By Ali McGhee

“Hey, Ali—want to go see Kiefer Sutherland at the The Orange Peel?”

It’s Wednesday afternoon. I’m hanging out at the office writing some stuff, as I do, and Jason Sandford of Ashvegas just asked me this question. I look over at him.

“There’s a meet and greet after the show,” he continues.

I stop everything.

“Hell yes,” I say.

“Great! I’ll pass on the info to you and let them know you’re coming,” Jason says with a smile. “It’s country music. I’ll be interested to know what you think of it.”

I quit working. I’m going to meet Kiefer Sutherland. Who can work at a time like this?! Kiefer was one of my greatest childhood crushes. He’d been in a slew of my favorite 80s and early 90s flicks—The Lost Boys and Flatliners being the stand-outs of the bunch. I’d watched both so many times I could almost speak every line. The Lost Boys soundtrack had been in semi-permanent rotation in my CD player from middle school until at least freshman year of college, and I fantasized that I’d walk down the aisle to “Cry, Little Sister” in tattered black lace to marry my vampire husband (I have a tiny goth girl hiding deep inside my heart, y’all).

Childhood achievement unlocked. And all I had to do was write some post-show coverage.

* * *

You may remember Kiefer Sutherland from such films as Stand By Me, Young Guns, A Time to Kill, Dark City, The Lost Boys, Flatliners, and, more recently, Melancholia, and Forsaken. He was also, of course, in the wildly popular TV show 24, in which he caught all the terr’rists. The son of famed actor Donald Sutherland, Kiefer came to the entertainment industry early and rose quickly through its ranks. He had two things going for him: his lineage and the fact that he’s a damn good actor. Success seemed to come easily, so it’s understandable that he wants to branch out and try his hand at a different challenge. Country music is apparently his choice.kiefer1_asheville_2016

And in a way it makes sense. Despite the smooth sophistication his father always brings to the screen, Kiefer is a bit rougher-and-tumbler, with a perpetual five o’clock shadow and a bad boy curl to his smile. He’s not a Southerner, but he’s got the genteel quality of that particular kind of Southern man who might buy you a drink and seduce you with his eyes right before he breaks a beer bottle over some other dude’s head. It’s the wildcard element. And that’s what I found so attractive in my youth. Let’s face it, I still do. Plus, vampires. Am I right?

But back to country music. I don’t listen to country much at all. I like a few classic country singers—Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Emmylou. Bizarrely, I love Slim Whitman. When it comes to a lot of contemporary country singers, I could take or leave them. But hey. I’ll try anything once. I come into things with an open mind and make my decision later after I’ve taken a good hard look. And frankly, if Kiefer wants to rebrand himself as a country music star, more power to him. I’m game.

The e-mail from his press person hit my inbox. Confirmed: a ticket plus one, a photo pass, and two spots at the post-performance meet and greet.

Kiefer’s visit to The Orange Peel is part of his two month “Not Enough Whiskey” tour, which he’s embarking on to celebrate the release of his first album, Down in a Hole. It’s an intense tour with barely any time off between stops. If nothing else, the man’s committed. Down in a Hole is scheduled for release some time this summer, and Kiefer seems devoted to its promotion until then.

When I get to The Orange Peel, I’m given my extra-special passes, but am told that my backstage pass was for the meet-and-greet “before the show.” What? I explain that I was told the meet-and-greet was after the show. Is there anything I can do?

“Oh yeah, go inside and talk to Scheherezade* [name changed because this is a small-ass town],” says the ticket guy. “She’s wearing [distinguishing feature removed].”

“Great, thanks!” I say. My sails have drooped a bit, but it’s cool. I walk into the venue and see that Kiefer has already taken the stage. I double-booked my engagements so I’m just making it to the Orange Peel at 10 p.m., which I had assumed would be fine since I didn’t need to cover the opening band and the meet-and-greet was supposedly after the show. I go to find Scheherezade and spot her.

I explain the situation. “Well, he’s leaving right after the show,” she says. I tell her I’ll find the e-mail I received, mainly to make sure I’m not crazy. She’s sympathetic and patient while I locate it and confirm that, yes indeed, I was told the meet and greet would be “post-performance.”

“Let me take a picture of that,” she says. “I’ll show it to the tour manager.”

“Great!” I say. “I’ll wait here, and I completely understand if Kiefer doesn’t want to hang around after the show.”

“Well, he might not leave right after,” she says.

Things are looking up.

My friend and show-mate Jessica pops up right around then. “Hey!” she says. “This music isn’t great!”

I finally notice the music. No, it’s not great. But hey, that’s cool. Kiefer Sutherland singing not-great country music is still pretty awesome. It’s standard country fare. It’s the equivalent of a meal at the Golden Corral. You’ve been driving all day, and all of a sudden you find yourself in a mediocre chain restaurant noshing on sub-par cornbread and questionable meat. You go back for more pudding because it’s there, and it’s pudding. It’s just like that. Guitars, jangly melodies, lyrics about women and liquor. The vocals are muffled, which is pretty much the norm for apparently every venue in town. I fill Jessica in on the meet-and-greet.

“I’m going to go take some pictures while I wait for Scheherezade to come back,” I say. I make my way into the crowd.

