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"I just got out of my theatre class and the teacher (Sara Morsey) went into a half hour lecture on how the Satellite is the best source for finding out about what was going on in town. She read parts of Shamrock McShane's article (The Play About the Baby – see: and went on to say that Mr. McShane is a journalistic hero who makes his readers actually think instead of spoon feeding them their news and reviews. She strongly recommended that all her students pick it up this and every month."

– Denise Hank


Updated: December 25, 2011

Vini and the Demons Last Stand

"Yeah, we're a real blues band. We've got cigarette burn holes in our pants to prove it.

That amp over there is about to blow up. Should make for an exciting evening."

Vini and the Demons toast one another: "Let's kick the shit out of this place!"

Vini steps forward and addresses the crowd. "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Market Street Club…"

Joey Demon in a black suit with a black shirt and a black tie and a scruffy black beard pitches the melody line with his guitar and golden blues voice that brashly belies his soft–spoken appearance. He and Vini trade vocals.

A fine shaved–head woman has her mojo working along with Vini, although he sings: "I got my mojo workin'—it just don't work on you."

A pause.

"Are you ready?" Vini asks Joey.

"I was born ready."

Joey wails with piercing lyricism: "Since you love me, baby, please call me on the phone sometime. When I hear your voice it can ease my worried mind…"

"We've got some angels," Vini says.

Vini and the Demons have also got a studio to record in. And sixteen original tracks to lay down.

Vini is Buddha–like, as befits a true bluesman. Earned serenity. Serenity at a cost.

Vini and the Demons' blues come at you wailing, hissing, flailing, sizzling, exploding, crackling, hurting, rolling, rocking. You drive to this sound in your soul, matriculating down the road, moving.

The dancers move in. All women. Not dancing with each other. They are dancing with themselves. They dance more with their arms than with their legs. The shaved–head woman, very shapely, dances while smoking a cigarette, all torso for now.

Vini scans the crowd, looking for the "two surviving Demonettes." Negative hyperbole. The Demonettes are legion and they fill the dance floor. Vini croons and the shaved–head woman shimmies toward him, all pelvis.

It's all about punctuation, and Vini sings so articulately that all the commas and semicolons ring true. The periods are emphatic. And the exclamation points, well, look out! The question marks rise unsettlingly.

While kicking the shit out of it, the number proceeds toward a quietus.

Vini and the Demons are spirit warriors.

"I don't wanna go to heaven when I die, 'cause heaven just aint my thing. I wanna go to hell where I can sing!"

The second set is where the original stuff comes in and things get crazy as promised. The stops are sudden. The dancers are moved to appear and shaved–head woman gets her stiff legs shaking. The rhythm ambles up her black dress where a tattoo peeks out invitingly. Joey Demon goes ballistic on lead guitar. I lack adjectives for the riffs and licks which are fast and furious. He wails too. Gainesville Blues. It's all about finding your way out.

Finally shaved–head woman meets up with shaved–head man, and at it they go as Tom Miller takes over with Your Love has Driven Me Insane, and the sensuous bass can do nothing but drive one insane.

"I'll just lie here in your perfume, 'cause I got you all over me," Vini softly sings, yearning, lusting, satisfying.

It's a week later and Joey Demon now sports a shaved head. It's graduation night, both for the students who are wrapping up their course work and the Demons, who are completing their run at Market Street. The coeds especially are strutting their stuff tonight. Do they know, or can they just feel that tonight their limbic powers begin to draw to a close, that after tonight they will be on the wane?

The Demons know it and feel it and send the feeling shooting around the hall in a rat–a–tat that machine guns the crowd. Hot women in pumps and short dresses or tight skirts, are shimmying and swaying and losing control. These sensual women far outnumber the men, and they are possessed by the blues and take over the dance floor, singly and in pairs and triplets. There are dozens of them, now in each other's arms. Vini and the Demons' blues makes their blood boil. Shaved–head woman, all in black, now dons a pair of red devil horns, and finally a lone wolf shaved–head man braves the dance floor and is largely ignored by the bevy of beauties who surround him. A woman with a full head of cascading brown hair, tousles her tresses, arches her back, waves her hands to the skies, her eyes closed, as Vini sings purely, "I just wanna make love to you."

