Ah, the District. It’s a city that has it all — the humidity of a golden-age Atlantis, the pastoral splendor of a Newark and the breathtaking skyline of an Akron, whose tallest building until July of 2010 was, I believe, LeBron James. To top it all off, it entertains an air of political clusterfuckitude (patent pending) that other countries have been feverishly scrambling to match since George Washington threw off the yoke of his first monarchy (note: it will not be his last).
But there are some parts of this city that I love, few so much as I love the very thing that drove me to write this in the first place: The Gator. You all are familiar with Gator of the silver screen, who I’m told is played by one “William Ferrel” or some such, but I’m talking about a real Gator, with sharp teeth, thick skin and a quintessentially creole accent. Every Saturday from noon until two I visit with the Gator on 89.3 WPFW, D.C.’s local source for Jazz and Justice, which just so happen to be two of my favorite Js alongside greats like Jokulhlaups, Jurisprudence, Jewdar and, of course, Jibberwigglin’.
The Gator is the kind of man whose Saturday is seven days long, and he plays music to match. Perhaps the last scion of Zydeco, the enduring musical legacy of the New Orleans diaspora, Gator plays the kind of tunes that put fire under your feet and what most turn-of-the-century revival preachers would describe as “the devil in your loins.” If you’ve never had your loins bedeviled, the closest verbal approximation that I can give is “existential proctology.”
Gator opens the show every week with an assortment of tunes apropos of his nickname, including such classics as Lazy Lester’s seminal recording “Alligator Shuffle,” or the precautionary bayou tale “Gator Gon Bitecha” by Memphis Gold. From there the setlist spirals out of control, beginning with relatively mundane titles such as “Oh Happy Day,” but quickly escalating in vulgarity and blissfully frenetic amperage to the timeless “Full-figured Woman” by the unforgettable and medically accredited Dr. S. O. Feelgood.
By the end of the second hour, we’re ass-deep (in Zydeco units, this equals about 43.775 billion light years) in raunchy rags: “When a Man Loves a Woman”; “I Want to Ta Ta You Baby” (as sung by the late vocalist/angel from the womb of heaven, Etta James); “Your Husband is Cheating On Us”; “She’s Got the Best Lovin’ That Ever Put On a Pair of Drawers”; “Honey Hole”; “Booty-Thumpin’ Grind”…The list is inexhaustible, as is Gator’s deep-bellied laugh and ability to produce noises that are ostensibly syllables and words but which have no discernible meaning.
Gator isn’t the kind of DJ who’s on the radio to “educate” you about music you haven’t heard or dig up old tunes that you stopped caring about when your parents buried the vinyl under the raccoon traps and embarrassing wedding gifts from your foreign step-aunt in the attic 35 years ago. Gator is an immanent DJ, he’s in the music, interrupting the track 4 or 5 times a minute to tell you how great of a time he’s having playing it for you. Gator’s the kind of DJ you listen with rather than to, and he sounds like more fun in an hour than you’ll ever be in your entire life.
The moral of the story — and, coincidentally, the punchline of this post — is that, for two hours a Saturday on every Saturday, Gator don’t play no shit. Literally.