Monday, February 28, 2011

Government Cheese - Hey Hey My My

Government Cheese

The Rutledge

Nashville, Tennessee

February 26, 2011

From the window of a downtown Nashville club, I watched a parade of four or five eighteen-wheelers tap their brakes and roll slowly forward, waiting to load out after the Brad Paisley mega-tour made its brief stop at the cavernous Bridgestone Arena. I turned around and waded back into a densely packed crowd that was stomping and swaying to the sound of resurrection.

Just why was the stone rolled away? In fact, it was because Government Cheese, a reborn band of post-punk ne’er-do-wells, were touring again. Sort of…this Nashville gig was not only the second gig of the tour, but it was also the last. It was also very fitting that their two-stop journey launched in their hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky and then splashed down in the current home of one of the group’s members and keeper of the sonic flame, Tommy Womack. It was Tommy’s drive and desire, his love of what he and his band mates did (and maybe a bit of wanting to finally hear some ackn

owledgement of their place in music history) that inspired him to write the incredibly funny and delightfully insightful Cheese Chronicles: The True Story of a Rock N Roll Band You've Never Heard Of and to pursue purchasing the original masters from ex-manager Scott Tutt (other authors have told tales of being screwed by managers or record companies, but Womack’s are a must-read), then re-mastering and re-releasing them as a two-disc compilation titled Government Cheese: 1985-1995.

I never saw the Cheese back in the day, when they were selling out clubs all over the South. I was content with the music that was blossoming in Athens and with the ones that came to play: REM was (in Womack’s words) “still kickin’ then” and when Jason and the Nashville Scorchers showed up to play The 40 Watt, I saw Peter Buck and Michael Stipe jump onstage and roar through Bully Holly’s Rave On. I kind of imagine that was what Government Cheese sounded like back then.

Not that they didn’t sound good now. They came onstage to an embrace from a crowd that was more family reunion than audience. Womack appeared with a hospital bracelet on his wrist: nothing serious, but serious enough to recruit Warner E Hodges, the Scorchers’ lead guitarist, to go from knowing one song in the set to possibly having to play all of them in case Tommy couldn’t take the stage. As it was, he stayed there through a bunch of songs, even though Tommy played and sang with fire and fever the whole night. After an introduction from Athens’ very own William Orton Carlton (better known as Ort and more than a story on his own), they plowed through about thirty songs, including fan favorites Camping On Acid, Mammaw Drives the Bus, Fish Stick Day, and Tim Krekel’s (and Scorcher cover) Help There’s a Fire. Skot Willis still had the pipes and the moves of a lead singer that had his share of lingerie launched in his direction, Chris “Viva Las Vegas” Becker sneered and stalked the stage (often making sure Hodges was on the same page during songs), Billy Mack Hill played bass and sang with fervor and drummer Joe “Elvis” King pounded the skins as hard as one would expect from someone wearing a Led Zep t-shirt.

As dozens of roadies labored to load tons of equipment into trailers a few blocks away, the Cheese just played on. Maybe, just maybe, the choice isn’t between whether to fade out or to rust.

Maybe you can just rave on.

Curtis Lynch

Playgrounds Magazine

March 2011


Bart said...

This is the best written article on music that I have read in many years. Thanks for being a journalist and a music fan.

Bart said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ort. Carlton said...

Very well done! Thank you!! BTW, my middle name is spelled "Orten," not the more common "Orton." Old family name. But then, I ain't a kid anymore, either.