I’m taken off guard from the minute I walk into the Grey Eagle to see Corey Feldman and The Angels. It’s 9:28 and Feldman isn’t slated to be on stage for another hour. Poeina, the first musician to grace the stage, is performing some rare brand of folk opera that I can barely even wrap my head around.
The crowd assembles quickly. Half of them look like they go to one show a year, the other half like they stepped directly out of a time machine from grunge rock’s glory days. Eddie Bauer button-downs mingle with tribal forearm tattoos. It also appears that there’s a competition to see who can wear the tiniest black dress. I’m not complaining.
I make my way to the smoking area and start to get my bearings. Joshua Carpenter, leading a band of local musicians, is up next. I start chatting with a beautiful redhead and a mustachioed man wearing a sailor cap. We part ways. A few moments later, I will see them (unexpectedly) on stage.
Josh Carpenter’s band is a blast. Some sort of lo-fi indie garage rock built on Bob Dylanesque storytelling. Even with all the anticipation for Feldman, they immediately capture the crowd’s attention. Their short set is over far too soon, but they leave the us with a beautifully crafted final song that builds and builds and builds like some sort of Arcade Fire wet dream.
Now it’s time. I mean, it’s Corey Feldman and the Angels, right? An actor-turned-musician touring with a band comprised entirely of beautiful women. Really, you kind of know what you are getting, right?
You look at the press photos or read the mainstream show reviews and it’s difficult to see the whole picture. People throw around words like “objectification” and, with no firsthand knowledge of the situation and your basic human nature to guide you, you just kind of nod along.
But this is not Corey Feldman accompanied by The Angels. This is Corey Feldman and The Angels. Or Corey Feldman featuring The Angels. This is not objectification. This is a group of talented people working together to put on an engaging and entertaining event. And whatever that event is, it isn’t exactly a concert.
It’s more like a full-on, circus-level variety show, and it’s dynamite. The songs are fun and Feldman’s energy and dance moves are contagious. The multimedia is on point, drawing on a variety of clips from previous Feldman incarnations and new original work. The vibe is perfectly sentimental and nostalgic without being overbearing.
Every few songs he takes a break while one of The Angels performs either one of their own original songs or a cover of their choosing (they’re all talented songwriters with decades of work as professional musicians between them). In between, Feldman changes outfits. By 12:15 a.m., he has changed something like five times, with many of the outfits actual pieces he has worn in movies or events over the years.
When he isn’t changing or singing or deferring to those around him, he riffs. Tight, punchy monologues delivered as only an actor can. Between all of that, and the intermittent multimedia presentations, the energy never slips. No one is leaving and everyone is having a good time.
Feldman’s engagement with the crowd is spectacular. He truly sees and wants to connect with his audience, and he accomplishes it on a level I’ve never seen anyone other than Willie Nelson achieve. Hold up your phone for a picture and somehow he feels it, turns around and points at you or gives you a thumbs up. Smile and he smiles back. It’s uncanny and clearly sincere.
And yeah, the band makes a few mistakes. They aren’t Medeski, Martin, and Wood up there but, truth is they aren’t trying to be. Everyone involved – from the road managers (who work as hard as any I’ve seen) to The Angels, to Feldman himself – manages to put on a serious show without taking themselves too seriously.
After Feldman’s seventh costume change, he delivers a strong triple-encore and prepares for the meet-and-greet with his fans. I’m almost totally won over already, sold on Feldman’s brand of spreading joy and love. I can’t wait to see what he’s like at 2 a.m. sitting at a table, meeting a bunch of people he will never see again.
One could be forgiven for being short or edgy, but Feldman is nothing but gracious and kind. One by one, he meets and hugs each fan, signing their merchandise and taking photos. His interactions are brief but sincere, you can tell that he is actually listening to what people are saying and his responses are warm and relevant.
This is not a movie-star turned musician to stay relevant. This is a creator doing what creators do – making beautiful and original things. Finding new ways to bring people together. Creating spaces all over the country where people of any gender, any persuasion, any background, and any race can come out and dress, dance, and be exactly who they are.
And they can have a fucking fantastic time doing it.
Caleb Calhoun studied writing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and music at a plethora of clubs and bars across the southeast. He is the host of Soundcheck Radio (Thursday’s 3-5 on 103.7 WPVM) and Soundcheck AVL and the publisher of Rosman City Blues. He currently lives in West Asheville with his woodland mermaid, Dr. Gonzo.
You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or Facebook.com/SoundcheckAVL