Baltimore, MD – “Jah Works & Fat Head” -The Recher Theater – June 4, 1999

When we rolled up to The Recher, the marquee was packed tight with names, like a towering stack of steaming flapjacks. There we were, nestled among the eclectic mix – us with our folk-rockin’ tunes, Fat Head representing funk and rap, and Jah Works bringing the reggae heat. Despite our wildly differing genres, we found a joyful camaraderie between our bands. Over the course of three sound checks, six pitchers of beer, and a wardrobe malfunction (where Jah Works bass player lost his shirt to a wayward female fan who illicitly gained access to the stage and rippled it off him), we found kinship. We weren’t just acts sharing a stage; we became each other’s biggest fans, cheering from the crowd, celebrating the rich tapestry of sounds we collectively brought to the table. Fat Head even gave us a shout-out during their set, slipping lines into their rap like, “Ya betta stay for Sally Taylor, she ain’t gonna fail ya! She’s the queen of the stage, came from Boulder just ta play-fo-ya.”

After our notes faded into the rainy Baltimore night, we traded for one another’s CDs and checked routings, hopeful our paths would cross again. Playing at The Recher was a breath of fresh air after so many smokey bars. It had an elegance about it, clean and grand, with an extra large disco ball hanging from the ceiling – like a giant Christmas tree ornament – a glittering lighthouse that seemed to bless our makeshift family of musicians.

And now here’s a little confession before I sign off. I’ve been misspelling our Dellucci’s name since the day I hired him, and boy, am I red in the face about it. Spelling has never been my strong suit, but that’s no excuse. To Delucchi and the entire Delucchi clan – I’m truly sorry. There, I’ve said it.

Goodnight, Baltimore. Here’s to more nights of unexpected friendships and diverse music that brings us all a little closer together. Now onto Phili to play with Uncle Liv!

Washington, D.C. – “The Week of Determination” – The Iota – June 3, 1999

Yesterday, as we made our way into Washington D.C., I was struck by how lonely I feel in cities. It’s a peculiar loneliness, one that suggests being without myself rather than simply without others. As we circled the drain of exits leading into the city, I reflected on the transient nature of our experience out here and the unsettling nature of this nomadic existence.

I called Kipp from the hotel room, desperate for some company after the rest of the band left for dinner. I was thirsty for reassurance I was out here doing the right thing and not just spinning my wheels. The last few weeks have been rough. It’s nearly impossible to convince myself I’m elevating my career when I’m advertised under a 25¢ beer sign, hosting a bikini contest between my sets, chipping my teeth on bouncy plywood stages, and getting heckled to play James Taylor songs by drunken frat boys. It’s depressing. Kipp’s voice was a balm of warm sunshine. I caught him on his cell phone over at our friend Stu’s place in Boulder.

“The relationship book says you were born in the ‘Week of Determination,’” he said. “I’m not worried about your career one bit. Even when you get all weird and self-conscious and stuff, because you’re so damned determined!” “…And cute,” I heard Stu pipe in from the background. “And cute,” Kipp repeated. “I’d come to see you even if you had nothing to back it up,” called Stu. “Your insecurities stand absolutely NO chance against your spirit. You’re much too good and strong for your fears to stand a chance,” said Kipp.

I felt like Popeye post-spinach. Kipp saved me from drowning in the sewer of my thoughts, and I went to sleep affirming his wonderful words to myself, “I am determined. I am strong. My fears don’t stand a chance against my spirit.” Thank you, beloved Kipp.

When I woke up, the sun was shining. It chased away the cobwebs of yesterday’s self-doubt.

The Iota was across the street from a Whole Foods Market, and while the rest of the band unloaded the van I stole away to restock our dwindling supply of Reid’s Ginger Beer (which, frankly, I cannot live without!!!!).

When I entered the dark venue, arms full of green bottles, our promoter was confused and pouring over our contract with Delucchi. He’d intended for us to headline the show “…with special guest Lisa Cerbone” (a local act) but we’d accepted an opening slots payment. While willing to headline, we didn’t love the idea of only getting paid $100 for a 90-minute set. We decided to draw straws with Lisa for the headline act and ended up, happily, opening for her at 9:30.

