The King is dead…
Samantha had told me about this man Phil D. — the guy who had played the cello at Elvis’ last concert — and he was the headliner for tonight. Okay, cool. But when I saw him approach the stage I thought it must be some kind of a joke. The man looked to be near death. Turns out that he was in his 60s, but when I had first seen him in the club a few nights prior, I would have placed his age in the 80s. He was actually younger than my dad, but looked a hell of a lot older.
I don’t suppose that I have to tell you that someone like that is not someone you usually see mounting the stage at a club. As he hobbled toward the stage, I looked down at Samantha’s written program and read that in addition to the Elvis thing, Phil D. had played for many years in the Indianapolis Philharmonic and that he was a music professor at the university.
There was obviously some sort of joke going on here.
But then it happened: he started to play. You see, while getting
up to the stage he looked as if he was about to collapse, but once he started playing that cello it was as if someone else had taken over that frail body. And damn, I have never seen anything quite like it, and I’ve seen a lot.
So Samantha had been right about this. Phil D. was an artist worth watching. I couldn’t imagine anyone in the music industry actually even attempting to sell something like this. But again, damn.
Phil’s backing band rocked (and he probably had grandchildren their age) and jammed out some tunes that would have been pretty darned good on their own, but atop the guitar and drums were these amazing, swooping cello parts. Just amazing parts. The kind of cello parts that give you chills.
And atop that, to my amazement, some fantastic tortured vocals. Hell, if he had just been a singer, he would have been a singer to catch my attention. But add that to everything else… I was in awe.
And after all these years in the music business, “awe” is not something I tend to feel anymore.
It was obvious that I was not the only one feeling it. I looked around the room and realized that he was the reason that this place was packed. He had a large contingent of fans in a wide age range, though most of them were college-aged and I assumed were probably his students. And they were fixated. The members of the other bands gave him their absolute full attention. The punk kids seemed fascinated. Everyone’s attention was on this frail little man who was such a powerhouse performer. Everyone’s eyes were glued to that stage. It was beautiful.
And then the jerkwad showed up.
Apparently, the annoying councilman and his small band of protesters had decided to be a bit more aggressive. Right in the middle of Phil D.’s set, they came marching through the club.
And get this: They were carrying torches! Friggin’ torches! I kid you not. Through the middle of a commercial building… Torches! I assume that the effect was meant to be like the angry townsfolk of old, some sort of symbolic gesture there which I’m sure the councilman thought was somehow significant and appropriate, but, Jesus Christ! TORCHES!
As they marched, they waved their torches and chanted “Not! In! Our! Town! Not! In! Our! Town!” Whatever the hell that was supposed to mean.
At this disruption, the band stopped playing — obviously, torches inside small confined spaces can certainly have that effect — and the councilman quickly jumped at the opportunity and started in on his speech, which, incidentally, he delivered to the cameraman who had followed them into the club and not to the people actually in the club.
“This place is a corrupting place. It is full of violence, and drugs, and who knows what else. I have lived in this city my entire life, I am proud to say. And I can tell you that this place is not something that the people of Terre Haute want here. Not! In! Our! Town!”
The room had a fairly high ceiling, but I, along with several other people in the club, couldn’t help notice how close the councilman’s torch was getting to the ceiling tiles as he waved the torch around.
And just as the councilman was about to continue his rant, a voice — a big, powerful voice — a voice like the Voice Of God came thundering out of the club’s speakers.
It was Phil D.
And Phil D. was pissed!
“MALCOLM!” shouted Phil D. through the P.A. system.
The councilman, obviously startled by the Voice Of God turned
and saw, apparently for the first time, the artist whose performance he had interrupted.
“Dad?” he squeaked.
“What in THE HELL are you doing?” Phil D. demanded.
“Yes. And I asked you a question Malcolm. What the hell are you
“Dad… what are you… don’t you know what goes on here? What
are you doing here?”
“Music goes on here. Music is what happens. And Music is what
I’m doing here… What are you doing here? Are we perhaps witnessing some ridiculous stunt designed to get you re-elected to the council? Is that what you’ve turned into? Is that what my son has turned into? A cheap, sensationalist, political HACK?“
The councilman was obviously rattled. With a weak point toward Samantha he squeaked out, “She invited us.”
“What?” shouted Samantha. “I invited you to come in and watch some bands, not to come in and act like….” and here, apparently, Samantha realized that there was a camera pointed at her, “Not to come and disrupt a concert that people have paid to see.”
Phil D. sprang to his feet — and through his furious anger you could see a quick wince at the pain that springing had caused him — and he shouted, “GET! OUT! Right now, OUT!”
Now, one could suspect that the councilman had probably not been spoken to by his father in that tone for 30 years or so, but it was obvious from his reaction that he most certainly had heard the tone before. He turned, and slinked out of the club, his bewildered fellow protesters following along behind him.
There was a pin-drop silence in the club as this happened. And when the councilman had made his way out the door, the crowd, in basically one synchronized motion turned their collective heads from the doorway back to Phil D.
There was an awkward moment.
Then Phil D. clutched his chest and collapsed to the floor.