Now, I don’t know how many shows you’ve been to. I don’t even know how many shows I’ve been to at this point. But it’s pretty standard practice for people to weave through a crowd to take pictures, reposition themselves to be able to see more clearly, or stand beside a friend. So I start my weaving and taking some photos. I’m not an imposing person and I try not to take up too much space, particularly when people are already packed in. Little did I know, though, that my plan for taking pictures is apparently the Most Offensive Thing I could have done. I start getting dirty looks from people almost immediately. An older woman jabs me in the ribs with her elbow. These people are cemented in place. Everyone is staring at me with pure hate in their eyes. I start apologizing profusely. “I’m sorry. Excuse me. I’m sorry.” It becomes a mantra. Nobody smiles. Nobody budges.

Oh yeah, I think to myself. I’ve got a photo pass. Maybe I can get out of the crowd and find a space on the side to take a picture. It’s safer that way.

I walk over to the side of the stage, where an Orange Peel employee is guarding the pit. “Hi!” I say, flashing a smile. “I have a photo pass. But I don’t have a professional camera. I was just wondering if I could grab a couple of quick shots here.”

He looks at me. “I don’t know where you found that pass,” he says, “but you can’t come back here.”

“Ummmm,” I reply. Found it? Really? Like I found it on the floor? Or I stole it? “I’m media,” I finally get out. “I didn’t find the pass. I was given the pass.”

He softens a little. Or maybe he just moves deeper into the shadows. Who knows. “You can’t shoot in the pit past the first three songs,” he says.

“No problem, I understand,” I say. “Can I just take a shot here from the side?”

“No,” he says.

“Ok, cool.”

I walk back into the Donald Trump rally. Oops, I mean the Kiefer Sutherland show. Kiefer’s actually having a very sweet moment on stage. “I can’t believe I’m here,” he says. He seems genuinely humble and grateful to be performing. He starts singing another song, which sounds a lot like the previous song. “Whiskey and whiskey and whiskey and whiskey,” he intones in a muffled way. Hey, it’s the whiskey song again. People are singing along. That’s cool that they know the song. He’s got legit fans. They just seem to be more from the 24 era than The Lost Boys. I find Jessica and notice that Scheherezade hasn’t moved and has apparently forgotten all about figuring out the meet-and-greet stuff.

“These people are really mean,” I say. “I think I’m going to write Jason and tell him we’re leaving. I don’t think the meet and greet is going to happen at all.”

“Yeah, you got all the wrong information,” says Jessica. “I’m gonna go walk to the back and Instagram this picture.”

“Cool, I’ll meet you back there,” I say.

In about a minute she’s back. A drunk Kiefer fan has gotten up in her face and berated her for being on her phone during the performance. A bartender came to the rescue (thank you!). Ok, we’re definitely leaving. But not before Scheherezade comes back.

“You need to move, you’re in the way,” she says. She looks really mad. Maybe the crowd has gotten to her.

“That’s fine, we’re actually leaving,” I say.

“Great, thanks.”

We go to the One Stop.

Ali McGhee has a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Rochester and a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in English with a minor in Religious Studies. She is a bookseller at Malaprop’s Bookstore, the Program Coordinator at Go Yoga Asheville and the editor of AshevilleGrit.com. She is also a contributor and editor for Sensible Reason, a millennial arts and culture magazine, and for YogaBasics.com. She is an avid cook, loves horror films, and travels whenever she gets the chance.

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3 Comments

  1. Jennifer Lowe says:

    Do I detect tones of entitlement in this article? You thought you were so special because you are media. Obviously you are not a true fan of Kiefer’s. I was at that concert. I thought he was amazing! Did I get to meet him? No, but it didn’t change the fact that I have been his fan for many years, and I was excited that he was sharing his music with us.

    Because I am his fan, I went to his concert this past Wednesday in Charlotte. Guess what happened? I had a great time at the concert, AND I GOT TO MEET HIM WITHOUT MEDIA CREDENTIALS!! As a fan, did I feel entitled to meet Kiefer? No, I did not. Was he kind and gracious? Absolutely!

    I could go on, but I will not stoop to your bullying ways.

  2. debra reece simons says:

    It sounds as if the “professional ” staff at the Orange Peel is not quite so professional after all(surprise??) and even less smart in dealing with another professional who actually fits the description of that word .
    They seem More like bouncers at a 3rd rate performance .. obviously the behavior of this “classless” crowd goes to show they may very well need this “bouncer mentality”…
    Too bad they themselves are too daft to put forth basic etiquette in dealing with the press and someone who has the expertise to write this well..
    Classless–that perhaps even more aptly describes them, the “little workers at the Orange Peel with their little jobs” –moreso, than even that crowd of pretty much all “aging baby boomers” in the audience —-with poor taste in music, for whom we don’t have expectations of much so as not to be disappointed.
    Not so sorry for Keifer that his music is mediocre,no big surprise, only surprised that just because he has acted he suddenly thinks this gives rise to great talent in the vocal cords arena….but he always has his day job. He stated “he could not believe he was there”.. Neither can I. but nepotism sets sail to ships……. and the Orange Peel is not the Met..nor much more than a big orange warehouse full of jackbooted thugs.

    Thanks for reminding me how very boring the Orange Peel can be. excellent article .. too funny

  3. This article pleases me!

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