As another Saturday night fell into summer, I ran into Bob Cross for the first time in years. One of the most intense musicians I’ve ever watched on stage, Cross was two weeks away from getting married, receiving his doctorate and moving into a new place. His life was moving fast, but it was what he told me about Amanda McCabe that moved me even more.
Under the amber lights of Sir Richards Lounge, between bursts of laughter and karaoke songs, the soon-to-be Dr. Cross detailed the upcoming benefit concert for Amanda at Sluggo’s. Even as we were surrounded by the noise and distractions of the bar, the Bob Cross intensity was still there. Sitting down without a bass (Hell, even without a stage) that power hadn’t faded over time.
With only a few days left before deadline, Bob and Amanda agreed to be interviewed for my music column in the Pensacola News Journal. Here is a link to the article on the Benefit Concert for Amanda and the full interviews with Amanda and Bob follow below.
*** Bob Cross Interview ***
MS: Tell me more about the benefit show for Amanda McCabe?
BC: There was an announcement by, I’m not sure if it was Val (Valerie George) or Amanda who put it online about her situation. And I’m getting ready to move to Galveston for a job I have lined up, so I have a couple of shows for a couple of my bands that were going to be set up in the same time frame. So, it was kind of one of those things like “let’s kill two birds with one stone.” We’re going to be doing some shows and push any of the proceeds we get from the show to that cause. More like one of the main reasons that I push for it, I don’t normally step out like that because she has, in the past, has helped promote some of my bands. I don’t really actually know her really, really well. She kind of came up in the same time frame that I did in terms of going to shows and being into the same kind of bands and that was kind of a pretty cool thing. But then I also found out she got pretty heavily involved in supporting other Pensacola acts through various means, I think that she was involved in doing some cover artwork for one of (David) Dondero’s albums and I know that she was really big into doing promotion when she was in San Francisco and to me, that’s somebody who is really a big supporter of the independent musician and all of their efforts to try to get out there and get their stuff up. There are not a whole lot of people like that. There’s a whole lot of bands out there and people who want to be in bands, but the people who are in effect promoters and even not so much promoters, advocates for independent music, is kind of a rarity. So when you find those people and their quality, you want to be able to support them. When I found out about her getting sick, I was like well, “If we can do anything to get her back in the ring, that would be the most ideal setting.” And it’s pretty minimal; I mean it’s a punk show. I don’t know how much that’s really going to be able to pay for her bills because I think she has health insurance issues. I don’t know if we’ll really be able to get to that kind of end goal. So I contacted her, Val online and said, “Hey, I’m getting ready to do some shows and I would really love to be able to put what money we make towards the cause and I’ll do whatever we can do to promote it. And she seemed pretty into the idea and we talked to some of the bands we usually play with, Roman Gabriel Todd from Mobile, I don’t know which…
BC: There’s kind of a story behind that I guess. So the idea was…She’s got pretty severe scoliosis and it’s got to the point where…the way I understand it at least and I may be extrapolating a bit, but I think that here scoliosis has gotten so severe that its caused excessive calcium deposition and those are pinching off into nerves and causing all kinds of problems. The idea was that she’d gotten this nickname from some old friend of Valerie George and Amy McDowell. Her name is Amanda, kind of rhymes with Panda so the idea was, we would…well, I have to find something that has to do with bent spines and surgeries and Pandas, so I did the cursory internet search and found a panda getting back surgery. How much more perfect is that and it’s a hardcore show, so it’s going to be a lot of heavy music and you kind of got to put something gruesome on the cover. It’s really to the point. We’re trying to help this woman pay for surgery.
*** Amanda McCabe Interview ***
MS: What kind of music do you listen to?
AM: (laughs) Well, I listen to most everything. I generally think to be a true music junkie, you have to appreciate it all. I can’t really say that I listen to anything in particular. I listen to “good music” is usually how I answer that question.
MS: Any favorite local bands?
AM: I’ve been out of the seen here in Pensacola for a long time and I’m not entirely familiar with a lot of the bands that are playing these days since I’ve been back. I don’t really get to go out because of my injuries and stuff. I’m sure that they are. My best friend Valerie (George) has been very plugged into the scene and has told me about some bands that are doing some really cool things. I’m hopeful to get to hear them.
MS: I have to ask you, when did you discover that you had scoliosis?
AM: I have had it most of my life, but it’s never caused me any problems until recently and I’m not entirely sure that that is what is causing all of the pain. But I’ve been to nine doctors over the past two and a half years since the pain started to get so bad that it started affecting my work. But now, I guess it’s a combination of factors causing the situation I’m in right now, but the scoliosis is contributing to repetitive injury which basically caused this damage and a bone spur. And now there is a lot of nerve issues going on because of all that.
