Sarashay's Rock and Roll Adventures

Episode #2:  Tender Idols at The Tabernacle

In which our heroine goes from one musical extreme to the other in the space of a weekend.  In other words, par for the course.

Friday, May 21, 1999

I hate asking for favors.  Hate, hate, hate it.  I'm okay asking for help from my family, and certain close friends (especially the ones who owe me a favor in return) but generally I don't like to impose on people.  I'm the kind of person who will stand there and wait until someone has completed a telephone conversation before mentioning that oh, by the way, the toilet just exploded.  This is why I have no future in sales.

Still, I'm awfully tempted when I find out the Tender Idols are going to be playing at the Tabernacle.  I've actually seen them there once before, sort of--it was for some battle-of-the-bands thing down in the Cellar instead of on the main stage.  (For the record, they lost, but considering that the prize was a side stage slot of the HORDE tour and that the contest was sponsored by a cigarette company, I was actually a bit relieved that they did.)  This time around, they'll be opening for Drivin' n' Cryin'.  It's the perfect situation--I can see one of my favorite bands on the big stage at the Tabernacle and then spend the rest of the evening exploring the place while overhearing the headliner.  I haven't been up to the top balcony yet and I want to see what's up there.

I ponder cashing in any and all brownie points I may have accumulated with the Tender Idols and asking Ian to put me on the guest list.  It's not like he's never done it before--he's put me on the guest list for the past few Atlanta shows and I have always happily accepted--but I've never asked him.  Like I said, I hate feeling like I'm imposing on people.  And I'm especially gunshy around Ian after I made the mistake of nudging the limits of his hospitality.

Guess I should explain.  As most Atlanta music scenesters may know (and as a couple of 99X DJs have mentioned to the rest of the city), Ian does time as a bartender at a certain bar/music venue, while waiting for rock stardom to arrive.  (I actually knew Ian as "the cute bartender with the accent" before I was even aware he was in a band.)  When I wander over there on a night he's working, he'll slip me juice and soda and not charge me for it.  (I tried to pay a couple of times and he wouldn't let me.)  So, one fine evening, I was at the bar listening to loud bands for cheap, Ian had been pouring me orange juice and after sucking the third or fourth refill down to the ice, I had to go and hint for more.  As before, I couldn't ask directly, but I did bring myself to catch Ian's attention, poke my empty glass and make my pleading puppydog face at him. "You want more?" he asked, incredulous.  I nodded slightly and pouted a little more.  Ian rolled his eyes, shook his head and muttered something about my capacity but he took my glass nonetheless and went down to the other end of the bar with it.  He returned it, topped off with orange juice, and served with a wedge of lemon, a wedge of lime, a maraschino cherry and an apology for not having any little umbrellas.  It was the single most sarcastic drink I've ever had in my entire life.

From that point forward, I've been particularly cautious about asking Ian for anything.  He's a very generous soul, but I know better than to lean too heavily on that generosity.  Still, I find myself composing emails in my head, trying to ask as humbly as possible if maybe, if it's not too much trouble, if you have a spare slot on the guest list after taking care of close friends and family members . . .

Before I get around to doing so, I get an email from Ian, mentioning that he'll put me on the list for the show on Friday, in case I can make it.  I assure him I'll be there with bells on, or at least some glitter.

It's an early show, so I don't really have time to swing by my place and freshen up.  Instead, I swing by my parents' place and freshen up.  (Oh, shameless Gen-Xer am I.  Hey, at least I moved out.)  My initial plan is just to change clothes, wash my face and make it up, but by the time I arrive, after half an hour or so in a car with broken air conditioning, the sweat is rolling down the back of my neck and I just have to give up and take a shower.  I grab a spare towel out of the linen closet (containing every bath towel used in this household since 1973) and decide to use the kid bathroom (I still think of it as that) instead of the master bathroom, in order to spare my mother the indignity of coming home from a long day at work to find her bathroom occupied by her errant daughter.  After a quick shower, I get dressed and made up in what used to be my bedroom.  (The room has changed so much that this fact does not even occur to me until much later.)  I had a perfect outfit picked out; unfortunately, I can't find it.  I was going to wear my mesh shirt over my velvet tank top (to go with my ultra-fabulous velvet pants) but I can't find the tank top so I settle on my half-mesh shirt (mesh on the arms and upper half, solid where it needs to be to avoid my getting arrested.)  I also can't find my tall-but-low-heeled-boots, so I have to wear the low-but-high-heeled boots, which are fabulous but get painful after a while.  (Both of these clothing items actually wind up having some vague significance in the course of this adventure, so bear with me.)  Everything in black, of course.  I liven up the monochrome outfit with a little blue paint on the eyelids and blue glitter just over that, as well as mix three shades of lipstick into a weird sort of mauve with blue glitter.  I transfer half of my pursely belongings into my feather-trimmed black velvet purse and saunter downstairs.  Mom thinks I look "classy" and she absolutely loves the purse.

