I’ve been concerned for several years now about how much “Show-Biz” that I’ve been imposing onto the Swamp Cabbage feel in concert.
Whereas I would hope that audiences take our music seriously, I can’t resist a moment to clown around. Perhaps I’ll never expunge the over-acted master of ceremonies role upon which I faithfully relied in my Jacksonville days playing country clubs with the Wing Tips.
This weekend in Germany, inspired by the conical stripped tent-side which served as our backdrop, I involuntarily embodied a “Ringmaster Persona”. “Ladies and Gentlemen…from New York City on the drums–Jagoda…(C chord). From St. Augustine, Florida, our producer and bassist Jim Devita…(C chord). And from Savannah, Georgia on guitar I’m Walter Parks (C chord). Thank you for coming to the Swamp Cabbage Roadshow!” and on we launch into “The Lid”.
Throughout the night I chicken picked and rooster walked back forth between Jim, on platform to my right, and Jagoda elevated equally so on my left. Like a student does to solicit a teacher’s attention, before solos I raised my hand towards the hot par cans framing us above to draw attention to the upcoming, never before heard phenomenon. In fact, I took every opportunity to throw arms akimbo to imply an ease with which the task at hand was being accomplished. The truth is that such clowning is all smoke and mirrors. What I do requires a focus that leaves me exhausted at show’s end. I’m aware of every note as it zips by, quickly replaced by the one that follows.
While still floating in post-show euphoria I am not wise enough to avoid the risk of tossing myself to the wolves who can be autograph seekers. Many musicians don’t bother.
In his best fractured-English, the very first stage-side encounter coerced a crash-landing of my ego with the words “Too Much Cheeses”. Damn, I thought, Germans are inescapably astute and this random sample of one has got my number. “I like your blues but the blues doesn’t need cheeses.” “Thanks” said I, “but we’re not really a blues band. I deeply respect the blues but I’m just trying to have a fun up there.”
Sharpie-in-hand I slid leftward and signed CDs for the many contented Germans who praised me as expected. Ten minutes later Jim reports that he has had a deep conversation with an “atheist” and he points to the “cheeses” father who complained that we had too much Jesus in our music. A soothing private relief superceded the moment’s other options. Jim’s deep conversation was an attempt to convince the German that Swamp Cabbage had not been proselytizing; instead we had been telling stories of southern evangelical witness.
I confidently told Jim that he had misunderstood the man but my position was short lived. I was confused by the father’s playful smile as he returned with his beaming son who had just bought the CD Squeal which hosts “The Jesus Tone”. The nice young man wears a Bob Dylan T-shirt that entices me to sincerely bond and salvage. “I really like Dylan’s 70’s tunes. I just arranged a cool instrumental version of “Lay Lady Lay”. Father joins with a grin. “You like Dylan? Dylan doesn’t sing about cheeses. Dylan’s a Jew.” “Nice” I mutter, but my private thought bubble suggests “Yeah, and my drummer’s a Jew too.” Like the jaws of life, Margo’s arms liberate me towards more folks who want me to write my name on purchased music.
I’m happy to stand accused of too much Jesus but thank the Lord there’s not too much cheeses.