MS: I read your blog and I was just like, “Oh my God”, you’re pretty much in constant pain?
AM: Yeah, pretty much. It’s kind of a baseline of pain and then it fluctuates up and occasionally down a little bit, but it’s pretty much constant. I’m kind of just right now managing it now with medication and massage therapy.
MS: You mentioned your friends and I’ve got to say, when I saw Bob (Cross), he told me about you and the show they wanted to do, how did the benefit and this concert get started?
AM: It’s funny. I know that Bob has been my friend on a social network for a long time and is still in contact with my friend Valerie. Essentially I had been treated under a workman’s comp kind of situation because the pain that I’m experiencing, for the most part, started at work. My friend Valerie and a couple of other friends who I have reconnected with since I’ve been back, kind of all banded together. These amazing women, just decided to put together a fundraising committee and try and start getting people involved and that has kind of been amazing. A lot of people have started to donate stuff so that we can have some more fundraising events and Bob just kind of jumped in an amazing way and organized this whole thing and has kind of run with it and kind of just dropped me an email with a flier and told me about it. And it has been awesome.
MS: Awesome. Why the Panda bear? Is there a story behind the Panda bear?
AM:(laughs) Yes. I’ve had many nicknames over the years. One originally my dad gave to me when I was young. So it’s picked it up as Amanda Panda and he remembered that from so many years ago and decided to go with it. It was really cute. I love the flier! I think it’s amazing.
MS: That’s a pretty bad ass flier. What would you like anybody reading this article to know about you, the concert, the benefit, the people involved? Is there anything you would like them to know especially?
AM: Well. I’m really so overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity that people have shown me. I’ve been living in a place where you have to fight the good fight every day. And it’s hard to find good people. I’m just overwhelmed.
MS: It’s amazing when I talked to Bob, he was full of enthusiasm and was just, “Wow! We got to make this happen.”
AM: Right now, I’m looking into meeting with a specialist who will hopefully have some good news for me and eventually will be willing to do some pretty serious surgery. If the surgery happens, it could be another eight months before I’m really back to normal. But considering what I’ve been through it’s a chance I’m willing to take.
MS: What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
AM: (pause…laughs) I guess, a long time ago, when I was first getting into the music business, or I wanted to, but I wasn’t really in it yet. I had all of these skills and I really didn’t’ know what to do and really know how to make them work for me and a friend of mine basically just said, “If you start doing something, eventually you’ll be the person that does it.” And so, “just go do it.” It doesn’t really matter that you don’t know what you’re doing because, eventually you’ll figure it out. And that’s kind of been the one thing that I’ve always lived by.
MS: What advice would you give to someone who is going through what you are right now?
AM: I guess it kind of seems like…at least in my case, because it’s kind of been such a strange road and a long road that I fought for a long time by myself in California. I had friends, but I didn’t really have anyone to take care of me. Really, you just have to find a place in your head where it gets quiet even though it’s impossible to find and stay there as much as you can even if it’s only for a minute at a time. And the pain won’t kill you. You just have to remember that. Pain itself can’t kill you. If you’re not going to die then really the fear of it comes along, but it’s just fear. You know, just keep going.
MS: Favorite concert of all time in Pensacola?
AM: I would have to say, wow…I want to say maybe Seven Year Bitch playing at the Nite Owl a million years ago.
MS: I saw my first show at the Nite Owl.
MS: I saw the Vomit Spots and they had a bunch of Mobile skinheads. First time I ever saw skinheads was at the Nite Owl. An older friend took me there.
AM: Yeah. The Nite Owl. It was really fun. I’m surprised. From my perspective, so many things were happening there that all the time, now that I’ve gotten older, I can’t believe it was allowed to stay open. (laughs)
MS: Underage kids hanging out with strippers getting off work. So, why was that concert your favorite?
AM: I just remember being really blown away by the energy. Women up on stage just going for it and it just really the first empowering show I think I saw.
MS: This is the last question I have for you Amanda, it’s a crazy one.
AM: Uh oh.
MS: Do you like Crunchy or Creamy Peanut Butter?
AM: I’m a crunchy girl all the way; the crunchier the better.
MS: Why so?
AM: I don’t know. It’s more exciting.
MS: What is your favorite song now?
AM: I think there’ a favorite song for every mood in every moment and favorite album. As somebody who’s been in the music business for long enough, I’ve been asked a top record a thousand times, it always a really hard question to answer and I have to say one of the songs that always hits me and has been covered a million times and been done a thousand different ways…
The next day, I got this text from Amanda…
“Now that I think about it… My favorite show is really any show I get to see a good friend of mine really rock the fuck out..Hands down those are all my favorite :-)”
– Michael L. Smith