Saturday, April 30, 2016

Kennedys in Winchester

The UU church in Winchester (known as the Winchester Unitarian Society) that we went to for a short time and that I've driven by half a million times announced that they would be hosting the Kennedys in their concert series.  So we had to go, being a mile or so from our house.  We hadn't seen them for a couple of years and were very glad to have the opportunity ... I've always enjoyed them.

Trundled over to the church after dinner on a Friday night (4/29) and got seats in the front row of pews, on the right.  There were already a bunch of us there 45 minutes before the show, and the organizers were a little taken aback, especially when I actually tried to buy some of the CDs they had displayed.  They hadn't figured on this level of enthusiasm.

The sanctuary of the Winchester UU church is really lovely, with lots of carved wooden trusses, a majestic pipe organ, and some huge stained glass windows advertising humanly virtues.  A couple of church guys came out to fuss with the lights and I asked them if this was the first "rock" act in their concert series, which had always featured jazz or classical shows before.  "No, we had Blondie 20 years ago," one of them deadpanned without blinking an eye ... excellent repartee!  The other didn't know what was more unintelligible, my question or the other guy's answer, so he just frowned and stammered something about "never excluding folk acts" before walking away.

Pete and Maura came out soon after that, Maura in a print dress and some red highlighting in her hair, and Pete in a weird felt hat ... no matching sneakers in church, and did a very mellow gentle folk rather than crunchy rock show.  We loved it.  Pete had a bit of a sore throat and wasn't able to do much to back up Maura on vocals, but she was singing excellently and Pete was playing as well as ever.

One of the great things about Kennedys shows is that they change so much ... they have a lot of material to choose from.  They opened with Half a Million Miles (after a long introduction, the whole first-date-Buddy-Holly story; the 3/4-full church was evenly divided between people who had seen them before and probably knew their music well, and people who'd never seen them before and probably wouldn't be able to spell "folk-rock" or "Lubbock" without a lot of help).  And then they did one of their greatest, early songs, River of Fallen Stars.  I don't think I'd ever seen them sing that live, though I'd seen them eight times before.

But then they did some deep diving into their latest record, West, and touched on some more obscure songs throughout their catalog.  I hadn't heard anything from West on the radio and I loved that new stuff; they did Bodhisattva Blues, (the Holly-channeling) Locket, Southern Jumbo, and encored with the rocker from the record, Travel Day Blues (complete with reference to the Grateful Dead, along with half a million other music/road references, including one to Merle Haggard).  It wasn't until that point that some of the straighter society members realized that they might have been duped into attending a rock concert.

They also did an excellent cover of Nancy Griffith's Trouble In the Fields, after reminiscing about being in the area touring with her a few years ago (a helpful audience member corrected Pete when he mentioned playing at Sanders Theater ... it was the Wilbur, as he  graciously conceded).  They then did Maura's wonderful I'll Come Over from their last record as well as a few from Maura's recent collaboration with poet B.D. Love.

They featured Pete on the Stratocaster (he switched from his acoustic after the first few songs) with The Mad Russian and then Williamsburg Bridge from his Heart of Gotham record, and then on solo ukelele doing Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue.  Pete stood up at the edge of the stage a few feet away from me for his extended Fender runs, which got great hands from the crowd.  They then picked it up with another Gotham song, Riot in Bushwick, sung by Maura in her excellent pop-rock style.

They'd done a lot of songs, but we knew the show wasn't going to go late.  They asked Meredith Thompson (from Chris and Meredith Thompson and also their Strangelings band) up on stage with her conga, and she and Maura did the Kennedys classic Bend In the River and then sang us out with Stand ... which I think they've done at every show I've been to.  Short break, and then they came back up for the  previously-mentioned Travel Day Blues encore.

Waited for the crowd to dissipate a bit and then thanked Pete and screwed out of there.  Short drive home and it was still only 10PM!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

John Prine and Iris Dement at the Schubert

John Prine doesn't come to town very often, and there are a *lot* of serious Prine fans in the world.  When he announced a date at the Schubert in Boston's Theater District a few months ago, it sold out very quickly.  And then it was announced that Iris Dement would share the bill with him ... but tickets were already gone!  My friend tried to buy tickets a few weeks later and the best price he could get was $300 per,

Made a quick trip into the city, parked on Beacon Hill, and walked quickly down to a crowded Theater District on a chilly early-Spring Saturday (4/9/16).  We climbed and climbed up to the balcony, and then down and down to our second-row-center balcony seats.  We could see the stage fine, but I have a lot of gripes about the Schubert.

