The Dead Goat Society
I’ll never forget that last night. We were playing in a club called The Dead Goat Saloon in Salt Lake City. It was located in an alley just a block away from the Mormon Tabernacle, which presented a startling juxtaposition. Technically, there are no public bars allowed in Salt Lake City. They skirt around that by calling them private clubs. Patrons join by enrolling and paying a membership fee, which is basically a glorified cover charge, good for one night. However, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee the patrons of these “private clubs” will behave with any more civility or sophistication than they would in a rough and tumble dive. The bouncer said we were the last live band after a 30-year run. They were closing up shop and reopening as a strip club, another surprising choice, given the cozy proximity of the Mormon Tabernacle.
It seemed fitting that we were the last live band, since we had played our first gig there years ago. We had opened for a well-known artist, and the night had been such a success that we had even changed the name of our band from Elvis on Velvet to The Dead Goat Society, in honor of the stuffed white goat that guarded the entry to that dark, tomb-like club. Our other name had been misleading anyway. People expected an Elvis tribute band, when in fact; we didn’t play any Elvis whatsoever.
The interior of the saloon was dimly lit and cavernous. Narrow, arched hallways opened into different rooms, giving it a distinctive catacombs-like vibe. The whole place had something of an illicit and conspiratorial air about it anyway, and this just added to it. It kind of felt like you were in the French Resistance or something. Portraits of a hundred dead bluesmen covered brick walls. With Jaegermeister on tap, the place was legendary as a saloon that had seen its share of drunken brawls. Chairs were weighted down with steel plate so they couldn’t be picked up and hurled as weapons, and surly looking bouncers lurked around the periphery of the barroom.
We were just finishing the sound check, when some biker, already totally trashed, started boogying like he was Lord of the Dance. He looked every bit the pirate with his do-rag, gold hoop earring, tattoos, beard, and leathers; but the real kicker was his eye patch. That really topped off the look. He lurched around the dance floor before crashing into a table, knocking over glasses and a pitcher full of beer and fell down drunk.
Someone commandeered a microphone and sang Happy Birthday as a couple did a slow bump and grind strip tease, tossing their clothes around the room. A lacy, black brassiere ended up draped over the headstock of my Les Paul, just as we tore into the Hound Dog Taylor classic, Give Me Back My Wig. Our harmonica player wailed over the guitars. Someone let loose with a blood curdling rebel yell, and a woman tore off her shirt, and climbed astride her boyfriend’s shoulders, waving her arms wildly over her head. She looked like she had been a regular there since the early days, and years of hard living, wild partying and gravity had taken a toll, if you know what I mean. This worked the already rowdy crowd into a frenzy, and everybody started hooting and hollering and dancing wildly. It was quickly shaping up to be one hell of a night. I took a slug of beer and wondered if it might be a while before we played again in this town. I thought that maybe tomorrow might be a good time for me to finally go hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and I started plotting a way to load the goat into the van along with our gear.