Tuesday, June 29, 2010

hot kayaking

Kayaking trips coming hot and heavy now, as is the weather.

On Friday June 25th I went down to the 117 put-in after work and headed upstream. Water levels are very low right now and being sunken down into the riverbed I didn't have the great view of the wide-open marshes the way I did last time I came through there. But I had even more of a chance to see all the birds and muskrats, who were quite active. I also saw thousands of small dragonflies with drab coloring, perhaps because they're young. I thought one settled on my bow, facing forward, but he was on there for so long that I realized it must be some piece of straw that got stuck to my bow. I turned around before the route 27 bridge and paddled back downstream for a 2-hour trip or so. When I got out of the kayak and went to pull her up on the bank, the piece of straw became a dragonfly again and flew away.

On Sunday the 27th Dave and I went to the Lowell Street put-in, where it was very muddy with the river so low. Crowds of people were paddling various things up and down stream, but we detoured immediately onto the Assabet and didn't see a soul for an hour or so, until we ran into a couple of other kayakers in West Concord. We continued to the route 2 bridge, and then turned around and floated back. Strange how few birds there were on the Assabet. We saw one muskrat, a couple of extended family groups of Canada Geese, and a group of large ducks(?) with red ruffs.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sometimes It Takes Balls

We went to Johnny D’s to see Elizabeth Cook last night and had a great time. She had a three-piece combo with her husband Tim Carroll on guitar and Tom ?? on huge bass. We had great seats at a table in front of the stage and downed Greek burgers and Lagunitas Pale Ale before the show.

Elizabeth came on and started crooning and impressed more and more through her two sets. She plays a great blend of tear-twangers, quirky alt-rock, slow but tough love songs, and traditional country with originals about evenly mixed in with covers from all over. As the evening went on her voice began to really shine until she was just commanding the room with her vocals. They played I Can’t Help It If I’m Still in Love With You and after a brilliant bridge by Carroll, Cook came in at full volume and boy, did she convey the heart-ache at the core of that song!

She did El Camino and Heroin Addict Sister of course, and also the great Blackland Farmer. She also played Mama’s Funeral followed immediately with a song that her Mama had written. Cook encored with her anthem, Sometimes It Takes Balls To Be a Woman (I noted that during her sets she reprised every song of hers that Cousin Kate played this past Sunday) … followed with (just to show how odd they are) the bluegrass-gospel song, Working On a Building.

Great show! This was her first time in the area and I’m hoping she comes back again.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Upper Assabet and Middle Concord

Recent kayak trips:

After work on Thursday the 17th we put in where the Assabet River Walk begins above the first waterfall in Maynard. The river was quite shallow here and turtles popped their heads above the water to look at us. We had a very nice, very long upstream paddle to the Gleasondale Dam. I'd tell you more about it but why repeat this account of a similar trip??

Yesterday I beat the heat a bit by putting in at the 225 landing in Bedford and heading upstream for an hour or so before floating back. There were some huge beaver lodges ... they must have used a crane to get some of those heavy branches up on top.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

no paddle

I'd been meaning to go kayaking after work lots of times this Spring and hadn't, but I was determined to go today even when it started raining. I was carrying my kayak down to the shore at the 117 put-in when a little boy there engaged me in conversation:

"What kind of a kayak is that?"
"A red one."
"What do you do with it."
"I go paddling in the river and the ocean."
"You forgot your paddle!"
"It's up at the car."
"You'll get wet!"
"Say, that's a nice Spiderman life jacket you have."
"Yeah, I'm the *only* one in the family with a picture on his life jacket! [Can you believe those dweebs?]"

I went back up to the car to get my paddle and realized he was right. So I used a branch to get around a bit, got soaked by the beautiful rain, saw a couple of beavers closer than I ever have, and a lot of birds.

I'll do better next time.

WUMB Music Fest 2010 (whilom BFF)

On Sunday June 6th we went to the WUMB Music Fest at the UMB campus. It was the latest iteration of the Boston Folk Festival, rebranded to soothe the souls of patrons and alumni. The main stage was under a massive tent on the East soccer field and they also had the traditional Coffeehouse Stage and also a stage in the chemistry(?) lecture hall (Lipke) where we'd seen Daisy Mayhem jam with the Resophonics a few years before.

Eli's graduation was scheduled for that day but was postponed by the threatening thunderstorms and so Dave and Eli came along with us. Andrew met us there.

We all started with Chris O'Brien on the Coffeehouse Stage at noon. There was no coffee there! But Chris had some great songs and was a pleasant way to start the day. I stuck around for Anais Mitchell next, and she was very impressive. Not a great voice or guitar technique, but she knew exactly what she had and made the most of it. She's recently written and led a folk opera called Hadestown and played a couple of songs from it. It was obvious that her sensibility came from a musical theater place because she was totally in control of her songs, their effect, and the pictures they painted. A very entertaining set.

Les Sampou was up next with veteran Taylor Amerding on mando lead. I've been listening to Les since her songs first got on the radio but had never seen her and I was in rapture. Almost all of her set was from her recent record and she probably would have liked it if the crowd reacted more ... but it was a coffeehouse you know. Taylor was obviously having a great time and his tricky and loose solos proved it.

Moved to the Lipke stage next for The Kennedys who were as perfect as they always are. After opening with the classics: Life is Large, River of Fallen Stars, Wall of Death, Maura played a couple of songs from her recent solo record and then Pete did a couple of solos, including a classical tune on uke. They rejoined on stage for Midnight Ghost, closed with Stand, then came back for an encore and did Matty Groves. You could have set your watch and your state of mind by their set, it was so steady, fun, and exactly as exuberant as you'd expect. I love those guys.

Next up was Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams ... I'd never seen them before but they were exactly what I expected as well! I don't know about you, but I knew several ragtag bands in college years who spent more time tuning up than they did playing (at least it seemed that way). Most of the acts here had started on the hour and played for 45 minutes like they were supposed to, but Gandalf Murphy and friends were still packing instruments and amps and stuff out onto the stage at the top of the hour and were still tuning up until about 20 after. They started a song and then Murphy realized his guitar had cut out, so they fixed that and then started over. They made some great sounds for 5 minutes or so and as they reached a crescendo the power cut out. Very enjoyable ... we thought this must be part of their act!

They recovered from that start in a very folky way and the packed hall approved. They stood up front on the stage, hushed everybody, and strummed their instruments as hard as they could while harmonizing on High as a Hilltop, Home on the Range, and then Donovan's Try to Catch the Wind. Everybody sang along with Home on the Range of course, and it's amazing how many people knew the words to Try to Catch the Wind ... the audience almost drowned out the performers. The power came on before the band died of embarrassment at the schmaltziness of it all, and they started to seriously jam on. We left at the top of the hour to get seats over at the Field Stage for David Bromberg.

We snagged seats in front of the stage and then got some overpriced pad thai and veggies from a vendor. Bromberg came on and he was exactly what one would expect: a crackerjack band and a very eclectic set. He did everything from self-penned blues (also Statesboro Blues) to traditional country/folk (Dark as a Dungeon) to the Orange Blossom Special. He also did some classic Bromberg, like Watching Baby Fall which is one of my all-time favorites.

As he played the thunderstorms moved in and shook the huge tent like you wouldn't believe. I was almost afraid it would fall down or pull up at the corners. We could see one of the vendors' tents disappear in one super gust. But we made it to the end and the sun came out in time for the drive home. All in all, lots of fun.