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Ryan Adams Went Down to Georgia

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“Hot Georgia Damn…and this is where we begin” (coincidentally or ironically, this is the last line of Ryan Adams’ “Firestorms Day One” in Infinity Blues).

King Halloween-head Ryan Adams has been a regular "natural ghost" of late, but then, isn’t that the meaning of the dreaded “break?” Wrong or right, Ryan sightings, no matter the Internet means (i.e., new Tweets and blog/video posts like the new and much loved “World Update,” in which Adams reports all the no-news), have been few and far, far between, and believe, you, we, we’ve been on the lookout ever since leaving Atlanta, Georgia with the Cardinals still on our minds, on our iPods and in our luggage (we’re big fans of the merch table, though we’d be much happier travelers if we’d left with a Ryan-stowaway).

In fact, the whole Atlanta weekend (March 20-23) was a whirlwind of sitting on planes, napping on hotel couches because an un-named someone booked our incoming flight for 6a.m. when hotel check-in was at 3p.m. (luckily the very friendly and accommodating Georgian Terrace staff got us in beds by noon) and running around lost, downtown, looking for a decent record store and, who else, Ryan.

It was Ryan’s last slated show on the Cardinology tour, as, after several years of bad press and much criticism, he announced he was taking an extended break to deal with health problems in January 2009—Meniere's Disease was alluded to in Ryan blogs and the press latched onto this disorder, which is in the inner ear, disrupting balance and causing sensations of vertigo, as the reason for his early retirement, after about 13 years (combining his time with Whiskeytown, the Cardinals and as a solo artist, a more rockin’ Ryan). We quickly bought concert tickets, which were already sold-out through Ticketmaster, forcing us to turn to TicketsNow, along with plane tickets, and set our sights on going down to Georgia, just like Ryan and only for Ryan.

For some reason we expected to find him grazing the streets (like a cute, little cow), which was highly idealistic, but, then again, he was newly-married to singer/actress Mandy Moore, tying-the-knot in Savannah, Georgia only several days before we landed in Atlanta (around March 10). So, it wasn’t too idealistic to imagine Ryan behaving foolishly with wedding-glory, perhaps, walking willy-nilly down the city streets (with no regard for high-profile fans or paparazzi)pre-concert.

Our idealistic ways (and fantasies) could also be blamed on the fact that our hotel was coincidentally located right across the street from the Fabulous Fox Theater (which, of course, fueled our expectations of encountering Adams in the hotel halls, on his way to the nearest bucket of ice, no less), where the Cardinals would (and sadly, did) play their last prom (Cardinal speak for “show,” as found on the old Cardinals Web site, since taken down) to a sold-out audience of Halloween-heads (H-heads, aka, extreme fans, also Cardinal speak). As a side note, many of these H-heads, like us, had journeyed from near and far, by plane, train and automobile (maybe) to bid the boys adieu, or beg them for more (guilty, the build-up to this comedown had turned us into two very eager H-heads).

So, hot Georgia damn, this is where we’ll begin.

As it turns out, we only saw (sighted) Ryan on the night of the Cardinals last show. And oh what a night it was, even without an encore (though an encore isn’t needed when the band plays a two and a half hour set, contrary to what some haters, or most Ryan-reviewers, have said). Anyway, prior to arriving in Atlanta we were somewhat concerned with all that bad-buzz surrounding Ryan and his last show—buzz about King H-head failing to finish sets due to inappropriate audience behavior or, worse, buzz about him reacting to that inappropriate audience behavior, but we tried to keep the faith and were rewarded with not only a good audience, but a good Ryan, of course (because there is no such thing as a bad Ryan).

There was no mention of a last show, yet “the end” was in the air that night—at least for the Cardinals, as days later Ryan tweeted that he would be performing with “friends” other than his bandmates sometime in the near future (the whole scenario was pretty vague, but hopeful nonetheless). Still, the night of the Mother Fuckin’ Cardinals (MFCs)last show, there was a joke about the music business being synonymous with “crap” and plenty of goodbye songs, or, more specifically, goodbye-oriented lyrics.

