So Friday I went to see my old friend Dan play at the unbelievably boring old Ottobar in Baltimore (City Motto: ‘The Turd At Your Doorstep‘). There was a sense of urgency in my wanting to see Dan do his thing this time that I’ve never had before, meaning: he’s come to town before, and I’ve missed him, and while I was bummed I wouldn’t say it ate away at me. Frankly, the last several times he’s been thru Baltimore, he’s been stuck playing with Jack White, Jr. and His Poor Little Orphans, which is just a cruel thing to have to endure. Gave me the torn feeling of simultaneously ‘really missing out’ and ‘whew! dodged a bullet there!’ But I’ve wanted to see my old chum since I learned Marty Eagle — a guy who gave us both a place to play even though we were nobodies (and pretty weird nobodies, to boot) — got sick earlier in the winter (he died a few weeks ago).
So I head out to the boring-ass Ottobar. Not sure when Dan’s going on; although I do know he’s got a good relationship with the headliners, so I know he’s not gonna be done at 9:35 — the time I actually arrived.
Have I mentioned I don’t like the Ottobar much? It’s no fun. When I got past the hulking door stooges, I saw 30 of these guys, all in this pose:
I can’t fathom the boredom of thirty of these guys. I suck my gut in, squeeze past the shambling mounds working the door, clamber up the stairs, see if Dan’s enjoying the lounge. He ain’t, but there’s 20 of these guys up there:
I don’t drink anymore, so I don’t have a game plan for passing the time. I stick my head in the sound booth, find a schedule when the Prep School Punxters finish their
shit set. Danny boy’s up next, I only have to endure a sound check. I go to the merch table, buy Dan’s new album, and a 45. I hold out hope that the demo we cut a million years ago at ‘Flying High Studios’ in Hoover, AL has materialized and is in some digital form on the merch table, but no luck. (I don’t even want it for the sake of impressing music-world dingleberries with my tenuous link to Today’s Stars Yesterday, I just want it because I remember that it sounded great. Sure as hell I’d like to pit my memory up against some empirical proof!)
Dan comes out, starts his show. Sure, he looks a little different than the last time I saw him; I’d be somewhat concerned if he showed no signs of aging in the 8-year interim since last we met.
Oh, I get it… you want to enforce the new ‘law of the internet,’ ‘pics or it didn’t happen,’ huh? How’s this?
Dan wound up doing a 20 minute set. It never occured to me to be a hectoring stageside pest, but now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I think I should have called out some requests. God damn, the real world gets lodged so far up my fucking ass it makes it so that when I see the one guy on this blue planet who can play Roy Rogers’ ‘Dust’ beautifully I fuckin’ forget to insist that he play it.
Dan played his 20 minute set of Ramones-inspired originals. You know how I feel about Ramones fans.
Dan’s ‘Joey Ramone’ voice is as good as his ‘Johnny Cash’ and ‘Rick Nelson’ voices. He gets a lot of the Joey Ramone nuances dumb-ass dickbags like ‘A’ and ‘B’ up above always miss.
So the set’s over, Dan and I shoot the shit. Nothing heavy. You just can’t lay that on people. It felt great to talk to him, to talk, in essence, to the past without having to be obvious about (without using obvious conversational gambits like ‘Remember that one guy? The guy who talked funny? With the droopy drawers?’) Like I said, I’ve had a weird… anxiety? or something since I got the news Marty Eagle left us. I think it’s because I’m never gonna get a gig with a stranger as easily as I did with Marty. When I met Marty, I’d been trying to do music for four years and was mostly getting shit on in the most humiliating ways you can possibly imagine. I met Dan at Marty’s joint; at this point I’m fuzzy as to whether we’d teamed up for the fuck of it, or just to get a gig at Marty’s. Marty was a sweetheart when it came to booking unfamiliar weirdos. All he asked was that you a) have 3 hours of material and b) not be particularly ‘punk.’ And you’d say to Marty, ‘Sure, I can play for 3 hours.’ And Marty would narrow his beady little eyes at you, estimate how full of shit your answer was, and BINGO! gig. I’ve never had a booking go that smoothly unless I was a guest of some headliner, or had an intermediary set shit up.
ANYWAY, Marty booked Dan and me, and then we got other weird, cruddy ‘starter’-level gigs that weren’t as happy-go-lucky as they might have been at Marty’s. I got the bare minimum of encouragement to bail on a life that had completely cratered in Tuscaloosa, chased the thrill and adventure of barnstorming across Alabama, trying to make music, meet girls, and drain every bottle in my path.
The last time I saw Dan — 8 years back — he’d long ‘moved past’ his original material from when I knew him. Which was a bummer; his songs then were every bit as good and solid as the songs from his then-current album, Vs. The Serpientes. Truth be told, when I saw Dan in ’04 I wasn’t quite the fan that I became two years later after I got a load of Join. And I think my favorite songs from the summer/autumn of ’99 fit in without a hitch with the songs from Join. Inscrutable and completely obvious at the same time. Riddles set to a spaghetti western soundtrack.
You make up your mind. Here’s my absolute favorite: ‘One Is A Crowd.’
Coming in at a close second is ‘Mexican Girl.’
If you’re a Dan fan, you’re gonna have to live with my vocals and guitar on these babies.
Shooting the shit with Old Bean, I was made to remember the elements that have long been missing from my music world over the years: Secret Entrances! Shit, when I played with Dan in the dying basement bar of some Five Points South hotel, we always got to use secret entrances and parking spots! And when I visited with him at the shitty old Ottobar, he showed me a secret door– disguised as paneled wall — to a backstage lounge. I’d played that backed-up toilet twice and nobody ever showed me that! I still smoked the last time I played there; I might have appreciated being able to burn a few out inside of doors rather than freeze my bidness off on a January night outside the service door. LIKE A COMMON PYGMY!
So Dan and I yakked it up a bit, had a few laffs at the expense of night-time dingleberries lacking in self-awareness…
…and I said my farewell with as much social apparatus as I could muster. Hit 83 North just in time to get stopped by the cops because of a car fire.