It’s amazing how vastly my emotional weather pattern can fluctuate from day to day out here. I mustn’t forget this tomorrow when I’m certain to arise with a freshly baked batch of fear and uncertainty.

“I am determined. I am strong. My fears don’t stand a chance against my spirit.”

Kill Devil Hill, N.C. – “Band Condos” – Port-O-Call – June 1, 1999

In the dim light of morning, I find myself caught in the twilight zone between sleep and wakefulness, nestled uncomfortably on a bunk bed’s moldy mattress. My paperback is lost in a tangle of sheets, a casualty of the moment sleep hijacked me. Our bunk-filled room is a cacophony of white noise—the whirl of a fan, the hum of an air conditioner on high, and the unsynchronized snores of a band after a late night. I focus on a felt-tip-like rug, stained by post-party spills, up-chucks, and who knows what else.

There are four fold-out couches in the common room, each bulges like a rotund woman in an ineffective corset. Despite the array of devices aimed at cooling the air, the effort seems futile against the stubborn southern heat. Light filters through slightly charred, frayed curtains, illuminating the space in a way that feels both intrusive and revealing. It’s an odd sort of home away from home, this band condo. But, as I’ve come to realize, band houses are only made awful by bands themselves. Each one, perhaps once an innocent shelter, transformed by the passage of countless musicians and their late-night stories.

The gig last night was an odd affair. We felt as if we’d stepped through the looking glass into a slightly skewed reality. The Port-O-Call, with its dark wood, velvet curtains, and antique charm, felt both beautiful and haunted, as if old ghosts lingered in the shadows watching us through slits in the eyes of portraits on the walls.

Isle of Palms, SC – “The Bikini Contest” – The Windjammer – May 31, 1999

The boys can’t stop talking about Vonda, the bartender from the Windjammer, but there were hundreds of beautiful sunbathing beauties at the gig yesterday. They distracted the band, traipsing past the stage from the beach to changing room, glistening with water beading off oiled suntans in glittery suits. Brian did some “Three’s Company” double takes that Jack Ritter would have applauded.
The Windjammer is right on the ocean. We hadn’t seen an actual beach in over six months so while the buffed bodies distracted me I was more mesmerized by waves and soft sand.

Buoys, fishing nets, and surfboards decorated the wind-swept venue. Posters of hot babes and surfers on waves hung about the colorful bar running opposite the stage. A mirror set behind the bar revealed the sight of our pale, hairy legs awkwardly dancing on our comically tall stage.

There was no time for a sound check when we arrived late. I rushed into the bathroom to change out of my traveling clothes. The floor was wet, sandy, and slightly treacherous. I balanced on one flip-flop while trying to aim my legs through a skirt. Women, mistakenly entering my stall due to a broken latch, offered apologetic exits. Two girls argued outside the door whether or not to try their fake I.D.s at the bar.

I used a warped and gray mirror over a dripping sink to paint color into my vampire-white skin. Squinting, I moved closer to my gauzy reflection, accidentally bumping up against the counter, resulting in a huge wet mark on the front of my skirt. “Damn!” I had to laugh at myself as I rushed to get on stage. The boys had already started to play. The wet spot made it look like I’d had an accident myself.

Our first set is always hard in a barroom setting. It’s got slow, acoustic songs that do little to mask people trying to talk over you, to order a beer or pick up a date.

During intermission, there was a bikini contest. We knew it was coming. The band had been excited since Casey, our booking agent, inquired if I’d mind the contest happening during our show. I’d cheekily agreed, albeit with the condition that I too could perform in a bikini if I wished.
The boys wanted to be judges but it turned out to be one of those dignified ‘dog call for the prettiest girl’ contests. Personally, I cheered for every girl equally, believing they all deserved accolades for the courage it took to strut the stage, clad in dentil floss ittsy-bitsy bikinis in front of a Memorial Day crowd. When the contest concluded, I obliged people by tattooing their oily chests, arms, and backs with my autograph in black Sharpie. I signed so many greasy bodies, that my pen finally gave out.

