When I first encountered Tomás and Derrick, the duo that would later add a few rotating members to their lineup and perform as Damn Girl!, they insisted that they were only passing through town. Perhaps a month passed, and by that point they’d become as established as any local band in the Asheville busking scene. I was hardly surprised. Even in early spring, there are plenty of tip-wielding tourists for buskers to perform to, and, as a rule of thumb, loud buskers do better than quiet ones. This is true even when the songs being played aren’t even in English.
Watching Damn Girl! perform their original tune “La Policia” in front of the Woolworth Walk, the only surprising thing was that the band was still claiming to be passing through town. They were less certain about it this time however. When I asked if they were sticking around, Tomás just said “Something like that.”
In the local urban folklore, this is called the “Cherokee Curse,” a nod to the none-too-friendly displacement of white settlers in the area over the last few hundred years. The basic idea is that if you stay in the admittedly gorgeous mountain valley that forms the Asheville area, you will never be able to leave. Sure, you can move away for a time, but you’ll always come back. Maybe in a few months, maybe a few years, but it will happen.
And while I’d chalk this phenomenon up to Asheville being a great place to live, filled with interesting people and projects, I’ve met plenty of people who talk about the “curse” in a half-joking way. Having left town myself many times, only to move back for various, often seemingly random opportunities, I certainly understand the appeal of the urban legend. So, if you see some version of Damn Girl! playing on the streets of Asheville in the future, even though they were adamant they were moving on, don’t hold it against them. The Cherokee Curse is powerful stuff.