Daniels at the Harmony. An employee says he's "always been in it for the community."
No one knows where Keith Daniels is. The peripatetic Harmony Bar owner's whereabouts are a mystery to his brother Ken, who is tending bar Thursday night. Brad Czachor, the guy to whom Daniels handed the door keys before he left town doesn't know either. "See you in ten days," is what Daniels told him before he split for his annual Mexican beach vacation.
This doesn't surprise anyone who knows Daniels. He takes his business as seriously as he takes his vacations. When he leaves, he leaves. Daniels doesn't own a cell phone or do email. His traveling companion, Alison Mader, left her cell phone in Madison. I phoned the Playa del Carmen hotel where they stayed last year. They weren't registered.
The reason why it matters where Keith Daniels is Thursday night is because a May 4 stop at the Harmony Bar is the only engagement in the country that remains uncancelled in the wake of musician Michelle Shocked's meltdown in San Francisco Sunday night.
That's when the renegade songwriter pushed her luck -- and her audience -- right out the door. "Someone please send a tweet saying, 'Michelle Shocked just said 'God hates faggots,'" was the capstone of a delirious ramble during her set (listen here).
Turns out San Francisco isn't the only city where it's not a good idea to say that. All the rest of the cities on the tour pulled her plug, including the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, a gathering that has enjoyed a 23 year relationship with Shocked. Shocked herself has sent (continued) mixed messages of the "you can't fire me I quit" nature. Still, Madison's Harmony remains the only contract obligation still booked.
"ABC called today," says Czachor. Others, including local media, who have called the bar, have gotten the same answer: "Wait 'til Keith gets back." In the meantime Czachor worries that no answer sounds like indecision in what appears to be an open and shut case to all other venues.
And to him.
"There's no doubt in my mind that he'll cancel this. I'd do it myself, but it's not my right nor did I draw the contract," he said earlier tonight from a barstool at the Harmony.
So Madison will wait for Keith Daniels to return from his beach vacation, a vacation that no one deserves more than the hard-charging barkeep. There's a possibility that he might check in out of the blue, but one shouldn't bet one's bracket money on it. Given his aversion to electronic media and social networks, it's also possible this swirling Shocked wave has not washed up anywhere in his immediate proximity. But Daniels' thoughts on the matter, whenever it does gain his attention, are clear for Czachor.
"Keith has always been in it for the community," he says. "For all communities. People who think otherwise don't know him."
I know Keith. And I'd bet my March Madness money that he's at a beach bar right this second, glued to the basketball games on ESPN where there aren't many Michelle Shocked updates. He's drinking a Mai Tai.
And he's tipping big.