The second set could have been great, had it not been for relentless requests from inebriated frat boys for “Carolina in my Mind,” one of my dad’s songs. Honestly, we didn’t know how to play it—an honest admission that shifted their focus to requesting Jimmy Buffett tunes instead. You’ve got to let this kind of shit roll off if you want to keep your head above water.

A fantastic crew from 96 The Wave—Miles, Mike, Ray, and Johnathan introduced themselves after the gig. They’d been plugging our show all day on their indie radio station. Amidst an industry flooded with stations playing the same few tracks, dictated by big labels and deep pockets, 96 The Wave promised to spin “Tomboy Bride.” It’s a rare thing to find such supporters in a world where independent voices are often overshadowed by corporate giants.

So what am I asking of you dear reader is this, be conscious of what you’re listening to. I mean listen to high-powered radio if that’s what you like. But also support Independent radio stations. There are hardly any left and they represent the freedom of speech and underground music. Listen to what you think is good! Not what people on the radio say is good…they only say it’s good ‘cus they’re getting paid to say it. Look for music that feeds your soul ‘cus God knows it’s out there in abundance and it’s not always on the Big Labels.

Jacksonville, FL – “Nobody Stepped Up To The Plate!!” – The Landing – May 29, 1999

The horizon looked ominous as we pulled up to our outdoor venue. Huge black thunderheads loomed, threatening to crack the sky. Surprisingly, the promoter remained optimistic, though he refused to meet our eyes when we approached. “This’ll clear. It’s not supposed to rain,” he said, casting a doubtful glance at the menacing sky. But from my experience, you don’t simply wish those kinds of clouds away, so we discreetly tucked our instruments under the stage and covered the electronics with jackets. Miraculously, his weather prediction held. Despite dark clouds that hovered close, the sky remained intact as we took the stage at 7:30.

We had an impressive backdrop. A white-capped river flowed behind us flaunting white sails and beefy motorboats which seemed to sway in time to the music. In the crowd, jugglers, balloonists, and clowns entertained children who skeptically clutched their adult’s hands.

I made an unfortunate decision to wear my hair down. The wind whipped off the river and my medussa curls were taken hostage, at the mercy of every gust. I inhaled a mouth full of hair every time I tried to sing and nearly choked on my own goldilocks.

Sally wearing Jacqueline’s balloon hat

A sweet tiny girl approached the stage after our first set to compliment me: “You have…uh…a pretty voice,” she said.
“Why thank you. You have…uh…pretty dress. What’s your name?”
“Jacqueline,” she replied.
“Jacqueline, I need your assistance. Will you help me get people dancing when we start our next set?” She promised she would do her best and, when she approached the stage later, her face was painted like a beautiful butterfly. In her tiny fist, she held a balloon hat for me shaped like a flower. I put it on my head immediately and wore it for the rest of the show. It actually helped tame my hair which was a relief. We still have the balloon hat in the van, somewhat deflated now, but I cherish it because it was a gift from sweet little Jacqueline. She made me realize just how much I want my own baby someday.

Jacqueline and Sally at the end of the show

After checking into the inn, Brian, Soucy, and Dellucci ventured back into the night, following a lead from a few girls they met at the gig. What they found was the following:

  1. A warehouse filled with men.
  2. That Jacksonville is the break-dancing capital of the world and
  3. That when you get a chance to link up with some cute girls at a gig you better damn well take the opportunity then and there.

Kenny scolded the boys for missing their chance. “Nobody stepped up to the plate!!” He said, and now we’ve got our new catchphrase.