The seats were more uncomfortable than seats at Fenway Park, no lie!  When I sat and the seat folded down it was pushing against the back of my left calf, though my foot was crammed up against the seat in front of me.  There was 4 inches of leg room by my rough measurement!  My whole left abdomen was cramped by the end of the night.

The stairs must have been illegal!!  I did not see handicapped access up to the top of the balcony ... it was so small up there I don't know if there'd be room.  And there was a balcony bar up there but when I joined the long, long line we didn't move for a while.  And then I asked one of the people walking away from it with a Miller Lite tallboy and a frown if that was all they had there.  No, they had cheap North European lager as well, at an outrageous price.

And the sound in the balcony was not worth a high-price ticket, which we had paid.  We could hear each instrument (and learned that the best way to enjoy the concert was to concentrate on them in turn), but the mix was not homogeneous enough way up high in the balcony ... drifts of this and of that.  A bit more volume would have been welcome, but you often had to infer what sound they were aiming at.

Anyway, it was an awesome concert if you allowed for the Shubert's shortcomings.  Iris opened on a beautiful sounding (but poorly miked, in the balcony) grand piano with Chris Donahue on bass and Jon Graboff on guitar and pedal steel.

I've opined before that some of the songs that Iris released on her Sing the Delta record are some of the best ever, and I was thrilled that she opened with The Kingdom Has Already Come (one of the best of the best) and did Livin' On the Inside and Sing the Delta, bracketing three songs from her more challenging The Trackless Woods record.  She was chatty, the most relaxed I've ever seen her on stage, and introduced the songs from her project with Anna Akhmatova lyrics very well, though at length.

Donahue and Graboff were perfect with her, and though I had issues with the sound, her work on the grand piano was inspiring.  You think of a great pianist striding with the left hand and picking out a melody, but her right hand took the lead here and hammered out the soul of the songs.  I loved it.

I was a bit surprised that Iris was doing an "opening set."  I had thought that there'd be more interaction between the two performers, but she finished up her great set, and then they re-set the stage for John's band, without a mike for Iris.  When they finished arranging and tuning the instruments, they were set way back on the stage ... the monitors were placed 20 feet back from the edge.  Stations for 4 performers were spread across the width of the stage, and every station had 3-5 instruments set up at it.  And they played all of them!

John came out, strummed that guitar hard, and went right at it.  Here's the setlist:

Ramblin' Fever (Merle Haggard cover)
Speed of the Sound of Loneliness
Glory of True Love
Long Monday
Taking a Walk
Please Don't Bury Me
Six O'Clock News
Souvenirs
Far From Me
Grandpa Was a Carpenter
Hello in There
Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)
Iron Ore Betty
Fish and Whistle
Angel From Montgomery
You Got Gold (John solo)
Illegal Smile (John solo)
Sam Stone
Milwaukee Here I Come (With Iris DeMent)
We Could (With Iris DeMent)
In Spite of Ourselves (With Iris DeMent)
Lake Marie

Paradise

John was accompanied by (left to right) Jason Wilber on guitars and mandolin, Pat McLaughlin on mandolin and guitars, and Dave Jacques on double-bass and two different electric basses.  They were all fantastic, and the arrangements of the classic Prine setlist were note-perfect.

John has always had a raspy voice, and it was also wavering on the first few songs.  But then he warmed up and the silver started to flow, and did not stop.  He was aggressive of course on the acoustic guitar, switching between four different ones, but his cadence and volume were the John Prine sound of your dreams.

I was delighted that he concentrated on his earlier work, and so happy to hear Far From Me, Souvenirs, Hello In There, Six O'Clock News, and Fish and Whistle, along with the incredible mega-hits (if you like John Prine) of Speed Of the Sound of Loneliness and Angel From Montgomery.  John dedicated that last one to Bonnie Raitt naturally, after sending the opener out to Merle Haggard, who had just passed away the day before.

The guys walked off stage and left John to do a couple of solo acoustic songs, including Illegal Smile, for which he let the crowd sing the choruses.  Nobody held back.  I was thinking that this could be the last time he'll be in Massachusetts when the particular smile he's talking of is illegal ... might have to update the lyrics.

And speaking of the crowd, they were totally psyched.  The balcony was packed (I assume the orchestra and mezzanine were too) and there were lots of people shouting out lyrics, song titles, cheering place-name references, and freaking out.  I think everyone there was a John Prine fanatic.

