As I anxiously paced the floor of my room, wondering when my ride would arrive, I listened to my vinyl copy of Robyn Hitchcock’s Ole! Tarantula. I blame my boss for getting me hooked and JJ for letting me buy it. I’ve played around with Hitchcock’s music before but it took Goodnight Oslo to make me a real fan. So when I heard that the Venus 3 would be playing in Atlanta, I jumped at the chance to go. Knowing the history behind the Venus 3 and the connections to Athens, I’d have been a fool to miss it. Even though I’d never been to the Variety (I know, I know, let the stoning begin), I was excited at finally being able to hear some of the legendary rantings and ravings of one Mr. Hitchcock.
We loaded up the car and headed towards Atlanta, enjoying the sunshine and the slightly chilly air, flipping through radio stations as we went along. We were just discussing our favorite magical creatures and whether or not tunabunny’s choice would qualify when It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) came on. There was a few seconds of awkward silence then suddenly a sing along happened. *Mumble mumble motorcade..something something LEONARD BERNSTEIN!* Always a good sign. We laughed at our slight bought of insanity. Where else could something like that happen?
We pulled up to the Playhouse right at 8 p.m., with me slightly freaked because that’s when the ticket said the show began. Silly me, I forgot that’s just when doors open. Apparently Atlanta time is different from Athens time too. When a venue says a show will begin at 8:30, it starts at 8:30. In Athens, 8:30 means wait 45 more minutes. I was very happy to have actual physical tickets in hand. They always make nice reminders of awesome shows. Plus, if you lack anything for a band to sign, you’ve got a backup right in your back pocket.
We sat in the second row and immediately noticed something a bit odd. Looking around, yeah, we’re the youngest ones there. With my taste in music, that tends to be the case. Later on we spied some other people our age up in front. The playhouse’s ceiling loomed overhead and the entire place just felt dusty, historic, special…
Tin Cup Prophette opened up at 8:30. I was really pleased to see them perform since the band has been kinda hard to find lately. TCP is deep and moving music, helped by looping violin parts and thundering drums. I was completely immersed and almost didn’t notice Scott McCaughey come out front and linger on the left side of the stage, grinning ear to ear. TCP was almost done when I suddenly hear a lot of murmuring coming from the back of the theater. Then a loud “LOVE YOU BILL!” I spun around and I’m almost positive I saw Stipe, Mills, and Bill Berry walk in. It was dark and I can’t confirm totally but I’d bet some money on it.
We jumped out of our seats to rush the stage after the set. When asked when TCP will play Athens again, all we got was a “sometime later.” Seriously, if you get the chance, go see this band. Anyway, I didn’t really know the layout of the V3, only that Robyn would be in the middle and Bill Rieflin behind the kit. I picked the right side of the stage thinking (mistakenly) that it would be Scott McCaughey’s side. Sofia was looking around at the crowd, and possibly for Stipe, while I was just focused on the fact that there were three microphone stands onstage. Hm. Peter Buck doesn’t sing…
When Robyn and the guys came out, it was just what I had hoped. I really like “Trains” and was even more pleased when they launched into “What You Is.” One could imagine that Buck, Rieflin, and “McCoi” are probably the tightest trio you can find on the road. All those hours with R.E.M., V3, Minus 5, etc. pay off. Buck was a bit stoic onstage, just smiling gently and making eye contact with the crowd every once in a while. I couldn’t see Rieflin at all, very sad. McCoi was laughing and just all over his side of the stage. Robyn, of course, was pontificating from his place in center stage.
I’d heard about Robyn’s speeches before but it’s another thing to experience them. Before “Saturday Groovers” there was a long thread about the Rolling Stones being shipped in dry ice, their skinny legs potentially snapping off. Another story about drugs, underwater cities and then came my favorite of the night. “Before I got to Georgia, you were all running around in the kudzu, nightswimming, doing interesting things with Mike Mills under the stars…” I nearly died laughing and, judging from the look on Peter’s face, he was about to as well. Nicely played Mr. Hitchcock.
But amends were made when Mike Mills joined the band onstage for the very last song. Reprising his roll from the night before, the R.E.M. bassist strode onstage and proceeded to duke it out with McCoi and get insanely close to Robyn. Thank god I got it on film. What a great way to finish a show! Sofia grabbed the setlist for us and we proceeded to get it signed by Misters Buck and Hitchcock amid the cluster of fans outside. Thanks for taking the time to do that, it means a lot.
Flushed from the concert and the general excitement of having FINALLY met all the members of R.E.M., we hopped in the car and headed back to Athens, wondering if the V3 would soon be on our tail. About halfway back, we saw a shooting star. I’d never seen one before. I made my wish but in a way, a wish had already come true that night. We got thoroughly rocked and rolled by legends. Not bad for a Tuesday. Not bad at all.
I Often Dream of Trains
What You Is
Out of the Picture
Element of Light
Tryptizol, Librium, Carbitol
She Doesn’t Exist
Flesh Number One (Beatle Dennis)
Madonna of the Wasps
Up to our Nex
The Authority Box
One Long Pair of Eyes (solo, acoustic)
Kingdom of Love
Listening to the Higsons (Mike Mills guitar, Peter Buck drums, Scott McCaughey guitar, Bill Rieflin bass, Robyn on vox)