We’re in Savannah on our day off, and I’ve chosen silence to preserve my faltering voice. It’s beautiful here. Trees don majestic, flowing gray beards, and the air carries an alluring charge that’s intoxicating to stroll through. Our hotel pool hosts a sea of joyful, uninhibited children, creating a high-pitched soundtrack to our stay. We kick back with Cool Ranch Doritos, a six-pack of Milwalkie’s Best and fight over the room’s limited pillows. Kenny, Brian and I glue ourselves to the Discovery Channel’s special on rollercoasters while the Chrises plot our next adventure on the map.

Destin, FL – “Folking Memorial Day” – Harbor Docks – May 28, 1999

BOILED PEANUTS SUCK!!!! But we had to try them. The road that runs through Dothan, Alabama, the proclaimed Peanut Capital of the U.S., is lined with vendors flashing loud Neon, Vegas-worthy signs, each with an invitation to try their nuts:
“Boiled Peanuts!”
“Fried Peanuts!!”
“Green Peanuts!!!”
“Get ’em now!”
“Taste Them! Wow!”

Always up for an adventure, Dellucci pulled onto a grassy shoulder and we poured ourselves from the blissfully airconditioned cabin into the soupy southern humidity. We copped a sandwich bag of boiled nuts from a wiry-haired woman who’d just dropped her dentures in a plastic cup full of coke when we approached.
“Takes the rot off’um better than Listerine,” she laughed when we declined her offer of beverages with our order. Off to the side, in a gravely patch, Soucy insisted we film everyone’s first experience with boiled peanuts and giddily handed each of us a shelled nut from our newly acquired stash. The normally dry husk I’d grown attached to belonging to my peanut experience was soggy and slimy. It didn’t make for a great first impression.

Kenny went first, not that we were going in any specific order, he just got to the nut before the rest of us. He popped the rubbery, albino nut in his mouth and his face wrenched into a scowel of cartoonish proportions. You’d think the rest of us would’ve heeded his reaction, but like anything disgusting, one needs to try it first hand.

The peanut was a slug in my mouth, deceptively tolerable, before its flavor kicked in; a combo of something rotten crossed with an oil refinery. I swallowed as fast as I could to get the foul flavor out of my mouth. The consensus was immediate—boiled peanuts were an acquired taste we hadn’t quite acquired. I approached our toothless vendor again. She laughed like a banshee when I told her I’d take her up on that beverage after all. But all the orange soda in the world wouldn’t erase the taste in my mouth.

“How do these peanut galleries have enough fans to survive?” I wondered aloud as we drove away.
“Maybe they make their living off ignorant, curious tourists like us driving through their nutty capital,” suggested Kenny.

A ½ mile later my mouth still tasted skunked so I insisted we stop at a supermarket to find something to de-funkify our tastebuds. My cell phone rang in the middle of the store. It’s always embarrassing to have an alarm-like ring go off in a public place but how extraordinary to be able to wirelessly communicate almost anywhere?!?! It was my friend Jayson from Chicago who said he might come to the show in St. Louis. I was overjoyed. We chatted as I perused endless isles of processed food. In the end, I settled on some loose carrots and a squeeze bottle of honey mustard. Back in the van, I used a dull-bladed carrot peeler to scrape the carrot skin into an empty coffee mug. I should have gone on vocal rest after our last show, I reflected. I’m starting to get horse and, what the band calls ‘krevelly,’ a mixture of gravely and straight-up crappy. It started to rain, that Florida-style fat droplet rain, and I sat shotgun, peeling carrots, doing vocal exercises hoping my voice would de-krevel by the time we got to the gig.

By the time we showed up in Destin, the weather cleared. Thankfully too, because Harbor Dock’s stage is a pier… not on a pier folks…but, a literal pier.

Eric (our favorite bubble machine opener) drove down from Mobile to see us. In our days apart, he’d written and recorded a tribute to our time together in NOLA when he had to sleep with six strangers. The song was genius.

