Friday, May 31, 2013

DSO in 2013, part 1

We'd had such a great time seeing Dark Star Orchestra on June 1 2012, and then had missed the opportunity to see them last Fall, so we were chomping at the bit to see them a year later, last night (5/30) at the House of Blues Boston.

Quick notes here since we're seeing them again at Hampton Beach tomorrow:

  • got into Boston in good time even though traffic's been horrible lately, thank Dog the Sox weren't playing
  • got a parking space immediately on Van Ness and a cop's approval
  • I was 30 minutes before time to meet Sarah, so hung out on the sidewalk across from Fenway, talking to some serious DSO heads from VT while RobE, RobB, Lisa, and then RobK straggled out from the soundcheck to their (air-conditioned, suddenly in the 90s in Boston) bus
  • had a fine dinner (mushroom and arugula pizza) at the HOB, and then waited in the "bought an entree" line and were some of the first people into the hall after getting thoroughly searched (rock concerts can be so much fun)
  • the place we wanted was roped off for "VIPs" who never showed (anarchy ruled there eventually), but put our backs to a pole, 25 feet to the right of the stage and were happy; it got crowded, especially in the second set, but we defended our space
  • the band and the show was awesome; they did an original set list and (though it was filled with an over-abundance of 80s songs to my taste), this was what you want from a band: to play the songs they're feeling that night and just ride with them playing them at their best
  • highlights were opening with Might As Well, some great vocals by Jeff including a masterly job on the incredible To Lay Me Down, Lisa just tearing down the house with her soulful-but-spacey alto on Music Never Stopped (end of first set), as good a drums/space/feedback second-set interval as you could ask for,  a 10-minute romp at the end of the second set on Let It Rock (which I believe the Dead did only once, which shows the benefit of DSO not being bound by historical accuracy), and a closing Golden Road which had *everyone* jumping
  • Kevin Rosen (DSO bass player) is retiring from the road and this was his last show "with the full band" according to Lisa and Dino (though his official last show is supposedly tomorrow in NH); I joined a sidewalk conversation with him and the aforementioned DSO heads before the show and was very glad to be able to thank him for his years of service
  • rock concerts can be such a pain in the ass: they searched us, they wouldn't let us stand where we wanted to, they wouldn't let our friends sit on the floor an hour before the show (for security reasons?!?), the hall reeked of spilled beer halfway through the second set (it was a sticky mess after everyone left), and worst of all I yelled at some people who were shouting their conversation DURING To Lay Me Down, which is like farting during the sermon (luckily I talked later with one of them and we both apologized)
  • here's the setlist: Set 1 - Might As Well, New Minglewood Blues, Candyman, Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues (sung by Kevin), Hell In a Bucket, When Push Comes to Shove, Hey Pocky Way, It's All Over Now, To Lay Me Down, The Music Never Stopped; Set 2 - Cats Under the Stars, Estimated Prophet, Touch of Grey, Lost Sailor, Saint of Circumstance, Drums, Feedback, Dear Mr. Fantasy, I Need a Miracle, Standing On the Moon, Throwing Stones, Let It Rock; Encore - The Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion
  • paused to catch our breath (Kevin was lingering on stage), and then straggled out ourselves at a few minutes before midnight and had a quick drive home, getting to bed by 12:45 or so on a work night

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ithaca College Graduation 2013

Time flies by and my son David, whom I just took to first grade the other day, graduated from Ithaca College on Sunday, May 19th.  Some family and friends were able to make it and we were all able to sit together in Butterfield Stadium for the big event.

Dave and some graduating friends lucked out and processed into good seats up front, but we could see them and waved back and forth all through it.  The speaker was a TV star who'd graduated from IC (David Bore-eanatz I think), and the other speakers kept up the same level of "excitement."  Good thing none of them had anything coherent to say, since that would have just detracted from the occasion.  We absolutely loved it, and on this I'm not kidding!!!

This was a unique experience for me, and I'm still struggling to encapsulate it.  Perhaps others who've watched their kids graduate college share the same feelings.  There was the intense background sense of happiness I felt at his high school graduation, but there was also a sense of relief that he'd made it so far, a sense of handing over the reins, and a sense of feeling right with the universe.  We'd kept our noses to the grindstone (our son more than us, and this definitely added to the significance), and we'd come out in an over-the-rainbow place that we always felt existed but we knew wouldn't be real until we got there.

OK, enough with the heaviness of it ... it was actually a very light day and we all were floating, not mired in meanings.  After the ceremony we gathered by the fountains in Dillingham for a school reception and some pictures, and then drove back and forth across town endlessly as we all changed clothes and settled.

Then we took off up to Lansing for an incredible party with a lot of drinking and hugging.

Hot Rize in Ithaca

Well, this was just serendipity rearing its ugly head: Dave was graduating from Ithaca College on May 19th (Sunday) and Hot Rize, the greatest bluegrass band that's ever existed, was playing at the State Theatre in Ithaca on Friday night, May 17th.  So we got out there in plenty of time for a dinner at the Fine Line Bistro with family and friends and then took off the few blocks for the State on a fine Spring night.

