January 25, 2012

Me Vs. Music

All this and a drumstick, too

Growing up black and “alternative” in Louisville was not easy, but it provided my sister Aisha and me much exposure to different kinds of people and music. From the choicest of pop-metal, like Spanky Lee, to just missing Green Day before they became superstars, we were always at a show. Our willingness to try anything despite the occasional “nigger” comment provided us with many strange and hilarious stories. We have grown past the discomfort of mean words for being the only brown faces.

Before writing this, I asked my sister Aisha if she minded that I tell one of her embarrassing stories. After giggling about the now-infamous tale, she reminded me that she was not at all embarrassed; she was a child. “The woman who tried to beat me to the drumstick should be embarrassed. She was too old.”

In light of the recent Spanky Lee reunion and in honor of those dedicated to the Musicians Emergency Relief Fund and the continued dream of a Toy Tiger, I am happy to tell this story.

It is hard to believe now that we were going to spend our afternoon listening to Spanky Lee. Remembering what I do of their songs, I can’t imagine why we were there, exactly. Perhaps it was the same day as the Sweet F.A. show. (I know, I know.) Spanky Lee played often enough that it was nearly impossible to avoid them. Plus, at the time, the Phoenix Hill Tavern was mecca for the local “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” set. They hosted shows that were 18 and over, and never asked for ID. My sister had a way of being 18 even though she was only 12. This has not changed.

Giant hair was everywhere, sprayed stiff with cans of full HFC AquaNet. Acid-washed denim and Reebok sneakers swirled about the back of the Tavern. The Saloon was often open, allowing a brief respite from the heat. Mullets were on the rise, and men still wore frayed denim cutoffs with gym tanks in public.

My crew and I waited patiently for the show to start. At 12, Aisha was stoked to have the chance to hang out with her cool big sister and our running mates, known collectively as MaryandRonnie. I don’t recall any of the songs Spanky Lee played, but I know the crowd seemed pleased, and it distracted us from the temperatures. At the end of the set, as is often the standard for a rock show, the guitarist throws his guitar picks and the drummer tosses a stick or two. Spanky Lee was no different. The picks flew, caught quickly by eager fans. The drumsticks took a bit longer; perhaps the drummer was going to hold on to them? The crowd had moved back slightly, leaving some space in front of the stage. This is when the first drumstick, maybe the only one, flew off the stage.

My sister immediately started toward it, steamrolling — she was getting that stick. Likewise, a woman in her 20s (and likely not her early 20s) had the same idea. She rushed forward. As my sister moved with stealth toward the thing, the other chick made it obvious that she would “take a bitch down” to get the stick. I think she pushed a few people over.

I’m not sure she expected that my little sis, as young and cute as she was, would also take someone out to get what she wants. You don’t mess with Aisha when she is out to accomplish a task. I felt no inclination to intervene, because I knew my sis could handle herself and had it in the bag. Plus, I’ve never been inclined toward running or fighting crazed metal chicks.

Aisha, quick as the cheetah Spandex she was probably wearing, scooped up the stick and made it back before the woman could break through the crowd. The sight of her losing the rock ’n’ roll version of “steal the bacon” to a 12-year-old girl and being actually angry is why we laugh about it to this day. Perhaps she has caught many a drumstick since. She definitely didn’t get this one.

Erica Rucker is a freelance weirdo, writer and professional wedding/portrait photographer at eElaine Photography.