As a massive crowd filed into Harbor Docks, it suddenly occurred to us it was Memorial Day weekend! Shit!!! How was this huge, extremely drunk, youthful crowd going to react to our folking music?!?! As I’d predicted, our first set was…. eh hem…difficult. We had about 50 people up front who were diligently listening and growing increasingly annoyed with the drunken bantering the rest of the crowd was doing. Halfway through the set, a very drunk pair of brothers in cargo shorts started heckling us, so I grabbed one of them up on stage and told the audience he was going to do a modern dance interpretation of the next song. The guy proved hysterical! He danced offbeat and flapped his arms like a mating ostrich. At the end of the song, he decided he didn’t want to leave. In fact, he wanted to sing a Johnny Cash song and called his brother up on stage to join him.

In drunk-eese, he shouted into the mic, “We’re gonna sing, we’re gonna sing…..shhhhhh… We’re gonna sing a REEEEEAL song now. ‘Walk the Line.’ Hit it boys!” The band looked at me and I shrugged and suggested we play along. Promptly, the pair forgot all the words to their song. They spit ropey saliva all over my mic and treated us like their private karaoke party.

“All Southerners aren’t rednecks,” a clean-cut gent near the front yelled apologetically as we took our set brake early. The harbor was directly behind us and a crowd of respectful pelicans watched, flapped and dried their feathers atop barnacled pilings. Soucy suggested we skip the rest of the gig and just play for the birds.

We decided to kick the second set off with “If I Had a Million Dollars” by The Bare Naked Ladies. Eric joined us, lifting our spirits significantly. If only he’d brought his bubble machine for this crowd. Uninspired to play our songs to a Memorial Day crowd that preferred to sing Johnny Cash songs they didn’t know the words to, we riffed on a funky made-up song that got people on the dance floor. Since we were making the song up as we went, we didn’t know exactly how to end it, and, like Chevy Chase, unable to get of the roundabout in National Lampoons European Vacation, we wound up playing the same song for an hour. I even took a break to get a drink at one point and no one in the crowd was any the wiser.

Harbor Dock’s may not have been my favorite gig but the venue did hook us up with 3 (not 2 but 3) rooms at the Best Rest Inn and I got my own room!!! I love my guys but man, it was nice to be lonely for a night. The room looked like an old shoe, not because of it’s size so much but because it felt so worn in. It looked like it’d walked through puddles and grown fungus and lost a chunk of its sole but I got some dreaming done and to sleep alone so I can’t complain.

Cheers to the adventures that await, to the friends along the way, and yes, even to the peculiar tastes we brave. After all, doesn’t every memorable tale deserve a flavor all its own?

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….

Tuscaloosa, AL – “25¢ Beer” -The Booth – May 26, 1999

SALLY TAYLOR, 25¢ BEER, read the marquee—a sign (quite literally) and an omen that didn’t bode well. The boys and I gathered beneath it, laughing and snapping pictures to commemorate the insult. But honestly, I was worried.

The drive from New Orleans took six hours, an hour longer than anticipated, and was punctuated by endless wrong turns down unmarked kudzu-lined backroads that nearly brought us to blows. By the time we reached our creepy motel on the outskirts of Tuscaloosa, Brian and I were itching to shake off some steam. The motel, ensnarled in a sea of urban sprawl, hosted a ¼ mile of frontage road. Back and forth Brian and I racked up miles’ rollerblading, past the IHOP, The Lonestar Steak House, and The big box Kmart as the sun got closer to the earth. Upon our return, I insisted on getting dolled up for the show even if it made us late. I wore my mom’s 70’s black, midcalf skirt and a pair of brown boots, I made the boys wait for me to mend with a needle and thread of dental floss. They each complained we were already late for the gig but once there, they admitted they wished we’d stalled longer.

That marquee, unsettling as it was for any singer-songwriter, wasn’t the only surprise awaiting us. The stage was a precarious arrangement of plywood stapled to 2x4s which quivered underfoot like a trampoline. The bar was eerily silent, save for the Miss Universe pageant playing on the TV over the bar. We bided our time waiting for our sound engineer, by watching contestants glide across the screen in extravagant, feathered costumes, their strained smiles seemingly more cumbersome than their attire.

