I literally had to strain to remember the last time I packed my gear into my car and headed out by myself to do a solo performance. Collins Drive has been such a huge part of my life for the last five years that playing without them seemed weird. Don’t worry folks. We are alive and well and still a band but as a singer/songwriter, you have to have adventures and experiences to inspired and influence your art. Macon is a town that I have wanted to play for many years. It’s the home of the Allman Brothers Band! How could any musician not want to play there? You can’t even begin to imagine the level of my excitement when I got the word that I had been booked at the legendary Grant’s Lounge in Macon.
For those that don’t know, Grant’s Lounge is pretty much considered the original home of Southern Rock. Tom Petty, Wet Willie, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Charlie Daniels, Eric Quincy Tate, Elvin Bishop, Marshall Tucker Band, and The Allman Brothers Band are just a handful of of the bands that at one time or two (maybe more) graced the stage of this room playing their songs to a packed house and sometimes to 5 or 6 people. The opportunity to walk through those doors with my acoustic guitar and my songs was something I just couldn’t wait to do.
I packed up all my gear into my car: guitar, mic stand, pedal board, cables, all the fixings. I hit the road jamming out to some Whiskeytown to get into the vibe and after about 30 minutes on the road I pulled over to get gas. I got out of my car and oops. No wallet. I high tailed it back to Stone Mountain apparently blowing by my bassist who was driving on 675 as well and made it home in record time. I ran in, grabbed my wallet, and hit the road once again.
The drive to Macon in itself was like a fucking episode of the Twilight Zone. On the highway, there were no less than 5 3-4 car pile ups all over the fucking place alone with an overturned tractor trailer. Sitting in stand still traffic I was watching a guy standing next to his car which had just been rear ended. All of the sudden, a huge flash of light along with a loud boom came. Lightning struck this guy’s car. It scared the shit out of him so badly he jumped over the retaining wall to the other side of highway. I had never seen so much fucked up shit and at this point I was still 45 minutes away.
WAZE decided to re-route me off the highway onto some back roads to try and get me around all of the mayhem on the highway. As I hit the back roads, it rained harder than I’ve seen it rain in ages. It was almost blinding. I had my windshield wipers on full blast and I even changed the music to some Once Blue (90’s NYC jazz) to chill me out. Finally I made it into downtown Macon, drove down a really sketchy alley way which opened up to a big parking long right at the backside of the venue. I started pulling out my gear in the pouring rain but I was so filled with excitement and anticipation.
Immediately walking into the venue it’s like stepping back in to 1971. The grungy floors, the walls with scrawled homages to Gregg Allman and others that have passed over the years, and their infamous Wall of Fame featuring photos, flyers, and articles of everyone from the Allman Brothers to Otis Redding. Y’all know I’m a cosmic Deadhead and all that shit but there was an energy in this place that was undeniable. The lady running the bar poured me a cold mug of PBR and welcomed me to Grant’s Lounge. The staff all came up to me and introduced themselves and wanted to know “what my bag was.” I just knew this was going to be a good night.
I was supposed to take the stage at 7pm and at quarter till it was dead as a fucking doornail. I mean, there was nobody there. The barback, the booking gal (who’s also a barback) and me. Just as I was about to get started my buddy Joseph and his lovely wife who live not far away came out and just made my night. I took to the stage and played to my amazing audience of 4 and to be honestly, it was a fucking blast. I kicked things off with a couple of “rain” songs as an homage to the shitty weather (“Another Rainy Night in GA” and “The Rain”) so that was fun. Then I decided to try something different. I just started playing this REALLY old instrumental track I wrote called “Trinidad.” I have never played this live but now that I have a loop pedal I figured hell, go for it hombre.
As I started playing this gentleman approached the stage and pointed at the bongos at the back of the stage. I nodded with approval and he got on there and started feeling the song and next thing I knew we were locked in. He seemed pretty impressed by the loop pedal and we just played off of each other and had a blast. After that one I just decided to improv a bit on a bit of a rearranged version of “Moonsteppin” as an instrumental and he joined in once again.
After the song he came over and shook my hand and told me how much he liked my songs. He grabbed a CD on his way out (hey, he worked for it) and headed out the door to play with his band across the street. That right there was just such a cool moment for me. It gave me a feeling of what it must’ve been like back in the days when a respectful musician could just hop onstage, join in with the act playing and add to the song, not trample all over it. Unlike the drunk basic white girls who grab the first percussion instrument they can find (usually a tambourine) and play with all the rhythm of a dying Volkswagen, this guy was a real treat and it was flattering that he thought enough of my songs to lend his talents just for a moment or two.
I continued to play my set to my awesome crowd of 4 and honestly, it was a bit nerve wracking at first. I hadn’t done this solo like this for so long but after a few songs I found my footing and all of the sudden it started to come back to me. All the memories of playing to nearly empty coffeehouses and cafes all over North Carolina and just playing music for the sheer love of the experience. Playing a show like this is so much more than just playing a show. It’s the adventure of getting there. It’s meeting new folks. It’s having a really cool guy sit in with you but what is NOT cool is when you’re in the middle of a song and a drunk guy comes up on stage, stands beside you and while you’re singing asks you to wish his bae a happy birthday. I politely stopped playing, told him he was rude as fuck, and to get off my fucking stage before I kicked him off. He left very peacefully and the song (Lady of the Lake) started over. Even that particular experience was a reminder of what things were like back in the solo days.
Songwise it was a fun gig to play around and experiment with some things. I did two instrumental numbers, I did a cover “16 Days” by Whiskeytown for the first time ever and I also covered Iron Maiden’s “Wasted Years” for the first time. Both songs were a bit shaky being debuts but they went over well and it was fun to play them. I played a few brand new songs like “Haunting My Dreams” and “The Devil’s Tree” which I really enjoyed playing. I can really see these two songs played by the band and going over really well. I decided to cap off the night with “The Greatest Drug of All” and “Dead Flowers” by the Rolling Stones and then called it a night.
Even though the room was pretty fucking empty, I never felt so surrounded during a performance in my life. All the ghosts of the legendary musicians that graced that stage seemed to all be with me, watching over me, and hopefully nodding with approval. Hell, just to be on the very stage where Gregg Allman stood numerous times as a young man was alone enough mojo to fill me with the spirit of music. It was a truly humbling experience and it was a reminder as to just why I do this and why I love doing this. This performance was a soul journey without a doubt and a night that I will never forget.