For the first time ever, I don't want to hear my favorite Crowfield song live — the one that normally ends a show — because when I do it will also signify the end of the band.
Until Crowfield plays "Bigfoot" on March 15 at the Charleston Music Hall, they are still a band. Until Tyler Mechem gets down on his knees for the last note, they are still a band. Until Micah Nichols plays the song's "overlord solo," they are still a band. Until Parker Gins hits the "boom boom boom" on his toms after the breakdown, Crowfield is still together. After that moment, the band that has meant more to me personally and professionally than any other is no longer a band. After the reverb echoes out and the applause stops, the members of Crowfield will officially go their separate ways and all of their fans will be left with only memories.
The first time I heard Crowfield, my old boss was spinning them in the control room of the Bridge at 105.5. I was sitting in my office, and all I heard was "I've got Jesus in my pocket" over and over again. I was too cynical to listen to the message of the song or the melody. As the person in charge of picking out what local music to play on the air and a strong voice in what got played overall, I told my then boss, "There is no way we are playing that Jesus music." And then I told him to turn it off. He responded by giving me a copy of Crowfield's Goodbye, Goodnight, So Long Midwestern, told me to listen to it, and that we had a meeting with this band's manager and producer next week. Always up for a meal and drinks on someone else's tab, I threw the disc in my bag and didn't give it another thought.
The next week came and I sat through a two-hour dinner at Sermet's with the band's manager Johnny Diamond and producer Rick Beato, and I changed the subject every time Crowfield came up. I'm not great at bullshitting, but I am an expert at avoidance. Two hours and at least eight vodkas later, I finally admitted I didn't know anything about that "Jesus band."
The next day, hungover and feeling guilty, I finally listened to Goodbye, Goodnight, So Long Midwestern on a drive to Atlanta to see the Black Crowes. By the time I reached North Augusta, I must have called my old boss 10 times. Not coincidentally there are 10 songs on that first Crowfield disc. I ended up putting "Jesus in My Pocket" on the radio along with four other songs.
Over the years, I ended up shedding tears of sadness and joy with the members of Crowfield as record deals were announced, weddings took place, shows sold out, record deals ended, friends passed away, and a blue-collar band struggled. I watched in pride as Crowfield gave the musical middle finger to one of the most influential people in the music industry when she told them that they were playing too loud, and I watched in admiration at the way the members of the band carried themselves as gentlemen. I followed the blueprint that their late manager Johnny Diamond set up and continue to steal from his game plan daily.
I once vowed that I would never become friends with musicians. They needed me for something, and I needed them for something. But a week doesn't go by when a bass player or a drummer and I don't have long texts about life. I'm a fan of my friends. I am a friend of a band.
Being a part of the Crowfield circle has given me a unique perspective into the story and the lives of this band. It has allowed me to be a friend and a critic, an advisor and a fan. Their end wasn't unexpected, but just like my first meeting with Diamond and Beato, none of us has been good at the bullshit. We all just got pretty good at avoidance.
As the March 15 Charleston Music Hall show comes to an end, Crowfield will begin playing "Bigfoot." You won't be able to hear the chorus coming out of Tyler's mouth. The crowd will take care of that. It will be the only song I don't hear that night. I'll be in my own world thinking about the first time I saw them at the Windjammer when nobody in the band but the new guitarist would talk to me. I'll be thinking about getting a call on a Saturday night from backstage at the House of Blues telling me that they were going to get signed. I'll be thinking about sitting in the hatch of my car with Tyler listening to new music. I'll be thinking about the chest bumps, man-hugs, and high-fives.
I won't hear "Bigfoot." Crowfield won't end. I can keep being a master of avoidance.
Crowfield: Final Show. Fri. March 15, 8 p.m. $20. Charleston Music Hall, Downtown, 37 John St. (843) 853-2252. charlestonmusichall.com
Joel Frank is a music promoter and former radio personality.