In a long, rambling story on Spin.com, Larry "Ratso" Sloman describes the latest Grinderman tour, with a hefty portion of the story dedicated to the band's meal, post Variety Playhouse show, at Holeman and Finch. Our friend Greg Best shows up in the story. Thankfully, I do not. But I was there.
I grew up in Melbourne, Australia. As a young teenager, it became part of my weekly routine to watch a show on the ABC called "Rage" - a show that began at midnight on Friday and Saturday nights and ran until noon the following day. At 9 a.m. "Rage" was a top-100 countdown of the popular music chart singles, but from midnight until 9, they played themed videos, often covering the entire career of one band or musician. Some nights a guest VJ, usually a touring musician, would pick the videos for the 9-hour stretch. But there was no talk, no time wasted on studio shots of said musician waxing philosophic about why he or she chose certain songs. It was 9 straight hours of uninterrupted, commercial-free music.
I learned a lot watching "Rage." But the night that sticks out most in my memory was one in which the producers decided to focus on Nick Cave. Every video he had ever made, every obscure piece of live footage, a few random snippets of old taped interviews, his skin pale, his hair shockingly black and lank. That voice! So deep and bad and good. Singing dark, crazy songs, songs about death that made the stakes seem so much higher when he turned to songs about love. Curled on the couch, listening to Cave singing about Elvis in the womb with his dead twin brother, my 13-year-old self changed. He stood on the cusp of the sacred and sacrilegious, and I realized that was where I wanted to exist.
It is also, apparently, where Holeman and Finch's Greg Best wants to exist. When Cave's band Grinderman played at the Variety Playhouse a few weeks ago, Best, an avid Nick Cave fan, sent word through the venue that Holeman and Finch would love to host the band if they were hungry after the show. He had no idea if they'd come, but after a (mind-blowing) set at the Variety, Grinderman showed up in a wood-paneled station wagon. Greg texted me. I jumped out of bed and into my car, making it from East Atlanta to Buckhead in 16 minutes, which is a record.
When I arrived, the band was sitting in the back dining room eating, and the staff, Greg included, were gathered around the bar, freaking out. "That's Nick f-ing Cave!!" various people kept saying. It was indeed.
When Cave went outside to smoke at some point, a barback generously gave me a cigarette so I could make the leap into groupie shame. (I don't usually smoke, unless copious amounts of booze are involved. Or Nick Cave. Or in this case, both.) I went out and there he was, taller than he should be, black hair, face like a grizzled angel. "We're countrymen," I offered. "Or really, fellow ex-pats."
"Oh yeah?" he said, obviously way more comfortable with these tiresome groupie conversations than I am. "Where are you from?"
"You ever go back?"
"Every now and then. Not as much as I'd like."
Another fan who had stepped outside broke in, and that was it. I smoked a cigarette with Nick Cave and said nothing of any interest whatsoever. I was thrilled.
Back inside, Greg was sitting and talking to the band like they were old friends. I sat at the bar and had another drink, then went to say goodbye to Greg. But he invited me to sit with them, and I did for a minute. Nick Cave introduced me to the rest of the band. "She's from Melbourne," he said.
"Are you?" cried Warren Ellis, the absolutely insane violin/electric bouzouki player who looked on stage like he had just crawled from the depths of Mordor (and who our own Chad Radford had expertly interviewed the day beforehand). "Where in Melbourne?" We then chatted a bit about the cost of housing in my home town, before the band went back to rhapsodizing about the food.
They really liked the food. "We spend about 90% of our time talking about food," Nick said. "And most of it is about how fucking awful American food is. This is the best food we've had in America I think."
A while later, they got in their wood-paneled station wagon and drove away. Nick called me "Melbourne girl," as he said goodbye.
Anyway, back to the Spin story. The entire narrative is worth reading, but if you're only interested in the H&F part it's on page four, which begins: "Holeman & Finch is by far the best restaurant any of us has ever encountered on the road," and goes on to quote Ellis as saying "This was the best American meal I've ever had."
It's funny how our lives run together, how disparate obsessions find each other, how the world conspires to bring seemingly discordant threads together into a melody. In this case, a really loud one, filled with dark imagery, deep voices, heathen children and anchovy pate.
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