Tuesday, June 24, 2008

surreal and magical all in the same night...

There are only a handful of musical acts that I will drive a couple of hundred miles to see; some would include Sam Bush, Richard Thompson, Doc Watson and Jack Lawrence, and any group that Mike Marshall and/or Darol Anger would be playing in at the time...>g< (I know that there are more, but I'm just working quickly off the top of my head at the moment..)

Last Sunday I traveled to Minneapolis to see the Waybacks! This group is right in that top list of favorites of mine, and when I noticed that my chances of seeing them again this season are pretty slight (schedules can always update...) and that they had added the Minneapolis show there was little doubt that I'd make the trip to see them.

They were booked at a venue that I had attended once before, to see Richard Thompson for the first time. This venue is famous in the Cities for hosting big-time rock acts for many years now...it was actually Prince's home gig for years, and the list of acts that has appeared there is amazing. When I arrived there for Richard's show I found that once you entered the club you could not leave and re-enter...and I didn't like this! (there are simply some times when I HAVE to go outside for a breather...) But, due to the fact that I was on Richard's "guest list" I found that I could come and go wherever and whenever I pleased...so this was good!

When I learned of the Waybacks show and where it was being held I got ahold of my buddy cool Joe Kyle jr., the group's bass player, and he graciously put me on their guest list...so I was set.

There was to be an opening act and when I arrived I could hear blasting from inside some music that I could only describe as "head-banging heavy metal", which is about as far away from any music that I'd ever want to hear, so the guest list deal was sounding better and better. I thought I'd pick up my ticket so I stopped at the box office, where I found that there was a couple of pages of names (!) on the guest list, but my name was not on it. When asked about it, I explained that I'm here with the Waybacks; and then is when I found out that they weren't playing in that part of the building. They were playing right around the corner in a different part of the same buliding.

So--I went around the corner and entered the club. It was a tiny club, with a stage and a dance floor and maybe a half-dozen small tables and an equally small bar. And there was no one there! I stood there for a couple of minutes, after which the bass player for the opening band came out and started milling around the stage. (this was almost a half an hour after the show was supposed to start...)

Well, I decided to go for a walk.... I am getting a charge out of big cities these days; a new phenomonen for me that only started as of late. And it was a nice, longer than I had thought it would be, walk through the heart of the downtown area..lots of interesting stuff! >g<

When I got back to the venue I ran into a friend of mine that I had met on a previous Minneapolis music trip and that was sweet....she was not at all familiar with the Waybacks and I assured her that she was in for a treat! We walked in to find that the opening act was almost done and that there was about six people in the club....including Joe, who was sitting on a bench. It was good to see him, of course, and this is where the surreal part of this story starts....

I am used to seeing the Waybacks tear up any festival stage that I've seen them at. I see them usually with thousands of other folks that are being blown away as well. If they are playing a gig at Merlefest you had better be there early if you want a seat....that kind of stuff. But here I was, in a city that I consider to be a hip-happenin' musical hotspot and one that I had driven around 225 miles to get to so I could have a great night of music, about to see this hotter than hot band....with about 7 or 8 other people!! (I'm not making this up!!)Unreal...surreal, even.

And to the band's credit, they did not hold back! They rocked the joint...James Nash did his usual monster guitar thing; Warren Hood absolutely tore up that fiddle (WHAT a talented young man he is!); cool Joe and Chuck Hamilton laid down different grooves during the many genres that the Waybacks cover; and you would have thought that they were playing for a packed house. Many kudos go out to such consummate performers...it was a riot. And this all for a total of maybe a dozen folks at the height of the attendance.

