Wednesday, December 31, 2008
So This Is The New Year
New Year's Eve is always a big disappointment to me. It very rarely lives up to the hype, and it usually turns out to be more of a drag than it is fun. I think maybe I've set the bar too high though. I've had 4 incredible New Year's Eves. 12-31-88/89/90/99.
The first 3 involved me going to see The Grateful Dead in Oakland, CA.
12-31-88. There ain't no place I'd rather be. Best. Party. Ever. My first trip to California. My first huge road-trip to see the Dead. Tom Tom Club opened. Clarence Clemons sat-in for a good part of the show. Babatunde Olatunji and Sikiru Adepoju taught me about the power of drums. Bill Graham entered the arena at midnight, dressed at Father Time, flying across the length of the arena on a giant disco ball. An amazing night.
12-31-89. After hearing me gush over 12-31-88 for a year, I convinced friends, neighbors and co-workers to head west with me. My roommate and next-door-neighbor drove from Greenbelt, MD to Oakland, CA in just under 48 hours. I wasn't even sure they were going. They got tickets, but they were both totally broke and couldn't afford to fly out there. Two days later, there's a knock on our hotel room door. They made it in plenty of time. One of my all-time favorite concert experiences. On the road with a ton of friends, the biggest New Year's party I've ever been to and 2 nights of The Grateful Dead. Oh yeah, Bonnie Raitt opened and sat-in on "Big Boss Man." That didn't suck. The midnight festivities included Bill Graham dressed as a giant psychedelic chicken dropping from the ceiling onto an huge egg, then traveling the length of the floor during the countdown. The egg broke open and there was Baby New Year. Maybe even a few of them. I forget.
12-31-90. Quickest trip to California I've ever done. I got to SFO at about 11:00pm on 12/30. Checked-in at the hotel. Got the rundown on that night's show and went to bed. Up early on 12/31...at the show by 2:00 or 3:00. Branford Marsalis opened. Bruce Hornsby sat in. Hamza El Din sat in too. Damn - he was amazing. A little parking lot time. Back to the hotel. Back to SFO at about 6:00am and headed home. Total California time approx. 32 hours. It was at this point my friends and family realized that this was more an addiction than just another musical phase I was going through. Now they're all jealous they didn't go with me. Midnight included Bill Graham dressed as some sort of tribal chief/witch doctor, a flaming cauldron and hot bungee jumpers dropping from the ceiling. I never understood that one. I have an old cassette of this show. It's pretty funny listening to the radio announcers trying to describe this one. Those pics are from this site.
That was my last NYE with the Dead. They only did it one more time. Uncle Bobo died in late '91.
The last great NYE I had was the big one - 12/31/99. Don and I went up to NYC for the festivities. We didn't go down to Times Square, but we did watch the ball drop from WAY up near Central Park. We were pretty far away from the madness, but even that far away, there were probably a couple thousand people around us. We had a great few days of drunken debauchery and celebrated harder than we had since we met a few years earlier. Great, great time.
Ever since these events, NYE is always a let-down. We decided to just skip it altogether this year. No parties. No bars. We spent the night taking down our Xmas decorations. Had one beer. Got the best kiss of the year at midnight, then went to bed. Probably the best NYE I've had in years.
Happy New Year.
Monday, December 08, 2008
Repost from 12/8/04.
I was surprised how much this bothered me. Elvis had died a few years earlier, but I didn't see what the big deal was. He was just an old singer. But then John Lennon died. He was murdered, actually. Maybe that's why it hurt so much more.
I was exactly 15 years and 3 days old. I was starting to branch out a bit musically. I was growing out of the cartoon antics of KISS and the remnants of disco just weren't cutting it. I was starting to take music a little more seriously. The Beatles were a big part of that. I was the only kid I knew that owned The White Album and Abbey Road. I adored the Beatles.
My mom woke me up and told me. We watched TV all morning and I cried a bit. My mom didn't make me go to school that day. I didn't have to ask her - she just didn't say anything. I always thought that was very cool of her.
Imagine. I can't help but think of John every time I hear that word - regardless of the context.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
11/10/2000 - Prince @ Patriot Center - Fairfax, VA
I remember struggling over this one. I had heard for ages that Prince was just ridiculously good in concert, but I really didn't want to pay that much $$$ to see him. After service charges at was close to $100/ticket. Ouch. That's a lot of money for someone I'm merely curious about. But then tickets went on sale and I had the opportunity to get "Purple Circle" seats - 13th row center - so I jumped on them. Dinger wasn't thrilled about the cost, but he begrudgingly went with me.
Of course, I feel silly about all that now, because the show was just amazing. I had one of those moments when I just wanted to slap myself in the head and say "What was I thinking?" for all those years when I blew him off. Hit after hit after hit. I knew Prince played guitar, but I didn't know he was that f--king good at it. Wow. He's just amazing to watch, seeing him in control of the band as well as the audience. James Brown comparisons are very easy to make here. My only complaint would be that a bunch of the songs were incomplete. It seemed like there were several medley's, rather than full songs. It worked well, but there were a few times he left us wanting more. Maybe that was the whole point.
