Monday, July 23, 2007

DMX crazy as ever

I was out of town on Wednesday, and it sounds like I missed a crazy night. Josh Groban cancelled at the last minute because of laryngitis (read Courtney Devores' interview with him in the A-List on Page 2A of Tuesday's Observer.)

My buddy Larken said he loved DMX’s performance, but that opener Bazaar Royale was horrible. I, however, also heard from reliable sources that DMX’s antics at Amos’ Southend may have been more ridiculous than Meshell Ndegeocello's. I have a feeling he won’t be playing at Amos’ again.

Here are a few e-mails the Observer received about the DMX show.

From Ray Anderson:
He got on stage around 12:40. I had to wait around in order to review it (I write for All I kept thinking was “I’m missing ‘King of the Hill’ for this?”
He played/prayed until 2 a.m. and did A LOT of preaching between songs. I kept thinking to myself, "Well, it is Wednesday night" (the night normally associated with bible study).
Maybe Josh Groban cancelled because he wanted to go to the DMX concert.

From Leah Day:
When we first arrived and got in line to give our tickets, we noticed on the counter there was a notice that said DMX would start at 11:30 p.m. and that the bar was not responsible for his punctuality. Our tickets said 8 p.m. Seeing that, we decided to go take advantage of Therapy’s half-price martini night until 11:15 p.m. in case it started at 11:30.
The concert was excellent, and lasted a decent amount of time. I was all the way up front and really enjoyed the performance. My friend caught the T-shirt he threw out. Overall, I think it was worth the wait and my friends and I all said we would go again if he came to town.

From Heather Blake:
Had a great time! Yes, he came on stage a little late -- around 12:30 a.m. -- but he’s rather notorious for doing so. Amos’ had several signs posted at the door that the Bazaar Royale started at 10:30 p.m. and DMX at 11:30 p.m.; however, right below they also clearly stated that they were not responsible for the artists’ punctuality.
Do I wish they had been a little more clear about what time the show started? Of course. But it’s a concert -- relax, and just have a good time. I’m most definitely not a rap fan usually, but he was worth the wait.

A really angry lady:
Doors opened at 8 p.m. and DMX was supposed to be there from 9:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m., so we got there around 8 p.m. and waited while some DJ played.
Waited...waited...waited...and about 10:30 p.m., we got angry.
So about 11 p.m., I went up to the lady at the front and asked if DMX was even going to perform. She said, "He’ll be on at 11:30 p.m." About 11:25 p.m. his cover band played for about half an hour. About 12:30 a.m., I wanted to go home, so we went up to the lady at the front and demanded our money back.
We didn't get it, but the point is we paid for a concert on Wednesday night, not one on Thursday morning.

Like I said, I didn’t go to the concert, and I’m glad I didn’t. Anyone who goes to rap concerts at clubs knows that the main act often doesn’t go on until 11 or 11:30 p.m. (Yes, after midnight is a bit ridiculous. This is Charlotte, not D.C.)
Your best bet is to call the venue and ask what time the main act will perform if you don’t want to arrive too early. Anyway, I’m glad I didn’t go to the show because I can’t take the whole preaching/rapping thing. DMX obviously has issues, and if he wants to express that in his lyrics, that's fine. But I’m not going to a concert to hear him preach.

Have anything to add? Post your replies below.

A week in New Mexico

Last year, my mom invited my girl and I to spend a week in New Mexico. My mom’s best friend Sue has a cabin that her family owns in the mountains between Taos and Eagle Nest. Sue’s mother, whom I called Momma Sarah, vacations in New Mexico every summer to escape the Oklahoma heat.

I want to eventually move to the Southwest, so I’m always looking for opportunities to explore that region of the country. I went to Phoenix a few years ago for a journalism convention. It was pretty, but I remember stepping off the airplane at midnight and it was 100 degrees. A hundred degrees at night!

The forecast for Santa Fe and Taos, where we also would be staying, called for cooler temperatures than that, so I was excited. I’d never been to New Mexico, and my vision of the Southwest is based on the movies “Waiting to Exhale” and “Boys on the Side.”

I imagined lovely adobe houses with miles and miles of land, pretty scenery and laid-back people. I got some of that, but I also got carsick from all the winding roads, a broken windshield from flying rocks, locals who look at black people as if they’d only seen them in magazines (one woman called us a novelty) and lots of poverty.

Hotel heaven and not-so heavenly

After flying into Albuquerque on Saturday, we drove to Santa Fe for the night. We met my mom and her friend Sue in the lobby of our hotel, the Eldorado, a picturesque hotel with huge columns out front and grand steps leading to the entrance. The rooms were stately, but the hotel is a rip-off for $299 a night.

