Wednesday, March 14, 2012

In Preparation for Tonight's Jesus and Mary Chain Show

I was 17 years old and the album Munki had just come out. I was beyond obsessed with the album and played it constantly. Then the band announced their US tour dates and they were playing Fort Worth at a long-since closed Caravan of Dreams. My best friend Chrissy, also a devoted fan, did what any music loving teenager in the pre-internet world. We lined up at Albertson's to be the first to buy our tickets at 10am the day they went on sale. Sometimes I miss the tenacity involved in loving music before the internet made everything painless and easy.

Not satisfied with just seeing them once, and hearing talk of this being the infamous FINAL TOUR, I bought a plane ticket to Atlanta to see the show after Fort Worth. I remember talking to my dad on the phone, breathlessly explaining how this was the greatest month of my 17 years on the planet because I was going to see my two favorite bands, Jesus & Mary Chain and Spiritualized within weeks of each other. My dad told me he was glad I was finally listening to Christian rock. I never bothered correcting him, lest I break his small-town heart. I was a pretty feral teenager.

Chrissy and I planned to hang around the venue all day. In the decade since that show, I've met more famous people than I care to count. Some were cool, some were not. I certainly lost the stardust feeling when I met a musician I respected somewhere around age 25 or so. But this was before all of that and I was going to meet my idols, Jim and William Reid. Only one problem. The brothers had one of their infamous brotherfights and William had left the tour. Secretly, I always liked Jim better and since he was the cuter of the two, I felt no huge sense of loss. Chrissy and I wandered around Sundance Square for hours, pretending to shop for knick knacks and taking pictures of points of local interest. Of course, what we were actually doing was a very innocent version of stalking. We were harmless.

As show time neared, I found myself crestfallen that we had yet to have a single sighting. We finally gave up and got in line so as to be the first in the venue. Now's probably a good time to mention that Chrissy was one of those people who would run to the grocery store for a loaf of bread and inexplicably return with a story about running into the entire reunited cast of Cheers. And they were always true. So obviously, Chrissy went to the bar to get our non-alcoholic beverages and returns 30 minutes later to let me know that she was now friends with two of the guys from Mercury Rev and they had invited us to join them at a bar down the street after the show. We'll ignore the part where they were inviting 17 year old girls to sneak into bars with them because this was a much simpler time. This was 1998.

My memory of Mercury Rev and JAMC's sets seem to have faded into one huge bright light and a constant buzz saw sound. Like a near death experience in noise rock purgatory. But I mean that in a good way. After the show, I begged Chrissy to give it one last try. We just HAD to meet Jesus and Mary Chain. She said we could wait for a few minutes outside, then we were going to have to go meet up with Mercury Rev. Because the last thing you want to do is disappoint Mercury Rev. So we waited. Nothing. I must admit, I was a little heartbroken. So we turned away and started walking towards a bar we were not old enough to get into and whose name we were pretty sure we were remembering incorrectly.

As we were walking across the street, far enough from the venue to be considered semi-deserted, we saw a backlight group of large men coming towards us. Before we knew what was happening, the large men in the matching shirts were picking us up and literally dragging us away. Somehow in the melee, I got a look at their shirts with the Welsh flag on them. Yes, we were being abducted by the very drunk Welsh rugby team, who were in town for some sort of goodwill games. I decided that the best way to ensure our safety was to try to talk our way out of it. I said, "You're from Wales, I know Wales!" They looked at us with disbelief. What they didn't know is that Chrissy and I were quite possibly the only two Welshophiles in Texas. Yeah, we were weird kids. One rugby player asked me "What do YOU know about Wales?" I meekly replied, "Cardiff?" and the entire team cheered loudly, grabbed us by various limbs and continued to cart us away.

I had, up to that point, never had to devise a strategy for escaping an abduction by a rugby team. That's when I heard Chrissy's voice. She was in the fray somewhere behind me, also swallowed up in a sea of Welshness. "Oh fuck!", Chrissy screamed. "What, is Jesus and Mary Chain across the street or something?", I joked. "Yeah. They are." You know those stories of mothers who harness superhuman strength to lift cars off their own toddlers? Chrissy and I somehow summoned a similar inner strength and broke away from our captors, with them following hot on our heels. We ran up to Jim Reid and Ben Lurie, who are not what anyone would consider physically intimidating men, and spit out some combination of the words, "Big fan" and "Kidnapped by this Welsh rugby team".

Then it happened. Without skipping a beat, Jim Reid put a protective arm over my shoulder and Ben followed suit with Chrissy. In a scene that would not be out of place in some 1950's greaser movie, Jim informed the rugby boys that they might as well forget it, we were with them now. There was a little back and forth about each group's respective countries and then, like that, the Welshmen turned tail and left. Once we were safe, we remembered that we probably should thank Jesus and Mary Chain. They told us that we could repay them by helping them find their hotel. It was a long walk. We walked past a karaoke bar where a drunken frat boy was warbling a Radiohead song. Jim Reid talked some trash about Radiohead, with his primary diss being his impression of Thom Yorke which consisted of him saying, "Hi, my name is T-H-O-M York. With an H. I'm a knob." It was a pretty good impression.

With the adrenaline still pumping, I realized Chrissy and I should probably try to sound smart so Jesus and Mary Chain didn't discover that we were two teenage dorks from the suburbs. Chrissy commented on the architecture of one restored 1920's building as we walked past it. "I think that's considered Art Deco" she told Jim Reid. "It's crap is what it is" was Ben Lurie's response. Zing!

So we safely escorted these men who just hours earlier, we had been staking out like a bad 70's cop movie. As we walked into the lobby, the guys invited us to join them at the hotel bar for a drink, turning to the night desk clerk asking for directions to said bar. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the night desk clerk was John Lithgow from Footloose and tersely told us that there was no hotel bar. Jim Reid inquired on the availability of a mini bar in the rooms. I don't think the clerk even dignified the question with a response, more just a grimace. We took that as our cue to leave. We repeated our thank yous and left in a hurry. Oh and of course, we had forgotten the name of the bar at which we were supposed to meet Mercury Rev.

Two days later, my naive and trusting father dropped me off at the venue in Atlanta. I told him the whole tale of the night before and he probably only understood every fifth word out of my mouth. A cab pulled up and dropped off Jim Reid. I told my dad that was the man who rescued us on that dark street. My dad, a large man well over 6 foot tall with a deep, booming Southern voice, got out of his truck to shake Jim Reid's hand. I think he told him something like, "Thank you for looking after my little girl the other night." Jim Reid cracked a smile, patted my dad on the back and replied, "I couldn't bear it if she'd been chopped to bits." With that, my dad got in his truck and drove away. That night, after the encore, Jim Reid came up and placed a guitar pick in my hand.

I met my friend Tommy that night when he was the local opener and we're still friends to this day. I accidentally left the pick in a cab. And for the record, Chrissy has since moved to London, gotten married and become a mom. Oh yeah, and her husband is Welsh.