The guys came back out and he did Sam Stone, for which he didn't encourage a sing-along.  This was a serious rendition, straight from the heart of the songwriter to ours.  Then Iris came out and they whooped it up for a few duets.

He concluded his set with what had been shouted out a number of times, Lake Marie ... one of his best songs, and from the latter part of his career.  We all knew every bit of the song of course, and when he started the verse about the four sausages on the grill, there was a low hiss from the crowd, that turned louder and louder.  They was SIZZLIN'!

Short pause while we all went nuts after they walked off stage, and then they came back to play one of his signature songs, Paradise, which he introduced with the information that the Peabody Coal Mine is going bankrupt!  Daddy, won't you take me back to Muhlenburg County?

Wow, that was a fantastic show, though I was afraid all through it that I wouldn't be able to stand on my crippled leg when it was time to leave, let alone walk down 4 long flights of stairs.

Well, we finally filed out and the Theater District was a madhouse!  It was so crowded with people that cars on the street were not able to move.  There were streams of people going out of or into every building in the area, including some fancy club-goers in nylon soccer shirts and short, glittery dresses on a evening in the 30s.  We thought about stopping somewhere for a drink, but just went home instead!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Steve Kimock at the Bull Run

Yikes!  We'd been up late and were exhausted from seeing Lake Street Dive at the HOB on Wednesday, and had another concert to go to on Thursday (3/24), Steve Kimock at the Bull Run!

He played with his son, John Kimock on drums, longtime collaborator Bobby Vega on bass, and Leslie Mendelson on piano and vocals (and rhythm guitar on one song).  They were apparently billed as "K I M O C K" formally, though he's a very informal guy.

We thought the Bull Run might not be sold out, but it was pretty full with mostly diehard Kimock fanatics, most of whom were also diehard Deadheads of course.  He started off with a slow jam on lap steel with just his bassist, but it quickly picked up tempo, the drummer and keyboardist came out, and we were treated to an amazing evening of fusion, blues, rock, and basically all kinds of psychedelic stuff that he wrung out of his lap steel, a beautiful National steel, a Stratocaster, and some other guitars he had on stage.  It was all originals I believe, though there may have been some covers I didn't recognize in there, except for Mendelson leading the band on George Harrison's Beware of Darkness.  At one point they got pretty close to breaking into The Other One, but stayed away.

His setup was miked like you wouldn't believe, it must have taken them hours to set it up.  One weird thing was that Mendelson had a nice baby grand on stage, but the sound guy would not turn it up!?!  She tried it a few times and shot him some nasty looks, but he just shook his head and she turned back to her electric, which sounded pretty good itself.  When she did Beware of Darkness though, she stuck to it and he had to turn the sound up ... guess he thinks he's what people are there for.

Great evening of music, and excellent sound ... but when it was over it was already 11:30!  Drove all the way into Alewife to drop off Dave and then made it home and to bed by about 1:00.  Back to work the next day.

Here are pictures!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Lake Street Dive at HOB

Lake Street Dive could sell out Gillette Stadium!  They've just come out with a new record (Side Pony) and are touring behind it, stopping at the House of Blues on March 23rd, the Beacon Theater in NYC the next night, and then going to conquer Europe.  We got tickets seconds after they went on sale and they were sold out soon after that.  I think the HOB Boston is an excellent venue and we were very eager to hear Rachael Price fill it with her blues-pop bellow ... as were lots of other people.

Drove in to the city after work and got a parking place on Van Ness street, then met Sarah and Dave for dinner at their restaurant.  There were already people on the sidewalk looking for tickets.  Joined the "bought entrees" line out on the sidewalk after we ate, where the March night was getting windier and chillier by the minute.  We were some of the first in the place and got our normal spot to stage left.  The HOB filled up fast and we were soon pressed into our corner by 2422 others (HOB capacity is 2425), who were almost as excited as we were.

The Suffers opened and blew us away!  They're a tight blues band from Houston (they call their sound "Gulf Coast Soul") with a rocking horn section and a very talented lead singer, Kam Franklin.  Franklin told the story of how they were a bunch of friends who got together and played on weekends, then got so much encouragement from fans that they took the leap and quit their day jobs, put out a crowd funded record, got picked to play on Letterman, and now are opening for Lake Street Dive.  You gotta hear these guys, their meteoric rise is deserved.  Here are some pictures.

