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Bill, Grill and Russian Footwork

American crowd absorbed in DJ Vadim vibe

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Thursday night, I took some folks' advice and headed to The Evening Muse to see Bill Mallonee, formerly part of the Vigilantes of Love, along with Will Kimbrough. I had heard Mallonee on disc before, but had no idea about his live show or even his relative age. After I arrived, I spent about 15 minutes chatting with a chap in one of those thrift-store NAPA jackets and long sideburns, then opener Will Kimbrough played an energetic opening set, delighting the skewed-older crowd in attendance. At one point, Kimbrough looked over my way (toward the bar) and motioned. "There's a man in the house I'd like to invite up here." Really? Wow. How did he know I was here? Someone must have said something. "Y'all know who he is. He don't need an introduction!" Damn right he don't! "Ladies and Gentlemen (he's pointing now), please help me to welcome Mr. Bill Mallonee!" At which cue Mr. Sideburns and NAPA jacket sauntered to the stage to a big ovation, and I ordered a PBR to settle down. Later, I would end up drinking at a bar with Ryan Adams' bass player, but that's a story for another time. I have to remember it first.The Presto Grill has long been a landmark in Charlotte, and they did it the way places like the Coffee Cup do it: good cheap food in a friendly environment that, if seen enough, soon starts to feel like home.Imagine my surprise when I headed over to the new neon-and-recessed lighting Presto Grill, across Graham Street from the old location. This isn't your grandfather's Presto: you can order all sorts of fancy mixed drinks, quaff any number of beers, and order whole wheat griddle cakes. Basically, it's the Presto Grill in name only, with nary a worn Formica counter around. Good thing -- the clientele while I was there was more of the Suburban-driving variety than the Greyhound-riding one.

I overheard two men talking (one appeared to be some sort of priest -- or a guy with a priest fetish; who can tell?), and I assumed it was about war.

"Shame about that," the one man said to Priest-man. "You're totally getting this wrong."

"It's just not realistic," Priest-man replied. "Why are we even getting into this? You have your opinion and I have mine. But it's affected millions already! It speaks for itself, you know."

"Whatever. I still say My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a so-so movie at best."

The Hungry Duck, as part of its logo, displays the saying "dance like nobody's watching" underneath a Howard The Duck-looking mascot in a leather motorcycle jacket. Sunday at the Duck, people took that advice to heart. DJ Vadim, along with his ensemble, The Russian Percussion, supplied the beats to the large crowd, and also danced around a lot. While he didn't do that neat dance where they fold their arms and kick from a crouch, he did manage some smooth softshoe and head-bob moves that any American DJ would be proud to call his own. At one point, it hit me -- this is the mellowest, yet most absorbed audience I've ever been around in Charlotte. Don't get me wrong -- I've been around some mellow, self-absorbed audiences in my time, but never one that combined such elegant languidity with a knowledge and appreciation for the music. Midway through the show, Vadim invited up a member of his collective, a young lady who looked like a pint-sized version of former Fugee Lauryn Hill. She lady began introducing a song called "Overexposed," saying it was a pre-emptive strike against the "three big asses to one MC" syndrome seen so often on MTV. In one of those moments that lets you know God exists, she began rapping furiously, the crowd waved their arms in unison, and big-time rapper and big-ass fan Nelly rapped silently to himself on the TVs positioned above the bar.

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