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By Pete Vonder Haar | June 20, 2008

Awake and newly energized, I spent the better part of the afternoon banging out reviews at the bar in Soleil (the Colcord’s restaurant) and watching Russia eliminate Greece in Euro 2008 contention. A number of the noodlers from “Okie Noodling II,” including Gary Webb and David Baggett, and their families showed up and had a few drinks before that night’s premiere. Nice folks through and through. Mr. Webb is also a staunch campaigner for noodlers’ rights in Missouri, and is quick to bring you in for a conspiratorially hushed conversation regarding Bass Pro Shops’ efforts to undermine the sport.

The last evening’s films included “Unsolved” and “Familiar Strangers,” starring Shawn Hatosy and DJ Qualls. I have to admit, the prospect of sitting through another “estranged child returns to dysfunctional family for Thanksgiving” flick filled me with an exquisite dread infused with loathing, but it was much better than I could’ve hoped.

Since “Strangers” was showing at the Harkins in Bricktown, I decided to bite the bullet and go grab a drink at *shudder* Toby Keith’s. There was a country band playing on the stage, and upon further inspection I saw a Plexiglas barrier between the drum riser and the rest of the band. Thinking this was some sort of update to the chicken wire at Bob’s Country Bunker, I queried the bartender. He told me it was to keep the band from being “too loud.” Way to rock, Mr. Keith. Fortunately, one of the TV stations was airing a show on the top 10 bullriding wipeouts. There’s something about drinking whiskey while watching dudes get their a***s stomped by 1700 lbs of pissed off bovine that reinforced my faith in the cosmic balance. Thusly refreshed, I walked back to the Colcord to change and grabbed a shuttle from the hotel to Nonna’s Purple Bar, once again the site of the closing night party.

All too soon, it seemed like we were in the big suite at the Colcord for the after-after party. My sole disappointment of the festival came when I realized the promised trip to Bobo’s had taken place without my tagging along as planned. This was probably for the best, as Bobo’s isn’t in the best neighborhood and the potentially lethal formula of [strong drink + Pete’s smartassery] / [site of frequent gunplay] might have put a damper on the whole weekend. Sure enough, my disappointment was as short-lived as the wings themselves, which disappeared faster than John McCain’s adherence to his moderate views. A few of us adjourned to the back patio of the hotel following the soiree’s end (an after-after-after party?), where the drinking continued, in slightly more subdued fashion. I made my exit around 4:00, knowing I had to be up in a scant 6 hours to catch my ride to the airport.

The general sentiment was that this year’s deadCENTER was the best yet. Having only attended two of the festivals, I’m not exactly qualified to comment, but 2008 certainly seemed as solid as 2007, with fewer venue problems (that I saw) and bigger crowds. Kim, Melissa, and Cacky still have everything wired tight (and I have to thank Robbie, Sarah, and Beth for carting my lazy a*s around), and it seems to me that as long as the same group remains in charge, things can only continue to get better.

But do something about that f*****g siren, huh?

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