Then they reconfigured the stage and Lake Street finally came out and the place went up like a rocket.  Here's what they played:

Godawful Things
I Don't Care About You
Side Pony
Stop Your Crying
Clear a Space
Better Than
Spectacular Failure (with The Suffers' horn section)
Saving All My Sinning
Hell Yeah
Close to Me
Walking on Broken Glass (Annie Lennox cover)
Mistakes
Don't Make Me Hold Your Hand
Elijah
So Long
You Go Down Smooth
Bad Self Portraits (with Kam Franklin)
Seventeen
Call Off Your Dogs

Encore:
What I'm Doing Here
Bohemian Rhapsody

It was fantastic!  Rachael Price (wearing glitter heels, a leather skirt, and a window shag) was bopping all over the stage and filling the HOB with her incredible voice.  Bridget Kearney was wearing out her bass, picking it faster and harder then I'd ever seen ... I could just listen to her, I think she's amazing.  Mike Calabrese's riser was set up to the right of the stage instead of the usual drummer's rear position, and he rocked us all night, even doing an excellent drum solo after Don't Make Me Hold Your Hand.  And Mike Olson, like Bridget, was playing better than I'd ever heard him on guitar, though his trumpet playing was a bit below average.  Olson has written some of the best songs on the new record IMO.

One small complaint: I felt the sound was a little off for the first two to three songs.  The PA seemed to be struggling a little bit, but then I guess they added more power and the sound was not only loud, it was crystal clear.

Besides that momentary glitch, the whole evening was incredible and it's hard to pick highlights, especially when they opened with one of my favorite new songs of their's (Godawful Things) and just went up from there.  They play such earworms, I'm going to be replaying their riffs in my head for weeks after seeing them.  We all were trying to dance but there was no room!

A couple of moments I feel were exceptional were Rachael belting out her bluesy, torchy new song, Mistakes, like she was opening up her soul to the crowd and riveting the packed house.  And Kam Franklin coming out to trade verses with Rachael on Bad Self Portraits.  And they finished the night with their full, excellent cover of Bohemian Rhapsody, which had the people who hadn't heard it smacking their foreheads in disbelief.

Dave loved it too, he'd never seen them live and never been in the HOB, both things you have to do!  Dropped him at the Charles stop after that and made it home ... another concert coming tomorrow.

Here are LSD pictures.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Phil's 76th, part 2

Back through downtown Stamford and onto busy route 95 again, then through the narrow streets of Byram and the busy streets of Port Chester to our normal parking lot.  The proprietor was on duty this time and we had a nice chat with him, then took a detour over to a crowded Shakedown Corner.  Someone across the street was playing 1972-vintage music (Grateful Dead that is, of course).  One guy in front of us suddenly stopped, entranced by something he'd seen and said, "Somebody hold my dog so I can pat this one!"  Dave obliged.

Up to Kiosko and had a nice chat with our customary waitress, who had had the day off yesterday.  She brought us out the red sauce of death, I had another nice burrito with rich pork and a couple of Negra Modelos, and we watched Deadheads try to figure out the parking kiosk out the window (hey, maybe that's why it's called ...).

Down to the Cap, got an even more thorough pat-down this time, and then headed way up to row I of the left balcony, almost in the upper corner of the Cap.  But even there the sound was fantastic and the sight lines were fine.  We again could see Barraco very clearly, and though we couldn't quite see the details of the guitar players' fingerings, the sound was great and that's really what matters!

A loud and wacked Friday night crowd filled the seats, and the band finally came out, a bit later than they had Thursday.  Dave had done some work on setlists before our excursion, but we were a little at a loss as to what to predict at that point.  They had played a lot of the songs you might expect from a Lesh and Friends band on Tuesday (Help/Slipknot! (but not Franklin's), Shakedown, Viola Lee, Eyes, Terrapin, Dew, and they threw in an Eric Clapton song).  And then on Thursday they'd done more, like China Cat (but not Rider), Cosmic Charlie, Passenger, Mason's, TOO, St. Stephen, etc.  So let me see, what was left.  Well, Dark Star...

