Mabel's Night last night was a somewhat surreal experience. I expected the space to feel familiar but I didn't expect it to feel SO FAMILIAR. It felt like, well, it felt like Mabel's.
Some things were new of course. I got to the top of those very familiar stairs and the bouncer asked me for an ID. I paused and said, REALLY? It had never occurred to me...I never bother carrying ID around town. I pushed my glasses up on top of my head and said, "LOOK at me!" He hemmed and hawed. I mean, I can't blame him, I should have thought about the fact that it's a campus bar. He said he'd have to get his manager and a few minutes later his manager came over while every around me that I knew laughed at me. His manager looked at me quickly and said, "Uh, let her in." HA.
Immediately I saw Melissa Records and Eileen oops Ilene Wells...and of course it went on from there.
The bands were all great. I loved Three Hour Tour, the Martyrs rocked it, Nix 86, Last Gentleman were great (how could you not be with Tom Broeske on bass?), and of course our beloved Jans Project. But the heart of the night to me was the Surly Bells, Kenny Draznik and Jimmy Wald from the Vertebrats, and later, when Kenny and Jimmy joined the Jans Project for Left In the Dark. Kenny and company ripped through it. It was glorious and it just about broke my heart in the very best of ways.
I've written about my love of the Vertebrats before. I came to Champaign in fall of 1980 as a freshman. My very first night in Allen Hall, I met Doreen Baskin and she played some Sex Pistols and Bowie for me, and told me there was a street dance the next night. So my roommate Eileen and I went and it was the Vertebrats… and I fell in love. The next night I tracked down a fake ID so I could get into Mabel's to see them. I think cover was something like $2. I've tried not to miss a show since.
On a certain level, they changed my life. There were other great bands before them, and after them, in Champaign, but the Brats to me were special because they somehow made music, and their music community, feel so accessible to all of us. They somehow made music a bigger part of my life than it was already. And I am so grateful for that, because, I don’t know about you folks, but music is what gets me through. There were probably other bands that created that kind of community at other times...but for me....it was the Vertebrats. Friends. Music. Community.
And that's why, I don't think I was the only one that found that moment last night...hearing Left In the Dark ring out...the heart of it all.
SO much love to John Isberg for making this all possible, to all the bands, the sound guys, Willie, Jimmie, and Frank, Charlie Edwards, Brothers, and all the folks that felt it. That's what it's all about. Feeling it.
I felt it.
Ernie and Pat Daily...David Conroyd, the other third of Milktoast, was there too...
Jimmy Wald and Ernie...why didn't I get a picture of Kenny too?
Getting to see Tom Broeske chat with Mark Rubel with the Jans Project playing behind them. Oh yeah.
And I'm stealing this picture and these words from our beloved Steve Lindstrom...cuz he got it just right.... "I was moved to take a snap of Ken Draznik when he capped the night with an all-out arse-kicking version of "Left In The Dark" w his able accomplice James Gregory Wald -- and all the lads in The Jans Project. Whatta treat..... Love this guy. He left it all out on the field last night and it was foogin' glorious!!