I decide that three bucks round trip on MARTA has got to be better than whatever they're charging for parking downtown.  I still have a stack of tokens left over from my commuting days, so I put a couple to use.  It's a nice walk from the Omni through Centennial Park to the Tabernacle.  The sun is still shining, the birds are singing and lovers are holding hands but I'm in a good enough mood that I don't want to throw things at them.

I was told the show would be starting at eight so I expect the doors to open at seven.  I arrive a little after seven to find the doors solidly shut and a line forming.  Hm.  Both the ticket window and the Will Call window have no one behind them, but a rather long line in front of them.  I pace a bit, snag a free sample of strawberry-frozen-drink that they're handing out just next to the two different radio station vans (96 Rock and 99X--file under go figure, since neither of them ever actually play Drivin' n' Cryin' except maybe once in a blue moon) and stand in what I hope is the right line.  After a wait long enough to make one nervous, the windows finally open.  Fortunately, the lines divide up and the Will Call line is considerably shorter than the Ticket Purchase line.  I give the girl behind the window my name, hand her my I.D., hold my breath while she scans down the list for just a little too long and then breathe again as she scratches her pen in a line across the page.  I'm in.  She stamps my hand and I get in the big proper line in front of the doors.

Doors open at 8:00 sharp.  I show my stamped hand to the door guy and he waves me in.  I get a Coke from the bar and stake my claim in front of the stage.  Front and center is already pretty much taken by those who were in line ahead of me, so I find a little slot, stage left, right next to one of the monitors.  I think about sitting, to take a little weight off of my feet, which are bound to get grouchy in the high-heeled boots, but settle for leaning on the barrier in front of the stage.  I look at the daylight through the windows all the way at the back of the upper balcony seats and make a mental note to check out the view from those windows.  I have about an hour to kill.  I spend it scribbling, observing, people-watching and thumb-twiddling.  I notice Troy (the bassist, the latest one) in the crowd and figure I don't have to worry until he disappears.  I also notice a group of girls around him and figure that he's taken to idoldom quite well.

9:00 rolls around and a substantial crowd has formed in front of the stage.  Troy has disappeared, which I take as a cue to put in my ear plugs.  The infamous fog machine kicks in, but the fog doesn't quite make it to my end of the stage, so I don't get that lovely vanilla smell that signals the start of a Tender Idols show.  No matter.  The boys emerge from the fog and all is well.  Once again (as per Episode One) they start with "Never Get Closer Than That" (which is a perfectly sensible way to start a set, since it's also the first song on the album, though I do wish they'd liven things up by doing something different for the benefit of obessives like yours truly who insist on seeing them every single time they play.)  I get a different angle on the sound than I usually do because I'm standing in front of David and right next to David's guitar monitor.  So I hear a lot of David.  This is not a bad thing.

Ian emerges from the fog with a sheer black shirt with strips of black sequins and a formfitting pair of pants with Chinese dragons and foliage embroidered in gold.  It's an outfit only a rock star could get away with, and he does because he's Ian Idol, dammit, and that's all there is to it.  The crowd goes wild.  Hands reach forth from the audience in gestures of touch-me-please and Ian obliges, shaking hands with people and looking rather amused by all the adulation.  The spotlight guy has a bit of a time keeping up with him as he works his way across the stage.  David manages to, quite literally, steal the spotlight at times, especially when he wanders over to the speakers on his side of the stage and stands on top of them for a guitar solo or two.

I catch a whiff or two of a Certain Smell and see a group of people in the audience trying to get Ian's attention so they can offer him the stub of their joint.  He doesn't notice, even when they toss the thing onto the stage, so they retrieve it and finish it off themselves.  Ian does notice when someone throws a hair scrunchie at him, though he admits that his hair really isn't long enough to do anything with it.

