Of course, these weren't those dreaded (gasp) homeless people that you hear so much about. No, I'm talking about something called Thunder in the Streets, a motorcycle charity ride-cum-street party, featuring the aforementioned bearded crew and a couple hundred of the most beautiful chrome-laden rails you ever saw.
When I arrived, not a whole lot seemed to be happening. Folks were milling about, and a few rocker types were setting up their equipment, stopping every few seconds to brush their feathered hair out of their faces.
All of a sudden, I heard a roar -- first of people, and then of what sounded like a freight train barreling down Tryon Street. Soon, the air was filled with the combined roar of more Harley Davidsons than I've ever seen in one place, except for Myrtle Beach during bike week. Folks cheered the charity riders lustily, reserving their biggest cheers for the loudest, meanest-sounding bikes. I, of course, happened to be on my cell phone during all this (Other person: "What's going on? What's that racket?" Me: "Sorry, I can't hear you! Too much racket!"). Bringing up the rear were a number of Sheriff's Department riders, who swerved madly from side to side as they passed, the better to show their Ponch and Jon chops, I'm guessing.
Soon, the riders all parked their bikes, and those assembled went to check out the shiny machines (as well as the riders' girlfriends). As I stood there taking it all in, a guy in a red bandanna and throwback jersey decided to try to strike up a conversation.
"Which one of those yours?"
"Well, none of them, actually."
"Come on. You know how you do."
"Do what?" I thought.
"Is that yours right there?" He pointed to a bright red chopper.
"No. None of them are. You see, I..."
"That's your green one! That's you, playa."
"I know you didn't walk here. Which one's yours?"
"You got me," I said. "It's that pink number over there."
"Shoot," the man said, walking away grumbling. "That ain't yours."
I've always thought it's pretty cool when a band plays a residency somewhere. Think the Allman Brothers at Fillmore East. Think The Clash at Bonds in New York City. Think Galactic at the Visulite Theatre last Saturday and Sunday.
OK, so it wasn't that big of a residency, but it was for a special occasion. It seems Galactic's road manager, Newt, was stepping down after some 750 shows with the band, and they decided to send him out with a bang. Having attended Sunday evening, I think it's safe to say the only time a Newt leaving his job caused this much hubbub was when Gingrich packed it in.
The show was opened by Mike Doughty, ex- of Soul Coughing, who played guitar accompanied by a lone drummer. Doughty's throaty growl and deadpan manner were a highlight of the show for me, but most people looked antsy for the headliners, and for good reason. The Visulite had cleared out a lot of dancing room in anticipation, and most of those in attendance appeared ready to burn off a few Michelob Ultras.
Galactic took to the stage with a video opening on the club's large behind-stage screen, and soon settled into the horny jam jangle they're known for. I kept one eye on the band and another on the bar television, where the Minnesota Timberwolves were stomping the LA Lakers.
Soon, Galactic invited Doughty back up onto the stage. Doughty played a few songs backed by the all-star jam contingent, and then settled into a little stage banter, as is his wont. "I've been thinking about this lately, and I've decided people are basically good," Doughty opined, over and over again.
At the set break, I decided to take a little break myself and headed for the loo. While I was in there, a couple of Trustafarians were holding court.
"That was awesome," the first guy said.
"Yeah," said the other guy. "I really liked it when they did (some song I didn't recognize)."
"Yeah. But I kind of lost it when that one dude got on stage talking about how people are basically good and all that."
"Yeah," his friend agreed. "That was a total downer."