Friday, September 29, 2006

Wake Up, Little Susie

I was going to throw out a quick post yesterday, summing up BC's crochety-yet-charming show at The Hi-Tone on Wednesday night, but I was just too dang tired. In this week's Flyer, Chris Herrington echoes the common complaint about the start times of live Memphis music, saying that it prohibits people with kids and jobs from attending weeknight shows, and I have to agree. Well, sort of. It is nice to know that I can still catch a show even after tending to all necessary bedtime duties, but it would also be nice to be able to use a reasonable start time as an excuse to get out of bedtime duty in the first place. In Wednesday's case, I planned to get there a little early so I could fill the despised job of Door Girl, but fortunately I arrived late enough that the task had already been handed off, so I was able to sit further than 10' from the monitors and enjoy my free water without having to hassle anyone for five bucks.

Wednesday night crowds are funny. It seems to be a good night to draw the respectful, songwriter-friendly folks, along with a decent helping of kindly nutjobs. Holly Cole got things going, and played some lovely stuff with Johna from Giant Bear. Then Blair hauled himself onstage and proceeded to ignore all requests yet make everybody happy for an hour, finishing his set with a rousing full-band number with Giant Bear. GB finished up the night, but I only made it through about 4 songs before my internal alarm went off. I got home, changed, brushed and into bed approximately 6 minutes before M woke up and started wailing for me (and 2 minutes after I'd fallen asleep). She was interested in the lightning, so it took a little while to get her to focus on sleeping. I got her settled in bed and we were both just drifting off when the curtains at the head of the bed suddenly came crashing down, along with the 6-foot long, 4-inch wide metal curtain rod. Wide awake again. 1:30 am. So goes the glamorous life of Secret Agent Mom.

My favorite part of the night was when the cigarette-pusher came up to Rachel, pointed to Holly and asked, "Is that Blair Combest?" Me and my gender-ambigious roster.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Let Me Ride On The Wall Of Death

I'm deeply conflicted by the entire fair concept. The expectation of fun is nearly oppressive, and the options for entertainment are so overwhelming that it sort of makes me want to go sit in an empty room and rock back and forth for awhile. And now that I have a child who is old enough to have her own tastes (for fried Snickers) and preferences (for rides that involve trucks or oversized fruit), it adds a whole new risk for decision-induced meltdown. Not to mention how difficult it is to explain that there are some things we just are not going to do, like spend $20 trying to win a dusty, oversized stuffed Nemo or taking a ride on the giant ferris wheel. (No, I'm not a total crank, it's just that we went on the humongous ferris wheel at Navy Pier in Chicago and I spent the entire ride trying not to throw up while M tried to squeeze out of the 6" gap between the door and floor.)

My biggest conflict of this year's fair outing, however, came in the beer tent. Someone - I'm not sure if it was Miller or Budweiser or if there's even a difference - spent some money bringing bands in to play for the ... well, crowd is too strong a word. Sparsely distributed collection of random strangers looking for someplace to sit and eat, or else possibly waiting in line for beer is a better description. It was a group of various demographics who all had one thing in common: complete disinterest in the people standing on stage with the instruments. We even saw one guy standing 20 feet away from the stage, trying to carry on a cell phone conversation over the 120-decibel Skynyrd medley going on behind him. As Kip Kilpatrick and the Kippers* rocked their little hearts out, playing Pink Floyd covers as well as original songs that all sounded like Train B-sides, the "audience" totally ignored them. Which was my first instinct as well, but then the singer mentioned something about their 10-hour drive from Virginia and I almost wanted to cry. I suddenly felt a deep sympathy for these guys, traveling halfway across the country in a ratty conversion van to play a three-hour set in the middle of a Monday afternoon so a bunch of half-drunk Memphians would have something to listen to while they ate their footlong Pronto Pups. So when they finished their hard rock cover of "Whisky In The Jar" and M clapped with all the enthusiasm her drained little body could muster, I clapped right along. I think I may have even hooted.

And then I got a Pronto Pup.

*I made that up. The frontman actually looked like Dave Navarro. Or thought he did.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

After The Rain

Rain? We ain't afraid of no rain!

Thanks to the good folks at Strings and Things, we were able to hold Rock'n'Romp as scheduled, with only a few minor alterations to the plan (no beer and a little more paperwork - pesky legality!). But we still had the RnR mainstays, like fake tattoos and a bottomless cooler of Flav-O-Ice (am I the only one who wants to say that like Flava Flav? "Flav-o-IIIIIIIIIICE!"). And of course, some of the best of Memphis' ridiculously rich pool of musicians. Jeffrey James and the Haul got things going, and proved that there's no better way to warm up a room full of toddlers than a couple tuba solos. Sidewalk Talk continued the fun and even had the parents on their tired ol' feet by the end of their set.

But the biggest surprise - well, to me, anyway - was watching CB pull off a fully functional and totally entertaining show while surrounded - nay, ambushed! - by tiny rockers. Considering that he was near to nausea before getting onstage, it was impressive to see him not only warm up to the wee little fans but completely embrace the gaggle of itty back-up dancers. It also eased my guilt over booking him for a free show in the middle of a Saturday afternoon. I swear, I knew all along that he'd have a good time and it wasn't just a cruel booking joke, like when I sent him up for his first Minnesota show in January.

Photo credit:

Photo credit: The Chockleyblogs

Friday, September 22, 2006

Rock'n'roll, baby!

