Imagine an abandoned bowling alley from the 20’s, let it sit for a few decades, rot under the gravity of time, and open it as a bar. Voila, and you have the Turf Club, just off of Snelling and University. It opens up- well, it less opens up, it more reveals its shabby space with each step you trail into the abyss. Dark, red-lighting, reminds me of every bar in Oakland, CA, except we’re in St. Paul underneath February snowfall.
I’d be nervous if I wasn’t so tired. Writing bonus tracks, staring at photoshop like it’s going to pop off the screen and dance on my keyboard, and fliering like no today, I can feel the look on my face falling to the floor. This is my first visit to the Turf Club. The night held by the talents of Charlie Parr, a blue-grass folk kicker with a knack for making people dance, I’m at an ignorant disadvantage of showing up simply to see someone, not the show.
I submit my 5 bucks to the door guy (we’ll talk money after this weekend’s tour to Iowa, not now please), and step in. Again, here to see a friend, not PBR or Charlie Parr. However, I’m curious about this Charlie Parr. After several years of Folk Dance Summer Camp, by way of an ex-girlfriend from high school, I haven’t shit-kicked a good ol’ two-step to folk music in a damn long while. We’ll see if this Charlie Parr is what they say he is. If not… well, we can say the 5 bucks will have to be worth finding out.
The Turf Club would be an excellent place to get plowed. I think I began to feel drunk just from the look of it. The smell just screams hard liquor and bad decisions- Can’t, this week’s important, damn important. Keep your head on a swivel, man. This is no time for wandering. I meet my company and we sit. We sit through what seems to be hours of a man talking on a mic before he even begins his first song. Parr’s opener spoke for literally twenty minutes before performing his first song. No hate, maybe this is something these people do at folk shows before each song- kinda like a country concert: you tell the origin, place, and time the song was written before actually playing it- y’know, a little background story as to erase any doubt that you might think I’m sensitive to writing music for a living;)
The opener performs, finishes. I believe his musical performance was actually shorter than the duration of time he talked before hitting his first note. Again, no hate, perhaps speaking before playing is cultural and/or particular to folk concerts. In the absence of music on stage, an withering old-white man creeps from the far side of the bar and begins placing objects on the stage. A wooden box, a guitar case, cords, an assemblance of his instruments.
This is Charlie Parr, long-white beard, graying pony-tail bunned in the back of his head, balding somewhat, but tall. His neck arches, but the man looks to be able to touch the ceiling if he felt it. His constituents, of a younger middle-age look, meet on the stage. They brand a washboard and harmonica for the evening hoe down. The three are seemingly perfect strangers, an all-star of sorts derived from different corners of the church quire.
Unlike his opener, Charlie says very little and begins strumming an upbeat on the more-expensive-then-I-want-to-know acoustic guitar. And there it is- The It-Factor to Charlie Parr resonates immediately. You don’t need a bio, myspace, or taste to understand why 200+ people have packed into the Turf Club on the saddest Sunday night in lieu of the Packers’ championship victory. Charlie Parr strums that m-----f-----r like it is his sole calling. He has absolutely submitted himself to his craft and looks to care for less outside of it. No talk, no intro, just Charlie… and his middle-aged gang of elite talents.
The mic far from his face, still captures the blast of vowel and consonant from his diaphragm. A straight up G. And when I say “straight up G”, I mean to say I dare anyone in the game to hold their CD release show on a Sunday… during the Super Bowl… acoustic… and get the joint jumpin’ like a jumpin’ jack (ref: Lil Wayne).
I begin to sweat, while watching Mr. Parr. Not due to anything climate wise, or potential closet feelings for men with long beards, but because the idea has stricken my mind more than twice now to get up and start dancing. To start stomping ravenously, clapping to the beat, and pretending to murmur the chorus like I’ve heard it before. Parr’s rhythm and time could get a senior citizen home & a graveyard to move.
The man resides his two-hour set… puts down his guitar and speaks softly into the mic, “We’re gonna do one more and then you all have a nice night”. Charlie wraps his left arm around his torso, grabbing underneath the right side of his rib cage. Thought the man was going to keel over, and begin weezing for life… he didn’t . He belts, “Ain’t no grave gonna hold me down…”. I couldn’t make out the rest, but possibly that was all that I was supposed to hear. Sans guitar, sans harmonica, sans washboard, just stomping on his stomping board… and singing like it’s the only option he has, Charlie looked to be in physical pain. Forgot to mention, at this point, myself and company (entire bar included) is up on their feet, and have been dancing for some time now. I’m sweatin’ like Mubarak anywhere in Egypt, clappin’, stompin’, whistlin’… lovely. However, Charlie Parr is eeking out this song with his bandmates, looking to be in physical pain, but nonetheless at the utter mercy of his work and continuing to belt the song.
The Turf Club’s foundation must’ve budged a centimeter that night. Can’t say I’ve had that much fun on a Sunday since… well, the last time I was in NYC. New York pays no regard to the day of the week.
If I’m lucky, I’ll somehow, someway be able to work with Parr down the road. The guy’s a tall tale, rumor, and Greek myth somehow come to life, in my eyes. Him and Evan Christianson, from Milwaukee, have absolutely floored me in the past month.
Hmm, the next show: