The choice had to be made: become a cop killer or go into rehab. Decisions, decisions. The traumatic turning point came September 28 at, naturally enough, Churchill's Hideaway. A new "band" - actually a loose amalgam that is open to membership changes with each show - called the Volunteers debuted their stomping Gaelic potpourri approach, mixing mandolin and harmonica, acoustic and electric guitars, rock drumming, penny whistle and violin, lots of stuff. The guitarist jetted in from L.A. just for this show. All kinds of groovy people were in the large crowd, and life was swell. Heaven loomed - the Chant, my favorite rock band, was up next, and despite a long drive from Atlanta, the members were geared for the rare original-hometown appearance. Rich DeFinis was back on guitar, Joe Hamm still on drums. Core Chanters Jim Johnson and Walter Czachowski mingled. Safety Net label honcho Bill Ashton was trying to stay awake, and sell vinyl copies of Two Car Mirage.
Without comment, the Chant coyly and immediately proved they're a hundred times the band Guns N' Roses will ever be, by unfurling a steady acoustic reading of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" that was as spiritually affecting as any dose of heavy chemicals. The foursome quickly tore into their own repertoire, Czachowski shoving his guitar into an amp to create ethereal feedback, a technique now associated as much with the Chant as with Hendrix. Only a couple of tunes into the set and this was already the concert of the year, taking on added importance because, I learned later, it may have been the last Chant show for some time. (Czachowski has moved back to South Florida, but Johnson is remaining in Atlanta.) And then the perfect world stopped dead ugly. A troop of City of Miami police officers had entered the club, and one was standing beside the stage. Czachowski informed the crowd that the band was being told to turn down the volume. Then one of the cops mounted the stage and used Johnson's microphone to tell the audience that this was a residential neighborhood, that someone had complained about the noise, and that he didn't need anybody "inciting anything." The cop had clearly never been to Churchill's before.
I guess an equivalent feeling might be riding on a really cool roller coaster that slams into a brick wall. The immediate joke was that the noise complaint came from one of the many crack dealers across the street, that all the racket caused one of the pushers to lose track of how many jumbos he had sold. It was not a funny joke. Anger and rage and bitterness grow easily in the fertile evil of Miami, and I felt like my head might explode. But the Chant was playing - quietly - again, so I decided to grab a mope and try to enjoy the rest of the concert. Once the contingent of servers/protectors went on to better things, the Chant cranked it back up and re-established my deeply held belief that rock and roll conquers all.
A couple of days later I entered rehab, not the alcohol/chemical kind, but the Miami kind: Two weeks of breathing Carolina mountain air, sitting on the wood deck of my parents' house at dawn watching hummingbirds and wrens and geese, waving at perfect strangers, buying self-serve gas where you're not allowed to prepay and they clean your windshield, seeing drivers actually use turn signals, absorbing the rich history and fresh Zeitgeist of Pendleton and Kings Mountain and St. Augustine and Savannah, watching free dolphin roll off the shore of Daytona Beach at seven in the morning. Returning home, I felt a whole lot better, and I realized that Miami stinks. I'm not talking just about the air.
The one downer about the Deep South is that there seems to be a KKK member on every block; segregation, at least on a subtle level, continues. Racism simply has got to stop. Now. A rally against racism takes place at Mizner Park in Boca Raton at 11:00 a.m. Saturday.
Rooster Head's An American Cock in Paris, a must-have for rockers, should be in stores this week. Michael Kennedy, Pete Moss, and Bob Wlos have also put together a full band, and live shows are planned soon.
Either I'm tripped out of my mind on hard acid, or Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids kicked it at the Southeast Music Conference in Atlanta. As a direct result of the showcase, four labels offered bids and two publishers expressed interest. This Saturday the Kids play Weekends in Boca, next Wednesday they showcase at the Limelight in New Yawk.
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Things to be, places to do: This weekend Open Books and Records celebrates its twelfth anniversary. ("My store's reached puberty," quips owner M. Leslie Wimmer.) Prices drop all weekend, and the big bash happens Sunday, when Boise & Moss, Mary Karlzen, Black Janet, Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids, and the Randies perform live at the North Miami rock shop. Call 940-8750. The Goods and the Randies play Friday at Washington Square. On Monday the Cactus Cantina celebrates its second birthday with an all-star jam. And on Sunday sauce boss Bill Wharton performs with his band at Cheers to benefit the South Florida Blues Society. Master guitarist Daryll Dobson scales down for two acoustic shows at Espresso Bongo tomorrow (Thursday).
Speaking of master guitarists, Ben Peeler is, as you probably know, officially out of the Mavericks. Manager Frank Callari has been weathering a rumor storm. "It was musical differences," he says. "There was no animosity. It was not a yelling and screaming match. His playing ability is excellent, but it didn't fit in the country genre. He's a great guy." Any noncountry band in the world should kill for a player of Peeler's caliber; his recent gig with the Volunteers wasn't, I hope, a one-shot deal. Callari also wanted to make it explicit that the dropping of Peeler was not MCA's decision. Austin, Texas, strummer David Lee Holt (Carlene Carter) looks to be the new guitarist.
Butthorn of the week: Atlanta Braves fans. Last year they all had bumper stickers that read, "Go Falcons! And Take the Braves with You." Now they're all doing the tomahawk chop, and scraping those stickers off their bumpers.
The media circus: Any chance Clarence Thomas is on the Kathy Willets list?