Charlotte, NC – “The Blair Witch Project” – The Great Aunt Stella Center – September 17, 1999

The Great Aunt Stella Center is a church and a beautiful one at that, full of light, stained glass, pews, echoes, and a plush red carpet. I rushed to grab our video camera to record its magnificence but as I opened Moby’s trunk, Chris’s pastel blue coffee press flung itself out at me like an exuberant participant at a surprise party and crashed to its demise at my feet. I was in shock, filming the disaster, when I heard Delucchi shriek from behind me, “N O ! ! ! ! !”

I whipped around in time to catch his distressed, palms-to-cheeks expression. We held a quiet band memorial for the press over the bathroom trash can. I apologized to Chris for my part in the tragedy. He said it was all right, but I knew it would be a while before he got over the loss of his old friend.

Every day I’ve known him, Chris has followed the same morning ritual—first gas station of the day, while Moby guzzles fuel, Delucchi “borrows” hot H2O and 5 paper cups from the station’s coffee center. What follows is a 5-10 minute wait whereby the rest of us clear the van of yesterday’s chip wrappers and apple cores. When Chris reemerges through the swinging station doors, it’s with his signature bouncy step, the sky blue coffee press held aloft like a trophy, and an exuberant “Who wants black juice people?!?!” It was the end of an era and I felt terrible about causing it. I vowed to find him an even better press.

The venue couldn’t accommodate a full band so I’d agreed to do the opening act solo for David Wilcox. But I was nervous. I hadn’t played a gig on my own in a long time and didn’t want to make a fool of myself in front of David Wilcox’s audience. Soucy, watching me pace backstage, knitting needles in hand, agreed to join me for a few songs near the end. Still, I bit my nails to the quick in hospitality, picking at trays of fruit and chicken salad.

I donned my mama’s vintage skirt, sewing the ripped seam with dental floss with it already on. The skirt, I knew would bring me comfort. It’s something she used to wear for luck throughout her early career. The boys wished me luck from behind the organ and pushed me out into the pool of light on the stage.

As nervous as I was, I was delighted by how easy it felt once I started playing— akin to the first time I rode my bike without training wheels. After the fifth song, I announced cheekily, “Is there anyone in the crowd who knows how to play guitar and coincidentally, also knows all the chords to my songs?” At my rhetorical question, the audience laughed and Soucy flung his arms in the air like a crazed muppet, screaming, “Pick me! Pick me!” and rushed down the aisle like a contestant on “The Price Is Right.”

It goes without saying, that David Wilcox put on a GREAT show. I studied him on stage like an art student trying to capture the lines of a nude. His act was a work of fine, artful storytelling and soul-bearing music. I was captivated.

Some college friends of Soucy’s approached after the show and asked if we wanted to spend the night at their camp. I was game to save a couple of bucks on a hotel room and we agreed to follow their car out into the middle of nowhere down some mile-long, god-forsaken, briar-lined, back road that scraped Moby’s paint like nails on a chalkboard.

Mike and LG’s camp was an actual camp! complete with tire swings, a pond, a pool, volleyball nets, and cabins with creaky slanted floors. We were so far off the grid that the stars were bright enough to navigate by, even without a moon in the sky.

Our hosts told us there were enough beds for everyone, “but two people will have to sleep in the cabins across the pond.” The rhythm section—Bri and Kenny—drew the short straws. “Are there any snakes around here?” asked Bri with a nervous giggle, staring at his dwarfed stick.
“Sure are,” said Mike, “Copperheads. Big ones.” Brian’s face went white, his lips hung limply under his nose like wet noodles. Brian and Kenny insisted on a second beer before agreeing to let us drive them across the pond over to their accommodations.

I’ll never forget the homesick look on their faces when they discovered there was no electricity out there. Mike handed them each a flashlight and told ‘um not to make any sudden moves if they heard a bear.
As we slowly pulled away on the flatbed of Mike’s truck, I called out to them “You guys didn’t see Blair Witch Project, did you?”
“Not funny, Sally. Not funny,” shouted Kenny as the night closed around them and a mysterious bird sang a sad two-note song.

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2 Replies to “Charlotte, NC – “The Blair Witch Project” – The Great Aunt Stella Center – September 17, 1999”

  1. Cindy Starbuck July 8, 2024 at 1:34 pm

    Copperhead, Copper Beech, Copper Kettle sitting side by each ..

    (Couldn’t help myself….that sounds scary. Not at all surprised you “aced” the solo performance!)

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