They opened with Dark Star!  They did a long, meandering introduction, but soon enough we realized what song they were playing, and then everyone in the theater realized that this was that song about ... oh you know, nothing less than the nature of reality itself and our place in the cosmos and time and stuff.  Here's the first set:

Dark Star > (all)
Again & Again (WH, RB)
New Speedway Boogie (WH, PL)
Sunshine of Your Love > (WH)
Broken Arrow (PL, WH)
End Of The Line > (WH)
Dark Star > (all)
I Know You Rider (PL, WH)
  • This was a deep space Dark Star, that threatened to fade away at times but then would blink back into existence, all the time dragging us faster and faster into it, until we could not even feel the speed with which we were rushing through space.  They did the modern vocal treatment, splitting the verses between the three vocalists.
  • And then suddenly they were in Again & Again, one of several songs from the record that that ensemble had done back in 2002 (There and Back Again).
  • And then of course Speedway; Phil loves playing this song, and Haynes' vocal was satisfyingly dark.
  • And then the unexpected, another Clapton song, Cream's Sunshine Of Your Love.  They did a short introduction to this for once, and it was clear early what song it was.  They then proceeded to jam the hell out of it though, wandering far off the reservation several times before coming back to finish it off.
  • And then another one we would not have predicted, Robbie Robertson's Broken Arrow, that Phil had recorded on his first solo record in 1999.  This is a one of those songs that I liked, but had never heard a great rendition of; but this cover was sure it, the song rocked!
  • Mentioned this yesterday, but there was some excellent musicianship going on on that stage.  Herring was ear-popping, an amazing lead guitarist ... we said, "How come they didn't get this guy for Fare Thee Well?"  He was never not playing, like Garcia used to do, and he could wring magic, blues, and spaciness out of any song.
  • But don't listen to just Herring, there were some other incredible players on the stage, don't you know.  To name one of them, Haynes seemed to take a bit to really warm up, but by the end of the night his guitar was on fire, especially when he was playing rhythm and Herring was twisting all around him.
  • And Barraco was as excellent on piano as I've ever heard him.  And again as mentioned yesterday, his vocals were excellent and the way his voice paired with Haynes (and Lesh) was sublime.
  • But enough of that.  Time for another Haynes song, End Of the Line, which he did when he was in the ABB.
  • And of course back into Dark Star for the last verse.  And then a prediction of mine, they closed China Cat (from the night before) the traditional way, with a folkie rave-up of I Know You Rider.
Yay!  That was fantastic and we'd survived the guys talking behind us in the Presidential Booth.  We'd first thought that the upper corner of the balcony would be a calm vantage point above the craziness that a rock concert can bring, but there was a constant stream of people stumbling up and down the stairs, arguing over seats, and bursting out with trivial conversations that they just couldn't hold in.  There were characters there, including some interesting ones in the row in front of us.  Oh well.

Took a bathroom break and considered another beer, but I was getting pretty worn out by that point!  The first set had started late and then had gone on for quite a while; these were long, thorough versions of those great songs.  It was already late by then, and we just knew that the second set would require some serious attention.  I'll have to admit that even so I had to sit down for parts of it ... my feet were getting seriously sore.  I *did* get a chance to see the Cap's smoking yard, but just for a short time.

The break was long, but finally the band came back out.  We had no idea what they were going to play, and that's the way they wanted it!  Here's the second set:

Unbroken Chain > (PL)
The Wheel > (all)
Cumberland Blues (all)
Uncle John's Band > (PL, WH)
No More Do I (WH, RB)
The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys > (WH)
Franklin's Tower (PL, WH)
  • Well that wasn't too hard to predict was it?  Of course they had to do Unbroken, and this was a drifting, ethereal cover with Phil barely whispering the lyrics at times.
  • And The Wheel had definitely been on Dave's list.  He'd never seen this done by a Phil/Bobby band before and this was a good one.
  • They'd teased Cumberland in the first set and I was very glad when they launched into it for good.  This is another song that Phil loves to play and as mentioned, to me it's one of the most vital Grateful Dead songs of them all.  As with Unbroken and Wheel though, they downplayed the lyrics a bit, almost forgetting the big finish ("Lot of poor man got the Cumberland Blues...").
  • But right after that they sure concentrated on the lyrics, doing another sparkling UJB!
  • No More Do I is another Lesh/Hunter song from the There and Back Again record, and as with Broken Arrow we found this one of the best versions we'd heard.  The guitar interplay between Haynes and Herring on this was jaw-dropping.
  • Another Traffic cover after that, with the band trying to deconstruct The Low Spark Of  High Heeled Boys into its most basic elements, and succeeding.  We were deep in the laboratory with the guys; Lesh was booming, shaking the rafters, Molo was hammering his kit into the floor, Barraco was surfing on the organ, and Haynes and Herring were screaming.
  • Time to end the set by winding up another little thing they'd left hanging.  They'd done Help/Slipknot! on Tuesday and closed Friday with a short but sweet Franklin's, with Phil singing the last few verses.
Again, yay!  We were totally exhausted, after pouring all of our energy into following every note from this amazing band.  I had to sit down again, but then Phil came back out and the crowd gave him an even louder and more extensive ovation than the day before.  He tried to start talking a few times but we were not going to be stopped and he just stood there beaming.  Phil finally got in an extended Donor Rap, and then the guys (with some delay) trickled back onto the stage.

