A Night at Warriors
As you will see, this is a twisted little story. For those of you who crave more than just a bit of the twisted, keep checking in with our “What the…?” category.
So I’m guessing it was around 1 or 2 in the morning on a Friday or a Saturday about 10 or 12 years ago on the the East Side of Detroit on Warren. Some club called Warriors. I think somebody told me that Warriors was the name of some East Side bikers organization and that this was their club. I have no idea if it’s even still there anymore, or if the bike club still has members.
But I do remember that night.
At the time I was playing with a group called Blue Spirit Tribe. Matter of fact, I started the group about a year after I first moved to Detroit in January of 1993. The business cards we had said “Blues and a little extra,” and had what I thought was a pretty cool logo of these three upraised arms, each of which was holding up a note attached to the top of a pole like a flag.
Anyway, my buddy Tim was playing keyboards in the group at the time, as well as a number of other groups around town. One group he was hitting with for a minute was playing a regular late night set at the Warriors Club. Actually, I think he was just playing with these cats on that particular night at that particular gig, but then I don’t really remember the details and I don’t guess it really matters. The thing is, Tim had been steady asking me and Billy, who was singing vocals, to drop by and sit in sometime. I can’t remember what it was that prompted the two of us to finally decide to take Tim up on his offer, but we did. I think it was Billy who gave me the nudge since he was way more the night owl than me. Billy was one of those vampire types who seemed to thrive the later it got.
Warriors was not an easy joint to find, and I don’t suspect that was by accident. You need to understand that this wasn’t your typical night club with the big neon sign flashing out front beckoning all comers inside. Warriors was a hole-in-the-wall by choice, and it was a hole-in-the-wall that didn’t let just anybody come through the door. A hole-in-the-wall with standards.
Some big ugly guy was sitting on a stool just inside the door checking everybody’s ID, checking to make sure they weren’t carrying anything hotter than body temperature, and checking whatever else he felt like checking that let him decide whether or not you were passing through those doors. I think maybe my guitar helped. He never said a word, or even nodded his head indicating we could pass. Instead he just looked past us to the group behind us in line. Once inside, I remember being more than a little surprised at the variety of clientele. A white guy who looked like he just got off work from an accounting firm was standing at the bar on the far side of the room chatting amiably with a heavily made-up black woman who looked like a middle-aged hooker. But judging by their body language and polite expressions, they could have been discussing Shakespeare for all I knew.
The seating arrangement, if you can call it an arrangement, was completely hectic and random. It was as if somebody trekked out to all the ghetto lawn sales they could find and snatched whatever furniture didn’t manage to get sold and dragged it back to Warriors to serve as decor. In short, not a damned thing matched.
After looking around the place for a minute, trying to determine whether or not we were safe, Billy and I spotted two open chairs near the front behind a raggedy sofa, which was exposing itself in shameful fashion to a crowded stage congested with at least two horn players, a drummer, a bass player, a guitar player, and Tim, who was squeezed in the back working away on keyboard and occasionally peeking out from behind to scope the crowd. Once Billy and I caught his attention, his eyes flashed a welcome as he reached over to tap the shoulder of one of the horn players who I guess was the leader of the band. After pointing us out, the horn player grinned, nodded, then launched ferociously into a somewhat mediocre solo. Billy and I wouldn’t see the stage for another hour or so.
Meanwhile, as we sat there listening in and observing, I noticed something move on the couch in front of us. I had thought the couch was empty so the movement made me jump back, hopefully not so far back that anybody noticed. Soon enough a rather lean character pulled himself up in slow motion, stretched his arms out to yawn, glanced in our direction to check us out, then calmly stood up and began snapping his full length bullwhip right there in the middle of the club.
I looked around behind me, fully expecting to see a bartender or bouncer plowing through the darkness and the crowd to yank this individual by the neck and toss him outside, but nobody so much as interrupted their conversation. No looks of awe, surprise, amazement. None of that.
And the music kept right on playing.