R.I.P. The Delicious, 2006-2007

It feels like the week after a funeral. Get together with good people and eventually the subject comes up.

“Man, I can’t believe The Delicious is gone.”

“Yeah, sucks man. Remember when Mt. Eerie played and the guy was high on ‘shrooms? Wanted all the lights turned off.”

“I liked the Holy Ghost Children show.”

You can’t get away from that inevitable conversation even if you wanted. The Delicious is dead now. It succumbed to an early and unexpected grave. Like the death of a friend you just got to know. It happened just like that. Bam. Nobody was really ready for it.

There really was no other place like it around here. The house itself looks like it survived some cockroach-infested typhoon. The first floor of creaky wood and passé porches is occupied by Brian Wolf, Brian Lee and Eric, with two other residents on the top floor apartments. It’s right off campus. A block from Old Main and Carnall Hall. You could take the alley from the study abroad office. Hell, it was campus. It’s nested in that wonderful no-fly zone between the crummy brick box apartments and the historic houses with two cars and 1.5 kids. It was the perfect location for what The Trio was trying to do.

First and foremost, The Delicious was a place for performers. All three guys are accomplished musicians and knowing the limited amount of places available for college music, they wanted to offer their house as a venue of a different breed. Since July, The Delicious had been doing just that. There was rarely a week it didn’t have a show. More than once, there were three shows on three consecutive nights with more than three acts lined up to play.

There are already rumors and myths as to why the venue was shut down, and the exact confrontation The Trio had with the ladies at the Mansfield property office is still up for wild recreation.

“It’s already folklore,” said Eric, with his cryptically ironic smile.

The Trio, apparently, had been running a business out of their house. A big no-no for Mansfield. One whiff of the vagabond rockers who came through The Delicious and it would be clear no one was making a dime. The place served one main purpose – to cater to the sometimes odd musical tastes of musicians and audience members alike. There was one requirement for performers: You had to have opposable thumbs. Anything else was game. The end result was you really did get something new every weekend. Didn’t like the metal going on tonight? No prob. Next week there’s gonna be experimental with an opening county act.

. . .

On a late night in October, I remember trying to catch The Trio off guard as to their intentions for The Delicious. But there were no ulterior motives. All three guys are humble almost to a fault.

“We just wanted a place for people to play,” was usually the beginning and end of every answer to my questions. They were there for musicians. If people wanted to come along and enjoy the show, hey, that’s cool, too.

Performers who needed a place to stay were comforted with a shot and the assurance they didn’t have sleep in the VW bug. Money did change hands, too. A bowl was always passed around for the performer’s sake. Many times, the suggested donation allowed the music to move from one town to another, like the traveling performers of Ye Olde Time. There was a sense of obligation to throw something in the bowl. Not because you had to, but because you wanted to. No sinner’s guilt. Just a token of appreciation.

Talking to musicians who played at The Delicious, there was always a similar thread of appreciation for The Delicious and its crowd.

“I always like playin’ for people who are doin’ it themselves,” said Cory Branan, after a particularly rabble-rousing show. “I love places like this. I’m from Memphis and usually everything just revolves around the bottle … But a place like this, people are going out just for the show … I didn’t have anything like this when I was growin’ up.

“It’s volatile in that there’s no parameters,” Branan said, adding that there are no people saying “you do this or you don’t do this. They’re saying, ‘hey, we got a show, come in. You don’t have to pay, you don’t gotta not drink a fifth of whiskey.’ There’s no rules here.”

There weren’t any rules, true. There was a sense of a collective rag-tag understanding about things, though. No one smoked inside, and you didn’t steal beer or equipment from The Trio. It was BYOB and almost everyone had a six-pack or a brown bag. You could try your luck hiding your stash but booze-hounds could usually sniff it out. It was an understanding, though, and I never complained when I was a victim.

That was what I remember most about The Delicious – the improvised and homey look to everything. When Catfish Haven played, I watched the singer mime to Eric over the noisy crowd. In a few seconds, Eric returned to the stage and put a sock over the microphone to keep it from shocking. It looked goofy, but it worked. A spray-painted banner hangs behind the living room “stage” and the downstairs basement has some old door with “The Delicious” written on it. The walls, too, are lined with Brian Wolf’s personal paintings. The kitchen has a cute little note about what cups to use and where to recycle. In the bathroom, a dogged article about Kurt Vonnegut is taped to the wall and some non sequitur sign on the toilet says, “Hello!: Eggrolls = fun.” The venue was funky, improvised. But it worked.

There was a downside to The Delicious. The Elites there talked about obscure music in strange tongues with a frightening tone of pride. Show time, however, was filled with bobbleheaded crowds. I checked my friend’s pulse during one show. He still claims I tried to strangle him.

Last weekend, I asked The Trio whether there had ever been any trouble or fights. All three lifted an eyebrow and gave me a funny look. Apparently, I was involved in the only skirmish The Delicious had seen. Dylan, Luke and I had gone to a metal show, anticipating a good time. It came as a surprise that it was uncouth to start moshing and thrashing. We were called “frat boys” like it was an insult before Dylan was savagely attacked by the singer, who charged him like a rhino. These things happen, though, and I don’t think anybody has any grudges.

No grudges. Nope. Just a slight bitterness.

The polo-pushers have their Greek houses. The rising power-suits have Dickson and cocktail hour. The Delicious was the place I could go and to listen to good music and see good people. With that gone, there’s only the occasional something, somewhere with some people.

The Delicious was how I imagined an old-time dance hall, where everyone makes a stop at some point in the night. Every small room in that house had a pulse. The conversations crowded around the giant light bulb, even the kitchen and the porch moved at their own speed with fluidity. When you walked in on a slow night, the place felt lived in. When the show was hoppin’, the place felt alive.

It wasn’t a place to be. It was a place you could be no matter your disposition. More than once, I stumbled over there in some sort of stupor, talking big and laughing hard. I’ve walked home, chin on the chest; and I’ve skipped away from there arm in arm with a midnight crush. She’s laughing. I’m smiling. And we head off to go another round.

The death of The Delicious is the end of a collection of friends in a certain time and place. That’s not to say the people who crowded and sweated and shivered at the house won’t ever get together again. It wasn’t the one binding factor in people’s lives. No one’s that shallow. But it was a special little collective of people who shared common interests. That perfect smash-up of location, incentive and demand was essential to its success, and most people around here know that sort of opportunity doesn’t come often.

I’m just beginning to go through the grief steps for The Delicious and I think others are, too. I’m past denial and anger. Lately, whenever the subject of The Delicious comes up, everyone starts barking out ideas as to how to get another venue going. Most of the time, these drunken and elaborate plans don’t make it through to morning. We’re bargaining now and I shudder to think what kind of collective depression the crowd will experience.

As for me, I’m going to try to move toward acceptance. I’m full of regrets about the place for sure. I never once got to see Blair Harris play there. I never gave enough to the bands who were working hard to entertain me. More than anything, I never actually thanked Brian, Brian and Eric for doing more for the community than most sanctioned organizations.

So … well … thanks, gents. Thanks a lot.

[Original piece available here.]

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