Not sure if this is a Top 10 show, but I'd readily put this in the top 20 or so. Oh - And Dinger finally came around and agreed that it was worth every penny.
11/10/06 - Wreckless Eric @ The Velvet Lounge - Washington, DC
I consider Wreckless Eric to be a semi-legend. I was kinda crushed when there were only a couple dozen people at his Velvet Lounge show. I think he was, too. He played his hits and a bunch of stuff I didn't know, but the most interesting parts were when he told stories between the songs. Some were pretty cool - stories of "back-in-the-day" when he was part of the whole Stiff crowd. But there were also stories where you could tell he was a little angry or bitter about how things played out for him.
Very fun, intimate show. I'd see him again in a heartbeat. Shame on you all for not going. Everyone should have a copy of Greatest Stiffs. Believe it or not - he also has a new record out. Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby. Go buy it.
11/9/2004 - Interpol @ 9:30 Club - Washington, DC
Like Muse the night before, my first live introduction to Interpol was at the Curiosa festival earlier in the summer. The big difference was that Interpol was on the main stage, rather than the side stage. They really stepped-up to the plate and put on a great show that day. My hopes were high for the 9:30 show. They ended up being pretty good, but there was no real "wow" factor at play here. They faithfully played the songs and gave us our money's worth. They were absolutely worth seeing, but I thought the Curiosa set was better. Maybe at Curiosa they knew they had to try harder to win over some new fans, while at 9:30 they were playing to a devoted sold-out crowd. Anyway - It was a good show, but twice in one year was plenty. I ended up skipping them the last time they came through town. I'd like to see them again now, but they've probably hit that level where I'm not willing to put up with an annoying, oversold club show, yet I don't think they're worth the larger venue prices. Who knows - maybe I'll change my mind whenever they turn up again.
My original review for this one is here.
11/9/2006 Rustbuckit @ The Red And The Black - Washington, DC
This is the only show I've seen at The Red And The Black. Tiny, tiny, tiny venue. My second Rustbuckit show. There were maybe 15 people there, which meant it was kind of crowded. They sounded better than the 1st time - and they continue to get better with each show. Boyd gave me a free beer at this one. I'm a big fan of bribing your audience with free drinks. :)
Saturday, December 06, 2008
There's a big R.E.M. tribute happening in March. At Carnegie Hall, no less. Bob Mould, Patti Smith, Throwing Muses, The Feelies (!), The dB's (!!) and a bunch of other folks will be playing. My guess is that R.E.M. will be there, but they won't play. I went ahead and bought tickets last week. The VIP tickets were a little steep, but I got great average-Joe tickets. It sucks that it's on a Wednesday though. The things I do for them... shhhh... I haven't told Don yet.
I just signed-up on Facebook. Welcome to 2005. I'm trying hard not to be that guy that sends messages to people he hasn't seen in 20+ years. No guarantees though. It's amazing how many people have the same name. Now that I've joined, I officially declare Facebook to be over.
Upcoming stuff...The Damned at The Black Cat. I can't wait for this one. I hope The Captain wears his pink fuzzy pants. The Slickee Boys are doing their annual end of the year reunion gigs - one at The Surf Club and one at The Ottobar. I plan on hitting both.
Tonight I'm planning on finally seeing 7 Door Sedan at The Velvet Lounge. It's only taken me about a year. Pup Tent and The Howling Mad are also playing. Great lineup. You should go. I'll probably end up at Nellie's, too, at some point - since it's right across the street.
hmmm....that's it. Move along.
Friday, December 05, 2008
11/8/99 - Bob Dylan/Phil Lesh And Friends @ Baltimore Arena - Baltimore, MD
Dylan was the headliner, but the main draw for me was Phil. I don't think I had seen his solo band yet. Looking back, this was probably my favorite Phil-incarnation - with both Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes on guitar. We had seen Bobby play with Ratdog and those various versions of "The Other Ones," but this was PHIL's band. A different beast altogether. Musically, they were great. They were hitting the improvisational peaks that Bobby's bands never could, yet they didn't have the pressure of being the "remains of the Dead" that The Other Ones had thrust upon them. However - the one thing that hasn't changed over the years....Phil can't sing. At all. He's horrible. My only real memory of this show was the opening "Morning Dew." The music was beautiful, but Phil's singing....ugh. We were still missing Jerry pretty bad. Hearing the opening notes of this song brought up all kinds of emotions. But then he started singing and it was just cringe-worthy. The notes...The phrasing....Please stop. Listening to the rest of the show (at the link above) pretty much reinforces the above. The playing is wonderful - as long as Phil isn't singing.
