Notebook: Spot at Café NELA, November 30.


It's a rainy evening at this homey Glassell Park beer joint. The Sunday crowd of non-youthful outsiders looks hung over. Spot, a resident of Milwaukee the last few years, comes to the bar in his Milwaukee Braves ball cap. (The Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966.) I name eight members of the 1961 Braves before Spot waves a see-ya-later and goes to get his guitar for his solo set. The Salvadoran food from next door is not bad, and they'll bring it in for you.

As he plugs in, sits on his stool and tunes up, Spot engages with the sound man about the vintage of his white Stratocaster. It's old. I approach the performance platform.

Me: "You want a beer?"

Spot: "Maybe later."

Spot is known for producing/engineering early-'80s SST LPs by Black Flag, the Minutemen, Hüsker Dü, the Big Boys, the Dicks, many others. He is less known for being a fine musician: guitar, banjo, clarinet, other things. Writes songs. Puts out his own records. Jams verbally. Has a new book of photographs, too; check it out.

Spot starts plucking on the Strat.

1) A plangent, respectful version of Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight," though it's only 6:30.

2) An original country waltz (with whistling) about romantic discomfiture. "In-flight movies with no sound. Hallucinations without the drugs."

3) A punk-riffy number with lyric references to the years 1977 and 1984.

4) Spot nails the bluesy tangle of "Oh Well" by Fleetwood Mac ("the good lineup with Peter Green, not the 'Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow'/'Rhiannon' lineup"), with his own contradictory vocal interpolations denying the thinness of his legs and rejecting divine partnership. Dave, former housemate of Spot, says, "That's Fleetwood Mac via Bill Cosby." Spot just keeps going, finishing one song in the process of tuning the guitar, slipping into the next song, not waiting for applause.

5) The bluesjazzy groove continues with "Just a Fool," wherein Spot muses on the small mistakes of youth growing into the larger, more public mistakes of adulthood, where we approach love the same way we choose leather interiors or GPS in a new car. He doesn't want the GPS. "The universe is a mistake."

6) Against the riff of "Gloria," amid quips about a destructive relationship, Spot observes that there's no place for middle-aged angst.

7) Here's a jazzy improvisation that starts off reminding me of "Stairway to Heaven," then travels backstreets into regions much less elevated or defined. Great.

8) A sweet no-vocal takeoff on Willie Nelson/Patsy Cline's "Crazy."

9) A Hendrixy riff faces off against a severed hand, a rubber duckie and sacred mud. "We were the monkey on each other's back."

10) The story of a self-service three-day clutch replacement on an '82 Toyota. Spot says when the last part slurped into place, "It was like teenage sex."

11) Spot mumbles about the Council of Elders. I fail to grok.

12) Some nasty slide work gets welded to the bluegrass stomp of Buck Owens' "Buckaroo." We all give Spot a big ovation.

Spot: "I'll take that beer now."

Me: "What do you want?"

Spot: "What are you drinking?"

Me: "Negra Modelo."

Spot: "I don't like that."

Spot sells some product out of a shopping bag and comes back to the bar, settling for a Pacifico. I'm all ready to name the rest of the '61 Braves (Hank Aaron, Warren Spahn, Lew Burdette, Bob Buhl . . .), but the next band, a very good bluesrocky outfit fronted by Buzz Clifford I think, are too loud. I decide to conduct an interview by passing notes.

My note: "You have good rhythm."

Spot (yelling over the noise): "Probably why I've never had any kids."

That seems like enough. Outside, it's still raining.

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I also reviewed Spot five years ago here.