Joey Demon, a clean machine, sidles up to Vini and they jam, while just beneath them two women sway, embrace, and the riff crescendos and bellies into tremolo, as Vini sits down on a barrel to finger his guitar madly, rhythmically faster, wilder, sublimely.

"Happy graduation! Happy Cinco de Mayo for all our Latin friends."

"Haven't we got anything Jewish?"

"I duno. What?"

"Well…it's the Sabbath."

"Ok, then we'll do one more number, and then maybe you can all have a big drink of Jack Daniels, and then maybe you can hear our music the way we do."

Vini rolls his shoulders and sings dreamily of the nineteen year–old who has been the best girl you'll ever have.

Let's hope not. But the blues are all about dashed hopes.

Who could have hoped for this? A skirt so short that when it rides up her bent thigh there is full, tight, black panty crotch shimmering, and the skirt is slit so that her hip shakes freshly fulsome forth frankly feverish and oh so fresh.

The band takes a break and shots of JD are administered with more congrats to the new grads from Vini, followed by, "Now go get a fucken job!"

Skibo, who plays harmonica for the Demons, lives just a few blocks from me on the northwest side and can be seen on occasion hiking our gentle hills. Skibo has pale blue eyes that are arresting but usually closed while he blows vociferously wrenching blues that scream and sigh and sing with a voice as distinctive as the vocals, backing and then suddenly screaming into the lead, holding court and commanding lyrical attention.

Tom Miller buys me a beer and offers me some inside information about the Demons next gig at the Sidebar. "The band hasn't played together for a while. Sometimes that's just what we need and when we hit it together right away it's magic. Sometimes we fall flat on our asses. So we'll see what happens tonight. But we're using Bo Didley's amp tonight and that just might get the mojo workin'. Plus the Sidebar's got the best sound man in town."

Vini wears a Star of Solomon ring on his pinkie, but otherwise his pic–work is unencumbered, and the result is fluid, and precise. He and the band walk a ramp along the side wall that leads to the stage. They make their way in single file.

"I want you to roll me, baby. Like you roll a wagon wheel."

Tom is right about the sound man. Skibo's harmonica moves front and center and shines like it never did at Market Street. The individuality of each band member is markedly clear at the Sidebar.

The magic is working from the first note and it makes Vini justifiably cocky. "Hundred bucks says we don't take a break tonight. Hundred bucks. Lay it down, chickenshit. If we cop out, Tom will make it good."

"I'm smiling like I'm high, baby, but you don't know how I feel."

"I'm a hootchie–kootchie man!"

Vini's guitar goes from black to white.

"Skibo just became a lawyer, so we've been helping him pick out women for wives."

Vini's guitar goes red. He fingers it like scanning poetry, tapping our iambs and then quickening like rain on the roof. That gentle summer rain gets to thundering and Vini's voice rolls under it heavy yet lilting, growling and purring. Vini is a heavy cat. He pounces on a lyric like it's raw meat. He tears its flesh and grinds its bones, and the lyric wails like it's in its death throes. The blues are like dying. A dying fall that rises like a river overflowing while it rushes toward the open sea, and the dancers respond, hip–grinding, pelvic–thrusting, arm–waving, hair–tossing, burning, burning, burning. Fire and water. They do mix. Throw a shot of JD on ice and shoot it down. Vini's voice is as clear and sweet and shocking as spring water.

"Your mama always comes around when I wanna go down on you."

Vini sits down, but there has still been no break, just straight roller–coasting blues. Tom's c–note is safe. Joey launches in Gainesville Blues, a cautionary tale whose message is: Hey, graduate, pal.

"Please stop praying for me. I don't wanna go to heaven. . ."

Skibo's plaintive harmonica warbles into an echo, while Evan's drums are driving underneath and then suddenly cascading over the top. Then there is only Tom behind Vini, going lower than low, as "I've got you all over me."

The contrast is stark. Vini onstage, seated, the world rocking around him, the beautiful women swaying to his rhythm as he whips them into a frenzy, and Vini is calm, serene.

The next venue is Eddie C's. Some sort of phantasmagoria is projected on a screen behind the band and Tom Miller casts it a wry glance. We are well south of the main drag and there is a biker tinge to the place. The vocals carry well, but Skibo's harmonica seems faded, further evidence of the prowess of the sound man at the Side Bar.

