On Jan. 15, with haphazard grace, The Mermen wandered off
on the beginning of a nine week slog across America. Guitarist Jim Thomas,
drummer Martyn Jones and bassist Allen Whitman, accompanied by soundman Roz
Jones (no relation to Martyn), guitar tech Mark Dickson and their roadie, known
only as Leslie, arranged themselves inside the white Ford Super Clubwagon 350
window van and, pulling the matching white trailer with the gear, drove all
night to San Diego. We've previously published Whitman's first six reports.
Today we present "Part 7."
Athens, GA, Feb. 7. The 40 Watt. Comfy little
college town, good coffee. Right this second a photographer is shooting
pictures of me while I sit on the john, backstage at the club. Pretty empty but
good folks and a comfortable vibe. Could it be we are getting used to this?
He's got me with my pants around my ankles. The door to the bathroom is open
and he's sitting on his haunches firing off shot after shot. The repercussions
of this will haunt me, I am sure. He lines up another angle while the Psyclone
Rangers (outta Philly) play the middle slot. The first band was Supervixens, a
B-52 clone if there ever was one. But, of course, they're really cute. My butt
is getting cold.
The show was minimally attended but the folks were
enthusiastic. Even the people who work there, as is (thankfully) often the
case, love the music. These people see bands every night. After the show we
hang for a couple of minutes at the cool 24 hr. coffee shop while the
photographer shoots a couple more. We make friends with some girls from India.
Undergrads at the med school. We talk about friendship and arranged marriages.
Martyn displays his weakness for women from Asia Minor.
Atlanta, GA, Feb.
8. The Star Bar. The Gavin Convention! Junior radio participants, trading
t-shirts, cold looks and handshakes. I suppose some business gets conducted
here. From the driveway of the Atlanta Hyatt I can't tell. It looks like spring
break. Mark is upstairs getting advance copies of our new CD: Songs Of The
Cows. It's done! We've played the Star Bar before, it's little. The prez of
our label shows up with some of his people in tow. Preceded by The Penetrators
(a surf band, you guessed it!), we play to another small but enthusiastic
crowd. Before we play the bartender tells me I can have all the Bud ("within
reason") that I care to drink but after we're done it's "anything you want." We
have to prove ourselves worthy of the good stuff. I do my drinking after the
show. A body can rationalize anything. The Penetrators wear matching red
turtlenecks, blue blazers and khakis. During our set I offer to trade shirts
with their lead guitarist, "Rip Thrillby." He declines, saying he doesn't strip
Bill Vivian, a San Francisco big wave surfer currently living
here, puts us up for the night in a beautiful old three bedroom house in
Decatur, GA, about 30 minutes outside of Atlanta. Built in the 1920s it has an
enormous stone fireplace in a main room with a vaulted ceiling, a 20 ft. sq.
screen porch, and a feeling of intimate despondency. Set in acres of thick
woods the brown shingle home breathes an inexplicable sadness. The decrepit
condition of the walls and floors, the palpable memory of a family...love,
laughter and light lingers in the daylight of this surfer's
Charlotte, NC, Feb. 9. The Tremont Music Hall. There are some people
who drove three hours to see us in this out of the way city. The club is an old
warehouse where chairs were manufactured. Everyone is unexpectedly
gracious...maybe because they are so faraway from big urban sprawl. The fire
marshal sign says that 500 people is the max allowed by law but 1500 people
could fit in here with room to dance. 150 people paid. Leslie wins the pool/bet
over how many will show up. After the first song Martyn cajoles everyone into
coming right up to the front of the stage. Later he complained of playing under
the influence of monosodium glutamate (we had Chinese for dinner.) I spend a
couple minutes wired up to the clubs' phone lines, the duo and modem power
cords stretched across the bar. It attracts a lot of attention. It's a good
show, playing-wise and an enthusiastic audience wires us up. During load-out I
get to spend 15 minutes in the dressing room vibrating in the chiropractic
rolling spine-loosener chair. It hums and buzzes but not gently. It roars. You
can hear it all over the club now that they're sweeping up. Every time the
roller passes my lumbar I shiver. We drive away at 3 AM headed for Cape