Posts Tagged With: Sara Bell

Smashing the state

ChrisClemmonsA few years back, when I was doing research for “Losering,” I interviewed a lot of people — around 40, not all of whom were quoted in the final manuscript because I only had 50,000 words, and there were probably at least that many I spoke to informally or for background. But I still didn’t even come close to getting around to everyone, which means there are still plenty of interesting, amusing, horrifying and even all-of-the-above Ryan Adams stories floating around Raleigh.

One person I didn’t get to in time was Chris Clemmons, a longtime member of the Triangle music community and a bandmate of Sara Bell’s in various groups including Regina Hexaphone (Chris was also the source of the party flyer referenced in this post, which is one of many cool artifacts in his archive). When he was between bands 20-some years ago, Chris informally auditioned as bassist for what eventually became Whiskeytown. At the time, he was living in the Boylan Heights district of downtown Raleigh, in a bungalow apartment upstairs from Caitlin Cary.

His memories of the experience:

I joined them down in Caitlin’s living room one time, we set up and played a few songs. Ryan and Skillet (Gilmore) were both there, too. They probably only had four or five songs at that time, and it went okay until Ryan said we were going to “smash the state.” I think that was his punk-rock ethos because it’s what all the punk bands wanted to go out and do — but this would be a COUNTRY band doing it. Anyway, I said, “I work for the state,” and the conversation did not go so well after that. But I’ve worked in human resources for the state for about 25 years now.

Anyway, Steve (Grothmann) was in the graduate program with Caitlin at NC State. So they knew each other and Caitlin told me they were looking for someone who played standup bass, which he did. I don’t know if he ever actually played standup in Whiskeytown, but he wound up there. I never really knew Ryan and that may have been the first and last conversation I ever had with him. And Whiskeytown broke up in 2000, but I’m still working for the state. I still think about that story now and then.

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Relics from the mists of time (cont.): The Sara Bell party flyer

Out of all the Ryan Adams stories people told me, one of my most favoritest was Dana Kletter recounting how Ryan crashed a party at her house in the Raleigh neighborhood of Oakwood. It happened in May 1992, and the party was in honor of Sara Bell’s graduation from NC State University; Ryan showed up in a suit and made quite an impression. Kletter and Bell were big fish in the local music community 20 years ago, and they’ve both had plenty of notable musical accomplishments since — together in the band Dish, Bell with Regina Hexaphone and the wordly instrumental combo Shark Quest, and Kletter with Dear Enemy.

For my money, Kletter is about the most talented musician this town has ever seen, and it still kills me that she’s not better-known. She’s making waves in the rarefied world of literary academia nowadays, writing books and teaching at Stanford. At some point, Kletter will get a book out into the world and I’m quite certain it will be brilliant. In the interim, read about my favorite record of hers here; and download her latest album here, you cretins. For real!

As for that May 1992 shindig, it also also marked the first public performance of the band Motorolla (later Motocaster), a power trio that was the biggest band in Raleigh not too long after that. You can find more about all of this in Chapter Two of “Losering.” And an artifact from that party survives into the present day, a flyer:

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