The stage is spacious. The Demons' burly drummer, Evan, sits behind a fiery red kit emblazoned with a big VD. Evan says he needs more Vini in his monitor. The sound is not as articulate at Eddie C's, where the lighting system seems a higher priority, as it is at the Side Bar where it's the music that counts. Still, Evan's monitor is enhanced and the band powers behind Evan into Spoonful.

"Some men lied about it. Some men died about."

Dying, oh yes, the dying fall, the joyful soulful spoonful of blues lament, the fearful passage of death–marked love as the blues would have it.

Ruling tempo along with Tom's bass, Evan hammers nails into Backdoor Man, and the violence of the blues starts to sweep through. Without warning the floodgates will open because you can't willfully have death without murder in the first degree. "And the judge let the man go free." We know where freedom lies. Willie Dixon does. "Six feet in the ground."

Skibo sings of "The ball and chain…with a twelve–gauge shotgun at my back."

"You took all my money, and all my lovin' too. But that's all right."

Evan punctuates each number with the precision of a math problem reduced to its simplest, most dynamic terms: life minus pain equals death.

"The pain bluesmen went through," Vini ponders, sipping a drink during a break, "sometimes, I don't know, I can't sing it, 'cause I'm cryin', you know? I mean to have a whole town, a whole community turn against you. They made them choose. They said, 'What you're doing is wrong; you're gonna go to hell for it.' That's what that song I Don't Wanna Go to Heaven is all about. That dichotomy was real for them. It was palpable."

The lowdown dirty blues are palpable and tangible, but they are also the terrain of Bergman and Kierkegaard, the fear and trembling that is the sickness unto death translated into rhythm and blues so that the mystery becomes how it can all feel so damn good.

Vini tells me the story of bluesman's wife who lost a baby in child birth. "And the whole fucken town held it against him! It was his fault, because he played the blues. So he had to bolt. And so do we. We gotta make this move to Chicago. We gotta see where we're at. Who know? Maybe we're too radical for Chi."

Doubtful. But it's quite possible that Vini and the Demons are too radical for the Grog House, located upstairs, across the street from the University of Florida campus, the former home of Classique Cuisine for aficionados of failed Hogtown eateries. Now it is a frat boy haven where you have to drink from plastic cups lest you get too rowdy.

Vini and the Demons pour Champagne and Reefer by Muddy Waters on the crowd and they bathe in it, although for starters the frat boys have the women outnumbered three to one.

It's hard to be young and dig the blues. Generally, when you're young, you don't want to die yet. Still, trouble is trouble. When you're twenty you're biggest trouble may be getting laid. It's not till forty or fifty that you can know full well all that trouble entails. The twenty year–olds hear the blues and contemplate their troubles, but they're only guessing.

"When we go to Chi," Tom tells me, "there a couple dozen clubs we can hit. So we're gonna give it a shot. What the hell." Tom has lived in Gainesville for 16 years, honed his craft, lived the good life that comes from pure spring water, et. al. But what the hell.

Chicago is, after all, the home of the blues.

Tom is bemused by the Grog House crowd. "A kid asked me three times could we please turn down the volume. He and his friends are having trouble talking over the music. I told him this aint the kind of music you talk over. He says, 'Yeah, but. . .' And I told him no, no, no. Hey, Hendrix turned his guitar up to ten and he discovered something new. And the kid says, 'Yeah, well, Hendrix didn't play places this small.' I said, hey, pal, you don't know what you're talking about. Hendrix played pubs and blew people away! Bottom line: we do not turn down."

The band and crowd seemingly proceed in different directions. But as Hamlet said, "Madam, I know not seems." And peeling off shapely licks and laying on the vibrato, Vini and the Demons begin to work their way into the crowd's psyche.

"These kids just wanna drink and pick up girls or get picked up," Tom surmises. "At first they think we're getting in their way. They don't realize what's happening, but we do. Trust me. The first set just hacks them off. We're too loud, they can't hear themselves talk. By the second set, they've shut up, and they've started listening and moving. And by the third set, the magic starts working and they're dancing and coming on to each other. And they don't even realize we've just done their work for them."

Shamrock McShane