record Store Day at Lost & Found Records. I say morning, but it was actually more like afternoon and we were running late because I forgot to set the alarm. We hurtled to towards Knoxville and arrived in time to see Tim Lee and Susan Bauer Lee’s two piece group, BARK. Tim was stage managing the event so when we arrived I called him unaware that he was onstage in the middle of their set and our conversation was being relayed over the PA. Fortunately I was in a good mood so I didn’t say anything curmudgeonly and rude that might have been relayed to the crowd.

After I played a large middle-aged woman asked if she could give me a hug. 'How would you like a hug from a big booby lady?' was how she put it. Suddenly I was enveloped in womankind. She said I smelled nice. She smelled of fresh laundry so it was quite a nice experience. People keep wanting to hug me. It's been quite a week for hugs one way and another.

I’d never been to Brunswick, never even heard of it - when they approached me to play I had to look at the map to find out where it was.

A psychotic woman in a white bunny rabbit costume gyrated around in the middle of the audience. The sound was great in that place - HBGB it was called. the guy who owned it bought the whole block for fifty thousand dollars - record store, antique store, tattoo parlour, venue. Brunswick is depressed. The tattoo parlour probably does the best business.

The psycho-bunny suddenly announced: ‘I eat shit like you for breakfast’. The remark was aimed at me. I could sense a certain tension in the room.
‘That’s a shame’ I said, ‘I’ve just realised I’m doing something else for breakfast tomorrow.’
The room breathed again and I got on with it.

I was hanging out on the street afterwards. It was quite safe - everyone was very nice and the bunny rabbit had marched off home, I saw her leaving.

She came back armed with a baseball bat and a battered old children’s book which she wanted to give to me. She was quite sweet, she spoke with a soft southern drawl which slowly mutated into a generic north of England accent as told me she came from Houston and lots of other places, and how her mother lived in England where she photographed rock stars but that she was staying behind in Brunswick because she had a lot of neices, nephews and cousins who needed her love.

She wanted to give me a hug. She leaned the baseball bat against the wall and folded me in an embrace that got tighter and tighter…and tighter…and tighter still as her bunny rabbit paws riddled up and down my back. It was faintly terrifying and I was glad when it was over. I thought she was going to break my ribs.

When she’d released me she picked up the baseball bat and a rubber elephant’s head that she’d bought with her. I edged away smiling as charmingly as I could without ever turning away. If I turned my back there’d be a huge white flash, the world would turn blood red, and then nothing. Like an old TV set being turned off, a small white dot would disappear into the middle of the screen I’d be no more.

I gained the safety of the venue and watched from the window as she put on the rubber elephant’s head and started swinging the bat. Soon everyone else was inside, grown men cowering from a full-sized psychotic bunny armed with a baseball bat. She looks quite jolly in this photo (taken by Shawn Vinson), but don't let that fool you.

photo by Shawn Vinson