Jam > Morning Dew > The Wheel > Playing In The Band > Just A Little Light > Playin' Jam > Get Together > Cold Rain & Snow
I recall Dylan being quite good. He played lots of hits, along with a few songs the Dead used to play, which made all the heads happy. I wasn't used to Dylan's new sound yet, but once I got into it, he was great. He was still playing guitar then, which made him a little more mobile and fun to watch. This was the first time I had seen Dylan in quite a while. He had gotten about 1000x better than before. I wish he had played more from Time Out Of Mind though.
I Am The Man, Thomas/Visions Of Johanna/Ring Them Bells/Tangled Up In Blue/Big River/Joey/Down Along The Cove/Man In The Long Black Coat/Tombstone Blues/Like A Rolling Stone/Love Sick/Rainy Day Women #12 and 35/Friend Of The Devil/Not Fade Away
Here's a vid from the show.
11/8/03 Washington Social Club/Paper Doll/??? @ The Fleming Center - Washington, DC
About a week after our first WSC show, they were playing a benefit gig for Positive Force DC at their activity center. It was kind of like seeing a bunch of bands playing of your office's break room. VERY small. Only a handful of people there. There were different tables setup with different types of political action literature, books, clothes and records. Did I mention the records? I walked out with an armful of them. The biggest score of the day was an early pressing of the Rites Of Spring LP. Sweet.
Anyway - I walked in on a band who's name I didn't catch. It was either The Delorean or 4-Chamber Heart. Not sure. Paper Doll was next. I liked them a lot. I think they may have been an all-girl band, but I'm too lazy to go dig up my CD and I can't find anything about them online. I think there are other bands with the same name. Anyway - They were good. Never heard from them again though.
WSC was a blast, of course, playing to about 15 people in Positive Force's office space. No stage - they just setup in a corner. I remember one of them (Marty?) saying they'd rather play a ton of these gigs than shows at the Black Cat. Of course within a couple years they'd be packing them in at The Cat. This may have been the show that made them one of my "can't miss" bands.
11/8/2004 - Muse @ 9:30 - Washington, DC
My original review of this one is over here.
I had seen Muse earlier that summer and thought they were awesome. I jumped at the chance to see them at the club. I was kind of surprised that they sold out 9:30. Just 3 months earlier they played at the side-stage at Curiosa - The Cure's traveling festival - to a rather sparse, semi-interested crowd. I had no problem walking right up to the front for that one. The club was packed tonight though.
I had mixed feelings about this one. I really liked what I heard, but it all started to sound the same after a while. I haven't seen them since, but that's mostly because they've gotten huge and I don't want to deal with the bigger venues. They're a good band. They just outgrew me too fast. I hear they play arenas in Europe. sheesh. Good for them.
11/8/2007 - Partyline/Fierce Perm/Mess Up The Mess @ Velvet Lounge - Washington, DC
One of my favorite shows of 2007. This show was just one non-stop party. The crowd seemed to consist of whatever two bands weren't on stage at the time, a bunch of their friends and me. It was Alison's birthday and silliness all around. Silly String, a pinata and lots of drunken mayhem. And all 3 bands just f--king rocked. I highly recommend all of them. Especially Partyline. They play every once in a while, but it usually seems to be tiny benefit gigs in out-of-the-way places. I wish they would advertise them better. I'd show up more often if I had a little advanced notice. Partyline will rock your world. Or make you laugh. Either way - you'll love 'em.
11/8/2008 Elton John "The Red Piano" @ The Colosseum at Caesars Palace - Las Vegas, NV
That's right. VEGAS, BABY! Don is a HUGE Elton fan. For years we kept saying that as soon as his job situation stabilized we'd head to Vegas and see Elton. Well, his job situation is pretty damn good now and they announced that Elton was going to end his Vegas run soon. If we're gonna do this - now is the time.
I had never been to Vegas before. We stayed at The Venetian, which was so over-the-top swanky it was almost cheesy. That's what Vegas is all about though. Elton's show was a lot of fun. He knows what the crowd wants. Hit after hit after hit. None of that Lion King business. Oh yeah - lots of inflatable things resembling penises and a giant inflatable set of boobs. Oddly, I would be seeing an even larger set of inflatable boobs within about a week. More on that later. Elton was much more talkative than I expected - telling jokes about Celine Dion, stories about the songs, etc. I think he's a little afraid of Bette Midler. "She'll hit me." He played for like 2 hours and it went by in a flash. To be honest - It was a good, fun show - but not really great. Even Don admits that, so I don't feel bad saying it. Definitely worth the trip though.
Vegas was fun. Too many people though. I don't like crowds like that. We were just there for the weekend, so we didn't go out to the Hoover Dam or to the Grand Canyon. We did make it out to the old part of town though. I think they called it "Glitter Gulch." That's where U2 filmed "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." I had fun, but I don't know if I'd go back without a good reason.
If you ever want to go gambling, call me. If I sit at your table, I guarantee I'll suck all the bad luck in my direction, leaving the good luck for everyone around me to share.