Like a lot of people in my world, Elliott Humphries is a big Ryan-Adams-by-way-of-Whiskeytown fan. He’s played a number of my book-related events in recent years, and he also brought a “lost” song of Ryan’s to life. So I’d say his bonafides are pretty much impeccable.
Anyway, Elliott was playing this past Sunday night at downtown Raleigh’s Berkeley Cafe, which is not only (a) the first place I ever interviewed Ryan, an incident recounted in the preface to “Losering”; but also (b) a joint that is now owned and operated by a few regulars from Sadlack’s, the establishment where Whiskeytown formed way back in 1994. Elliott sent along this exchange he had with some random attendee who showed up asking for…well, just read it.
Guy: Can you play some Whiskeytown?
Everyone in the bar: Stops what they’re doing.
Me: Hey man. Are you from around here?
Guy: Nope. I’m from New Jersey.
Me: Well, what if I told you the P.A. I’m playing through as well as the bar in this establishment came from one of the first places that ever gave Ryan a shot at music?
Me: All this stuff came from a place called Sadlack’s, which used to be over on Hillsborough Street. That was where Ryan met Skillet and Caitlin and formed Whiskeytown, while working there.
Everyone in the bar: He sure didn’t work there long (laughter)
Me: You see, Ryan hasn’t graced his home state with his presence since 2005. He is a…polarizing figure around here. Furthermore, for you to walk in here and request a guy like me to play Whiskeytown is kind of like walking into a New York deli and ordering a pizza.
Me: But I will gladly play you some Whiskeytown.
Some stuff you just can’t make up.