Riding with Jesus Part IV: a badbadbad tour blog

Editor’s Note: Jesús Ángel Garcia, author of badbadbad, is blogging his book tour. This is his fourth installment.

Blown off the Stage in Nashville

I’ve been hearing the word courage lately in conversation about doing live lit in a non-traditional way. Not sure it applies, though. As I understand it, courage is about facing down fear, real or imagined: turning a blind corner in Afghanistan, powering up for a job interview after too many months out of work, chatting up the six-foot Czech blond at the end of the bar. But why do we need courage? What is there to be afraid of? On a superficial level, it’s rejection, I guess. Writers are used to that. You know the refrain: submission, rejection, submission, rejection, submission, rejection, submission… acceptance! Rinse (drink), repeat. On the other end, what? Coming to terms with the possibility that death can take us when we least expect it? And?

In Nashville, I was scheduled to perform on this New Faces bill at The Basement, a legendary underground venue run by Mike Grimes of Grimey’s New & Pre-Loved Music. He told me before the show how Metallica had once thrown a private party there and Gillian Welch and David Rawlings have called him up in the midnight hour to swing by for an impromptu set. I was honored to be on that stage, super excited to bring “songs from this novel I wrote” to a capacity crowd of more than a hundred Southern-fried music junkies.

The idea behind the weekly showcase is 20-minute spotlights for a host of bands and solo acts. Tonight’s bill also included Cadillac Black, Key Committee, David Steele, Zach Vinson, The Capelles, Adam Foster and Marshall Ruffin. I was scheduled third in the lineup after two other acoustic guitarists/singer-songwriters. The setup couldn’t be more perfect. The audience would be warmed up by the time I got on stage and I wouldn’t have to wait around for hours before playing. Since my road amp on this tour is far from high-fidelity, I was advised by Grimes to run my six-string directly into the PA system. It would sound best that way, I was told. Excellent. Less equipment to haul. Alright, one beer, then “badbadbad” would hit Nashville like a thunderbolt from the heavens.

Wait: “There’s a problem,” Grimes now said. “Steele has a recording session later in the evening. We’re gonna swap you guys in lineup.” So now I’m bumped to the back end of the gig behind four full-bore bands, including Steele (a tasty electric guitarist with a Frank Zappa fetish), The Capelles (a touring English group with punk rock roots) and Cadillac Black — the latest incarnation of badass local musicians with a huge fanbase. Guess which act I had to follow?

This was the trio’s third show as Cadillac Black and their performance was epic. Here’s a teaser. Their music felt like a combo of early Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers Band and the White Stripes: balls-out Southern Rock with crushing guitars and drums, raw soulful vocals and massive songs. In short, they blew the roof off the joint. The energy was ecstatic, the audience awe-struck. “And now… Jesus Angel Garcia! Where are you from again? Jesus from San Francisco, give it up!” I was thinking I was the one who should give up. Here’s how it went down.

Jesus Angel Garcia and friends Rose and Julie Garcia, pre-VIP throwdown.

The room was humming from Cadillac Black, everyone talking wildly about the magic we just witnessed. I couldn’t hear my guitar in the monitors due to technical glitches running it through the PA. The volume of the previous four bands was on eleven and now even the house mix was at something like three to avoid feedback. Even if my guitar had been audible, my ears were fuzzy from more than two hours of live music. I was hoarse from being social. I poured sweat from the heat of the spotlights. I kicked off the set with “Bed o’ Cornbread Crumbs,” convinced I was singing off-key from the very first line. All I could hear (barely) was my ragged voice, talking shit about sex and cornbread. Nearly everyone in the venue was still chatting, their noise drowning out mine. I forgot the chords halfway through the song.

In the parking lot before the show I had met a long-lost sister, Julie Garcia, friend of my friend Rose, and we convinced her to duet with me on the tune “No More No Less.” She had recently performed at Bonnaroo with hip-hop artist Chancellor Warhol. She brought a sexy street vibe to the backup vocals. Only their friends seemed to be paying attention.

A couple of cougars at a front table scowled at me the entire set. I dedicated “In Love with the Reverend’s Wife” to them as Rose lunged across the table and yelled something about how they had missed their botox treatment. I still couldn’t hear myself. Rose and Julie later busted their way into the VIP at a dance club. Julie sidekicked a white boy in the chest for pushing her. She said she hadn’t strapped on her boxing gloves in years but she could go ghetto if she had to. It was that kind of night. We drank Fireball shots.

At the end of the show, I thanked Grimes from the mic for giving me the opportunity to follow Cadillac Black. One more shout-out for “badbadbad,” then I packed up my gear as fast as I could, avoiding eye contact with everyone, including Rose and her friends. First guy I ran into after stepping down from the stage asked to buy my book.

*****

Playlist highlights: Micmacs soundtrack, “Goldberg Variations,” Betty Davis and, of course:

Next up: Redemption in the ATL, Arrested in Virginia Beach

— Jesús Ángel García is on the road with badbadbad, sponsored by bushwhackers and Fireball Whisky. Come see us in Indy for Barry Graham’s megadisco Supermojomania Freakout show (7/18) and in New York at Powerhouse Arena (7/21) for a “Live nude words, live music & movies!” 3xbad launch party featuring Melissa Febos, Scott McClanahan and Janice Erlbaum. Complete tour dets here.

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