Hawks Axiom #43 states that the goofier a club’s name, the greater the chances of a cool show. Axiom #9 states that feelings of trepidation at sound check are often harbingers of that same cool gig. So Rhythm N Brews in Chattanooga is delivering a double dose of axiomatic data. The club is dark and cavernous, on a recently gentrified downtown street that’s eerily deserted. It’s a Sunday evening. It’s very quiet.
We meet the Bohannans, brothers Marty and Matt, drummer Jeremy, Josh the bass man. They are regular guys, super nice, and they’ve set everything up for us, including loaning us their great gear. Paul L is reunited with a Fender Deluxe Reverb with working tremelo, and couldn’t be happier. The soundman Doug gets the best onstage sound we’ve had in a long time, dialed up in about 5 minutes. We’re good to go.We walk to the riverfront and cross the Tennessee River on a half mile wide pedestrian bridge, largest in the U.S., as dusk yields to darkness. A four level riverboat, looking like an old Queen minus the rear paddlewheel, is the picture of slow gentility passing beneath us far below on the black still water, its white clothed dining tables lit by glowing lamps. Civilization. We stroll the bridge to the other side, come back on the highway bridge.
Back in Rhythm & Brews, a solo singer in colorful Peter Case garb is warbling through eccentric and catchy tunes, challenging his own presentation with a deafening and out of tune Telecaster played through a Bassman. There’s something going on. A close approximation of a chorus:
Salisbury Steak brings a smile to my face
At least until the meds wear off
It’s a strong statement, fearlessly delivered.Our set goes just great. The room, the gear, us, it’s all good, the crowd digs it. We play “Highway Down” at a dirge pace, and it really works. A good conclusion to a fun little Southern adventure. The Bohannons take the stage and knock us out. These modest fellows are a serious and soulful rock band, yes, rock. They rock. The songs are damn good, with some seriously innovative moments that fit seamlessly into the straight ahead framework. Matt is a Stratocaster virtuoso, Jeremy could easily snag the drum chair for Led Zeppelin, and the two brother vocals draw you straight into their very personal lyrics. Their fans are hanging on their every move. Watch out for these guys, World Of Rock.
The fun continues at a local dive around the corner, where a karaoke session is in full swing, a gyrating 20-something nailing the phrasing if not the suggested pitch of Springsteen’s “Thunder Road.” We retreat out a dark passageway to one of those little gems you can only find in the South: A big open patio, dark except for a candle on our table, where the moist warm midnight air envelopes our SoCal dried skin. Local legend Hobo Joe has provided libations of the ephemeral variety, and we engage in wide ranging, yea, wild ranging conversations with Matt, Marty and super cool spouse Rachel, and their friends and fans. This Bohannon scene runs so much deeper than we’d imagined. We bid fond farewells and exchange promises of more to come. It’s 2:57 in the morning. Hey, that’s not even midnight in L.A. Back at the Hampton a 1998 episode of Chris Rock has Magic Johnson in the hotseat. It’s the Summit of Cool. Chris Rock is a genius. This is the last thought before Morpheus crooks his finger, at last not to be denied.
Paul L’s hideous Samsung cell phone alarm goes off at 8 a.m. Hey, that’s 5 a.m. in L.A. This is rough. But we are men. We are road warriors. We rise. We eat a very strange complimentary Hampton’s breakfast that displays an innovative processed egg, yolk and white components compressed into a synthetic looking oval shape. Another future facing feature. Hey, but slap eggy unit on a not too bad Southern style biscuit, rip open the hot sauce packet, and this is good eating.Back to the rooms. Pack up. Sit on the comfy and neglected beds for a last minute glazed staring at a preview for a new reality show featuring hot supermodels and tanned studs. Get up. Drive. Because we are the Hawks, we are cutting it close. Our flight leaves in seven hours.
We hit a monumental traffic jam outside Atlanta. We make a last minute bail onto an obscure rural highway, and it’s nice. We’re Free wheeling on the Free Love Freeway. Starbucks-free, and a bit dystopian the way we like it, with several shut down gas stations prequeling America the Doomed. We find a remote yet giant gas station miraculously open, and there is absolutely no waiting, despite persistent rumors of gas line fist fights in Atlanta. Poor Atlanta. So near to Macon, so far from God.We’re racing the clock on I-85 north to Charlotte airport, our eye on the gas gauge. It’s a point of honor to return our KIA van with the exact same niggling 5/8 full tank that Hertz presented us, along with their smirk about the gas shortage. Die, Hertz, Die. And take your customer is always screwed stance all the way to the bottom of the social collapse.
It does feel like a sneak preview of what James Kunstler calls The Long Emergency. Why is one gas station flush with regular, though at premium prices, and panic reigns 20 miles away? The signs are chaotic and not to be read. May we quote Yeats? Again, no, the Second Coming has been appropriated by HBO.Last gas station, a carefully calibrated $18 gas purchase, and some sweet Georgia peaches, $3 for big basket. Damn, these are goo-ood. Southern states, we love you. Bring us back.
We fly. We do not pay U.S. Airways $5 for a snak pak. We are monastic in our sleep deprived overstimulated narrow tilted back seats. LAX awaits in golden dusk.