Songwriter: Traditional, arranged by Lead Belly
Original Release: Unplugged in New York
Definitive Version: None
OK, so those were a couple of perhaps unnecessarily epic posts; I’ll try to be a bit more brief.
A few years ago, friends of Laurie’s turned us on to a Chicago band that has perhaps the least likely name in the history of bluegrass—Sexfist. That should be a hard-core metal band name, right? Anyway, I’m no fan of bluegrass music, per se, but I love watching these guys play.
Sexfist for the uninitiated—and I would suspect that that would be almost anyone reading this—is five guys. One guy plays a fiddle, one banjo, one guitar, one mandolin and one bass: five guys all in suits and ties, one mic.
The first time I saw them was at the Heartland, a famous hippy restaurant in Rogers Park. The Heartland has a little stage, and it was difficult to imagine all five of them even fitting on it. Not only did they fit, but they worked the stage like I’d never seen before.
At the appropriate time, someone would give another a tap with a foot on the leg to let them know to move back, because they were coming up. It got to the point where it was more fun to watch the choreography of how each moved to the mic at the appropriate time and then out of the way, churning, roiling and never missing a note.
Sexfist has a regular residency at the Abbey Pub on Tuesdays, so you should check them out if you can. Chances are they’ll play a killer version of this song—made famous by Kurt’s funereal howl into the black abyss at the end.
Sexfist used to play regularly at the Redline Tap, which is a hole in the wall just around the corner from the Heartland, and the funny thing is the most memorable night I spent there didn’t involve Sexfist at all but a cover band doing a jaunty reggae version of Powderfinger by Neil Young.
What made it particularly memorable was that Laurie and I went (this was probably in 2005 or 2006) to play this shuffle bowling game they used to have there—long since gone—but we ended up watching TV. Laurie didn’t have cable (we still don’t), and because it was Halloween, AMC (I think) had a scary-movie marathon going, and we got to the bar right when The Shining started. We ended up staying and watching the entire movie just laughing our butts off at the awesome dialogue and Jack Nicholson’s totally over-the-top, gloriously hilarious freakout.
We still talk about that night. Sometimes the best times are borne of the most random of things.