Savannah Night Music: Running with Ramsey
For over thirty years I have been hearing folks (including my own son David) complain that Savannah doesn’t have a music scene. Last Saturday night, my friend Ramsey Khalidi finally convinced me to go out with him to see. Now usually I am in bed asleep before 11 pm, so this was already an adventure when he picked me up at 10.30.
After cruising around for a while to find a cool enough parking spot, we ended up near the Ships of the Sea Museum. Before we could make it a block away, Ramsey was talking to a local musician, raving to him about the great show he heard the night before, and giving away a button with “Creepoids” on it. When I admitted that I didn’t know who they were, he took me inside a retro bar and spoke for a while with the DJ, before leaving me there to go retrieve an album (as in vinyl) from his car, so that he could get him to play some Creepoids music. It was mixed in with plenty of retro music and the bartender brought me the first of the dozen or so Diet Cokes I had that night, so I just enjoyed the moment. A bit later on, my architect intern Ben came over to me, and expressed his shock that I was out and about. I pretended that this was my natural habitat, but Ben wasn’t buying it.
After hanging out here for a while, and chatting up everyone in sight, Ramsey told me that we had to move on, so we could see his friend Angel who was back in town after touring with her band, The Cusses. He said that everyone in town was waiting to see her again, and there was a crowd when we got to the place. After rapping with a motorcyclist about renting an apartment he owns, and talking to a pedicab driver about his new band, Ramsey said we had to get in quickly. Sure enough, there was a long line waiting, but Ramsey saw the girlfriend of one of the band members, and followed her straight through the door. I followed, but got stopped like a senior citizen at a punk rock bar, and then had to listen to all the kids who were waiting in line express their lack of respect for my age and reputation. Eventually I got in the door and immediately bumped into Ramsey and Angel talking and laughing about something I couldn’t quite follow. Angel is sensational, with pink and blonde hair, a beautiful smile and looking good in leather and lace, so I didn’t really mind. She has gotten the flu on tour, and is worried about her ability to perform that night, but the show must go on.
The opening act is a very loud duo called Wet Socks, who play in the way that the Black Keys have made famous, with primitive (very loud) drumming, and very forceful and imaginative electric guitar and vocals by a young person that looked like a hobbit, but played like a demon. The crowd started to riot, but Ramsey kept cool, so I didn’t panic, and found a bar stool near the front door, in case I had to vanish. The music was primal, painfully loud, and very good. I amused myself watching Ramsey work the crowd, and looking at the few late Halloween costumes. I had expected a SCAD student crowd, but these folks were much more hard core partiers, and they were mostly out of control.
When the Wet Socks finished their set, a small hoard of people that I had met earlier that night started breaking down their equipment, then holding it all above their heads to push through the crowd and out the door. Then they came back in with The Cusses equipment, again piece by piece, and all held precariously above the heads of the oblivious crowd. The amps were huge. I chatted with Angel a bit more, but she was bitten with a little stage fright and the flu. I thought it odd, as she seemed so confident otherwise, and this bar was not the Fillmore! After several failed sound checks, The Cusses plugged in and started banging.
Angel, though hoarse and more than a little tired, made a heartfelt set of thanks to their Savannah home town followers, and then proceeded to make more noise than anyone I have ever heard, with the possible exception of Janis Joplin. The Cusses are all very talented, and their sound is angry, loud, punk, mean spirited and irresistibly driven. But Angel is a complete force of nature, and thrashes with such violence that I am shocked she isn’t concussed with every song. I sat up on the bar and watched in amazement as she and her band rocked that place like a tornado for what seemed like hours. When her voice finally gave out, she apologized and left the stage, frenetic and exhausted. Ramsey was somewhere in the front of the crowd for all of it, dancing like he was twenty, not my age.
Afterwards we took a pedicab down to another little bar called Mata Hari’s to hear the pedicab peddler’s girlfriend Melissa singing old jazz and standards in a black ball gown into one of those old time fist shaped microphones. Like day from night, she was as easy to listen to as Angel was hard on the plate glass window panes. The place looked like Rick’s American Cafe, and again I was quickly engaged in a series of conversations with young musicians, all devoted to their craft, and sure they were just a break away from success. By now, I was starting to understand that Savannah’s music scene was in the latter part of its larvae stage, ready to become a butterfly. I told them about the new theaters I was working on, and they all said that it was exactly what they needed to get them to the next level.
By now it was 3.30, and I was surprised that I was still walking and talking. After a brief conversation with a nice patrol officer about the dangers of jaywalking, Ramsey found a sushi bar, and I started worrying about how I was going to gonna ‘splain all this to my wife when I got home. Fortunately I had gained an hour of time due to daylight savings, but she was still pretty mad when she looked at the clock. Although I will not be tripping the light fantastic with Ramsey again anytime soon, I would like to think of this night as research for our new Cultural Arts Center, because now I know that Savannah’s music scene is about to get even louder!