From Meth and Red at Greene Street to acoustic songwriting goodness at the Tiger

by Ryan Snyder

Easily, one of the most thankless jobs in Triad music is bouncing at Greene Street Club. The necessary level of alertness ebbs and flows with each night, but for Saturday night’s Method Man and Redman show, the terror level was severe. Call it a combination of the How High duo’s mere presence liberating some of their regard for possession ordinances and their late arrival to the stage creating party favorfueled powder kegs of hostility in pockets, but security’s hands were full for the first 30 minutes of the headliner’s set. The five-man crew couldn’t drag bodies out of the crowd fast enough.

Sure, the prospect of getting within arm’s length of celebrities can make ordinary people do crazy things sometimes, but most of those who were in the first three rows should do the rest of mankind a solid and jam a fork into the nearest electrical outlet. The gene pool would be better for it. I’m talking about the dude who shoved his way to the front despite his girlfriend’s urging; the girl pushing her way through the crowd, spilling her half-dozen drinks on everyone around her; and especially the Omega Mu gyrating her Lane Bryant’s in a four-foot radius while screaming at anyone she couldn’t bump out of the way.

Granted, the show wasn’t nearly as bad as that sounds, at least according to emcee and show opener Ed E. Ruger who stuck it out. With appearances by Streetlife and other Wu affiliates, Meth and Red were said to have put on the kind of set that would draw headlines like “Meth and Red smokin’ at Greene Street Club” or “Rap duo sets Greensboro ablaze.” After the tricks were excused, the rest he said was all treats.

All the tricks but one, that is. The show review must go on, and right now hip-hop fans are reading about one of the finest unsung singer/songwriters to hail from North Carolina. Sally Spring’s songwriter in-the-round performance at the Blind Tiger on Sunday, Oct. 24 might have been the polar opposite of Meth and Red in every way. The median age of the crowd present to hear the golden-voiced Spring and a few of her friends showcase some of their best material might have been pushing Medicare eligibility, but not an elbow was thrown or a fan ejected.

Spring was joined onstage by three close associates — a pair of noted Chapel Hill artists in Greg Humphreys and Jonathan Byrd, and her own husband and musical accompaniment Ted Lyons — for a few rounds of poignant, sincere and sometimes downright funny tunes. As soon as the four musicians took their seats on the Tiger’s stage with guitars in hand, Spring ordered every television in the room off, as Dillon Fence and Hobex frontman Humphreys led off with his exemplary brand of stripped-down, blue-eyed soul in the form of “Natural Child.”

If the evening was all about musical personas, Humphreys was the sentimental crooner with a funky edge, and he played the part passionately. Sometimes a little too much so. He prefaced a pair of cuts from his new record Realign Your Mind by saying it was a breakup album, though the subtext was clearly that he took the worse end of it. Forgetting that he’s a guy with a guitar, a great voice and cornsilk blonde hair, Method Man said to tell him, “Ladies know who you are and dream of something something a star.”

Byrd tried his best to be serious when his turn came, but his deadpan sense of humor repeatedly got the best of him. His timeless “The Waitress” and rapid fire “For You” were built to amuse, but his preamble to the solemn “Amelia, My Dream” drew the loudest laughs. He told the story of having a fixation for crazy women in his younger days, of which he was suddenly cured the moment the subject of the forthcoming song burned his house to the ground, almost as if to say, “See Humphreys? It can get worse.”

Lyons provided guitar support to everyone, but saved his best for Spring. Her turns were far more folk than rock, but Lyons’ playing still lent a little hotness to the Civil War dirge “Boys In the Cornfield” and the tender ballad “A Million Miles.” Spring’s passionate delivery played well into the lighthearted “People Don’t Do,” but if it felt like a pattern was beginning to emerge in the song cycle’s tenor, there was. Humphrey and Spring’s lyrical weightiness gave the show an emotionally biased aura, with only the jesterly Byrd there to inject a little levity every third song into the tensely attentive room. Hey, maybe Meth and Red could use him.