Random acts

A love story

Imagine you are Loop, a recently formed, local four-piece psychedelic-and-groove-inspired jam band, and you’re at one of your very first gigs — at the Mellow Mushroom on Jan. 23.

And you’ve already won the kind of obsessive fan it takes bigger acts years to attract.

Your band is a mellow and accepting-enough group of musicians, all skilled in different ways, and yet you find yourself asking the universe what could have made this man so specifically devoted to you.

Why? you ponder in between deep, calming breaths. Why me?

We’re talking about the kind of fan here who’s so into your music that he borders on being dangerous. During lulls in your band’s performance, he sings your praises in a great from-the-diaphragm yell.

He loves you so much, in fact, that even while you’re playing one of your extended, Grateful Dead-inspired solos, he climbs on stage from the side and tugs at you by a loose bit of your clothing, making sure to get eye contact just so he can be unquestionably certain you heard him.

“I love you, man!” he yells. “Love you!”

How do you respond to such effusive affection? Sure, the guy is distracting, and he’s even beginning to mess up the jam. And yet … he loves you, and you just can’t buy a sentiment like that.

So, if you’re at all like Loop, your band members will merely smile big, try to ignore this rabid suitor, and play on.

Of course, then the guy wants to prove his love.

In between songs, he smacks the snare drum with his fist. You smile again. He sneaks a quick ramble into your untended microphone while you’re rocking your solo. You shrug good-naturedly. He continues rambling and, for just a second, you misunderstand him, thinking he’s just informed you he has a gun.

“Whoa!” you protest into the mic. “No guns.”

But, for better or worse, you heard wrong. All he’s got is a harmonica — not to mention his own big grin. He wants, like so many music fans through the ages, to live his dream of sitting in with his all-time favorite band. When you indicate you’re not into it, he looks a little more than heartbroken.

Finally, others in the room get the gist of what’s going on — and from then on, at least two people from the crowd are required to keep this love-filled listener from re-joining you. Audience members keep him occupied, talking to him and trying to distract him from the object of his affections.

But it doesn’t work. Not really.

“I love you,” he insists, pounding the flat of his fist on his chest, his head nodding to an altogether different rhythm than the one you’re playing.

As you settle back into your groove, you are, perhaps, imagining your next show being held in a security-heavy venue. And as you again take in your ueber-fan’s unblinking eyes — still brimming over with pure emotion — you’re probably trying not to wonder what he’d be capable of if hate burned there instead of love.

Front-row reviews

What: Smush Factor’s “Respect the Hustle” showcase

Where: The Orange Peel

When: Thursday, Jan. 23

“Y’all did us a great service by comin’ out tonight,” local rapper Brycon announced to the audience at Smush Factor‘s recent “Respect the Hustle” showcase.

“I know y’all risked life and limb,” he correctly added. It was absurdly cold and windy outside, the roads coated in a menacing blend of ice and powdery snow.

But the frozen precipitation that trapped a lot of folks inside might help explain why the 150 or so rap fans — most of whom looked to be in their late teens, or not far from it — were so happy to endure the trip downtown to catch some live hip hop. And that’s not to mention that those fans obliged to explain a late weeknight to dubious parents would, while negotiating the acquisition of the car, now have school cancellations on their side.

The show started off with Asheville’s own Ironfist, who proudly attached a North Carolina state flag to the DJ’s table before launching into a set of songs about pot expertise, the generous and liberal distribution of orgasms to young ladies in need and Asheville itself (“When I say ‘Ashe,’ you say ‘ville’!“). The local team of Brycon and DJ Equal followed, as did Lil’ Sci of Atlanta’s Scienz of Life, who later joined Breez Evahflowin and DJ Static of New York’s Stronghold.

As a sort of halftime show, DJ I-See, also of NYC, cheerfully took charge of the turntables, laying out a catchy blend of the last decade’s rap and pop (Jane’s Addiction and Digital Underground made brief appearances), along with world music layered on top of bass beats.

Several folks showed off their break-dancing skills during this segment — exhibiting a welcome immunity to the stoned-Asheville-hippie sway/dance that had infected the rest of the crowd.

— Nicholas Holt, guest reviewer

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