Monday, June 24, 2013

Talking Football After Cooley

All hail the mighty Cooley Bird
So I saw Mike Cooley play a gig in Chapel Hill the other night, at an affable hole in the wall called Local 506. Cooley, for those of you not familiar with the man or his works, is one of the principals in the band Drive-By Truckers, and if you haven't heard of them, well, there's no hope for you.
Anyway, after the show wrapped up and the floor cleared out, and the dad shirts and ironic beards and expensive replicas of cheap t-shirts from my childhood had shuffled on out the door, only the die-hards were left. They clustered at the bar, pounding beers that weren't PBR and talking excitedly about next week's show in Winston-Salem, comparing the fine points of this gig's rendition of "Zip City" to those of one they heard in Athens at the 40 Watt back in 2004.

And for whatever reason, instead of heading out myself, I made a right, ordered a bottle of something, and sat myself down in the middle of it. Introduced myself to a few folks, talked about the DBTs show out front of the Lincoln Theatre a couple of years back and the Jason Isbell concert that the local paper had told people not to bother with, and got bought a drink by a guy named Bart whom I'd never met before because I was Of The Tribe.
Bart bought the guy next to me a drink, too. though there was a little buyer's regret there. I was drinking something that came in a brown glass bottle but the other guy was drinking Jack and Coke, which cost a little more. But Bart wasn't a piker, and he bought the round, and the guy and I fell to talking.
Turned out he was a writer for a national sports network, up from Hilton Head. His daughter was at camp at UNC, and he was up here to get her, and then when he heard about the Cooley show, well, hell, that sealed that. Cooley doesn't play many solo shows, you see, so if you're Of The Tribe and there's one near you, you go.
We talked, while we waited for Cooley to cool down and come down and maybe come out and sign stuff at the merch table. Turned out he covered Alabama football, that he'd been writing about it ever since he was a kid. His mom had told him that if he was going to sit in front of the television for three hours of a Saturday, he was damn sure at least going to write something about it. And so he did, starting at age eleven, and lo and behold it had turned into a career, and the man loved his work.
We talked college football a bit. It was his considered opinion that we were headed toward a 64 team, four conference setup come hell or high water, and that it would be here as soon as the big boys could figure out a way to keep the bowls happy. We talked a bit about where the ACC might or might not fit into that, and how bringing in Notre Dame part-way wasn't going to be enough. About Boston College,  where his daughter might end up going, and about Tom Coughlin's earning himself the Jacksonville Jaguars job with that win over Notre Dame on a night I ran up a half-dozen flights of stairs half-carrying a keg to watch a walk-on kick a field goal as time ran out.
Cooley came out to the merch table eventually. I'd already bought a t-shirt and the 7" single from Record Store Day, complete with Wes Freed art on the cover. Took a while to finish the transaction, as one of the hucksters kept trying to convince me to buy the vinyl of Cooley's one album, which turned into a debate over how I used my turntable and the Pine Top Smith records I'd inherited from my grandfather. Cooley didn't come by until I was gone, though my new friend got him to sign a CD and a record. Which was fine; I didn't need an autograph to prove to myself I'd been there. Buy The Vinyl guy told me they'd all be heading to the Cave next, and that I should be there. But it was late, and I didn't want to be That Guy, and the bar was shutting down.
And my new friend said his goodbyes, Cooley discs tucked under his arm like precious cargo, and the last of us die-hards drifted out into the night.

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