They'd closed the prior two shows with ballads, and it was time for another one, Haynes soloing on yet another song from the 2002 record, Patchwork Quilt.  This was done very well too, but I think that even the band was feeling the fatigue at that point.  Last bows for all, then watched Phil slowly leave the stage ... hopefully not for the last time but you never know.  It's been a bad year already for musicians with long and illustrious careers.

OK, forced our way outside through the spaced-out crowd, and walked slowly back up the hill to the lot, where we shook the proprietor's hand a last time, and then made our way back to the Thruway and the (relatively) deserted streets of Stamford.  Not much trouble getting to sleep after that long day!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Phil's 76th, continued

Woke up Friday after a disturbed night's sleep.  There's a lot of sound here in Stamford, in a hotel, even on the 4th floor.  And I didn't like the bed.  Thruway, city traffic, sirens, heater, refrigerator, etc.  And the curtains did not quite close so the light outside shone in your eyes in bed.

And worse yet, their "hotel breakfast" was even leaner than the standard hotel breakfast: no eggs, no yogurt, few pastries ... but they had waffles (not even make-your-own, just frozen) and toast.  The juice was watery and the coffee was not tasty.  Upstairs, the shower never really drained and there wasn't a fan in the bathroom.

But the scene out the window is entertaining.  There are several HUGE office buildings near here, a gas station across the street, several things that used to be suburban houses but now are split up into small apartments, a Taco Bell right outside with a constant stream of customers, and several characters, like the Finocchio Brothers in a large garbage truck.

After some breakfast, some bad coffee, and lots of blogging and uploading, we went down to the car and out for an excursion!  The weather was still mostly sunny, though windy like you wouldn't believe, and so we picked up 95 East (by the sign that says, "Yes! We can wash that!!" and the day laborer market) and drove back up the coast a bit to Sherwood Island State Park in Westport.  Here's the email I sent my siblings about it:

Sarah and Dave and I are currently in a hotel in Stamford, down here to see a couple of concerts in Port Chester (NY).  For an excursion today we went to Sherwood Island State Park ... just got back.

As some of you may remember, Mom used to take us toddlers (me and Sally at least) to Compo Beach, the Westport town beach, a long time ago.  My biggest memories of there are the long boardwalks and that every blue moon we'd get a frozen Milky Way for a snack ... probably split it between us.

Once in a while, Mom would want to mix it up and would take us to a beach in Fairfield, or to Sherwood Island State Park.  We probably didn't go there often because they charged a fee, though this is conjecture.

There is no fee in March, and there were just a few other people, and acres of Canada geese.  We parked at the main pavilion and navigated acres of picnic tables in various states of repair, into the main, modern pavilion itself.  There we saw part of their 9/11 Memorial.

This is a sculpture made out of salvaged, steel bits of the World Trade Towers, running over and around a listing on a steel plaque of all the people from Connecticut who died in the attacks.  The people's names were all in separate squares, followed by what their location was when they died, and what Connecticut town they were from.  I read them all and found a few from Westport.  It was incredibly moving and the most moving for me was seeing the squares of a young father and his 2-year old daughter from Greenwich who had been in one of the planes.

From there we went out to the point, where it must have been blowing over 35.  A couple of trawlers were right offshore, maybe doing something scientific but probably dragging(?) for oysters.  Off to our right was the Western corner of Westport and right behind that, Compo Beach,  There were lots of people over there, though I doubt Mom, Sally, and I were among them.

We couldn't see around the corner from there, and could not see the "new" yacht club, let alone the old one.  What we could see very clearly was the factory in Norwalk that's the backdrop of many of my memories of sailing around there ... it's still standing though maybe not operational.  We could also see Cockenoe (pronounced Ka-kee-nee) and the islands beyond it very clearly.  The day was overcast as I say, but there were sudden periods of sunshine and times when the fierce wind stopped, pausing for breath.  We could see way down Long Island to the West, and I told Dave that it probably extended as far as we could see, *again* as far out to the West.  He was gobsmacked.

