By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
I slogged my way up Congress to the Driskill Hotel. There are no elegant tans here; everything is defiantly exit-sign green, with Tiffany skylight domes, bizarre green statues and embossed copper ceilings. It is old-school, and it has style. Plus, being slightly out of the way, it has a manageable number of people relaxing at its bar stools. One of those people was Jimmy Collins, a cowboy whose drunkenness had a disturbingly permanent feel to it. He writes songs for Loretta Lynn, he said, and had his own hit in 1989 with "The Cowboy Rap." He chatted for a moment with Faith Hill's ex-husband, who was making his way through the lobby. This is how the two Nashville music-publishing fellas next to me know he's legit.
The bartender tells us that the night before, Jimmy went to slide seductively into the piano to impress two ladies but instead fell off the bench with a full glass of red wine in his hand. Naturally, Jimmy has fallen in love with me, even though I'm a Commie. The boys in music publishing tell me of the legendary quality of Willie Nelson's dope, and how he has it organized into different strains for different times of day. Here's for breakfast; there's for tea-time. A handsome older man in a beautiful suit, the cost of which could have fed an Ethiopian child for approximately 16 years, clears his throat by hawking a giant loogie. Jimmy asks me for the fourth time if I've ever worked with Willie. He asks me for the second time if I want to fall in love. Jimmy Collins breaks my heart.
But not for long. While dancing for the bathroom line at a huge outdoor venue called Stubbs (Ozomatli is magically forcing my hips to shimmy like I'm churning butter), I ran into the greatest writer of his generation, Neal Pollack of The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature.He ran his ass up and started whooping in my face. Whooo! Commie Girl! Whooo! Fuckin' Neal Pollack! Fuck you, fuckin' Neal Pollack! (There's a lot of that, actually, like "Whooo! Fuckin' Peepshot motherfucker! Fuck you, fuckin' Peepshot motherfucker!" at the White Stripes and The Oblivions show; and there's "Whoo! Fuckin' Paul Frank schwag man Austin Brown! Fuck you, fuckin' Austin Brown!" There's also John Pantle's favorite, which has an elegant simplicity to it: "I'M GOING TO KILL YOU!")
After a certain point—say, Friday—everyone with whom I've at any point locked eyes becomes fair game. I'm known at the pizza window and the shot bar. I've waited behind a velvet rope at the serving-till-6 a.m. Spin party while friends went in and then sneaked back out with an extra badge. I've been walked home at 6:30 a.m. by a gorgeous, kind, Irish guitar-techer for the Dublin band Turn. Even the people manning the metal detectors at the airport on Sunday waved and smiled; they remembered when I was stuck there with my broken plane the day before. But though I think I have become wise in the ways of schmooze, I know only how little I know, for there is Nancy, who masters projects and jumps on people like a Lyme disease-carrying tick. She will know you. Oh, yes. She will know you. And tell you what! She'll master one track for free, and if you like it, you've got a deal! Nancy is my sensei of schmooze—my guru. We shared a ride from our original canceled flight back to the festivities and shared another cab from the Four Seasons back to the airport. We sit at the airport bar—miraculously, directly across from our gate—while they announce delays due to mechanical difficulties. She booms out to the Gypsy Lounge's Mike Concepciůn and Shot to Hell, who sit around wearing a lot of metal (it's hell trying to get back and forth through the detectors to smoke) and drinking Shiners. She is immediately welcomed into the fold of Harlow, a good-lookin' chick band with punk rock Technicolor hair that will be featured on VH1's new action-packed game show Bands on the Run (last I heard, our hometown girls Relish were also up for one of the slots). She has convinced handsome Doug Skoro of the Newport-based loudENERGY.com to join us. She is practically on the jock—but not threateningly so—of Dennis Rider, a music attorney who used to manage Ugly Kid Joe and whose table we share. Nancy already knows that Rider used to manage the one-hit-wonder Ugly Kid Joe. Her Who's Who-ness is encyclopedic. She is buying rounds and passing out cards. And she is passing out. Nancy is awesome. Meanwhile, Association For Independent Music president (whatever that might be) Clay Pasternack discovers his travel agent has booked him on a flight not for March 18, but April 18. I give him my meal voucher from my stranding the night before since they won't let us use them for beers anyway.
Finally on the plane, Nancy thinks she's whispering when she shouts at me, "You're sitting next to Delbert McClinton's manager! Strike up a conversation!" Close: my seatmate, Cary Baker, is not his manager but his publicist; my other seatmate is a hip fuckin' Israeli dude, Yigal, who's a really smart and funny A & R guy over at Priority, home of Snoop. How about this, Nancy? Whooo! Fuckin' Delbert McClinton-managin' motherfucker! Whooo!