A very funny thing happened on Friday night.
I went to Banjo Jim’s to meet my friend, Portia. (NOTE: The names in this story have been changed to protect the guilty.) We were there to see Adrienne Young, backed by members of Railroad Earth, including Tim Carbone, John Skehan, Johnny Grubb, and Andy Goessling, a conglomeration that is often referred to as The Shockenaw Mountain Boys. It was an awesome show, and I told Portia that I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen that many virtuosos in such a tiny room. When the band started, the joint was filled (around 25 people), but it was comfortably filled. By the time the set ended, around 10-15 more people had arrived, which forced the manager to turn on the air conditioner…on a night when it was 30 degrees outside! Nevertheless, there was tremendous energy in the room, as everyone was whoopin’ and hollerin’ after every blazing run down the frets by the Railroad Earth guys, who were really on fire.
It was also a rare chance for New York folk to see these guys in a different element, particularly Andy Goessling, who normally plays the role of “the quiet one.” In fact, during soundcheck, they asked Andy to say something on his mic and “keep talking,” which caused a guy to turn to me and say, “Who are they kidding? He hasn’t said anything in four years!” Something must have been in the air last night because Andy suddenly became very Biden-esque, loquaciously grabbing the mic during tuning, telling jokes that weren’t very funny, but we all gave him a big laugh anyway because it was funny to see him play the role of comic relief.
Somewhat amazingly, the guys were not really familiar with Adrienne and had only rehearsed with her for a few hours prior to the gig. Nevertheless, they culled together a setlist of her originals and some choice covers, including a thrilling bluegrass rendition of “Midnight Rider.”
Adrienne played clawhammer banjo, a style of playing that you rarely hear these days. She also shifted off to play some snare with brushes for a number. Her voice had an earthy twang, and it was obvious that she writes some great songs. Could she instrumentally hang with The Shockenaw Mountain Boys? Honestly, not many people can because their talents and skills reside on another plane. However, she added nice texture to the sound, and her singing and compositions gave them a launching pad for their swirling solos. Her show closer, “Jump the Broom,” was especially fine, and the entire bar was going nuts after its wild (and seemingly impromptu) breakdown. There was no way that the musicians were escaping without one more, and the loudest 40 people in New York City made sure they would play an encore. “Ragtime Annie Lee” is probably my favorite encore that I’ve seen from Railroad Earth because I love how they keep ramping up the tempo to truly insane levels. Such was the case Friday night, as they took they song to a frenetic pace…and then continued to kick it up several more notches. Ms. Young’s eyeballs started to bulge out of her head with every tempo increase, and when she finally realized the song was ending, she had this hysterically funny look of relief on her face. It was priceless.
Afterwards, Portia and I set out to get some dinner. Cassius, a friend of hers whom I had just met, said he would join us in a bit, so we walked over to Mercadito and put our name on the list.
Sidenote: Thanks to a delectable lunch at Artichoke Basille, I was still rather full. I had been wanting to visit the fabled pizzeria in a space the size of a broom closet for some time now and was thrilled to try both their crab slice and their artichoke-spinach slice. The crab was deliciously luscious and rich, and the artichoke-spinach was like having a huge terrine of creamy artichoke-spinach dip on a big, thick slice. If you like those flavors, you will love this slice. Thankfully, I do! I will say it’s a pain in the ass to eat because the slice is so fresh and lava hot, and it’s loaded with toppings that slosh around everywhere. This is no high-end joint, so if you get a little messy, that’s okay. The prices ($4 for each slice) are a real bargain because the artichoke-spinach slice is hearty enough to qualify as a meal for most people. I also have to mention the friendly reg-u-lah guy vibe the men who work there exude. I will definitely be back.
Meanwhile, back in the recent past…
While waiting for a table at the tiny and cramped Mercadito, we went across the street for a drink at Rue B, a charming little spot with welcoming décor, fine cocktails, and an inoffensive if not noteworthy jazz trio. We had some fancy but not very memorable drinks before Cassius joined us. Being a generous lad, he graciously bought me a margarita.
We then went over to Mercadito, where we ordered margaritas from a very attractive and helpful bartender. Since I’m a fan of good tequila, Cassius asked for my recommendation. I suggested he opt for Herradura Blanco, which is exceptionally smooth and blends well in margaritas. I opted for a Pepino Margarita, which subtly combined cucumber, lime, and chile de arbol into one fantastically refreshing concoction. Portia ordered the Jamaica Margarita with hibiscus, lime, and orange juice. For dinner, we all split an order of smoky, house-made chorizo and a large house salad with corn, jicama, queso fresco, and a tasty chipotle vinaigrette. Portia ordered the Corn Masa Quesadillas, which were more like little Mexican calzones. Cassius ordered the Carne Tacos, loaded with succulent rosemary grilled steak, potato-rajas fondue, and avocado-tomatillo salsa. His was an excellent choice. However, we universally agreed that I hit the jackpot when I went with the Estilo Baja Tacos, which featured beer-battered mahi mahi, Mexican-style cole slaw, and chipotle aioli. I only chose to eat at Mercadito last night after reading this article rating it as having served the best fish tacos in NYC, and even though the fish tacos I ordered were not the same as the ones featured in the review, they were so light and airy and had a wonderful blend of juicy flavors. I savored each and every bite.
