Many years ago, when all of the South by Southwest seminars and panels were located inside the Hyatt Hotel across Town Lake from downtown Austin, I tottered in from a long night of music and revelry, and stood waiting for one of the glass elevators that ran up and down one side of the hotel’s giant atrium. When the car arrived the doors swung open to reveal Mississippi blues piano player Pinetop Perkins who according to my math had to be in his early Eighties then, and who, with a mixture of teeth and gold in his mouth, was flanked by two beautiful and much younger white women luxuriously dressed in fur coats. Far be it from me to cast aspirations but these looked to me like working girls. The dapper Pinetop shot me the most mischievous grin you can imagine while slipping his arms around each woman’s waist.
One of the weirder NYC boozing trends as of late is the faux speakeasy. Yes, that would be a room, usually subterranean, that for some unknown reasonperhaps every other cheeseball concept has been exhaustedtries to recapture some of those long lost flavors of the salad days of that joyous time in American history called Prohibition. You remember that grand social experiment perpetrated by the far right of American society that like all right wing idiocies, ignored reality and plowed ahead regardless of the damage it might have caused. Instead of stopping alcoholism, it spread the making and distribution of booze into the hands of criminals who got fabulously rich and turned horribly violent. Give those regressive social engineering types credit though; they sure know a good idea when they see one.
To those who say the Bush Administration hasn't added anything meaningful to American society I say pshaw. He and Cheney have turned lying into an artform. Not lying exactly but a finer, more refined version of not telling the truth. It's still completely self-serving and wrong but now, if you have little or no education and/or sense of any kind, and you’re easily scared, these pronouncements sound vaguely plausible. It's all about the spin. The truth, in that view, is now relative. Everything is shaded and prismatic. Move several steps to the left and everything seems to look different. Looks like the truth. Sounds like the truth. There's a victory to be had in Iraq! Is it any wonder that we've become a more polarized society under the great decider.
It’s that kind of place. Despite it’s economic distress, the empty streets, the halfassed Bourbon Street mess that Beale Street has become (goddamned is it bad!), and what seems to be a full on crime wave in certain parts of town, in Memphis you cannot keep the music out of your head. It may be the wash over that comes from being so close to the Delta, but I couldn’t keep, “Walking in Memphis” by Marc Cohen or the words to one of John Hiatt’s greatest songs, (and that my friends is truly saying something because John Hiatt has written a shitload, okay, like 25 genuinely great songs) “Memphis in the Meantime” out of my head.
“If we could just get off a that beat little girl
Maybe we could find the groove
At least we can get a decent meal
Down at the rendezvous”
Needless to say, I wasn’t in town half an hour and I was at the Rendezvous (www.hogsfly.com), down in the basement as it were, wolfing down chopped chicken, pickles, big hunks of cheddar cheese, cole slaw with vinegar and cumin, sweet tea, fries, red beans and rice (laced with sliced mushrooms?) and the best ribs I have ever tasted. The best. All covered in that secret shake mixture of spices that makes this place world famous. My God it was good. It’s so damned nice to find a “legendary” restaurant that actually lives up, or in this case exceeds its billing.
In Aural Robert in the April issue of Stereophile, Amoeba owner David Prinz and I discuss his label, Amoeba Records, and his ongoing program to reissue Gram Parsons live sets. Needless to say however, I also talked with him about the ever more bizarre situation that the record business now finds itself in. As the owner of the biggest and best independent record stores on planet Earth, his opinion carries more than a little weight. Here's a sampling of what he said about the biz and the specter of iTunes.
Never did I think the day would come when I’d be standing in a line at 10:30 am on a chilly April Saturday to get into a record store. A record store mind you that is directly across the street from the now spacious, high-ceilinged NYU offices that were once the Tower Records on Broadway in downtown Manhattan.