Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Spring Kayaks Finally

Kayaking has net been on the schedule this Spring because of a number of things, but the rain has been falling like in the Bible this June and I finally was able to get out on the full river on Thursday, June 13.  I put in at Egg Rock and of course it had started pouring again.  There was no one else out there and I got soaked.  Went up the Assabet well past Huck and Jim's Island, which was far under water.  It was kind of chilly by the time I got back.

Met R on Sunday the 16th at the 225 put-in (crowded for Fathers Day) and we took my car up to West Concord, where we met L by the Concord Bakery and launched by the old RR tracks.  Had a wonderful paddle far downstream.  Under route 2 I could almost touch the roof of the bridge in the middle of the arch and under the Monument Street bridge I had to scrunch up to make it.  The water was even higher than it had been on Thursday.

Where the Concord widens out North of the Wildlife Refuge the river had way-overflowed its normal course and we were able to go hundreds of yards back into the woods.  Made it to 225 in what seemed like a short time, loaded in R's car, and drove up to West Concord to re-group.  We all realized we'd had a great time ... 6 hours or so by the time I got home ... and have to do it again soon.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Dave Alvin Returns

Dave Alvin has been playing Johnny D's on an annual basis lately and this year we got it together to get dinner-and-show seats for him.  I bought them as soon as I heard about it but the place was already half sold-out by the time I got tickets and was *way* sold out last night.  Dave deserves it of course ... it's stunning that a guy who plays guitar like he does can still be seen at small clubs, he should be selling out Foxboro Stadium!

Sarah Borges opened on solo acoustic and was vastly entertaining.  I actually grabbed a pen and wrote down one of her lyrics: "My bottle's half empty, got half a bottle more; I don't know where I'm going, but I know you won't be there for sure."  Great stuff!

Then we drank some more and the room got even more crowded.  We were at an elevated table near the back of the big room but still had to struggle to see.  Dave played with the same band we'd seen a couple of years ago: Lisa Pancratz on drums, Brad Fordham (who's supposedly married to Lisa) on bass, and Chris Miller on rhythm.  This time they saved 4th of July for second (after opening with Harlan County Line), and then proceeded to rip it up good.  I was on my feet and doing some serious dancing by the last few songs, struggle with decorum though I might.  It's all right, everyone else in the place was dancing, riveted on Dave, or dead.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Della Mae in the Middle East

Hadn't had enough sleazy rock clubs lately, so we went to see Della Mae at the Middle East (upstairs) in Central Square on Tuesday, June 4th.  Della Mae is a fine all-woman bluegrass band that's just put out their second CD and is hoping/preparing for a fast rise.

They definitely have some world-class talent floating around in the band, like Courtney Hartman's (another Berklee product) guitar playing, Celia Woodsmith's song-writing, the fiddling of Kimber Ludiker, and wonderful bluegrass-with-a-twist vocal arrangements.  They've got room to improve, but are vastly entertaining now.

The Middle East upstairs was packed (celeb sighting: Rubblebucket's guitar player, Ian Hersey was in attendance), and Rushad Eggleston opened with his normal ton of energy and in-your-face cello playing [sic].  Della Mae came on and Kimber's fiddle's bridge broke!  Oh no!!  So Celia and Courtney opened with some folkie songs on guitar, and very quickly a replacement fiddle was found and brought up on stage.  Trouble was it was a 4-string rather than a 5-string, but Darol Anger was also in attendance (don't you love Boston?) and came up with a replacement of his own, which sounded wonderful once it finally arrived.  I'd love to hear Kimber's chops with a fiddle she's used to.

The played a short set, we yucked it up with Kate and crew, and then took off into the night.  A *real* rock band was going to be on next...

Monday, June 3, 2013

DSO on the NH Coast

Saturday June 1st was a scorcher after the long cold Spring, and as we drove up to Hampton Beach in the early evening there was a solid line of cars heading back from the shore.  Once we got to 1A in Hampton we got caught in the mob too: lots of pasty-white people of all shapes in bathing suits walking aimlessly up and down 1A, some with baby strollers, some with coolers, some with attitudes, and some with t-shirts saying all kinds of pointless stuff.  I guess they were enjoying themselves.

Finally made it to the parking lot of the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom and got our tickets at the will-call window.  We had left enough time (we thought) to find a nice place to eat after we got the tickets, but traffic had delayed us and there seemed to be no choices for miles and miles but greasy seafood, greasy burgers, or fried dough.  So we went into the Ballroom, emptied our pockets and got wanded, and picked up some barely acceptable sandwiches from the food booth inside.  I went to get beer from the bar and the limit there is 1, but they were embarrassed and told me that I looked like a fine upstanding person and so let me pay for Sarah's, as long as she went and picked it up.

