The Dulli Effect

“You’re going to what?” asked Flora, her face a picture of confusion.

“Wait,” said Kate, all anxiety. “How far away is Cincinnati?”

I had just gotten done telling the girls that on Friday morning, they were going to have to remember the treats they needed for their respective activity days. They were going to have to help their dad get up and get them out the door. I informed Michael that his Aunt Irene was picking him up from daycare on Thursday.

I said again, “I’m going to go out of town for the night. I’m driving to Cincinnati to see a show.”

It was something I hadn’t done since becoming a mom, traveling on a weeknight. It’s something I hadn’t done since college, probably. I had gone to Cleveland for a couple of shows — Lollapalooza when Jane’s Addiction was at the helm, and Erasure. My first solo concert had been Depeche Mode when I was still living in Erie.

But until now, I hadn’t purchased a ticket to an out-of-town concert that was taking place on a Thursday night, figuring out the logistics for my children, and informing my husband once every detail was covered.

So their confusion was understandable.

But when I heard that Greg Dulli, frontman for Afghan Whigs and Twilight Singers, was embarking on a solo tour, I didn’t hesitate to buy a ticket in October for a show on March 17. I almost bought a ticket to the Chicago show, too, but between finances and logistics, I decided that would be pushing it.

This is what Greg Dulli will do to you.


I meticulously planned my children’s life the week of the March 17th show. I didn’t want to miss any detail. I had requested PTO in February, so that was covered. The Flex had new tires. A fellow Pittsburgh-based Dulli fan had contacted me via Facebook, and so I had a traveling companion and someone to split the cost of a hotel with.

Michael had a ride home from daycare; the babysitter was booked; reminders for the girls were left. Dan was on board, even if a bit reluctantly. He was dealing with a lot; his friend has succumbed to her cancer that Monday, and his father was in and out of the hospital with his own cancer. But Dan didn’t breathe a word about me not making the trip; Kate was more worried.

“I don’t think you should go,” she said baldly. “I don’t like it.”

How to explain it to children? How to explain it to anyone who wasn’t a Dulli fan?

It was something I needed to do for me. It was something I needed like air and writing — something mine, something I didn’t share with my husband or my children, with whom I shared just about everything.

So I went.


Cincinnati was an easy drive. My traveling companion was good company — totally easy going, chatty but not overly so, undemanding. She told me about other Afghan Whigs shows she had traveled to, usually solo, usually driving back to Pittsburgh afterward. She was glad she didn’t need to do that on this trip.

We met a group of fans at a restaurant across from the venue. All of us headed into the show together, stood as a group at the front of the stage, saved spots when someone needed a drink or a bathroom break.


We cheered for spoken word artist Derrick Brown. Screamed for Dulli and for the Afghan Whigs when most of them took the stage for the second encore. AW had been born in the Queen City, and John Curley, bassist for the band, still lived there with his family. Heck, Dulli’s mom still lived in Cincinnati; she was at the show. Curley was at the show as well; he had come to say hi to some of the group I was with beforehand.

Yes, John Curley came up to the group I was standing with, greeted a number of them by name, talked about leaving his daughters home for the evening (they are teenagers, brave, brave man).

And this is the thing that is hard to capture about this experience. Yes, something about Greg Dulli is magnetic, is compelling. It goes beyond the old cliche of being a rock star that women want to fuck and men want to be. Far beyond.

Dulli captures a darkness in his music that many of us have dwelled in. The addictive appeal of the bad relationship, the desire to be in pain and to cause pain, and the plain old nature of addiction, the inability to break free. I have often wondered at how many men are Dulli fans, but then again, we’ve all been there haven’t we? With the wrong person, hopelessly in thrall to their spells or to our own fears of loneliness.

This is the appeal of Greg Dulli, this and the pure virile swagger of the man, undiminished — nay, nearly enhanced — by the years. This plus the sheer normalcy and sweetness in the rest of the band. Of Dave Rosser and Jorge Sierra coming out to chat after the show, taking pictures with and offering beers to those of us still hanging out. Greg is there too, signing autographs, and making Derrick Brown take pictures of him with the fans standing in line for a moment to chat.

Somehow we want to communicate to him that he touches us, that he has reached us. He takes it all in stride, giving each person his attention, his total focus for a minute or two.

And we are refreshed, our faith is renewed. We turn away, alive again.

Some fans travel on, back to their home bases, to their normal lives; some fans, more than a few, go onto the next show, and the next one after that.

Me and my travel buddy — we headed back to Pittsburgh the next day. I had a phone interview at 3 pm, and then many more child-related things to tend to. My father-in-law was back in the hospital; my husband needed me.

And I was there. I was there because for a few hours I was able to be away.

To have one thing that was all mine. Just for me.


8 thoughts on “The Dulli Effect

  1. I am very happy for you. This is fantastic.
    We all need, especially as we get on in our parenting career, something that is ours. For some couples it is a regular date night. For some it is a regular night out with friends away from the spouse and kids. For some, it is music.
    Being able to travel for a show is a luxury, I know (having done it a few times). The logistics involved can be… daunting, especially if your spouse is not on board. I am so glad you got to go. And get a good picture with him!
    While I am not half the Afghan Wigs/Greg Dulli fan you are (or even a quarter, I don’t think I have any of their music) I understand completely where you are coming from. There are certain artists that speak to us in certain ways for whatever reason. No, it’s not the place and time, but the subject matter, like you talk about. Those are the best ones. Those are the fires that burn the longest. The embers may die down, but always reignite and burn with the same intensity.
    Crap, I’m turning this into a blog post which I didn’t intend to…

  2. I am so happy you went and had something just for you! It’s astonishing to discover that piece of ourselves in times when we are a sea of everyone else’s people – the employee, mother, domestic operations manager, school volunteer, commander of the kitchen, fixer of toys, finder of batteries, settler of hurt feelings and children’s squabbles. I can see by the light in your eyes and how beautiful you look that it was just the thing. Now… let’s plan something together… hmmm…

  3. ……..sigh

    I know that heady renewed freeing feeling that you are writing about.

    When The Whigs announced their tour for Do To The Beast I knew I had to go.
    I was recently single after 20 years, slowly rebuilding my life in a new town and had never travelled anywhere by myself. I had an okay job. My boy was old enough to do two days by himself. I found a flight, just to see if I could fund it and spent the night thinking about. I asked myself how much would I regret not doing this.

    I bought my concert ticket and booked a flight the next morning.

    It was the single most liberating thing I had every done for myself. The trip was amazing!

    I was still raw from the breakup of my marriage. And to travel 2500kms alone was huge for this quiet small town girl. I researched the city, planned the trip and the countdown began.

    I gotta say, there is nothing more therapeutic then being in the front row, standing a few feet away from Greg Dulli, in a city thousands of kilometers from home, letting it all go.

    My wounds began to heal that night.

    “And we are refreshed, our faith is renewed”

    I left that city a different person.

    It is amazing what The Dulli Effect can do if you allow it to happen!

    1. This is a great story. When a person has something in his or her life, some passion, some calling, it helps us when things are difficult. I’m glad to know for so many people it’s music, and Greg Dulli and the Afghan Whigs! It’s our own tribe, and it just makes getting through some hard shit a little bit easier.

  4. Loved getting to meet so many great people who shared a passion for Dulli and his music. It was a special night for sure.

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