And then the magical part of the night happened: James announced a new plan....they would play one more tune plugged in and after that it was going to turn into a house party; they would go acoustic for the rest of the night. So, the first set was probably an hour and a half in length...and then the real party began! The bar tender started passing out free whiskey to any of the eight of us left who wanted any; oh..that would be 12 if you counted the band. We all gathered around...(I was actually sitting so close to James that I could have touched his guitar without even straigtening out my arm), and we all had a blast!! They of course took requests, but me and another fellow were the only ones familiar with their music...but I thought of lots of requests..>g< Plus, they played some Dead tunes, which really fired up the gathering, along with whatever tunes popped into anybody's head. They must have played for another hour and a half at least (I didn't have much conception of time 'cause I was having sooo much fun...), and hearing them in such an intimate setting was as magical as it gets in my book.

So---it was of course a financial failure for the fellows, but to their credit they made the most of it and I'm sure gathered a few (!) more fans. I know that my musical trip was certainly a high point...those kind of magical moments come around once in awhile and I savor the hell out of them when they do! It was super party..

Peace, David

Oh...James told a story that everyone got a charge out of: he was being interviewed by a reporter who admitted that he had only listened to the first song on the group's latest cd, and then went ahead and asked: "Do all of the songs sound like that?"

Saturday, June 21, 2008

a much lighter telluride memory....

Every year on this weekend my mind goes back to those many years that I attended the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Making the trip to Telluride every year was my own pilgrimage to my personal mecca....in 1999, the first year since 1986 that I didn't attend, I spent the weekend at home gardening and listening to whatever artist was on the stage at that time. (of course there were a couple that I wasn't familiar with, or didn't have any of their music; but I did have most of them!)

These days the part of the festival that I miss the most is definitely all of the wonderful friends that I met! I do get to see a handful of them at other festivals around the country...some have been so sweet as to come to these festivals specifically to see me! (and it didn't hurt that these festivals are also top-notch...>g<)

Anyhoo....amongst all of the wonderful memories that I have of the Telluride experience one of my favorites happened one early morning while sitting in the line to get in. The Telluride tarp line happenin' turned out to be one of the things about the festival that I didn't care for; I came to hate it actually, but I don't need to get into the reasons why. (at the same time, I did have some good times in the line and did have lots of giggles and I did make friends because of the line.) At the time of this story the tarp line was not nearly as intense or obnoxious as it came to be....

Before the festival started I had met a new friend from Austin; it was his first time at Telluride and he was FIRED up! He was diggin' everything and smiling all the while... So---at 3:15am Thursday morning I am awakened by my tent being shaken, and hearing him calling: "com'on, David...let's go! Let's go to the line!" I of course tried to tell him that it really wasn't necessary to go sooo early, especially on the first day of the festival! But, he was insistent, so I reluctantly dragged my butt out of my nice warm sleeping bag and joined him.

When we got to the line there were maybe 50 folks already there, curled up in sleeping bags on the ground and sleeping away. My friend (I have to admit that his name is gone from my memory at the moment...) promptly laid down, crawled into his sleeping bag, and despite his excitement, fell immediately asleep. So there I was, wide awake, 3:30 in the morning, sitting in the mountain cold. I did manage to entertain myself; it was a beautiful sky-lit Colorado night and I had a way and a mean to keep myself amused, so it really wasn't that bad. >g<

The line was located next to a soccer field....a field that had to be irrigated to keep the grass green. So, at about 5:00 that morning, while it was still mostly dark and most definitely still mighty cold, the irrigation sprinklers automatically started doin' their thing! I was still awake and sitting in my chair at the end of the line, so I was the first to notice this....but it really didn't take long for all the folks sleeping so snugly to figure out that something was up! It was simply downright hilarious (at least for me!)...these sprinklers were goin' full blast, and the sleeping folks were getting a direct hit. (again, being at the end of the line and being away from the sprinklers had its advantage...)It was a surreal sight; everyone moving in a VERY slow motion at first, most of then goin' "WHAT the....!" but then scrambling like crazy to get up and out of their bags when they realized that they were being rained on in the freezing morning air! Eventually a couple of fellows were able to find a couple of big garbage cans that they used to put over the sprinklers, hence stopping the "rain"... At this point I was in the middle of "splitting a gut", as they say; I had never seen anything funnier. (hey...even the folks that got sprayed thought it was hilarious...in retrospect! >g<)

And at 6:30am, when the next person came to line up and got in line right behind me I had the fun of telling the story and also pointing out that if she would have got here 3 hours ago that she could have been sitting right where I was! She thought I was pretty funny, too....

