Join Together Sunday, March 11th is a good day for a road trip down to Chapel Hill, North Carolina where we are to play a joint called "The Cave". The sun is shining, the temperatures are unseasonably warm, and the 9-person crew is psyched to get going. Here's the line-up:
  • Marv [a.k.a. 'Herb Jones'/bassist--no relation to the Laundry/Primus drummer Herb Alexander]
  • Jon [Dr. Bob]
  • Chuck [spiritual advisor]
  • Jen [a.k.a. the punctual one/violinist]
  • Amy [a.k.a. the sensible one/cellist]
  • John [a.k.a. the fashionable one--see 'meandering' photo below/guitarist/vocalist]
  • Larry [road manager/cartoon personality impersonator]
  • Illyssa [soundman--she prefers the masculine moniker]
  • Mike [a.k.a. Mr. Chaos/drummer]

We meet up with Marvin at his house around noon. Larry, Jon and Chuck head off to get post-gig beverages for everyone. Walkie-talkies are handed out so that we may spend the next 5 hours pretending to shoot "Convoy II, Beyond the Backdoor." As soon as everyone is packed and ready, we split into our four cars: Jen and Amy in a rented and altogether unremarkable white thing with 4 wheels; John and Jon in the little pickup-that-wants-to-be-monster-truck-rally-star; Larry and Ilissa in the actually-cool-car-number-1-Beemer; and Mike [Mr. Chaos], Marvin and Chuck in the actually-cool-car-number-2-Pathfinder.
Ease On Down The Road As soon as we roll (just after 1pm), everyone picks a handle (none of which will be reprinted here). As it turns out, the walkie-talkies help to make the trip go faster and we talk on them frequently. When we are about halfway to our destination, we take our first break in Walthall, VA. We stop at a gas station with no restrooms, so everyone eventually meanders across the street to the gas station with the unisex restroom. We hit the road and pass the time in various ways. If one person hears a great tune while scanning the radio, that person radios the station's frequency to the rest of the caravan and pretty soon we are all singing along over the walkie-talkies to the hot hits of the 80s. Others listen to the ACC Basketball Final with growing concern ... the fact that Duke ends up beating UNC soundly (79-53) means that the crowd at Chapel Hill will not be celebrating a win. Two hours after our first stop, we pull into a rest stop near Belltown, NC. Chuck and John enjoy the beautiful weather. Jon returns to the cars with some bottled water. Larry, Jon and Amy check to see if the contents of the pickup have shifted during flight. Amy transfers to another car and after a short time driving, Jen breaks from the caravan to meet up with some local friends.
Hit The Roof Around 6pm, we arrive at the Red Roof Inn near Chapel Hill. Waiting for us as we arrive is a carload of Marvin's relatives, including his sister and two nieces. Since we don't want to leave our gear in the vehicles while we relax before dinner, we have to load our equipment to our second floor rooms. Thankfully, the hotel has an elevator. Sensing the need for cold beverages, the ever-resourceful Jon rounds up the trash cans from our rooms and attacks the ice machine. Jen shows off the fruits of his labor: a bathtub full of drinks chilling for later. As everyone relaxes, there are discussions about the outcome of NCAA Selection Sunday. Jen returns to the hotel along with two of her local friends, Damian and Cheryl.
Grab A Bite We make the 10-minute trip into Chapel Hill. On the suggestion of Jen's friends, we enjoy a wonderful meal at Mama Dip's Traditional Country Cooking (405 W Rosemary St - It is tough to say that a tradition is born, but it seems safe to assume that we'll be coming back to Mama Dip's in the future.
Showtime At the club, we are happy to find our flyer posted on the front door and at other prominent locations. During the load-in, two dozen people are at the bar, all intently watching the Simpsons. The club is a touch "divey", but manages to keep a cool vibe. The ceilings are low and uneven, as if chiseled from rock. Shortly after 10pm, we're on. Marvin holds the groove in place as Jen smiles away. Amy plucks away at her cello. Jen plays a lead line as Marvin provides the bottom end. Mike keeps the time with his brushes. Marvin is serious about his job of keeping the songs moving. After breaking a string on his regular guitar, John plays his backup guitar. Ilissa keeps us sounding good by working her magic with the minimal sound system. As we play, we notice that the patrons seem genuinely interested in our music, and at the show's peak there are roughly 40 of them. After our last song, Larry, Chuck, Jon and Alissa make us feel special by leading the chant for an encore, which we gladly play. We quickly load out afterward, making way for another band on the road, Argus. Not only are they a great band made up of five very cool guys, but they keep giving us plugs throughout their show. The lead singer goes so far as to slap one of our bumper stickers right on the chest of his sweater. We stay for the entire Argus set and hang out for a bit before heading back to the hotel. A fair amount of CDs are sold, and the booking agent for the Cave tells us he wants to get us back soon on a Friday or a Saturday.
After Hours After unloading the gear to the rooms (for a second time this day), it's time to celebrate a fun show. The group has gained a new friend, Chris (who had driven 80 miles from Winston-Salem to see us play). Jon introduces us to a card game called "Drug Dealer". After a few rounds, we switch to playing The Movie Quoting Game, in which one person gives a memorable quote and the others have to try and guess the movie. Later, after noting that the surrounding rooms are vacant, Larry and John break out their guitars and everyone sings songs. A house rule is imposed - if you don't know the words to a song, you must "meow" along. The party is finally shut down at 4:30am due to a rousing rendition of "Over The Hills and Far Away" with its signature, high-pitched chorus: "Many have I loved, many times been bitten" and so on.
Waking Up Is Hard To Do Jen wakes up before 9am since she must do some work in North Carolina. She leaves a personalized "citation" from the Violin Police on the windshield of each car in the caravan along with wishes for a safe trip home, then departs from the group. When Mike and John awaken, they try to put the room in some kind of order for departure. One task is to collect the bottles and cans from the night before. The dead containers are to the left of the sink, the live ones are to the right. When high noon finally arrives, it's checkout time. Everyone is present and accounted for, except for Larry and Ilissa. John tries to wake them from their slumber. After a while, Larry emerges ready to go and Ilissa is not far behind.
Down On The Farm It is unanimously decided that we are going to have breakfast (lunch?) at a nearby Bob Evans that we saw on the way down. Many in the party choose to have biscuits and gravy as part of their meal and when they are brought out, eyes widen. Discussions range from the drug habits of Hollywood stars to the unavailability of good biscuits and gravy in the Washington DC area. After we chow down and gas up, it's time to head home.
Homeward Bound After about 2 hours on the road, including a spell of construction-induced congestion in Durham, NC, we hit a rest stop near Alberta, VA. We've been blessed with another beautiful travel day, and everyone takes a moment to soak it up. Back on the road, the walkie-talkies remain active. We manage to listen to two sister stations (102.9 and 96.5) for most of the trip south of Richmond, and we are rewarded with Duran Duran, Talking Heads, Mister Mister, Peter Schilling, The Dream Academy, Spandau Ballet, Wham!, Asia and many other 80s classics. The movie quote game continues from the night before and before we know it, we are heading past Potomac Mills and crossing the Occoquan. We arrive back at Marvin's and unload our gear. We are already looking forward to our next road trip.