So, there was that time we drove over to Martinborough, for the John Mellencamp and Sheryl Crow gig (A Day On The Green). It was a fine show; both Crow and Mellencamp played their back catalogues and had great backing bands.
My wife wasn’t super interested in the show, but happy to come along for the ride, so to speak.
She had asked to be reminded of some of Mellencamp’s material. I explained that he had a few hits and instead of playing The Lonesome Jubilee during the week leading up, or digging out the vinyl copies of Scarecrow and American Fool, I decided to play the ignorance card. Normally we’d drive up to the gig – when it’s an away-venue – listening to the greatest-hits or some mix of the artist. But I decided to take the opposite approach. What if she started moaning about having no interest in John Mellencamp after hearing R.O.C.K In The U.S.A. and Hurts So Good on the way to the show? Not good. So we listened to The Knife instead. And both of us were happy.
We had the VIP-package tickets. This meant complimentary wine and a meal with the freedom to waltz in and out of the concert venue, able to hear from comfy seats and very close to the action so that we could disappear for dessert during the annoying break between musical acts. Very nice. And very different to be treated this way; generally my treatment at a gig, when reviewing, is, if anything, quite the opposite of a VIP. (I’m not complaining, just saying…)
Sheryl Crow played her set and she was good – she kept saying “I love this place, I want to move to Wellington”, clearly imagining Martinborough, in an American context, as merely part of the outskirts of the Capital. She meant well but some of the locals were getting a bit annoyed.
We ducked up for a top-up and there was a sign next to the bar, scrawled in an angry vivid on A4 paper, tacked to the door with a strip of tape: Simon Sweetman Please See Michael.
One of the waiting staff sent Michael over, he turned out to be another of the waiting staff. But he had a message: “John Mellencamp’s manager would like to meet with you”. Most odd. But no biggie – just strange, because this has never happened before and why would it?
Next thing the promoter’s assistant arrived to repeat Michael’s news. He was just the messenger and so, now, was she. I agreed to follow her to go meet this manager.
We sloped past the security area and I was asked to wait for John Mellencamp’s manager. A small man with an American accent presented himself. He just wanted to meet me and thank me for driving over to see the show. I told him that was kind and rare; I had never been thanked before for driving to a gig and didn’t ever expect to be. He told me that he had been in the industry for a while and this is what he did. He asked if there was anything we needed, if he could help in any way and hoped we enjoyed the show. It was a very short, simple conversation. It didn’t need to happen, but it was very nice of him to want to take the time. I was ushered back out to the cheap seats…
The manager’s name was Randy Hoffman, a big name in music management. A former manager for Mariah Carey among others and as we walked back in to the front of stage area, the promoter asked me if I thought he bared much of a resemblance to a certain actor with the same surname. She explained that he was from New York and the voice was somewhat similar didn’t I think. Smooth as ever, I said “well he had a big honk and was about the same height, it’s possible”.
Walking back in to the tent where the food and drink was, I knew I had to come up with a story that was better than just the nice man that looks a bit like Dustin Hoffman wanted to say hello. That’s all.
So, when my wife asked what that was all about, in front of a colleague and his partner, straight-faced I explained, “oh, he was a nice guy. Just wanted to say hi and asked if there was anything they could do…so I said, yeah, when John sings Jack And Diane tonight it’d be really sweet if he could change the line to ‘a little story about Katy and Simon’. My wife dropped her cake fork and was like, “oh my god, are you serious?” I pointed out straight away that no, of course I wasn’t, and said that the nice man just wanted to say hi. It got no more exciting than that.
The sign (Simon Sweetman Please See Michael) was pulled from the door and Katy, in an announcement that might explain to you which of us was the sober driver, said “I thought, at first, that the sign said Simon Sweetman is an asshole, but of course nothing would surprise me”.
As Pink Houses started we were still having a chuckle about the possibilities of ‘a little story about Katy and Simon’ and wandered down to check it out when Mellencamp played Check It Out.
Katy kept on that it was funny seeing that sign and that nothing would have surprised her, it could has as easily have said Simon Sweetman is an asshole.
I had nothing in return.
John Mellencamp never changed the lyrics that night and we tried to come up with a rhyme for our new opening line, because “here’s a little story about Katy and Simon/two American kids doing the best that they can” didn’t really rhyme or make sense. We couldn’t find anything to make sense either, but got some lame rhymes happening, including:
“Here’s a little story about Katy and Simon, this is the truth, it ain’t a lie man” and “she is on fire but he’s not a fireman” (you might guess who chose that one?)
So that’s it, the story of meeting John Mellencamp’s manager, who might have been (but actually is not) Dustin Hoffman’s brother. And the little story of Katy and Simon and the Saturday night in Martinborough.