Monday, September 10, 2007

Cloggin'

When Steve and I considered going to see the clogger show on Tuesday night at the Shenandoah National Park, Steve was picturing his low country Citadel classmates and I was picturing the cute clogging guys from "America's Got Talent."

We headed out for the 7:30 p.m. show with those expectations in mind. When we pulled up to the entrance to the Shenandoah National Park, we asked the guy in the booth: "Where are the cloggers?" His reply should have tipped us off: "They're about 20 minutes ahead of you."

We clarified that we wanted to know where they'd be performing. "Skyline Lodge, about 10 miles south on Skyline Drive," he said as he handed us our change.

As we drove on, we wondered how he knew when the cloggers came through. Maybe they had a special ID card that allowed them in at no cost, so that's why he knew it was them? Maybe he just knew them, since they performed once a week? We considered various options for a bit.

Meanwhile, the fog was rolling in. We stopped at one of the overlooks, where we felt like we were looking off the edge of the earth.

We headed on to the lodge, and found a small, packed tavern area with a very small dance floor. The only remaining seats were literally right in front, so we grabbed them and ordered up a couple of beers. I took a moment to survey the scene.

At least half of the audience appeared to be over 70 and out way past their bedtime. The rest was divided among families and crunchy yuppies (I suppose we fit the bill, after a day spent kayaking on the Shenandoah River). Then my gaze fell to the right of the dance floor, where about 10 women in identical outfits milled around an '80s-style boombox. Their ages appeared to range from 20 to 65 or so, and their weights varied widely. There were no men. Clearly, these were the cloggers. And I understood how the park service guy knew them when they came through 20 minutes ahead of us.

The performance seemed to be more line dancing than straight clogging. The musical selection could have been better -- the line dance of Seger's "Old Time Rock-n-Roll" was underwhelming and awkward, bringing to mind cruise-ship guest-participation entertainment or an activity at a senior-citizen's all-inclusive resort. Starting after the second song, one of the cloggers began complaining loudly and repeatedly about the lack of air conditioning. The elderly spectators sat stone-faced, the children hopped around happily, and some of the yuppies snuck out. We were front-and-center, so we stayed and watched the show.

After a brief intermission, the two stars came out, dressed in a new outfit. They had cast aside the full black skirt and puffy-painted sequined white t-shirt in favor of an edgier black outfit that proclaimed them the Banjo Girls. They were good, really good. They did a dance, just the two of them, to an upbeat song called "Banjo Boys," a poignant choice, I thought.

It's about a great banjo player who is going nowhere due to his choice of instrument.
I want to be a rock star, and travel really far, and buy me a big expensive car.
And make lots of money and find me a honey.
And live in nice big house where it's sunny.
With a pool and I'll be cool.
I'll always have a gig cause I'll be big.
I'll have parties and friends and places to go,
The only problem is I play the banjo.

I play the banjo.

I'm a post Hee-Haw mover, a funkadelic punk-rock groover,
A cross between Bela Fleck,
And Eddie Vedder but better.
I'll win a Grammy for the way I pick.
I'll be an instrumental monster with tons of new licks,
And all the babes will love me, sell-out shows,
The only problem is I play the banjo.

I play the banjo.

(Chorus:)
Well I play the banjo,
Play the banjo,
Play the banjo,
I play the banjo.
I play the banjo.

(Repeat Chorus once.)

I say hear me boys, here my rhyme,
I'm picking on the banjo all the time.
I say hear me boys, here my song,
Picking on the banjo all day long.
Pick.

I'll buy a Lear jet, and a limousine,
And everywhere I go my fans will scream,
"Hey banjo boy, we love you,
I wish that we could all play the banjo too."
And you'll see me on the tv talk show,
With Dave and Conan and Jay Leno,
The only problem is I play the banjo.

(Repeat Chorus 3 times.)

I play the banjo,
Play the banjo,
Play the banjo,
I play the banjo.

[Thanks to Brincker@localnet.com for lyrics]
After that, the rest of the group came back, and the full ensemble continued. (See Banjo Girls at left, and the woman who required more air conditioning at far right, in photo below.)

Overall, the traditional clogging songs went very well, and we enjoyed that part of the show. The techno version of "Cotton-Eye Joe" and similar, not so much. And there were a few moments when one of the more energetic girls looked like she was doing the running man, right out of an MC Hammer video.

We were about ready to sneak out when they announced it was time for the big finale. One of the cloggers came out with a large flag, which ended up a foot away from me. From the boombox came the insipid strains of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA." The girls sang the first verse as I tried not to roll my eyes too much. Then they asked all veterans to come up on stage. My jaw dropped and I stared at Steve. "Are you gonna go up?" I asked him. He decided to go -- he'd certainly earned it. I started laughing as he made his way on stage and a handful of other men joined him. But as he stood up there, I started tearing up.

I was tearing up to Lee Greenwood -- how mortifying. I determined that I may still be traumatized from Steve's time in Iraq, which ended more than a year ago. I fought back the emotion and sat through the song. At the end, the Banjo Girl next to Steve leaned over and I heard her say, "Thank you for your service." The remaining spectators gave them all a huge hand. It was a great end to the show.

But I still don't like that Lee Greenwood song.

2 comments:

DCSportsChick said...

Oh, I can't stand that song either.

Nice story about the cloggers. My aunt used to be one and it scared the hell out of me.

nutmeg96 said...

I just got a rant on my most recent post about supposedly criticizing the cloggers back in this post. It was a true rant, saying such shocking things as "you are lucky your husband came home alive." I certainly know that, and that was part of what I was trying to portray in this post. I think the person who wrote the rant didn't see that this story of the cloggers was my report on what actually happened at the performance -- and apparently didn't notice that I said very complimentary things about the traditional clogging performances.

Accordingly, the rant posted on 02/07/08 has been deleted.