Katrina benefit: A storm of activity

by Brian Clarey

There are a thousand excuses to go out and party heavy on a Sunday, but generally speaking there are no good reasons. But on Oct. 2 there is a huge impetus to adopt Saturday night behavior on a night when most of us have to work in the morning.

I’m talking about the huge ‘— and I mean huge ‘— benefit that Chris Roulhac organized for this Sunday night to benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

My goal was to hit five bars, a mere percentage of the 12 clubs that Chris lined up to host 60 local (and not so local) music acts to give to the needy, before we all turned into pumpkins.

I’m sitting at bar No. 5 right now, writing this story against a tight deadline.

Before sundown at the Blind Tiger the FOX8 cameraman has Doc out on the sidewalk for an interview. He grimaces when he sees me watching him through the front window of the club ‘— Doc shies away from the spotlight when he can help it ‘— but he goes on for the television camera. Onstage a Sam Frazier concoction, called Johnny’s Middle Finger, lays down a funky, grassy beat. The crowd is older at this reasonable hour, jobbers and homemakers busting it out to the rhythm. Some have brought their kids and a couple of young girls step dance to the bluegrass groove. It’s an acoustic set, delivered with the aid of some local bluegrass heroes, and the response is thunderous.

I’m proud of my hometown and the readiness of the people to step up when others, even the unseen and sometimes unlovable people of New Orleans, hit a rough patch in the road.

I stay for the first couple of tunes by the following act, the Carter Brothers, and I’m amazed that I’ve never heard them before. They’re very good: a fusion of grass, country, rock and pop that sets the room aflame. They haven’t played this stage in like 12 years, and they seem glad to be home.

But I’ve got an agenda, so I’ve got to keep moving.

Next stop is Plum Krazy’s and there’s a nice row of motorcycles out front. Inside thee barmaid’s showing some lower back tattoos and a healthy dose of cleavage. Onstage is T-Hammer, a credible blues outfit running through some old Jimi tunes. I run into Peter May, who’s already played a set at the Tiger and is gearing up for another here at the biker bar. He’s a trooper. The dance floor is empty’… for now. But I suspect it will be thrumming by the time Mel Melton and the Wicked Mojos take the stage at 10. Me, I can’t wait for it, so I move on to the next venue.

Oh yeah, the Clubhouse. I plan on staying for just a few minutes, but I’m there in time for Bob Margolin’s set and I stand transfixed. I’m not going anywhere. Margolin, once a Muddy Waters sideman, is amazing. He’s doing things with his left hand that would make his right hand moan. Joined onstage by local luminaries Matt Hill, Shiela Klinefelter and Chuck Cotton, he also welcomes some other bluesy friends onstage one by one. Alas, I have a schedule to keep.

I make a move downtown and catch Blue Bambooza at Solaris. Shane and James have already played a set at the Tiger and they’re going back there afterwards, but for now they do their thing with extreme capability. During ‘“Wharf Rat’” a couple of women do a buck dance on the hardwood floor. I stay as long as I’m able.

Next stop: The Flatiron, where owner Mike Mullins tells me I just missed the best set he’s seen down here in the nine years he’s been haunting the space. Sally Spring, he says, is definitely worth checking out.

There you have it: five bars in five hours. And what a night I had. And as I write this I’m awed by the event. It’s not that it didn’t go down without a hitch. It didn’t. People flaked, bands cancelled, volunteers disappeared’… but it was still an amazing thing to see this town come together (the way it always does) when the chips are down and people are hurting.

On this night, all of Greensboro can take a bow and know that they did something good.

Big thanks to Chris Roulhac and to all the bands and venues that made this possible. It was a great night. And like so many other Greensboroans, I’m gonna be late for work tomorrow.

To comment on this story, e-mail Brian Clarey at