After dinner, I returned from the restroom, and Cassisus asked, “So Brian, are you going to write a review of the show for Jambands.com?”
I immediately asked him how he knew I wrote for that site, and he just sat there smiling. I then asked Portia if she had told him who I was and what I did, and she said she hadn’t.
“You’re Brian Ferdman. You know Rainbow Brutus, right?”
Well yes, and yes, but that didn’t explain how he knew my last name without anyone telling him. I began to get a little uncomfortable but also incredibly curious as to where this was headed. He asked if I had seen any of the recent Phil Lesh and Friends shows, and I told him that I saw one, and it was mostly okay with a stellar ending, but the band would be better served with a dominant lead guitarist. He replied that he had seen all of the recent Phil shows and then asked, “So you wrote that review of the S.O.B.’s show that was posted on Philzone.com, right?”
Now I knew what was happening. That particular Phil show was one of the worst concerts I have ever seen. It was disjointed, uncomfortable, and unprofessional, and naturally, I wrote one of the harshest reviews I’ve ever written in response. This royally pissed off the collective of sycophantic apologists who reside at Philzone.com, people who think we should be eternally “grateful” for every note of music, praising everything we hear. You know, I not-so-humbly disagree with their philosophy and believe that if every piece of art is praised, the praise is worthless. I call it like I see it, and the brilliant moments receive ebullient praise while the horrendous experiences are described as such. It’s called being honest and fair, but many feel that any sort of criticism is unfair.
I’ve been known to enjoy a good argument or two, so I tried to reason with Cassius, who was now very drunk and close to foaming at the mouth. Not surprisingly, he was not interested in my rationale and laid into me on a variety of topics, such as my complaining about the ticket price (I had said that the $50 show made Phil & Friends the most expensive bar band in America), the fact that I like Warren Haynes (guilty as charged, no apology necessary), and the notion that I’m a Trey “Anastahsio” (sic) and Phish apologist. On the latter front, he deridingly asked if I was going to Hampton, and I told him that I didn’t even try because I think Phish won’t sound very good until they get their feet wet again. My response didn’t seem to faze him, as he went on a rant that involved the words “fuckin’ Phish” several times. Why is it that people who dislike Phish are always filled with such vitriol?
Circling back to my comments on the Phil show, he actually said, “YOU’RE the reason why Phil can’t play small clubs anymore!” Seeing as how that’s a totally absurd statement, I tried to argue that little ol’ me has absolutely no effect on the venues where bands play, and why on Earth would Phil not be able to sell tickets to a 400-person venue when he just successfully sold plenty of tickets to a fourteen-night run in a 2,500 person venue?
However, he wasn’t going to let me talk. He had waited a long time for this moment, and it was his time to shine.
“Your review was on the Internet– it was seen by thousands of people!”
I hate to break his heart, but an average of seven people visit my blog daily; four of them are looking to pimp their junk technology website from Southeast Asia, two want to sell me a mail-order bride from Ukraine, and one is a deposed Nigerian prince who wants to deposit a large sum of money in my bank account. On the rare day when I actually post something, I pimp it to my friends and family, and about 50 of them click on it, mostly skimming and looking for pictures. Generally, only one person reads the entire long-winded entry. (Thanks, Mom!)
“Everyone listens to what you have to say, and all you do is rain on everyone’s parade.”
Not true. The deposed Nigerian prince thinks I’m a positive and kind-hearted person, and that’s why he comes to me for assistance.
“No one cares what you have to say,” he continued, completely contradicting everything he had previously said. Then, while leaving the jaws of the friendly lesbian couple to our left agape, stood up and shouted, “Everyone thinks Brian Ferguson (sic) is just a pompous, self-absorbed asshole, and Rainbow Brutus thinks so, too!”
Crestfallen, I looked upward and whispered, “Et tu, Bruté?”
And in a drunken, zigzagging flash, he raced out the door.
Wow. I was truly amazed by what had just transpired. Then I realized that I have finally made it, because I have my very own stalker. Now I know what it’s like to be Paula Abdul! Knowing your stalker thinks you are a cold-hearted snake and picking up on all of that negative vibeology really improves the promise of a new day.
Ironically, in desperately trying to meet me face-to-face for over a year to tell me that I have a big ego, dear Cassius only served to swell my ego to epic proportions. Now that I have my own stalker, I am completely and totally full of myself, and I have the biggest head you’ve ever seen. Mom and Dad, I’m sorry that I won’t be home for Thanksgiving because I can’t fit my noggin through the front door.
I’ve always thought that my opinion on music is ultimately worthless to others because when it comes to art, the only opinion that matters is your own. I’ve just been writing these long-winded pieces to amuse myself, but now Cassius has made me realize that the influence of this little blog is rather far-reaching. Yes, my friends, I have truly arrived and my Intelligent Rectum is a global force to be reckoned with. Since I am apparently all-powerful, I’ve decided to use my powers for good. Therefore, I am officially finished with writing about music, food, and drink and have decided to focus on global affairs. Obviously, Cassius would back me up on the fact that if there is anyone who wields enough clout to solve the world’s problems, it’s me.
Consider this your warning, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, because my Intelligent Rectum is coming for you.