The valet service is slower than mud. (Actually, everything in Santa Fe and Taos is slow. No one moves with a sense of urgency, which drove me nuts.) They lost our car. They didn’t have free Internet access, and their mojitos weren’t all that. Did I mention the hotel cost $299 a night?

My mom and Sue stayed about a block away in the Inn of the Governor’s on West Alameda Street. It’s rustic, with cute little fireplaces in the rooms and free breakfast. And I’m not talking about Comfort Inn-style dry cereal and muffins -- they had eggs cooked with peppers and onions, bacon and sausage, fruit, yogurt, waffles and French toast. That’s what I’m talking about. The hotel bar, the Saloon, seemed to be the most popular hangout in all of Santa Fe.

Whoa, he sounds like Tracy Chapman

After cocktails, we went to the Inn and Spa at Loretto on the Old Santa Fe Trail for dinner. We sat outside on the patio of the hotel’s restaurant, Baleen Santa Fe. The patio had a white canopy and it looked like the kind of place where you could have a small wedding.

Matthew Andrea played guitar, and if you closed your eyes, he sounded like a less-raspy Tracy Chapman. Andrea played covers, originals and instrumentals. He complemented the vibe with a soothing set that wasn’t too loud, but still audible enough to sing along if you wanted.

The hotel is one of those fancy places where the food looks pretty, the portions look small and your bill looks big. I ate the giant sea scallop with mussels in a broth. My mom tried the poached Halibut with forbidden rice. (It’s dark purple and sweet. The waiter said ancient Chinese emperors served it to their concubines.) My girl and Sue ate the salmon.

After eating, I was surprisingly stuffed and had little room for sopadillas (a fried pastry square filled with rich dark chocolate) for dessert. I preferred my mom’s hot doughnuts and my girl’s apple tart topped with ice cream.

If you’re going to Santa Fe, the Loretto is definitely worth a splurge. And they don’t have any mosquitoes in Santa Fe, so you can sit outside without dousing yourself in Off.

Partying in Santa Fe

After we put my mom and Sue to bed, my girl and I wandered the streets of Santa Fe looking to get into something. Santa Fe is rich in history and art culture. It’s not rich in nightlife.

We strolled through the square area, but most of the places were bars and none of them were jumping enough to stop. After partying Friday night at Charlotte’s NV, and then rising at the crack of light to fly to New Mexico, I was exhausted and needed a loud, busy bar to keep me awake.

It was Saturday night, but the town was dead except for a cover band performing at a tiny joint. After noting the shops we wanted to visit during business hours, we headed back to the hotel about 11 p.m. (1 a.m. Charlotte time) and called it a night.

Braving hail and falling rocks

On Wednesday, my girl and I headed to Red River, a “ski resort” about 30 miles north of Sue’s mountain cabin. As we drove through the mountains, we noticed signs that warned of bobcats.

We were talking about how cool it would be to get chased by a bobcat when my girl pointed to white stuff in the distance. I said it was cotton. When my car skidded, I realized I had driven into the aftermath of a hailstorm. Marble-sized pellets lined the highway and the landscape.

I rolled down the window. It was cold outside. I turned the car around to return to the cabin. (We wore shorts, sandals and T-shirts -- not exactly cold-weather clothes.) But then I decided I couldn't resist driving into a hailstorm in a rental car, so I turned around again and forged ahead toward Red River.

We eased around twisting roads only to find our lane blocked by mounds of fallen rocks and boulders. Awesome! We plodded along for another 10 miles, crunching through hail and easing past debris in the road to reach Red River.

Jesus stuff and saloons

Jack Bell, a friend of Sue’s family, told us that Red River was a one-road town where cowboys from Texas hang out. Although it’s called a ski town, Jack said real skiers don’t go there. I could see why. I swear one of the slopes runs into a building. Red River has a mile-long main street with a couple of saloons and cafes. The place that caught my eye had a sign advertising wireless Internet, coffee, jewelry and Jesus stuff. Yep, Jesus stuff. I had to go inside.

The Jesus stuff place had T-shirts that read "Jesus has MySpace in heaven," or something like that. There were other Jesus shirts, a jewelry case and various trinkets.

We stopped for a drink and a game of pool at the Bull of Woods Saloon. Before leaving, we tried Tractor Brewing Company’s Farmer’s Tan Red Ale. Despite the hearty name, it was a light beer.

Folks inside the saloon, and on the streets of Red River, looked at us as if they’d never seen real black people. Apparently, the percentage of African Americans in the Santa Fe and Taos area is miniscule. Mostly whites, Mexicans and Native Americans live there. Tourists tend to be from Texas, Arizona and Oklahoma, where it’s blazing hot in the summer.