What we were looking for out on the point was the other part of the 9/11 Memorial, what they call a "living" memorial.  I guess this means it involves plants.  The plants weren't thriving in March, but we got the idea.  The idea is that from there you can see the lower part of Manhattan when the weather is clear.  It was clear enough today.  On that bright September day, people gathered there to watch smoke coming up from the island, far, far away.  I'm sure this was preferable to watching it on TV.

After that we took the short trail around their salt marsh (Thruway and incredibly expensive homes in the background), and then combed the beach.  The tide was very low and still going out.  Seagulls surfed on the wind and dropped oysters on the rocks, ducks were floating right at the tideline looking for food, and the Canada geese were scavenging.  We'd seen several different varieties of oaks in the woods, and then beaches and pines on the shore.

I kept saying, I used to think this was normal.  I realized that for much of my life I'd been puzzled by this "normal" being missing.  I was convinced that the thin, tall black oaks we had in our woods in Westport when I was young and the beeches at my school in Fairfield were the standard kinds of trees one sees.  And that the cockles and fingernail shells and black periwinkles and oysters and small clams and mica-covered rocks were what you'd see on the shore.  When I didn't see these in the woods and beaches in the parts of the world I've frequented since then, something puzzling was missing.  Sarah was amazed by many of the small things we saw; she had no idea that this was normal!

We walked around for an hour or two and that was fine.  Got back on the Thruway and back to Stamford, off tonight for Port Chester and another concert!

So that was fun.  Did some more hanging around the hotel room after that, and then off to Port Chester and Kiosko!

Here are pictures!

Phil's 76th, part 1

Though we had done a Capitol Theater excursion back in the Fall, when we saw The Q was playing there this Spring for Phil's 76th birthday, we figured it was time to do it again!

The Q is the most frequent assemblage of Phil Lesh and Friends.  They played together regularly from September 2000 through December 2003 and they get together once in a while since then.  It's Phil, Warren Haynes, Jimmy Herring, John Molo, and Rob Barraco.  They announced a Birthday gig for the 17th and 18th of March (Thursday and Friday) in Port Chester, and later added another date on the 15th, which is Phil's actual birthday (Eric Krasno played instead of Herring), but which we didn't add ourselves!

Took Thursday and Friday off and after making a slew of sandwiches, loading up the car, and stuff, we drove down to Quincy to pick up Dave and headed South, through Rhode Island and along the Sound towards the Cap.  It was a very strange open-and-shut day with intervals of bright sunshine and hard rain, like a late-April day instead of mid-March.  The worst rain of course was when the traffic was at its most intense as we approached the maw of New York.

We made it to the [Grand] Amsterdam Hotel in Stamford by 3:30 or so, and took some time to set up computers, etc. in our nice room on the 4th floor, looking North.  We were trying another choice since the beds at the La Quinta in Armonk were small (though we had found it otherwise acceptable back in the Fall), but though the [Grand] Amsterdam has its charms, it has flaws too, like the shower, the breakfast, and the city noise.  Oh well.

Headed on up the turnpike, through the crowded streets in Byram, and across the river to Port Chester where we parked in the usual lot and had another great dinner at Kiosko.  Then it was down the street to the Theater, where some of us (like me) were patted down thoroughly, and then bought t-shirts.  Up to our seats in the left of the balcony, second row (not the loge), and settled down to wait for the crowd to fill in and the concert to begin!

They lined up with Herring (not sitting on a stool this time) far right, then Phil with his lighted bass and lots of displays and electronic matter spread all around him, Molo behind him, then Haynes and Barraco far, far left.  We actually had a great view of Rob's keys.  They tuned up and went into a spacey jam of course, though this one soon swelled, coalesced, started rocking, and then paused and burst into Dear Mr. Fantasy.  We were off again!

