There were a dozen or so people in the bar. I had gotten a booking at Mudsy’s because
of a favor I’d done for the manager of the club. Under no other circumstances would he
have allowed me to perform there. At the time, Mudsy’s was considered the premier Indie
Music venue in the city and the manager excluded anything that did not fall within the
narrow parameters of “Indie” as not worth his attention.
The booking was on a week night and I was the only act on the bill. The manager told me
he was going to be doing the sound which, I assumed, was because he didn’t want to have
to pay anyone else to run sound for a meaningless show. I got there comfortably ahead of
my scheduled start time but he was nowhere around. After waiting an hour or so I asked
the bar tender if he had seen the manager. He suggested checking the Grunt:
a dive bar usually filled with junkies, jailbirds, drunks and college kids. It was only
about a block down the street from Mudsy’s so I took his advice. Walking in, I saw
him sitting at a table entertaining a few lady friends. Since he ran the most coveted
venue in town for aspiring Indie performers, he had a certain sway over women who find
that sort of thing irresistible.
I don’t remember going up to the table to ask him about the sound or if, when he
saw me, he signaled to let me know that he was coming. Regardless, a few minutes after I returned to
Mudsy’s, the manager finally arrived. At this point the crowd was even thinner, by which I mean
only a handful of people were there, none of whom I knew.
At the time, I performed solo with one guitar and vocal so the sound check went quickly.
A friend of mine showed up and sat right in front of the stage. Other than him, nobody
paid attention to the set – least of all the manager of the club, who disappeared after
adjusting the sound. I recall about halfway through the set my friend muttered, “I love
life.” It was the best moment of the night.
Years later, after having endured a multitude of shows at Mudsy’s by bands that I have little
memory of, I wrote a song about the place called Jane Gang
. There’s a line
in it which reads, “though he may look dashing, I think, my dear, he’s crashing by
design.” It’s a reference to any one of the many Mudsy’s bartenders, none of
whom were dashing. The line became a particular favorite of another of the employees there. He
was a middle-aged black man who cleaned the place up after hours. On the few other nights I did
a show when he was working – and, looking back, it’s hard to believe there were
additional gigs that followed my initial performance – he would give me a knowing little
smile whenever I sang that song.
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© 2013 by Maurice Mattei
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