In the blink of an eye
The nexus of memories and time has always fascinated me. It’s where change lives. We seem to have a built-in resistance to change, and the foundation of this resistance rests on memories. Through memories we create the myth of ourselves, and by myth, I mean how we see ourselves in terms of the world that surrounds us. This myth is a construct, of sorts, but without it we would be like a ship without a compass because there would be no waypoints to help us reach our next destination. Think of each destination as a chapter in our own personal book of life.
Last night, I was at The Family Wash to support Jamie Rubin as he leaves the business he began 13 years ago and closes this chapter in his book of life. The O.G. Wash lived at Porter and Greenwood. It was a smallish joint with a humble kitchen and bad plumbing and a green room about the size of a closet. Debates about transgendered folks using the bathroom were nonexistent because there was only one, in which hung a picture of Jesus watching over the United Nations building. The bathroom was located across from the green room/closet and just to the right rear of the stage, which meant those standing in line for the bathroom were about three feet from the band.
The stage itself was a rather small affair, but no one seemed to care. On Sons of Zevon nights one could find Jen Gunderman sitting at her keyboard, squeezed up against the wall audience left; Sadler Vaden, Jamie, Audley Freed, and Kevin Hornback crammed on the rest of the stage — often with a guest singer; Pete Finney would actually set up his pedal steel on the dining room floor in front of Jen, and background vocalists were set up on the floor in the path leading to the bathroom, so that you were never sure who was singing and who just needed to pee. I think there was a drummer, but only because I could hear one — they were concealed by everyone else.
Serving as a backdrop for the stage was Jennifer Quigley’s American flag painting. There were a couple of par cans for stage lighting, in addition to Christmas lights — everywhere.
The room sounded, in a word, amazing. Very natural, since there usually wasn’t much in the PA other than vocals and acoustics, maybe a little kick and snare. The guitars were usually coming at you straight out of the amp, and most players would show up with a 20-watt combo. Except for Reeves Gabrels. He’d show up with his 50-watt half stack on occasion, but he’s Reeves, so he can do whatever he wants.
The East Nashvillian hosted our Christmas parties at The Wash. The Ornaments played one, and Keith Gattis and friends played twice. You’ve never really heard what drums are supposed to sound like until you’ve heard a Martin Lynds or a Fred Eltringham in a room like The Wash. I could go on and on for days about the way it sounded in there, but I’ll stop here since anyone who ever darkened the door of the joint knows exactly what I’m talking about.
Jamie had a way with décor, too, meaning, there was stuff everywhere and the place felt … welcoming. Like a home well lived in. Photographs all over the walls; books and memorabilia and a Pink Jesus on the bar; and an espresso machine. It was good vibes and people well met, and it anchored the neighborhood in a way that seems to be vanishing. And it was all Jamie, heart and soul.
For awhile, he and I had a tradition of sorts where I would visit during the day while he was receiving deliveries and taking care of business — the O.G. Wash was only open at night — and have coffee and shoot the shit.
Which brings me back to the nexus of memories and time and why we’re resistant to change. I miss those days hanging with Jamie for no good reason other than to hang with Jamie. Sometimes he’d have his boys with him. Sometimes Pete would be there. Or Audley. It was super chill. I’m sure Jamie is missing those days, too.
On Jamie’s final night, some friends of his from Boston were playing. Human Sexual Response was, in a way, the perfect band to close it out. Having them brought things full circle for Jamie, musically and spiritually. Their New Wave underpinnings brought back a flood of memories for me as well, kind of reminding me of the Now! Explosion shows at the Exit/In and the alternative music scene during the ’80s in general. Grimey was there, and our conversation about change inspired me to write this. He said, “Change is good. I’m excited about it. If the Slow Bar hadn’t closed, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now, you know what I mean?”
He’s right, of course, and change is not only good, it’s inevitable. It’s just that sometimes it feels like the chapter we’re about to close happened in the blink of an eye. I just hope I create my myths as beautifully as Jamie created his with The Family Wash.