After we ate we snuggled up to the island in the middle of the floor that was the soundboard, surrounded by metal fences.  This meant we were just 50 feet from the stage (we've seen them up close and were not psyched to put up with the battering that being out on the floor would mean that night), and were protected on one side at least from the tidal flow.  We were right next to the tapers section and conversed with a few of them.

DSO came out and RobK did an introduction of Kevin's last show.  He mentioned that we owed it all to Jerry, Bobby, and Phil, but also owed a lot to people like Kevin, and many of the people there agreed wholeheartedly, though some were clueless of course.  He announced that they'd be doing an original setlist but with a twist: that most of the songs were chosen by Kevin rather than by consensus.  And Kevin did an *excellent* job, this was the polar opposite of when we'd seen them on Thursday: every song was one that you were dying to hear rather one that you thought, "Well that song's ok and they did a really good job on it" ... especially when they played those songs the way they did.

Started off with a beautiful ensemble vocal on Here Comes Sunshine, and isn't that what it's all about, especially at the beach on a lovely Spring day?; followed with the only stinker of the set though it's one of my favorites, Jones's The Race Is On, which they just didn't add much too; Lisa got her harmonica out at that point and wowed us with Next Time You See Me; this was followed by the first of many showstoppers in Cumberland Blues; then a surprise in Dark Hollow; a greasssssy Chinatown Shuffle; an inspiring Bird Song (the Casino Ballroom is decorated with photos of stars who've played there in the past, including a classic picture of Janis playing there in 1969); the next showstopper in the also surprising You Ain't Woman Enough, which Lisa just sang the stuffing out of, jumping up and down and emoting and doing her best to look mean while we all roared, after which she giggled and then walked off stage; a not-totally-up-to-par Hard To Handle (you can see the bass player's influence here); a great Ramble On Rose; and the classic Around and Around to close the set.

Yikes!  The temperature in the ballroom may have been over 100 at certain points during that first set as the sun hadn't quite gone down yet.  The place was packed and we were all rivers of sweat, I was drenched.  The concession stands were mobbed and we barely had time for Sarah to get a smoke and another drink and then for me to hit the bathroom and then get another beer (the second period of the first Bruins-Penguins game ended as I stood in line (B's ended up winning 3-0)).  In fact, I missed the first song of the second set. But we were determined not to give up our beachhead by the sound board and it's good we stuck to it.  Sarah got walked into twice by two people at full stride in the second set anyway, and it's scary to think how un-mellow it would have been to mosh with the crowd out on the floor.  I'm reaching my limit with rock clubs.

Anyway, though the first set had been great, the second set was just incredible.  Here's the list:  'Til the Morning Comes, Weather Report Suite, Let It Grow (to be pedantic, this is *part* of the suite, though it's usually broken out into a different song), Good Lovin', He's Gone, Truckin', The Other One, Eyes Of the World, Not Fade Away, Going Down the Road Feeling Bad, Not Fade Away.

Don't have much to say about that set except that everyone in the packed hall was dancing, grooving, and loving it.  There was a time during Let It Grow when I could feel the dragon emerging, like at the best of Dead concerts, and for me to say that is very high praise.  It was an excellent Truckin' (RobE didn't forget the words to it, as Bobby usually does, but he *had* forgotten the words to Let It Grow so that's ok), and then Kevin, who had been pounding those bass notes all night, started on a magical, floating run ... and then I realized that he was playing TOO, and then a lightning bolt coursed through the hall as *everyone in the place* realized it, we were all sharing the same mind ... and then Kevin went boodle-ey boodle-ey Boodle-ey BOODLE-EY BOOM and the whole band was instantly playing TOO and we all roared!  This was great stuff.

We all flew around the room with Eyes, NFA-GDTRFB-NFA was a classic from early live Dead, and we all stood there exhausted while the band took a short break, amazed to realize that the temperature had gone down and we hadn't yet died.  They came back out and payed more tribute to Kevin.  RobK built up the song they were going to play for an encore (Kevin didn't know what it was going to be), and then announced Louie Louie!  Kevin cracked up and played a few bars of it before they got serious.

They started and it *was* a classic: the Nix-Penn chestnut, Like a Road Leading Home.  The Dead never played this, but of course Garcia and Saunders had.  They just killed it, as we all soared along with them and I personally hoped that Kevin can meet the upcoming challenges of elder care and raising kids while remembering the road fondly.  We stumbled out the back entrance after it was over and the "beach" crowd was still mobbing the streets, though when we finally got out of town it was a smooth ride back home.