I'm using all my mental meteorological powers to will good weather this way, because I've spent all summer looking forward to the upcoming Rock'n'Romp and it will break my icy little heart if it gets tornadoed out. The general RnR concept is a melding of my two greatest interests - Memphis music and watching my child shake her ever-lovin' booty. And since CB is scheduled to play at this weekend's event, it's an even deeper confluence of my double life. Miss M hasn't heard CB play since ... well, since she was in utero. (Someday I'll explain to her that she even got to hang out backstage at Letterman while a gang of Memphis boys played their guts out on big ol' national tee-vee.)

Ooh, this just in ... there is a serious-rain plan, so if you want to know how to get in on all the rocking and romping action, hit the link above to get on the evite list.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Middle Child

My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
- Vladimir Nabokov

Happy birthday, Blair!

Nether Say Nether

I think the Dutch are lovely people (as well as at least 12% of my ancestry), but they really need to do something about their street names. I was late for work this morning because I was mailing out a few CDs to the Netherlands, and I had to write out "Ambtshuisstraat" and "Kwikstaartlaan" in triplicate. The buyers of these CDs have already contacted me wondering where the heck their orders are, and I've had to be very creative to avoid saying "sitting in my bag for the last few weeks." It's not that I haven't tried to mail them, but when the local post office is out of customs forms in the queue area, I very rarely have the time to wait in line and then fill out all the necessary, vowel-heavy documents. I left half an hour early just so I'd have time to get through them, and I still ran long. Not as long as those streets, though. Sheesh.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

5 Steps to 12 Steps

So how does one become a secret agent mom? It's quite simple, really. First, you harrass the most desparate-seeming local musician until he can't help but accept your repeated offers of free assistance - website maintenance, mailing list missives, street team coordination, etc.

Then you have a baby.

Then you get laid off from your comfy corporate telecommuting job, around which you tailored your entire parenting style.

You scramble for a few months doing everything from freelance writing to hawking hemp lip balm, until eventually, your years of loyalty pay off and you're offered a chance to get compensated for some of that musical labor. The only catch is that it's for doing the most thankless, stressful, soul-bruising job in the music industry: booking out-of-town shows. It's sort of like going to a strange town and doing door-to-door sales of magic invisible fairy dust, except with the demand that you get paid in free beer.

But the chance to help out some friends, combined with the draw of getting into shows for free (you know, if you can sneak out after your child's bedtime), is too much to pass up. You fire up the Excel spreadsheet and get to work. And then thirteen minutes later, hit Ctrl+S and go find out what that strange thumping/scraping sound coming from the living room is.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Dichotomy (part 1)

It was 5:17 pm when I got a call from W*, my poker buddy, former ad salesman and local music magnate. He was on his way to a meeting with JR, and asked if I wanted to come along. W's sneaky like that.

He'd emailed me a few days prior, extolling the virtues of young master JR and casually mentioning that the poor boy was having a bit of trouble getting shows together. I tried to ignore the bait, as I generally do when I hear that valid but common complaint, and I busied myself by going over the 419 things I needed to get done for my current clients. But then, as I was innocently checking my MySpace messages, I ran smack into an email from JR's friend/manager-type-guy, chock full of links to JR's debut album. Curiosity got the better of me, and I clicked. I listened. I promptly sent an expletive-laden email back to W., cursing him out for having the gall to drop a really, really talented songwriter on me. Now what was I supposed to do, say no thanks and watch him wander off to another agent who would recognize his talent and set up a 50-city tour but pay no attention to whether or not he owned a decent parka?

So when W called, I was torn. Not only was I unsure if I could commit to another artist, but I also had to get to my daughter's PTA meeting half an hour later. The wardrobe decision alone was nearly enough to keep me at home - how could I possibly find something to wear that would suit both scenarios? Was there anything in my closet that simultaneously said "culturally aware" (read: young) and "maternally responsible" (read: able to locate Band-Aids in less than 3 seconds)? But I threw caution - and my mom shorts - to the wind and agreed to meet W and JR for coffee.

From the minute I saw his bedheaded silhouette, I knew I was done for. Maybe if all songslingers didn't look like 8-year-old boys, I'd have an easier time telling them that no, they'll just have to take care of their careers themselves. The meeting itself was as fruitful as possible, considering the normal level of awkwardness between two people who've never met yet have had other people trying to hook them up for the last week. Considering JR and I are both married, that's not a situation we're accustomed to these days. W earned his nickname of The Great Facilitator (okay, I don't know if anyone calls him that, but they should) and somehow managed to plan out the next six months of our lives, all in the course of one bottle of green tea. Of course, maybe he didn't realize he was planning out that far, but that's how long it takes to set up a decent tour. Just as I was about to issue my slow sigh of contented resignation, I realized it was time to pack up my briefcase/diaper bag and head off to the PTA meeting.

Life lesson of the day: the PTA doesn't recognize "club time"; they actually start meetings when they say they will. It's hard to be a very secretive agent when you're creeping in the squeaky front door right in the middle of the cookie dough fundraiser briefing.

* Look, I'm still deciding how anonymous to be, or at least how much privacy to give other people. Give me a week and I'll probably be giving names, cell phone numbers and SAT scores.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Introducing ...

All mothers have a double life: the one they had before offspringing, and the one that came afterward. But in my case, the split became even more pronounced when I simultaneously took on two full-time duties: 1) raising a daughter, and 2) trying to keep professional musicians in one, preferably employed piece. And this is how it goes.