Friday, July 9th. Sandi and I are in the surprisingly large Orange Peel in Asheville, NC and Rhett and Murry of the Old 97′s are in the middle of wooing us with Murry’s heartbreaking "Valentine". When they get to the break a lone voice says what we’re all thinking, “We love you, Murry!” He doesn’t get the attention he deserves, but of the bands’s later songs I like, they’re mostly his. You can feel the traditional country greats dripping from his songs. He covers Buck Owens and “Valentine” sounds a bit like something Willie Nelson might’ve written years ago.
Most of the night Rhett completely controls this crowd. A girl to our left shrieks and shakes with excitement like it’s John and Paul up there, and she isn’t alone; Sandi gives him a score somewhere in the fifties out of ten on the attractivimeter and only some strong, unseen force keeps her from attacking him on stage *. They really do put on an amazing show, pulling out songs from the early days, including the first one I heard, "Doreen". This song killed me in the days of 97X (Gainesville’s eclectic FM station in the mid-90s) and it still does. That poor drummer gets a workout every night.
Rewind to Thursday night. To get an early start on thrifting and heading North I drove up to Jacksonville and slept on Sandi’s mom’s couch. At least there were a few moments of sleep; four times an hour this unsuspectingly small clock would play these loud chimes, convincing me, in my half-sleep haze, that this was some kind of strange signal. By the time I figured out what the hell it was (around 6) I was too tired to get up and turn it off. The chiming figure continued to burn into my head until Sandi’s mom got up to type furiously at 7. After the Amazing Corn Bran Cereal Experience, we hit the one thrift store open that early (“The Thrift Store”) and bid farewell to Jacksonville.
We stopped for lunch in Savannah and drove endlessly without finding a decent-looking food establishment. “Where the hell do you people eat!?” we shouted quietly to pedestrians outside our air-conditioned, sealed compartment. They didn’t hear us so we drove on, eventually finding a cute lunch place with even cuter hostess. We exchanged a tip for directions and got some pics of historic Savannah and its fantsy pants art school before heading on.
Asheville’s mountains reminded us that we weren’t in Florida and the downtown area was pleasantly tiny and easy to get around in. The day after the show we headed over to tour the most vulgarly enormous private estate, the Biltmore, but considering the $40/sucker entrance fee, we decided to settle for the $0 4-minute film. “I’m George Vanderbuilt. I didn’t make my billions paying 40 bucks to see some guy’s house.” Every worthwhile town has its prominent lunatic and we got to see Asheville’s: A man with a blue cape waving vigorously, pedaling a 3-wheel bike apparently covered in coins. [pics soon] This was on the way to the ostensibly botanical garden. This was not much more than a chunk of mountainside with a path, but it did feature a slow stream with a rocky bed for walking and rock skipping. On the way out of town Sandi obliged my request for a souvenir stop and I came out with Love’s Forever Changes reissue and an OOP Kinks comp.
* When I left Jacksonville, Sandi was last seen drooling over snapshots of Rhett. But his wedding band was clearly visible…how could he do that to Sandi? Jeff had put it best, “That monogamous bastard.”