Atlanta, GA – “The Revolving Stage” – The Variety Playhouse and Smith’s Old Bar – May 27, 1999

Picture this: Five amigos ride into town on their trusty white steed “Moby” for a two-show night in Georgia. The adventure unfolds under a skyline lit up like a treasure chest.

The plan was ambitious; a 6:30 sound check at The Variety Playhouse for an 8:30 opening set for Beth Nielsen Chapman. In the two hours between, I’d slip over to Smith’s Old Bar across town, play a solo set on a revolving stage as part of an unplugged artist series.

The Variety Playhouse was a sight for bar-bruised eyes. Gold ornamental filagre and cushioned theater seats sat in orderly rows basking in lightly lavender-scented air. This weren’t no 25¢ Beer night folks, this was the big time. I daydreamed of someday headlining a place like this as I dabbed my fat lip from where the mic punched me back in Tuscaloosa and watched Beth take the stage for her sound check. Jessee, our handsome promoter, welcomed us with open arms leading us downstairs into our very own private green room stocked with our rider’s requests and then some.

Chris Soucy points out our rider +++ some in our green room refrigerator.

I took my guitar out and started strumming GCD GCD GCD GCD over and over while we waited for Beth to finish her check. We sang all the songs we could think of, cooked out of that magic chord progression; “Louie Louie,” “Hang on Sloopy,” “Wild Thing,” and all of them at the same time so that the soup of songs combined into one giant gumbo making it sound like we were speaking in tongues. Beth appeared and told us she liked what she was hearing coming out of our dressing room which made me question how hard she’d been listening.

Songs cooked from GCD chord progression

Beth was delightful and let us teach her some of the dance moves we’d learned from Eric, our bubble-blowing opener from Mobile. We taught her the “Egg Beater,” the “Super Shopper” and the “Lawnmower.”

Beth has an amazingly strong and angelic voice and it was a joy to open up for her, so much the opposite of the crowd at Smith’s Old Bar where Jessee shuttled me in his midnight black truck between gigs.

Smith’s Old Bar was packed when we arrived and the audience was already silly drunk. The stage spun like a lazy Suzan. A solo dude in a fedora sang a cover of Toto’s ‘Roxana’ in cargo pants on the front half of the stage. He was hidden from me behind a red velvet curtain divider but I could hear the audience not listening to him. Smith’s Old Bar crew grabbed my guitar, plugged me, and yelled “Start playing!” as they spun me on the merry go round to the front of the house. The curtain tangled in my guitar string as I tried to start “Sign of Rain.” Suddenly I was playing in front of an awkwardly well-lit room of people, way more interested in scoping chicks than listening to music. I sang my three-song set staring out at what looked like a 90’s version of Beach Blanket Bingo. I competed with a storm of conversations and, playing as loudly as I could, gained the attention of about 50% of the room for about 10% of the time I was up there and I wasn’t up there that long.

As I left, a pair of middle-aged women shoved pastel-colored beanie babies into my hands insisting I take care of these stuffed animals as though they were living breathing things “and don’t ever EVERY tare their tags off!!” they insisted “That’s what makes them valuable.” I was very confused and while the stage continued to rotate without me my head felt like it was still spinning. What the hell are Beanie Babies?!?!

I woke up with a song in my head….