Friday, March 20, 2009

"No Thanks" Or "Cutthroat Greek Businessman"

A good friend of mine once told me that rock critics are failed musicians and bloggers are failed rock-critics. Music is the joke that keeps us laughing. So, with the economy harshly wounded and the words “stimulus package” on the lips of every breathing bag of bones both sides of the Mississippi River, what better time to pack up, avoid responsibility, ignore all the world’s problems, and resume the “business” of being an American band prepared to “make it” at this year’s South By Southwest Festival? Ol’ Bluetooth got a severe makeover for the special occasion, new brakes, new tires, major front-end work, and a lube-job just so The Black Hollies could make the pilgrimage. When the repairs are all said and done I realize that if my mechanic was half as good at fixing vans as he was at method acting I wouldn’t feel so cheated. “You’re lucky I cut the rotors,” he says. “Those brakes disintegrated in my hands. If that would have happened on the highway you’d a had no brakes,” dramatically thrown in by the old time gear head to soften the blow of the bill being double the initial price he originally quoted for me. I don’t take the bait as I notice he can’t look me in the eyes.

With that being said, The Black Hollies have dubbed their current trek to Austin, “Cutthroat Greek Businessman Week.” For people such as the four members of The Black Hollies who have been taught that good manners are of utmost importance, “Excuse me,” “Sorry,” and “Thank you” go hand in hand as conditioned responses casually uttered with out even thinking, reflexes. You brush against someone in the street. You say, “Excuse me.” You accidentally step on an old lady’s toe in line at the local CVS. You say, “Sorry.” A waitress gives you the bill for food that you ordered and you say, “Thank you.” Why are you thanking her? You’re the one paying. We of good mannered stock are conditioned to mindlessly say, “Excuse me,” “Sorry,” and “Thank you,” so much so that these sacred phrases have been rendered meaningless empty gestures, especially amongst the members of The Black Hollies inside their van during a thirty hour trip.

As a result, Justin Angelo Morey recently instated a new game, albeit mandatory still considered a “game,” to be played amongst the members of The Black Hollies for the duration of the trip to and from Austin, TX. The game, which can be called either “No Thanks” or “Cutthroat Greek Businessman,” is to be played as follows. Any time a member of The Black Hollies says, “Excuse me,” “Sorry,” or, “Thank you,” to any of his fellow band mates, whether in English or a in foreign language, the recipient of said verbal nicety is granted carte blanche to punch the band mate thanking him in the arm with as much force as is deemed fit. In layman’s terms: he who is thanked administers hasty dead arm to he who thanks. It is important to note that the game is only played amongst band members and is by no means a license to exhibit bad manners against the general public. The Black Hollies truly value kindness, gratitude, and genuine good karma but for some unknown reason have grown tired of being polite to each other just for politeness’ sake. Also, certain discrepancies have been discussed and for the purpose of simplicity, “Thank you very little,” in place of “Thank you very much,” does not grant clemency to the thanker in breach.

So far, the best example of how to take “No Thanks” or “Cutthroat Greek Businessman” to its utmost limit is illustrated by a Morey/Wiley tag-team effort against Ferrante only a few hours after the game’s inception. On the road somewhere in Tennessee, Wiley asks Ferrante if there are any ballads on Zeppelin II. Morey feigns ignorance, and names The Lemon Song, casting the bait right in Ferrante’s vicinity. Wiley then dangles the bait, “The last song on side one I think. I can’t remember what it’s called.” Ferrante answers, “Livin’ Lovin’ Maid? Heartbreaker?” I notice Morey, who is driving, subtly clench his hand in the shape of a fist. Ferrante is deep in thought. Wiley goes in for the kill, “Yeah. I know those but I know there’s definitely a ballad on there. I can’t for the life of me remember what it’s called though. It’s killin’ me.” Ferrante eagerly cuts him off as if he just discovered a new equation modifying the theory of relativity, “Oh! Thank You.” Two punches immediately and simultaneously rain on each of Ferrante’s arms, one from Morey who is driving, and one from Wiley in shotgun. The entire band is in disbelief that the ploy is carried out to such length and that, in the end, Ferrante actually winds up taking the bait. Such is the justice of “No Thanks” or “Cutthroat Greek Businessman.” Two days after the game has been in full swing most members of The Black Hollis are having trouble lifting their arms. The Black Hollies highly recommend this game to be played amongst circles of friends everywhere as an experiment in weighing the qualitative value of “Thank yous” uttered against their quantitative value. After a dozen dead arms your friends will think twice about thanking you for passing the peas.

Lo and behold, karma can be stifling. After two entire days of continual driving and playing “No Thanks” or “Cutthroat Greek Businessman,” The Black Hollies arrive at their hotel. At the exact moment of inception Ol’ Bluetooth dies once again. It seems that either the van’s battery or alternator is on the fritz. The good news is that the band is playing its first 2009 SXSW showcase on Friday morning at 7:00 AM in the Sears Auto Center. WE PLAAAAYED. (To be read aloud in an exaggerated southern drawl.)

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