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Sunday, July 30, 2006

A Bold Claim 

A Bold Claim

I am nothing if not loyal. But I’m very selective about who and what is worth my time. Not that I have such an exotic life, I just get bored with average. So when I first saw a very rumpled, catawampus of a man named Thad Cockerill seated at a table full of Suits and Babydolls, I knew he was the real deal. After getting his CD, I knew I was right. And have been his #1 fan ever since.

And I finally got the chance to see him in concert. Thad Cockerill. At The Basement. Built somewhat like a thumb, I was scrutinizing him with an adoring eye as if he were of my own making. I was standing behind a table very near the stage that was reserved for “industry.” I recognized the company name as that of a big hitter. So perhaps the presence of influential industry types may have been responsible for me cheering possibly louder than I otherwise would have. Nothing like some riotous PR to get a person noticed. A table dance would not have been out of the question.

So here’s Thad. Less rumpled than the first time I’d seen him. And more blonde. He pensively took the stage. A shy guy I think, getting ready to do what he does best.

Now, it never occurred to me that he would play more songs than those I knew from his CD I own, “Begonias.” But he did. First was a sort of “I love Jesus” kind of thing. The crowd was duly humbled and perhaps somewhat unsure. Who knows how many sinners were gathered in Thad’s name. A smattering of polite applause seemed inappropriate but required. I was tempted to shout, “Amen!”, but didn’t. He seemed a little confused himself, but rallied as he brought up his duet partner. He introduced her as he called up, “Caitlin.” “Did you just call me Caitlin?,” she said. “I did. I just called you Caitlin. I meant to say Catie.”

Finally they started a song I knew, “I’ve been alone on a Sunday, baby.” It was nearly acoustic and very down-beat version of the song that really begs to be belted. I felt the need to offer to my friends who came, “this song is much better when it’s done at a an upbeat tempo.” “I can imagine,” they responded. “Caitlin” was the perfect body-type match for Thad. They were so cute up there on the stage. He was the right hand thumb, she was the left. In sparkles. What a pair. And they went through the whole song, fighting the urge to roll with it like the recorded version I prefer. My clapping was in time to the song they weren’t singing, hoping they would keep rhythm with me instead of this nearly acoustic rendition. Enthusiasm is infectious! But as fast-paced as I am, I found this version was a better platform for his talent and certainly his vocals were well-suited for showcasing his range and beauty. Well done Thad! I’ll let you lead me through all the rest of yours songs.

Next up, he announces he was about to do a song by an artist “who has was it takes to make it. I really believe in him. It’s a good song. He’s from Minnesota. His name is Bob Dylan.” We laughed. I don’t remember the song. I’m not a Dylan fan; I’m not NOT a Dylan fan, just don’t know his stuff beyond the obvious. Which I can’t even remember what those are. But I know it when I hear it. This was one I didn’t know. I remember thinking that for a song he didn’t write himself, he sure has the heart for it. Isn’t that the sign of a true artist? “You made it your own!” It ended. We applauded.

He wasn’t much of a dancer, which I attribute to his cowboy booted frame, it seemed as though he might be punishing his feet. Maybe it was their way of protesting what surely must have been an uncomfortable condition for them. Or maybe he’s just more of a singer than a dancer. Videos have spoiled us all.

That song ended and we raised the roof with applause. Despite the podiatric protest, he busted some fine moves. He did some soulful wailing, held a long, triumphant note, and as we were ready for full on Thad, he gave it to us just in time to relieve the climatic tension. We were still hooting and hollering, not all for the benefit of the music “industry” types in front of me. Well, I don’t think that was the case but it surely couldn’t have hurt.

He stepped to the mic again and warmly offered, “Hello. Friends.” It was so genuine and heartfelt, l let out an audible, unintentional “awe.”

He had a steel guitar, which I love. He played the regular kind, but steel guitar guy - “Friend Kenny” - was doing his thing, and lent a grisly cowboy feel to their mellow, righteous set. The other guitarist, apart from the now-sweaty Thad, looked like the doppleganger of Ms. Hathaway from Beverly Hillibillies. Interestingly enough, his name was also “Kenny.” Perhaps in better lighting, and fewer drinks in me, I’d see that I imagined the whole thing.

Thad’s at the mic, looking unsure of where it’s all going and announces, “I wrote my first love song. (Which I found hard to believe. What else do artists write about?) I wasn’t even sure if it was a ‘sure thing,’ but I said to myself, ‘This is it! Here we go!’ I’ve never performed it in public, other than singing it in my car, so ‘here we go!” It was a treat to hear the lyrics that came straight from his heart. I felt like we were all rooting for him – on stage, as well as for his budding romance.

The set was over too soon, in my opinion. I had just begun to get my fill of him and taking in his presence, his unease and gentle charm. I was captivated. But things were moving quickly and another band would soon take the stage. I knew I had to make my move. Photo op! This was my big chance. I had a disposable camera on me, still with Steeplechase pictures I’d like to get developed. More importantly, as his #1 Fan, I owed it to him! I marched not-so-gracefully across the stage and played the only note I know: “Teen Beat Magazine Super Fan.” It went something like this, “Hi Thad! I know I’m being an obnoxious fan right now, but I really love your album ‘Begonias.’ I can’t wait to get your new album either.” He says, “Yeah, and I can’t wait to record it.”

Whoops. I forged on. “But, ‘Warmth and Beauty?’ I thought it was out?” “That’s my first album.” Well so much for the “biggest fan” then. So as an exposed total poser, he kindly agreed to pose for a picture anyway. Taken by his bassist, an avuncular gem of a man. All is not lost.

I saw Thad through the rest of the evening, and, not being one to relinquish “Super Fan” post so easily, I would wave and holler “Hi Thad! Hi!” He’d look, smile (genuinely even; he’s that cool!) and mouth “Hi!” And I felt we both walked away winners, feeling good about the whole thing.

My friend said, “I’m beginning to see what went wrong with the whole Quentin Tarantino thing.” Recalling my story about Quentin sitting at my desk while I was at SNL. He was very forward and a total gigolo – I had no game. I could only gush. Because of my lack of cool, my inability to remain aloof and disinterested, I missed out on cheap and meaningless sex with him. But I like my story better anyway.

With Thad however, I think it was the beginning of a long, beautiful, life-affirming one-sided relationship! I’ll go see him wherever I can – his music is rich and seems to speak directly to my curious lovers heart. Mysterious poetic lyrics falling like silk from his lips, wrapping themselves around the ragged edges of my soul. Hell, I’ve settled for much less than that before. But I think I’ve learned that it probably takes more than an abundance of enthusiasm for an artist to call myself their #1 fan. But hell, they probably settle for a lot less than that too.

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