In fact, Ryan probably said goodbye with every song…there was “Goodnight Rose,” (the show-closer or ending, and, therefore, definitive, goodbye song) featuring the lines “there’s so much nobody understands/don’t live your life in such a hurry/life goes by us all so fast/and the sun will come up again/and I will be here;” “Let it Ride,” featuring the line “let it ride, let it roll, let it go;” “Please Do Not Let me Go,” which we think is self-explanatory; “Oh My Sweet Carolina,” featuring the line “what compels me to go?/oh my sweet disposition/may you one day carry me home;” and all three of the most-shouted for songs at Ryan shows (usually this shouting is done by those rubberneckers, Cardinal speak for rowdy, annoying fans): “Wonderwall,” “Come Pick me Up,” and “When the Stars go Blue.”

All-in-all, the best things that two gals could hope for at a Ryan show transpired: it was a whirlwind of picture-snapping (just how many blurry, bluish photos of Ryan and the MFCs, do we need, by the way?), stage-light dancing, even though we had clearly-marked fourth-row seats, and sing-screaming to Ryan lyrics and banter. And, just like a whirlwind, it (the last Ryan show) left the building as quickly as it came—some of the details are still, to this day, almost four months later, a tad shaky.

Last time we caught a Cardinals prom, Ryan told the audience he had sat just sightseeing his H-heads as they filled the seats of Bridges Auditorium (Claremont, CA circa January 2008), watching his show start before its official start. This time we sat miles from home just sight-seeing other H-heads, hoping to catch Adams doing the same Bridges thing—and though King H-head was a pre-crowd no-show, “Two,” “Mockingbird,” “Fix it,” “Natural Ghost,” and the whole night, really, were more than worth the airfare and those fourth row tickets.

Naturally, then, we summed up all of the above extremely meaningful lyrics to being somewhat equivalent to Bono’s “vision over visibility” motto—Ryan’s vision seemingly goes beyond the Cardinals and what fans and journalists see (visibility) so, apparently, he was confiding in us (via lyrics) that he had to take his show on the road, chasing his unforeseen and yet unaccomplished vision, so to speak. Still, we read hope for a return in his lyrics, too, so don’t be sad (as Ryan once sang with Whiskeytown).

Now, if you read our pre-Atlanta post (posted on BlogCritics in March 2009, days before our trip), you would know that we are, perhaps, just ever-hopeful when it comes to Ryan, but we have just cause. Firstly, Ryan cannot keep himself from fans. He wants us to know when cool pills (albeit, paper cool pills) are on sale (or sold-out, damn) in his online store (reported via video-blog). He wants us to know that the Cardinal goodbye is official; just surf the newest Ryan site, completely devoid of the Cardinals and newly dedicated to Hello Sunshine, Ryan’s self-proclaimed “best work yet,” which will offer us H-heads another dose of what Cameron Crowe has called “soul poetry” soon (December 1, 2009, to be exact).

He wants us to know that he’s not abandoning us, the music world and H-heads, in general (okay, we’re reading into things again, so kill us), and he even wants us to know when he has no news (returning to those very uninformative and, yet, classic Adams’ “World Updates”). He’s even tuned fans in to the fact that he’s not sorry for needing a break (it is hard out there for a musician, especially one as dedicatedly productive as our Ryan love).

Secondly, Ryan is a writer/poet who is, indeed, so prolific, naturally inclined to writing daily, that we do not think he can go without creating something (we just hope this something is new material, in song form, though Hello Sunshine, the follow-up poetry book to Infinity Blues, is, again, on its way and we love Ryan songs, Ryan books, and even Ryan’s fake merch). Thirdly, despite much bad press, our Ryan experiences have been nothing but positive—we see a musician who takes himself seriously enough to go out of his way to please fans, performing song after song in his Neil Young-esque voice to perfection—needless to say, the whole Ryan shebang is just MAGICK and, therefore, he will always be on our minds, just like Georgia.

Georgia was the farthest we’ve ever gone for a gig (hell, we traveled over hills, mountains and even an ocean/body of water, at least we think, we’re totally bad at geography), but we’ll go farther. So, hopefully, if the show fits, Ryan will play it (in the not-too-distant future?). If not, there’s always the hope that when he gets the time, he’ll write us a letter… or two (and again, this could be delivered in Tweet-form or ever-so-missed fickle-blog-form, or even, and preferably, in-person-form). All-in-all, it would be Ryan saying that “the sun will come up again and [he’ll] be [there].” This may be the perfect way to say goodbye, or Hello Sunshine, but, "hot Georgia damn," we hope this isn’t where it ends.

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About Jessica and Kady Bell