Show ends to thunderous applause and I decide to begin my explorations.  I start with some of the places I do know and end up in the room where Malinda and I met Birger [see Episode One.]  Two girls are sitting on the mantelpiece of the fireplace there and I end up chatting with them.  They are, as pairs of girls often are, close friends from way back and complement each other in a yin-and-yang sort of way.  I have sadly, forgotten their names entirely, so for the purposes of this narrative (sorry, I'm in grad school, I've been using the word "narrative" a lot lately) I will call them "One" and "The Other".  One is a pale redhead who claims the curious heritage of being half-Irish and half-Egyptian.  The Other is tan and dark-haired, Mexican on her father's side at least (they tell me about his especially potent recipie for homemade tequila) but she doesn't mention much about her mother except to say that she doesn't get along with her very well.  They used to be in a band together, but now they plan to be archeologists in Egypt, though they might take up the band thing again so they can open for the Tender Idols.  Maybe they can be rock 'n' roll archeologists, suggests One.

They rave about the show and I agree with them that it was a very good one. They're both thrilled that Ian shook their hands from the stage.  Ian has now officially joined the ranks of Cool People They've Shaken Hands With.  It turns out that The Other was the hair-scrunchie-thrower in the audience.  She is quite smitten with Ian.  "Please, tell me he's not gay!" she wails.

"Well, he said he had a girlfriend, last time I asked him about it." I say.  (Which is true, though the main reason I asked was to settle a bet.  For the record, I won.)

The two girls fix me with the most wide-eyed, jaw-dropped boggle-astonished looks anybody has ever leveled at me.  "You KNOW him??" they ask, in unison.

"Um, yeah." I admit.  (I decide not to say "Yeah, he's the one who put me on the guest list." as this would probably give the wrong impression and also be a really snide thing to do.)

"Can you hook us up?" asks One.

I assure them that they can just go to the Idols' merch table and probably meet Ian there quite easily.  It's pretty much how I met him, I explain, though I admit I did first notice him as the cute bartender with the accent before I knew him as the cute lead singer with the accent.  The Other hadn't even noticed that Ian had an accent.  One finds this quite amusing.  Some security guy tells the two girls to get off the mantel, so we chat a bit more while standing (The Other decides she's going to name her first-born son after Ian and tells me to let Ian know this next time I see him) until the second band starts up and the girls head back into the audience to see them.

The second band (I've forgotten who--I'd have to look it up or something) is doing some kind of loud rock thing that does little for me, so I take opportunity to resume my wanderings.  I amble over to the Tender Idols' merch table and, as I predicted, find Ian there along with Danny and David.  I say hello to Ian and tell him about his enthusiastic new fans, including the one--actually, The Other--who is threatening to name her child after him as soon as she actually has one.  "You're turning into a rock star." I tell him.  Ian grins and shakes his head.  "Nah, not me." he insists.  Still, there's a sizable cluster of people about buying CDs, getting stickers and asking for autographs.  There's a huge stack of stickers that say "I (heart) the Tender Idols" and somebody asks Ian to sign the paper on the back of one.  He writes in huge letters "I (heart) you, too" and then scribbles his name with all the proper ruffles and flourishes.

I'm about ready to pass out from hunger, as I haven't had a thing to eat since lunch, so I take my leave of Ian's divine presence and wander downstairs to the Cellar, where they have a smaller stage (where the Idols played the first time I saw them here), a couple of bars and food.  I make my way to a table, look at a menu, blanch at the prices and settle on some cheese sticks--protein, carbohydrates and all the damn grease you'll ever need.  It takes a rather long time to get a waiter's attention, even longer to get a Coke from him and even longer than that to finally get the cheese sticks.  I sit and write to kill time.  By the time the cheese sticks arrive, I'm getting extra fidgety, so I promptly settle up, grab the basket and decide to find somewhere more interesting to sit and eat.

I still haven't had a chance to see the view from the top balcony.  I clamber up several sets of stairs, pass through a long strange hallway with a backlit stained glass window on one wall and finally make my way to the upper balcony.  The show is nowhere near sold out, so there are few people sitting, but the view of the stage is interesting, as it's so high up it's very nearly an overhead perspective.  The stage is in transition by this time, I think, as the second band has ended and the stage is being prepared for Drivin' n' Cryin'.  I hike all the way up to the top and see what the back row seats are like.  It's the certainly the farthest I've been from the stage in the Tabernacle (I usually sit up front in the lower balcony for the best view; see Episode One, for example) but as bad seats go, it's better than, say, the back of beyond at the Omni or something.

