The Bars Of Our Youth: Cat's Cradle (Carrboro, NC)

When I turned eighteen, a whole new world opened up to me: I was no longer imprisoned by all-ages shows. I could see damn near any band I wanted at nearly any bar I chose. So I spent most weekends for the next ten to fifteen years at various bars in North Carolina. The bar I frequented most often was the Cat's Cradle, North Carolina's premiere spot for alternative bands.

Located in a strip mall (no, really!) in Carrboro*, NC, the Cradle only holds about six hundred people or so. The place is dark and smells of stale beer. There is no food. It is a bar in every sense of the word. It is also the halfway point between Atlanta and D.C., so every not-quite-huge alternative act stops by on their way through town. Who? Since September, Charlatans UK, Corinne Bailey Rae, Shooter Jennings, Billy Bragg, Jenny & Johnny, The Vaselines, Guided By Voices, Me First And The Gimme Gimmes, Blonde Redhead, and Ra Ra Riot have all graced the Cradle's stage.

While my friends and I caught a lot of local acts like Snatches Of Pink, Ben Folds Five, Superchunk, Sex Police, Southern Culture On The Skids, and Dillon Fence at the Cradle on a regular basis, it was the national acts that got us all excited. Over the years, we saw countless bands at the Cradle-- so many, in fact, that due to my failing memory and my inability to keep and cherish tokens of my life (like concert tickets), I cannot sit down and begin to list all the bands I have seen there. But here are four shows that I dearly remember:

My Top 4 Moments At The Cradle

4. Oasis (February 17, 1995)
Liam Gallagher stood onstage the whole evening, sneering, hands clenched behind his back, and, other than singing, attempted almost no interaction with the crowd. I fell in love with that snotty jerk.

3. The Cramps (February 14, 1992)
What better way to spend a lonely Valentine's Day than with Lux Interior and The Cramps? Highlight of the evening: Lux, who had been drinking bottles of wine all evening, uncorked one of the bottles with his teeth and spit it into the crowd. I still have the cork.

2. Nirvana (October 4, 1991)
College radio had been spinning "Smells Like Teen Spirit" nonstop for a solid month. Nevermind was released ten days before the concert. Never before (or since) had I seen a concert with so much hype surrounding it.

1. Johnny Quest w/ A Very Special Surprise Guest (July 26, 1991)
My friends and I were at the Cradle that night to see one of our favorite local funk bands, Johnny Quest, probably best known for the breakup song "The Heisman" and a frantic cover of Motorhead's "Ace Of Spades." About halfway through the set, Johnny Quest's lead singer said something along the lines of, "We have a very special guest for you tonight."

And out walked Susanna Hoffs.

Ms. Hoffs was performing in Raleigh earlier that evening, opening for Don Henley. I think her manager was the same dude that managed Johnny Quest or something like that. Anyway, like most young men who came of age in the '80s, I had the major hots for The Bangles and, specifically, Susanna Hoffs. So I was more than eager to see her perform. I pushed my way through the crowd and got about three rows from the stage.

She sang two songs. Both were covers. "Hazy Shade Of Winter" and "Feel Like Makin' Love."

And everyone thinks I'm crazy when I tell this story, but the entire time she was singing "Feel Like Makin' Love," she was singing to me. Staring at me. Undressing me with her eyes. All that.

No one ever believes this story.

But I didn't do anything about it. I was twenty-one and at that point in time had never been with a celebrity, so I scurried off to join my friends at the bar. Not that I have any regrets or anything.

*It still feels kind of weird writing Carrboro instead of Chapel Hill, but it's been 17 years since the club's moved, so I really should be over it by now.

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