September 30 ’06
The Hawks are back on the road. Specifically, the I-65 north, rising and falling through rolling midwestern hills and browning corn fields. This is the heart of Indiana, the trampled and discarded soul of America. Do these good people really support torture, the end of habeas corpus, wiretaps and secret prisons? I just can’t believe it but perhaps we have all been that effectively terrified. Terrified not by Osama and the Beheaders (Sony/BMG), but by our own cowardly leaders. Men and women who lack the moral courage to face down the hijackers and the suicide bombers with the rule of law and old fashioned human rights. Yes. The heartland. That’s where we are. But we are far from these grim thoughts most of the time. We talk of drummers and drumming as we always do when packed into a van. Our gig last night in Louisville was dreamy and surreal. The Phoenix Hill Tavern is a converted River Boat factory in an old part of town where brick buildings line narrow streets all leading to the river. The club is enormous. Three floors of brass and ferns, tchotshkis and retro-flair. We’re up against The Rolling Stones tonight who are out at Churchill downs. Tough competition.
Our superstar hosts Bill and Rebecca have booked the show, picked us up at the airport, regaled us with details of local Louisville lore, and fed us in a band guest house that’s been hermetically sealed since the 70’s. Floor to ceiling deep ply carpeting, mirrored tables with vintage cocaine residue–essence of the decade dedicated to pleasure and androgyny. Rob’s hometown buddy Mike and his great girlfriend Sonia join us in the hospitality lounge to eat sandwiches and drink grapefruit juice. The couple has driven down from Bloomington for the show. They’re both graduate students at the university. Mike studies philosophy, Sonia, Public Health and Human Sexuality. She shows the band an easy way to find the g-spot. If only we’d have known this crucial information in High School. We’re greeted in the Phoenix Hill fern/concert room by Denny Anderson, who hands us a welcome to Kentucky gift that can’t be beat: a bottle of Woodford bourbon and a bottle of Knob Creek. We immediately break open the Woodford, which is a distilled spirit to rival in sophistication any of Scotland’s finest. Hail, Denny, and wife Barbara.
Louisville is one of those towns the Hawks feel an immediate kinship with. There’s not a hint of pretension among the many fine folks we meet tonight. The landscape is mellow and mysterious, large stone and brick 19th century middle class palaces tucked into river bluffs under great old trees, lonely warehouse blocks where the midnight trains roll through.The show is good, we rock a modest sized but very enthusiastic house, co-billed with the Trustees of Modern Chemistry, who are like ourselves big Big Lebowski fans and do politically informed rock with twang and djembe. We’ll be back for sure, Louisville. The plan is to play a Derby Party to finance the trip, then do Louisville and adjacent shows. This Louisville/Chicago/Minneapolis tourette is a test run of a touring model: secure a good paying show, fly in and do regional shows. So far so good.
Our gently decaying Soviet apartment block-style Days Inn is packed with Rolling Stones fans who have flown in from all over the country for a rare appearance of the Devil’s apprentices at Churchill Downs. Matrons with the giant red tongue covering their matronly front wander the balconies looking for ice, and weathered bleach blondes of all genders pose rocklike in the lobby. It’s a scene.Rob is eating an O’brien Cheddar and Beef stick. There’s a leprechaun on the package. “Taste the Magic!”, he cheerfully calls out. Somehow the two have been married in a homogenous brown cigarillo sized sausage. Rob gives it one thumb up in the Hawks Do In A Pinch Road Food Evaluation. We’re on a tight (i.e. running late) run up to Chicago, under mellow Hoosier skies.
Patrick, son-in-law of Paddi and Jeff, who do great house concerts in Mount Washington, is a former all star college linebacker and baseball catcher now in the commodity trading pit in Chicago. His sister Kerry is also a big league talent, won a cheerleading (i.e. gymnast) scholarship to Louisville, and won the national championship. Patrick and fellow commodities trader and Vermonter Mark are driving us to Chicago in a mini-van that we’ve packed with our gear and our selves. Fear The Reaper by BOC is playing for the second time this morning. In this version they’ve edited out the long faux flamenco guitar interlude, much to Paul L’s dismay.
Classic rock has been our soundtrack since landing in Louisville. At Phoenix Hill Tavern high quality 70’s rock blasted the house before we played. Heart’s “Crazy On You” was a revelation on the big speakers. Ann Wilson is an amazing singer, and the band rocks as big as the biggest. Heart, we never knew ye.