Along the back wall is a row of windows with a glittering view of the city.  One of these windows is open; I hop up on the sill, stick my head out and then climb the rest of the way through.  I contemplate getting out onto the roof proper, but I'm not sure if it will safely support my weight (as little as it is) and I don't relish the thought of some prankster slamming the window shut on me and stranding me outside, so I stay where I am.  I sit on the sill, facing the roof over the entrance, enjoying the warm spring night and munching my cheese sticks dipped in marinara sauce.  Life is good.

Once I've had my fill (of both city view and cheese sticks) I work my way back downstairs through many colorful rooms and eventually wind up back at the merch table of my favorite band of the evening.  Ian's gone, but Danny's there with his lovely wife, Patti. Danny points at my shirt (the half-mesh black one, remember?) and teasingly asks me if I borrowed it from Ian, or did Ian borrow it from me. "I bought it for myself, thank you!" I snark.  I mention to Danny that a mailing list has been established in his band's honor on  Danny asks me if I've seen the interview with David Sylvian in Stomp and Stammer magazine.  (I have.)  Patti remarks that she's been quite unaware that David Sylvian had gotten married, much less to a Prince protegé, (whatever the hell that is.)  Patti also compliments me on my haircut, which is awfully nice of her considering I'm reaching the point where I kind of need another one.  The last haircut I got was doing a modeling gig for a hair stylist's convention, meaning I got a cut and dye job for free in exchange for parading on a stage in front of an entire ballroom full of hair stylists.  I tell Patti this, she gives me her business card, scribbles the phone number of the salon she works at on it and offers me a discount if I come see her.  So I could get my hair done by the woman who does the idolcuts.  Hm.  Danny is looking longingly at what's left of my cheese sticks, so I offer them to him.  As if on cue, Ian appears and says "Hey!  Where'd you get those?"  Too bad, Danny got to them first.

Ian has changed out of the sequined wonder shirt into a faded orange T-shirt that reminds me of something my little brother wore when he was seven.  He's still wearing the pants, though.  (Ian, that is, not my little brother, who has never owned such a pair of pants in his entire life and quite likely never will.)  I ask Ian where the hell he got the pants.  It turns out that there's a bit of a tale behind these trousers.  Ian tells it to me.

The Legend of Ian's Trousers--Seems that there was this girl, a friend of a friend of Ian's, who'd been in the hospital for some reason and played her Tender Idols CD to cheer herself up during her recovery.  Feeling a need to express her gratitude, she phoned Ian and said something to the effect of "Yer coming with me."  Ian said something to the effect of (wary look) "Um . . . okay."  She took him to a fabric store on Marietta Street and told him to pick a fabric.  He picked the aforementioned embroidered fabric and the girl bought it and sent it to a friend of hers in California who made a pair of custom-cut trousers for Ian for them.  Thus the perfect fit.

Danny mentions that he recently acquired a pair of jeans that prompted his daughter to remark: "You look cool in those, Dad. You look like Ian." Danny's reported reply was something to the effect of "Gee, thanks honey." Ian, unsurprisingly, found it quite amusing.

I hear the opening strains of Drivin' n' Cryin' hitting the stage--just an acoustic guitar so far, but I assume it's going to work its way to some big buildup.  Danny decides it's time to pack up the merch table, I figure it's time for me to head.  "I have a train to catch." I explain.
I take MARTA back to my car without incident.  I'm still kinda wired, though, so I go back and forth on what to do next.  I drive toward home, then veer toward MJQ, then decide I didn't have all that great a time the last time I went to MJQ on a Friday night, so I veer toward a strange new place called Groove Park in Little Five Points just next to a bicycle shop.

Saturday, May 22, 1999

So it's somewhere past midnight by the time I arrive. I park somewhere down the street, walk my way up and find a few people hanging around outside. No one asks to see I.D. I wander inside to see a narrow corridor leading to a counter with a cash register and no one behind it. I shrug and wander farther in. The corridor turns left and opens into a small loungy area with a bar with no one there either. There is however, the steady pound of music coming from the open doorway beyond, which I venture through to find the dance floor proper. The club is not crowded, but there are at least a few people dancing and more people clustered around the other bar at the far end of the dance floor (the one that actually has a bartender behind it; hence the popularity.)

I give the place a once-over. It's not a bad little club, actually. The railing around the dance floor is done in elaborate modern artsy ironwork, a bit like the late great Scrap Bar. The place overall is done in that industrial art style, the kind that matches all kinds of different music. The bathrooms are clean and nicely decorated (at least, the girl's room is) and there's also a dim room with leather couches to slouch in when you've danced too much. To Be Continued. Honest.