Peace, David

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

another telluride tale....

In 1997, at the end of the month of May, I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. And even more fortunate was the fellow whose life I helped to save! I was part of a three man rescue that saved a man from drowning in a cold deep northern Wisconsin lake near home....and even earned a Wisconsin Sherrif's Association "Quick Thinking" plaque/award because of it. (my son still thinks to this day that I made the plaque myself...>g<)

A couple of weeks later I was in Telluride for the Bluegrass festival, when a group of us decided to go on a whitewater rafting trip. (sounded like a good and fun idea at the time...)So, we hired a guide and the five of us were excited about a wild ride! We were having a grand time, all six of us paddling in accordance with the guide's directions. The trip was goin' along smoothly until we hit a rock and the raft flipped over, throwing all of us into that raging freezing river...that roaring water was SNOW the night before!

Because of our positions in the raft, I was thrown the farthest, landing in the middle of the river, where a fight to stay afloat and alive was suddenly thrust upon me. It was a total water hell! There were times when I was tossed around, flipped around, and so was heading downriver head first...just the way you're not supposed to. During the 5 or 6 minutes that I fought the river I can remember thinking only one thing: "Where was everyone else, and how are THEY doing?!"

Fortunately a couple of the fellow rafters had not been thrown far and were able to pick up paddles and start after the rest of us who were farther down the river. I didn't actually see anyone until the raft had finally caught up to me, and what a marvelous sight that was! By then I had no strength left...they caught me just in time, I do believe. I spent the rest of my time in the raft at the bottom of the raft, too weak to paddle or even bail. Eventually we hit upon a spot where we could land and thankfully the trip was over!

Upon returning to Town Park, we had quite the story! A couple of nurse friends of mine did what they could to help me, and I do believe the biggest help came in the form of some kind of narcotic that one of them gave me which enabled me to sleep. Everyone was of course very happy that we made it...and everyone also predicted that there would be no dancing for me during this festival!

But of course I fooled em'.... >g< I was sitting in the glorious Colorado sun during the first set of the festival that Thursday, crying over what had transpired the day before and the fact that I was still around, diggin' the festival and all that entails. And then I danced....through stubborness and inspiration and sheer desire I ignored my bruised body (I had some magnificent black and blue marking ALL over my body!) and danced my way through the next four days! It was a hoot, as usual.

On the Monday after the festival Lynn and I were headed north and east, and were just entering the bigger mountains when we were driving around a left hand turn in the road...and suddenly, RIGHT in front of us a whirling dervish that we couldn't make out went blasting past us, headed down the side of the mountain. To this day we do not know if the dervish was a car or a truck or a bus...it was that close to us! As the vehicle went off the side of the mountain we could follow the clouds of dust as it headed deeper and deeper into the abyss, ending in a big dark black smokey cloud. There was a vehicle stopped in front of us and he was calling in the accident; so we kept on going, feeling there was really nothing we could do and feeling awful and damned lucky all at the same time....

We arrived home on Wednesday night. On Thursday morning as I was working on unpacking the car Lynn came to tell me that my Mother had called, asking that I come over..she wasn't feeling right. When I arrived I realized that she needed an ambulance. She was having a heart attack; one that she would die from, nine days later. During those nine days I traveled back and forth from the hospital (about an hour's drive) that they had flown her to....with my mind reeling and even hallucinating from all that had happened in the last couple of weeks; I would be driving along when suddenly I would be back in the river!

So---up until that less than a month of four death and near-death experiences I was pretty much a carpe-diem kind of fellow anyway, but after that I totally became and still am a carpe-diem kind of fellow.....

Peace, David