On March 3, 2017, I had the rare and precious honor of being Wreckless Eric's opening act at a show at Will's Pub in Orlando, Florida. It was a great experience to share the stage with a musician who has influenced me and my own music so deeply.
Sometimes I think there's not enough love in Orlando for the legends who matter most. I thought the show would sell out, but Will's would wind up barely half full for this one. A shame, especially since this is the guy who wrote "Whole Wide World." And lo and behold, there he was, Wreckless Eric himself, shaking my hand with a very firm and steady grip and welcoming me to his show. 'Twas a very strange feeling to be face to face with him again, particularly since I was his opening act this time, and naturally I felt humbled and shy in his presence most of the evening, though we did talk a fair amount and got to chat about mutual friends at WFMU, and even about that great Stiff sax man, Davey Payne.
Opening for Eric felt even more strange. Especially so when midway through my set, Eric suddenly wandered in fresh from his pre-show supper. I don't know how I managed to soldier on with the man himself in my audience, and didn't quite know what to do at the moment he walked in --- so in a bit of an attempt to impress him, I actually covered one of his more obscure numbers, "Waxworks," a move some in his fan base would later take into question when his humorous online remarks about it were taken a bit too seriously. But the man himself was okay with my little tribute -- "You got more of the chords right that I would have!" quoth Eric. Fueled by the situation at hand and the fact that we were playing my favorite stage in Orlando, Will's Pub, I somehow actually managed to play a good set, which was recorded and will be released as a live tape soon.
And then, of course, there was Eric.
Again, as with the first time I saw him 27 years earlier, just him and his acoustic and electric guitars. And though he's in his early 60s now, age hasn't mellowed him one bit, in fact he's even more fierce and cyncial now than he was in '78. He joked at length about Florida's turnpike and its abundance of pro-life billborards, and began "Reconnez Cherie" with some insight into how the song was written. He didn't play much from the Stiff days, doing only "Cherie," "Walking on the Surface of the Moon" (great to hear that one without the silly "Star Trek" effects!) and of course "Whole Wide World" with the crowd respectfully not singing along TOO loudly. There were songs from his excellent new album "AmERICa," and surprising experimental noise breaks which echoed the vibe of his very strange "Bungalow Hi" album and wouldn't have sounded out of place at the International Noise Conference in Miami. It was a different and even somewhat darker show than the one he'd played the first time I'd seen him, but seeing as how Eric and I are both aging now, there was that sense of mature wisdom this time that I found easy to relate to. Mark this show down next to the July '90 show as one of the best I've ever seen... and maybe the best I've ever played as well.
Eric was ever the gentleman to me and everyone throughout the night, chatting with all of us and signing my album and posing for a photo with me. And according to my collaborator and friend Joshua Rogers who was watching my merch table, Eric even stopped by there to pick up a copy of my cassette single. Pretty wild to think he owns one now! It was a once in a lifetime experience both to open for Wreckless Eric and to see him come through Orlando, and a lot of local people I know really oughta kick themselves for having missed this. It was truly one to remember, and one for the ages.
Thank you so much for playing, Eric. And thanks to Rich Evans for booking the show, and Alex Goldman for a great job with the sound, and Josh for doing his Broken Machine Films visuals during my set, and Rod Leith and Dave Scott Schwartzman for moral support. I couldn't have done it without you guys!