We were surprised when the sound in The Booth wasn’t too bad and even more surprised when the bar filled up to capacity for our show (or maybe for the 25¢ beer). Being a college town, Tuscaloosa was usually quiet around this time of year, but summer school had just begun, breathing life into the usually dormant streets.

Despite a full house and decent sound, there was no denying our stage was a dental hazard. Any time one of us moved, be it to turn up an amp or hit a drum, my mic stand would swing precariously like a metronome trying to punch me in the face. I managed to purse my lips every time I saw the mic charge me like a drunk sailor. but during the final song, just when I thought I was in the clear, the mic took a swing that clocked me so hard, it chipped my front tooth and gave me a big fat bloody lip. Maybe it was the 25¢ beer, but I managed to swallow the blow and finish the song without missing a note. The guys were impressed.

And that’s show business folks.

New Orleans, LA – “Bed for Six” -Howlin’ Wolf – May 22, 1999

When we arrived in NOLA we discovered Chris had booked us into a cushy Marriot with a rooftop pool! Yay.

Unfortunately, there was only one room for the five of us… no make that six of us (we brought our Mobile, AL bubble machine toting opener, Eric Erdman along with us to NOLA. We couldn’t leave him behind after he’d provided us with the best laugh of our lives.)* Dellucci, Eric, and I would share the double bed closest to the door and Soucy, Kenny and Bri would bunk up in the other. The trouble was less with our tight sleeping arrangements (which proved pretty humorous for poor Eric, who’d only just met us) and more with the vast number of open bags lying around the room. The floor became a hazardous obstacle course when the lights went out later in the night and you could hear any one of us crying out as we tripped our way to or from the bathroom.

Chris Soucy reads between the lines as Chris Dellucci uses a good old-fashioned towel for sunblock

After checking in, we escaped our close quarters. Some of us went to read books through slats in pool chairs on the roof. But I wanted to go shopping and, generously, Eric agreed to accompany me. At “Hemlines” a French Quarter boutique at 609 Chartres St, Eric patiently took a seat on a mocha leather bench and let me try on 50 outfits for him. He generously approved of each and every one of them in a southern drawl that could charm the panties off a nun. I left a little lighter in the wallet and extremely grateful for Eric’s admiration and attention. I think I have a little crush on him. No one can make me laugh the way he does and walk away without my heartstrings attached.

We opened for The Continental Drifters at The Howlin’ Wolf. Overall, it was a pretty uneventful set except that during “For Kim,” Kenny was wriggling around a whole bunch. He was trying to hint at me that he had to pee but I just thought he was dancing funny. Finally, he couldn’t wait any longer. He dropped his bass mid-song and flew off, stage left only to discover the restrooms were located on the opposite side of the stage……I’ll spare you the details of the debacle but let’s just say that the cup wasn’t quite large enough. It happens to all of us at some time. Poor Kenny.

Kenny’s hints look like a funky dance to me

Late night, we hit “The Bitter End,” a bar uptown where our friends George Porter Jr. and The Running Partners were playing. Man, did they make it funky in that humid little joint. We snagged beers at a round table close to the band. Cigar smoke billowed in the blue stage lights and Brint Anderson’s guitar, wawa-ed it’s sexy filth into our souls.

*See The Bubble Machine

Mobile, AL – “The Bubble Machine” -South Side Music Hall – May 21, 1999

There’s no curfew in Mobile, Alabama so college students tossed “wanna fight?!?!” glances and ill-advised pick-up lines at each other into the wee hours of the morning.

As we rolled the last of our gear past the backdrop of this drunken scene, I found myself grappling with how to share the uproarious, effervescent, and brilliant spectacle that unfolded on stage earlier that evening.

Let me begin by asking if you’ve ever known the thrill of riding a rollercoaster of infectious laughter. The type that starts as a gentle simmer, a bubbly sensation, as though being shaken like a soda can, until suddenly, the pressure’s too great, and you can’t keep it in. It’s not just any type of laughter; it’s the bottle rocket, explosive kind; the type that starts with your lips tightly sealed, trying desperately to hold it in, until a sound you’d expect to come from an elephant’s trunk, comes out of your own mouth and the sound, in itself, is so funny and embarrassing you might, for an instant, forget what made you laugh in the first place and start laughing at yourself for the noise just emitted from your body.