We'd gotten tickets a few months before the show and at that point a great number of the best orchestra sets were taken, and so I opted for tickets in the second row of the balcony, center.  As it turns out, they probably never sold much beyond that, those of us who wanted to go had gotten tickets as soon as we could.  I couldn't see the orchestra well enough to count the empty seats, but probably over 90% of the balcony was a ghost town.  Our friend John bought a ticket at the box office and sat in the row behind us.

Oh well, that's the music business.  Hot Rize is apparently not the thrill they once were.  Tim's let it slip that they're working on a new record, and they played one number from it, but the band seemed interested only in playing the old Hot Rize songbook, singing the same old harmonies, and trading the same old licks.  I think these are the finest kind (to quote Red) and that, for example, O'Brien's and Forster's harmonies are some of the best ever and I could listen to them on a desert island ... but I could stand a few new tunes.

A local band, Cornerstone, opened and demonstrated what an intriguing musical art form bluegrass is.  In some runs they were extremely technically proficient and on some songs, especially the ones sung by Dee Specker, they showed some great vocal talent.  We were grooving and then they brought out Pete Wernick (an ex-Ithaca resident) and our jaws dropped open as we realized what a gap there is between "pretty good" and talents like Hot Rize.

I won't go far into describing the main act because they were exactly what we expected: High On a Mountain, Radio Boogie, Brian Sutton blowing us away with hot leads, Tim blowing us away with even hotter leads, Tom and Jerry, Empty Pocket Blues, Pete blowing us away with deceptively simple banjo runs, Nick looking so cool in his suit and permed hair, Don't Make Me Believe, Lamps Trimmed and Burning, and the same stuff we've seen many times.

Then this other band came out and played some of *their* standard stuff like Oh Mona, If You Ain't Loving You Ain't Living, and Always Late.  Then the first band came out and finished with the best, like Colleen Malone, Walk the Way the Wind Blows, and Shady Grove.  A quiet crowd but this is/was some of the most incredible music I've ever known ... and most of the people there seemed to feel the same way, nodding their heads slowly as we walked away and out into the college crowd night.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Steve and Wilbur

Went to see Steve Earle on Sunday, 5/12 at the Wilbur Theater in Boston.  His wife, Alison Moorer did not play but the Mastersons and his regular drummer and bassist did and it was extraordinary.  They had the Wilbur set up for cafe seating and we were at a table right in front of the stage.  This was fantastic.  He did stuff from his new album, some old songs like Guitar Town, Copperhead Road, Hard Core Troubadour, etc.  The crowd was really enthusiastic and he did two encores, three songs in the first and two in the second.  He closed with the song he closed with in Concord NH the last time we saw him: It Takes a Lot To Laugh It Takes a Train To Cry, introduced as before with , "This one is by Bob."

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

2013 Walk for Hunger

Participated in the 45th (my 22nd) Walk for Hunger this year.  Here's my synopsis:

It was a sunny but not-hot-at-all day on Sunday, as we've often gotten this Spring, and that was perfect weather for walking.  The Spring flowers were popping up everywhere and it's always a great time of year to see the neighborhoods of Greater Boston.

At the start I detoured up Boylston street rather than sticking to the route up Comm Ave, and stopped at the memorial to the Marathon tragedy that's sprung up at Copley Square.  It's bigger than I thought, hundreds and hundreds of caps, stuffed animals, running shoes, flowers, cards, etc.  It was very moving, especially in the early morning (6:45 or so) on a Sunday, with the rising sun lighting up Trinity Church and the Boston Public.

The participant turnout and the total raised for the Walk was a little lower than average this year, probably because people had other opportunities for contributing to the community.  So your contributions meant even more than normal.  Thanks again!

Thursday, May 2, 2013


On Thursday, April 25th, we met at Bukowski's and then made our way over to Berklee Performance Center to see a student production of HAIR.  The tickets were pretty cheap, I got front row seats, and we'd always *loved* the soundtrack, though we'd never seen the play (seen the movie multiple times).  So we said sure.

The city is still recovering from the bombing at the Boston Marathon, and I was so delighted to see the life just Springing out all over (pun intended) in that part of Boston.  As I told people, it was possibly the worst Boston traffic/crowd experience I've ever had (the Red Sox were playing, the colleges were in full tilt, the tourists were all over the place, etc.), but at the same time possibly the best.  It made me smile from ear to ear to see my city just crawling with life when so recently it had been the scene of tragedy.

Managed to park somewhere under the Pru, got to Bukowski's and had some beer and burger, and then ducked into the BPC lobby and walked up to the first row.  I haven't seen a lot of musical theater, but we saw an excellent production from some very talented Berklee students and had a great time.  Those songs are so infectious and appealing, I would have enjoyed seeing anyone sing them.