November 24, 2006
Thanksgiving night I called up Silent Cinema/Big Blue Marble lap steel guitarist Michael Blum to see if I could hitch a ride with him to Birmingham to see James Hall play at The Bottletree. Turns out Blum was the one who needed a ride, so we took off the next day so that he could play in Hall's band.
We got to the Bottletree six hours after we left New Orleans. We got info about the show from the nicest door guy ever. He actually seemed interested in Hall's music. The Bottletree seemed more like an art or theater space than a rock club, but you can't argue with the trailer in the back for the artists and the hospitality woman that made sure they had enough cigarettes and alcohol.
The show was spectacular. Some of the thirty in attendance seemed dumbfounded, as if they didn't know how to react to dramatic, visceral rock. As if they didn't know how to react to an amazing performer like Hall that doesn't break character. Hall played mostly solo stuff but also a few Pleasure Club tunes. His band was very loud, which was great for those that wanted to rock and not so great for Blum, who was overshadowed in the mix by cymbals and guitarist Chris Piskin's loud-ass amp. It's been more than a year since I've seen the loud and confident James Hall, not the reserved, acoustic, or wary one, so I seized the moment and rocked out.
Hall closed his set by playing the Smiths song "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore" with Blum. It was beautiful. I think I had something in my eye.
Birmingham was a cool place, all in all. The people were backbreakingly nice, and there were a couple of no frills bars like The Nick that I took to.