Last Night a Red Stripe Saved My Life

(I meant to post this on Friday, but life and whatnot got in the way. Sorry!)

This is Greg Dulli of The Afghan Whigs/Twilight Singers:

I used to be in love with this man.

Ten years ago, The Afghan Whigs were hands down my favorite band. I followed them around the country like a fangirl idiot in college, seeing them everywhere from New York City to New Orleans, Chicago to Cincinnati, and even managed to hang out with the band quite frequently. Greg Dulli exuded a confidence and panache that was pretty much unrivaled by his Sub Pop compatriots, most of whom were too busy swiping their too-long bangs from their eyes to notice that there was in fact an audience full of people in the room who might possibly want to hear them speak a few words between songs. Not Dulli—he would weave tales of debauchery and perversion all night, putting the audience squarely in the palm of his hand. He had women swooning and men wondering what in the hell this chubby guy from Ohio had that they didn't—and demanding to know how they could get a bit of it for themselves.

The night before Thanksgiving 1997, I was walking with some friends in the warehouse district of New Orleans, scoping out the Howlin' Wolf, where we would see the Whigs perform the next night. As we were walking, I heard faint sounds coming from a building next door to the club, sounds that were vaguely familiar. I stopped suddenly, and as only an 19-year-old girl can, squealed to my friends that our favorite band, and our beloved Dulli, were using that small, nondescript room a rehearsal space. Before I knew what I was doing, I was walking up to the building, pounding on the door, and demanding entry. Luckily, the Whigs' good Midwestern values met with my undeniable cuteness, and we were ushered in to enjoy our own little private performance (Take your head out of the gutter—they played songs for us!). We must have made an impression on the band, since every time we saw them after that, we were invited backstage, where Greg would serenade me by singing my name to the tune of Ave Maria, or, occasionally, Hava Nagila. Go ahead, sing it to yourself, it works! :)

A few years after the New Orleans show, I saw the Whigs in Detroit. Afterwards, we all went to their suites at the Atheneum to have some drinks and, I kid you not, watch The World According to Garp. At one point, Dulli walked in wearing a pair of Adidas track pants and flip-flops, and my crush died a quick death. Call me vain, but I cannot love a man in leisure wear.

However, I still maintained a respect for him, as a songwriter and a performer, that lived on even when I thought he was kind of cheesy, and frankly, a bit of an asshole. Eventually, the Whigs broke up and Dulli formed a new project called The Twilight Singers. Ostensibly, The Twilight Singers are a band and not just an excuse for Dulli to continue to get on stage and charm the ladies, though I must admit, with a line-up that changes with every album, it's hard to get past the notion that the band is really just an exercise in Dulli self-indulgence. Which isn't to say that they were bad, but more to point out that they live and die on Dulli's ability to be interesting and witty and sharp.

Unfortunately, after having seen the Twilight Singers on Thursday night, I can state Dulli is, in fact, none of those things. First of all he's old. Now, I know that he can't do anything about that (after all, I'm not the cute little college coed that I used to be, either!), so I'm willing to forgive that. He's also getting a little wider in the midsection, but hey, that comes with being old, so nothing much to be done about that either. But old, fat and boring—that's fucking unforgivable. His witty banter has been reduced to trite Dulli-lite cliches like “So, you want to make party?” delivered in a sing-song cadence which is more appropriate for a room full of preschoolers than a rock show. He's also become one predictable motherfucker: at the end of 66 he breaks into the opening lines of Little Red Corvette, which was really cool the first time I heard it...in 1998.

I walked out of that show with a fleeting thought of throwing out all of my old Afghan Whigs albums, but managed to restrain myself by the time I got home. They're safe for now, but they'll probably be doing nothing more than collecting dust for a while.