We were a novelty, as someone put it.

Bobcats, bears and elk - oh my

New Mexico’s nightlife isn’t much to brag about, but the scenery is. The air is so clean and the land is so flat that you can see miles of mountains that make the ones along the Blue Ridge Parkway look like hills. The rock formations, such as Camel Rock, are gorgeous.

We didn’t see any bobcats or bears, but on a hike Thursday morning we saw real bear poop. And on our way to dinner at Sue’s sister’s house in Angel Fire on Thursday night, we saw two elk. This one wasn’t camera-shy.

Albuquerque's night scene is funny

On Friday, we stayed in Albuquerque to catch our early-morning Saturday flight. In Albuquerque, I finally got my taste of nightlife. The city’s entertainment district is along Central Avenue. The downtown area is clean and reminds me of Charlotte’s nightlife in the late ’90s and early ’00s -- i.e. there wasn't much to do.

The police close Central Avenue for about four blocks. Three cops on horses patrolled, as well as cops in cars and on foot. Mind you, the party section is only about four blocks and most of the action is in a two-block radius.

One mounted cop cracked me up. She trotted out from the plaza area with her left hand on her hip, her head high and a grin on her face. I couldn’t tell if she was policing or parading. Nevertheless, she and all of the other officers got serious quick at the first sign of trouble. They tooted their whistles (hard to mount a siren on a horse) and trotted over to the trouble spot. Partiers quickly cleared the street. Being trampled by a horse would have been a buzz-kill.

Along with being serious about quelling trouble, the folks in Albuquerque are equally serious about preventing underage drinking. At most of the bars, clubs and restaurants we checked out, the doorman or server took our ID and scanned it in a machine to check the authenticity.

A gay bar for all types

We started our Central Avenue partying at The District. We found it because we were walking around and heard club music blaring from the outside patio.

It was great. We saw women dressed in all kinds of funky styles, from Earthy tree-huggers to punk to hip-hop to stale-enough-to-be-yo-momma. The range of ages, styles and looks made the District feel more like an alternative club rather than the gay club that it is.

Outside on the patio, a DJ spun club music, and there were two bars, seating and a dance floor. Inside, a DJ spun hip-hop. Three makeup artists painted partiers' bodies and faces for tips. One young woman had a bustier painted on her torso, with matching stockings painted on her legs.

My girl got a wolf and some other kind of design on her chest. It lasted for 10 minutes before she sweated it off on the dance floor. It was real cute for those 10 minutes. Speaking of dancing, you know it wouldn’t be a night of clubbing if an older white lady didn’t try to steal my girl on the dance floor. This one latched onto my girl’s thumb -- and tried to latch onto other things -- and wouldn’t let go.

Hanging on Central Avenue

After leaving the District, we went to Sauce/Raw, a popular dance club. Sauce has a dance floor, bar, sofas in a lounge area, a projector showing eye-candy, and various art mediums on the wall. It reminded me of a much smaller and warmer Forum. A DJ spun club mixes of top 40 songs.

Inside Sauce, a line stretched from the doorway that led to Raw, the hip-hop club. (Imagine if the doorway leading from Forum to Pravda were closed.) I didn’t wait in line, but from what I could see while standing outside, Raw reminded me of Tilt. It looked long, with a bar and a patio.

After leaving Sauce, we walked across the street to the Distillery Downtown. Think Fox & Hound without the TVs. After leaving the Distillery, we bought water from a hot dog vendor and sat on a bench to people-watch. It was the highlight of our night.

I have never in my life seen so many women wearing shirts two thousand sizes too small and shoes one million sizes too big.

Then there was the guy wearing an oversized suit who looked like he was going to church not the club; two women -- who weren’t a couple -- wore matching denim overalls with one strap hanging down; a man wore a matching shorts and shirt outfit that made him look like a lemon-lime Starburst; a dude walked around with one arm out of his shirt (so not-cool); and a couple of women wore prom dresses for an outdoor concert. Why? Why? Why?

The clubs closed at 1:45 a.m., and I thought the police would rush people home, but they didn’t. Partiers milled about Central Avenue flirting and talking for about an hour. There was at least one fight and one towed car. At one point, an ambulance drove through. The driver politely tooted the horn to get people to move, and when that didn’t work, she said over the loudspeaker, “Move it or lose it.” Wow.

When we left about 2:15 a.m., the police on horses began clearing Central Avenue. The lady cop’s horse stopped to eat branches off a tree, and then several people came up to feed it more branches or pet it.

If we ever get mounted police here, I hope they’re that nice.