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?"


David Royko said...

Nice story Dave--I recall a similar evening in the mid-1980s when Tony Trischka/Skyline came through town (Holstein's in Chicago). The weather was awful (lots of snow) and their van broke down in Indiana on the way, so they were late with only the clothes on their back and instruments in hand. This was a Sunday night, and between that, the weather, and the late start, the crowd numbered less than a dozen, ourselves included. After the first number, they opened it up to requests, and it turned into an evening similar to what you describe with the Waybacks. Incidently, that's where my wife and I first met banjoist Tuey Connell, who was, I think, still in high school at the time, and sat with Karen and I at our little table right in front of the stage--Tuey worshipped Tony. And I agree, Dave, the Waybacks are wonderful--one of my favorite Newgrass bands.

Dave Royko

D said...

Another Dave here, and I can attest to everything DD related in this post. I personally want to apologize for the insulting turnout by the otherwise alert music folks in the Twin Cities but there may be a few things at work here that affected the poor turn out.

First of all, Sunday nights in the City are notoriously slow music nights and that's a fact, always has been when it comes to "bar music". Secondly, those of us who can get out on "a school night" normally will drive 15-20 minutes to get to a venue, approx 12 to 25 miles depending. With gas prices the way they are and budgets shifting to accommodate that "commodity" it's easy to let a Sunday show slide. Third, and the Waybacks had nothing to do with this, the venue is not the first place I'd expect go to to see this music. I first saw them at the Cedar Cultural Center two years ago. Fabulous venue for this material. I'd not hesitate to book them into the Fine Line on a Friday or Saturday if they could share the bill with a popular local draw. I'd even rather see them at The Turf Club in St. Paul, a venue with a history of booking acts as divergent in appeal as First Ave. but with a regular Old Time Music program on Sundays in their main room.

BUT... The 7th Street Entry, the actual cauldron for that night's magic, is a venue which (when natives are asked) brings images of green Mohawks, pierced [insert body parts here], black "casual" apparel, chains and music that is so new as to be dripping with the anionic fluid of the spawn of Eraser Head. You know, music for kids... It's a show case room, a small showcase room, for every wannabe garage band, Hip-Hop/Rap and solo act to ever start up in the Cities. It does book some decent touring acts as well who want to fit a stop into their schedule and can't get into the Main room, the House that Prince built. (By the way, the noise that Dave heard coming from there was a 5pm show billed as "The Battle of the Underaged Underground", sponsored... ironicly... by a vodka bottler. Thanks Jee to Besus they finished before show time.)

Lump those three factors in with the location of the venue, smack down town Minneapolis, and you also will have people remembering a couple of sidewalk shootings that have taken place in the general vicinity. It was a combo of near perfect storm proportions. I have to say, that were it not for the opening band, The Pines, (which I'm saddened that Dave seems to have missed) I would have had a hard time justifying the effort my self. There were other options that night, one of which was a New Orleans Radiators show in a venue near the U of M... another excellent option for The Waybacks should they ever give us another chance in the future.

So, I apologize to Dave and to the band for walking into this mess and having their impressions of Minnie being a Hip-Happenin' hotspot dashed so coldly.

But there is one bright spot! No, not the two rounds of Maker's that the bar passed around. It's the fact that of the 6-8 paying to see the show, three of us were tapers. There will be audio out there soon on the Archive http://www.archive.org/details/etree

for your streaming and downloading pleasure. I have yet to get through post with my take but it will be done so look for it. The second set (both of which were under an hour, Dave,) sounds remarkably good considering.

I didn't get much time to chat w/Dave but from what I've read he'd be a good guy to know, so perhaps we'll get a chance to face up again another time when the magic will be stronger. For anyone interested, the Waybacks will play a 2pm slot Friday, July 25th at the 10,000 Lakes Music Festival in Detroit Lakes, MN. They play the Barn Stage which will be perfect for the time of day and the music. Come check out the festival, if there are other acts that interest you, it's done right.


PS, email me if you are curious about The Pines...
dpaulku (hat) gee-mail doh' com

Anonymous said...

The referenced archive link...