Here's the first set:
Jam >
Dear Mr. Fantasy > (WH)
China Cat Sunflower > (RB)
Let It Ride (PL)
Passenger > (WH & RB)
Cosmic Charlie (PL)
Cassidy (RB)
Spots Of Time (WH)
  • We had never seen Herring live before and his performance was perhaps the most unexpected for me; he was ripping up that lead guitar all evening and providing some incendiary fills ... great stuff.
  • We'd seen most of Tuesday's gig on the web, and one of my impressions from that came through even stronger, that Barraco was singing excellently ... not to mention his playing, which was just transcendental, especially when he was on piano.
  • Never seen Molo either, and he was very strong and smooth, holding the ensemble in one piece ... as if they needed any help, you could tell these guys had been playing together for a long time.
  • China Cat was flawless, with Herring shining on the Bobby part, and they strung it out to its utmost, then hinted at going into [I Know You] Rider, before dropping into another kind of jam, and coming out with Let It Ride (close!) ... moving like the fog on the Cumberland River.
  • Passenger and Cosmic Charlie were expected of a Phil Lesh ensemble, and were routinely great, but then Cassidy was totally unexpected, and great as well.
  • And the vocals on Cassidy, especially for the first few verses!!  I list it as "RB" but Rob and Warren dueted for the first verses and that was one of the highlights of the show.  Let Bobby and John top that this summer (I'm sure they will)!
  • They closed with Haynes doing Spots Of Time, which we could not place until we looked it up; Haynes and Lesh co-wrote it and last performed it in 2008.
Great first set!  The guy to my left was big (though not dancing, standing un-moving like a rock), so I was a little cramped, but had just enough room to dance a bit myself.  We sat down and talked some, then I did a bathroom > beer run.  Though the Capitol has rarely given me a chance to complain (even the thorough pat-down had been done with a smile!), this bartender was not efficient and ended up giving me something else when I ordered Lagunitas, which I didn't realize until back at the seats.

Oh well ... besides that the Cap was in fine form again.  For this stand they had a stage backdrop of subtly glittering vertical stripes, and had a beautiful blue, faintly reminiscent of Canton china, pattern on the non-alcove parts of the stadium ceiling.  The alcoves themselves sported a more traditional, tie-dyed look, and the two worked together, casting echos of color over the huge brass medallion in the center of the ceiling.  They were also projecting pictures from Phil's life, including him with his violin as a child, and plenty more recent pictures of him as a laughing old guy.  The interesting thing is that they weren't in a loop, they were selected randomly and the projection on the right wall and the one on the left wall were different random sequences.  The Cap does things well.

And then they were back, after a shorter-than-usual break.  They tuned up and I called it (the guys behind me heard me and passed it back up the balcony quickly): Mason's!  Here's the second set:

Mason's Children > (all)
Mountain Jam >
Mountains of the Moon >  (PL)
Night Of a Thousand Stars > (WH)
Mountains of the Moon > (PL)
The Other One > (RB)
Cryptical Envelopment (Reprise) (PL)
St. Stephen > (all)
In the Midnight Hour (WH)
  • I had figured they'd do an Allman Brothers song, and they did (though Mountain Jam is more than an Allmans song of course), this was the traditional ABB arrangement of it with a lot of "jam."
  • Then another excellent Mountains (though not sung by Teresa Williams), and they continued on the space/mountain/sky theme with Night Of a Thousand Stars (written by Lesh, Haynes, and Hunter and released on There and Back Again), then back into Mountains for the last couple of verses.
  • Then the dragon was released for good, Phil started booming, Herring started shredding, Molo started having convulsions, and before you knew it, everyone in the theater was in the thrall of TOO as it rolled through the building and our consciousnesses.
  • And then another twist ... they suddenly quieted way down and Phil tripped into the end of Cryptical like of course we'd been waiting for it since they did the beginning of Cryptical, back in ???.
  • Then a pause, and then St. Stephen.  I love that Live Dead stuff!
  • And they finished the set with an excellent, funky, jazzy, bluesy, Midnight Hour ... it had been a long night but this was perhaps the most well done song of a professional performance with very few flubs or slow spots.
Phil came back out shortly and we started applauding ... and this lasted for a while.  It's probable everybody else was feeling what I was feeling: that we'd been blessed with Phil's musicianship and spirit for years and years, and now he was approaching "very old" and who knew how much longer he'd be able to do this?  We wanted to thank him and wish him many happy returns, and it took a while for us to calm down.

Phil finally launched into his donor rap and we finally quieted enough to hear it, though most of us could probably recite it for him.  "We've got another for you," he concluded, and the guys came back out.  This time Dave called it from the tuning, Days Between, and this was passed back up the balcony.  Can't say I'm a huge fan of this song, though I have to admit that it's an excellent writing job and can be done very well ... they did it well of course.

OK, sat down for a minute as we were in the middle of a row and the others had to leave first, but it wasn't long before we were out of there and walking back up the hill toward our car.  Twisted back over the river into Connecticut, picked up 95, and were back to Stanford with its maze of construction and the [Grand] Amsterdam Hotel soon after that.

Time for a sandwich and beer break and to check if the MP3s were up (no!) ... then soon to bed.

Pictures here!