The upside to the evening, though, is anecdotal proof that drinking beer can save your life. The second opening act (and we won't get into the car crash that was the first) was Dios (Malos). Allow me to channel the fangirl idiot that still resides deep within me: omgz!!1!1!! They were fucking fantastic. The drummer is a freak show, and I mean that in the most loving and respectful way possible. Particularly since he's already tried to kill me...at the end of their set, he flung his drumstick into the crowd at the exact moment that I took a sip of my Red Stripe. The drumstick hit the bottom of my beer bottle with a resounding clink, ricocheted up and over my head, and hit the ground behind me. Were I teetotal, I would have been a dead girl—or, at the very least, a girl with a big fucking bruise on her face. So remember boys and girls, alcohol saves lives.


annamaria at 12:02 PM

11 spoke


at Wednesday, May 31, 2006 11:37:00 AM Blogger Jenn said...

I just recently got turned on to The Afghan Whigs. I'm a JohnnyComeLately, I know. I dig 'em. I really enjoyed your review. I linked this to a few Afghan fans, hope that's okay.

P.S. I found you via Kurt. He's always linking me to you for your music tastes. Apparently he thinks we have something in common when it comes to that. Nice.

at Wednesday, May 31, 2006 1:48:00 PM Blogger Kurt said...

jenn cusses alot, annamaria, but she has a good heart....plus she is into music big.

at Wednesday, May 31, 2006 1:56:00 PM Blogger annamaria said...

Kurt Said:

"jenn cusses alot, annamaria, but she has a good heart....plus she is into music big."

I'd like to think that if you just switch those names around, the above statement is still true! :)

at Wednesday, May 31, 2006 3:42:00 PM Blogger Jenn said...

I concede. Kurt is correct. But that's the last time I ever say that. Milk it, Kurt.

at Wednesday, May 31, 2006 3:46:00 PM Blogger Kurt said...

no need to milk it. from what i hear from all the women i talk to, you have no need to worry. i am rarely correct.

at Wednesday, May 31, 2006 4:01:00 PM Blogger Wake of the Flood said...

It's not only women who know that Kurt is rarely correct. They're just the ones who are constantly reminding him of the fact. As they tend to do for all males...

at Wednesday, May 31, 2006 4:09:00 PM Blogger Wake of the Flood said...

Annamaria, welcome to adulthood, aka old age. Seems like lots of bands don't age well, even when we do! The ones that do turn into the classic rock for each generation. Watching some of the old bands from the late 60's and early 70's on the PBS specials can be very, very painful for those with memories of the bands in their better days. And yet you see all these women in the audience just going gaga over their idols. And the latest hubby dutifully standing alongside them singing away.....and now don't tell me I've described a bunch of Deadheads.

at Wednesday, May 31, 2006 4:58:00 PM Blogger annamaria said...

Wake, I totally get what you're saying, but I guess I've just been spoiled by artists like Elvis Costello, who I've seen so many times in recent years and who is still vibrant and youthful dispite what some might consider his advanced age (as I approach my 30s, I find that the "old" line keeps moving further and further!). Of course, I also watched The Rolling Stones at the Super Bowl halftime show this year and my prevailing thought was not they were bad so much as unseemly! :)

at Wednesday, May 31, 2006 5:02:00 PM Blogger annamaria said...

Jenn--I meant to respond and let you know that you can feel free to link to whatever you'd like around here. I'll prepare for the flame war from the Dulli-ites forthwith! :)

Seriously, though, the review was written immediately afterwards, and so is a lot harsher that I might have been if I had given myself some time to reflect. Of course, it's probably more honest this way. The thing is, the Afghan Whigs were such a great band, I mean, really, really amazing both on record and on stage, that even a mediocre performance almost seems like a slap in the face to my memories of the 30+ shows of Dulli's I've seen in the past decade. I was spoiled in the past, so any disappointment is just magnified by the comparisons.

at Thursday, June 01, 2006 10:20:00 AM Blogger Kurt said...

wake, you missed it with the Deadheads...their later shows were marked by an audience that was getting younger! the older fans weren't as able to make it on the tours anymore, it takes more than t-shirt and necklace sales receipts to pay the mortgage!

at Friday, June 02, 2006 9:17:00 AM Blogger Dane meets Simone said...

I didn't think this was harsh. Then again, I like harsh (a lot) so maybe I'm skewed. Also, you conceded old and fat as inevitable, which was almost generous. I think it balanced out the disappointment.

And anyway, someone needs to give proper due to those few who don't get old as they age. Like Elvis.

In short, you wear disillusionment well. Have you worn it before?


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