It’s that elephant noise that kills you man, every time, because if you’d just let yourself chuckle a little “te-he” in the first place, all that energy would have dispersed evenly, the way you can let air slowly out of a shaken soda to avoid a catastrophe. But not after the elephant sound….no, no, no…Because then you are doomed for the rest of your life to laugh not only at the funny thing, not only at the embarrassing elephant squeal you allowed through your lips but at the fact that you shouldn’t even have been laughing at the funny thing in the first place.

Eric Erdman, a talented, charismatic, bubble-machine-toting virtuoso, was our opening act. He held the philosophy that a performer plus bubbles didn’t just equate to a good show but transformed it into something spectacular. He insisted, and I quote:

“A good performer makes for a good show, but a good performer with bubbles makes for a GREAT show.”

-Eric Erdman “The Birdman”

Eric had rigged his whimsical bubble generator to his guitar pedal board so that, with one stomp, he could turn any stage into a magical bubble wonderland. Did I want to use it for my set? he asked. Uh, hell yes I did.

The bubble machine was deceptively simple; a seemingly innocuous black box filled with ivory liquid soap. But inside, it harbored an arsenal of at least twenty bubble wands and a fan that could have cooled a small desert. I didn’t think to use the machine until we were about to play “Red Room.”

I was thinkin’ to myself, ‘I’ll just turn on some bubbles to create a sexy red room vibe.’ But when I crunched Eric’s guitar-peddle bubble-button, instead of lilting sexy bubbles, I inadvertently released a torrent of bubble-bees that swarmed the air.

Now, there happened to be this liquored-up biker dude standing about eye level not 3 feet from the bubble blower’s mouth. He’d been making eyes at me all night, leaning against a wooden pillar in that “I’m the shit” way. He had wavy, salt and pepper curls, a Harley Davidson t-shirt, and what looked like 10 pounds of silver rings covering his beefy hands.

When the bubble barrage began, those shimmering suckers came out at him so fast and with such profusion, his first reaction was to fight them off and he did so with comical resistance, as if battling a soapy blizzard. At some point, he must have realized how ridiculous he looked and stopped swatting but he was too cool to abandon his post, so he just let the soapy beasts envelop him and tried to resume his composure.

The thing was, these bubbles weren’t popping. They were made of Ivory soap and they were indelible! Even after the show was over we were still finding unpopped bubbles sitting on top of amplifiers and instruments.

While Eric had instructed me how to trigger the bubbles, he’d failed to mention how to make them stop. All “Red Room” long those shatterproof bubbles assaulted and attached themselves to the Harley man who didn’t understand they weren’t just hitting and bursting. THEY WERE ACCUMULATING.

As he stood there, stoically, staring at me, listening intensely to me sing he was being turned into a bubble snowman. He was covered, and I mean covered (his whole beard and hair and shoulders) in iridescent glowing bubbles. And since he was standing in the front of the crowd, most of the people in the audience saw this accumulation too and started pointing at him which he was also clueless to.

This only made keeping my laughter in, harder, so when my tightly clenched lips cracked to sing the third verse, the elephant sound came out of me and I completely lost it. I fell on the ground kneeling over my guitar. I couldn’t hide my laughter. I was practically crying for god sake. But I felt badly for laughing at the Harly dude who, albeit drunk as a skunk, was listening so sincerely. I tried to pretend I had to fix a broken string. I tried to pull myself together and make it back for the chorus but catching the Harley dude out of the corner of my eye, now wearing a bubble robe iridescently lit by the lights from the stage, I completely blew it and couldn’t even attempt the end lyrics. How could he not know he was covered in bubbles?!?!

I’ll cherish that memory for the rest of my days.
Thank you, Mobile, GOODNIGHT.