James Brown Comes to Town....

Saturday, October 26, 2013
Around this time in 2012 I lost a very good friend named Eric. Being of the punk persuasion he called himself "Generic". I had sung (*I should put that in qualifying quotations because I was a horrible vocalist and the noises I made could hardly pass for singing) for his band in my late teens and early 20s. He was a wild and amazing person who brought passion and fire to everything he did. Shortly after he died I made a memorial video of him to honor him.

One special memory I will always hold dear was from a cold, black night in his music studio. In October 2002 my brother and I had written an article for the now defunct Tampa magazine "TooSquare". It was a review of a live James Brown appearance at the Suwanee Music Festival. We wrote it in a quasi-gonzo style in a comical homage to our favorite writer Hunter S. Thompson. It was a hot mess on all counts but fun to do nonetheless. 

Generic loved the article and offered to record a live reading of it with some accompanying guitar work he'd throw in. It was one of those magic, drunken nights between brothers filled with booze and banter that one never forgets. He had a great music studio hidden in his sprawling property in middle-of-nowhere Florida. Generic had recorded hundreds of hours of music and scores of bands from near and far. For a strange chapter in the late 90s it was a punk rock mecca drawing acts from across the country and beyond. 
So, on this one weird night Generic and I just plowed through a bottle of Jack Daniels and a dozen or more beers (you can hear me slur my words several times) and fiddled with knobs and microphones til the moon called it quits. It's no masterpiece of writing or music but it's a wonderful witness to a magic night with a dearly missed friend. As Generic used to always say--"the creeps come out at night"....
Here is the text as it appeared if you want to read along: 

James Brown Comes to Town
By Bob Wire and TJ Swan
Oct. 2002

We passed three horrible crashes under a ripe harvest moon on the way to the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida. There’s something Superbad about a trip that begins so black-heeled, but then this was more or less a pilgrimage and one expects some sort of omens to litter the path. My superstitious side capitalized on all these ill portents. I envisioned all sorts of calamities awaiting us on the dark highway ahead: blood-eyed biker gangs, rabid hordes of raccoons, locusts, plagues…..hare krishnas…..

Soon though I switched the brain to the Good Vibe Station, loosing a pleasant stream of cloud-hopping rainbows and flipping unicorns. Good vibes, good vibes…..It wouldn’t do to arrive at the feet of the Godfather burdened with Paranoia. After all, you can’t be down if you’ve got James Brown.

Dammit! Stacia needs a Chalupa! We stop at a Taco Hell to feast. The rest of the drive vaporizes soon after and we arrive at the Spirit of Suwannee camp square at midnight. I can feel the hippy vibrations howling beyond the gates, Technicolor tentacles poised to engulf us.

It’s a volatile alphabet soup of chemicals in there, some natural, some hastily conjured poisons—LSD, MDMA, THC, PMS, GHB, SPF, MSG, etc. This is no ordinary venue. It’s deeply set in the woody rural district of Redneck County Florida—hosting noneother than the Blackest, Baddest, Muthafuckin’ Muthafucka of them all—His Highness….James Brown!!

With all obligatory respects, there were of course a great mass of other performers at this music festival, none of which I gave a rat turd about. I’m sure they are all fine, fine young folks with oodles of talent and charm, but to a monomaniac en route to see a legend, they amount to so much dust on the lens of the binoculars. I came to see the Man who liberated the troglodytes from their bourgeois slumber. Sure I love Elvis too—after all he freed the groin and knees, but King James gave us Soul……

In we go.
The spectacle inside resembled a disintegrating riot—a saturnalia in its formative stages, citizens long soaked in rum and sunshine. People….hairy people…..were milling about cockroach-style in and out of flickering tie-dyed displays. Beer was reasonably priced with little kickback to the middleman in charge of tickets. G Love and Special Sauce were laying down a fine groove. Their set nearly drained, they took the opportunity to extol the merits of cannibis and “cold beverages”. Indeed. So it was for the lingering shades of the evening proper…..stinky, basically peaceful and swampy in a way only Florida can be.

Suddenly, the atmosphere smoldered with anticipation. The weighty chains of civility stretched ever thinner with each shared breath. The crowd was becoming a Beast! Breezes combed us all with virile smells and the rich aroma of stirred dirt.

The first musicians began filing in. When the stage was adequately loaded with black muses and white session players, the unwieldy crew began lubricating the audience with showy, rhythmic noise. The whole affair took on the cadence of an ancient circus. Apparently, as a species, we all secretly love to boogie and get high. Now was the time for our tribe to Get it On.

Something in the blood responds to the reckless Truth and as James Brown took the stage a glittering new fuel began coursing in my veins. He looked like a bloated aborigine wrapped in a diamond pelt. He croaked out a few undecipherable salutations and began the two-hour ritual immediately. Slithering, shaking, stomping, grooving! The Old Man kicked out all the jams. Lawdy! What a flurry of feet and flash!....Make it Funky…..Pleasepleasepleeeeeaase….unnh! Get on Up….Heh! Ha!

The man is a triple-caped gigolo, pimping out the holy human sex sound locked in the gene pattern. He howls like a captured tiger, each note steady and strong. Every sterling syllable streams out like a seraphic night train into the full moon sky. The bliss-wet crowd cavorts en masse, hooting and caterwauling savagely. He slows it down…..gospel style. Big Finish. No encore.

Our departure was one seamless shuffle to the car. Somehow we managed to lose the car keys inside. Stalled, perhaps, by Fortune to soak up the lingering scents of the predawn twilight.

Finally we make it to a truck stop Waffle House to refuel our rattled bodies. The waitress was a strange specimen of the outback female—pimply, certainly intoxicated and glistening under the harsh glare of the fluorescent light. “Pot smoking causes…..I forget…heh,heh,heh…” was her opening line. The rest of her twaddle has since faded from my memory, but this backwoods nymph drooled out a fine epitaph for our exhausted night: “the Spirit of Suwannee is the most beautiful place you could ever go.”


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