Sunday, November 20, 2016

Del and Dawg In Beverly

Geez it's been a horrible year in several ways, including in the number of fantastic musicians we've lost, most recently Leon Russell, Leonard Cohen, and Mose Allison.  One universe-class musician we still have with us is Del McCoury, and when we heard back in August that he'd be playing at the newly-refurbished Cabot Theater in Beverly on Saturday, November 19th with another incredible (and elderly) musician, David Grisman, we got tickets immediately!  4th row center, that is.

Dave was working downtown but showed up towards the end of the afternoon.  We headed out for the North Shore in plenty of time, but I then realized I'd forgotten the tickets ... though I realized it before we'd even gotten to 128 it still took us 45 minutes or so to go back and get them.  Whatever, we still were in time to grab a table at Gulu-Gulu in Salem and have a fine dinner and couple of beers.

Then headed up over the bridge to Beverly, found the Cabot (we'd never been there before), and found a parking space on a nearby suburban street.  Grabbed another beer from their bar and had a little time to admire the handsome theater before the guys came out and lined up right in front of us, the great Del McCoury with his guitar to the right as we looked at them, and David Dawg Grisman on the left, of course with a beautiful mandolin.  They then proceed to be as fantastic as you might expect.

They opened with Feast Here Tonight, did East Virginia Blues, Toy Heart, and just ripped off fantastic tune after fantastic tune.  Hearing Del McCoury sing is literally incredible ... it's hard to believe that a person can do that.  But to see him do it right in front of you forces you to believe.

Grisman was great on vocals and his touch on the mandolin is unique.  There's a style named after him, for Dawg's sake.  But as wonderful as he is, to see Del sing was the most magical aspect of the night.  They did two relatively short sets, and as I say, pushed the bar higher and higher,  They climaxed with Dark Hollow, which of course Del sang with the loneliness, bravado, and character you'd expect.  His tempo and his precise ability to hit any note ever invented is spectacular.

Great Saturday night, and then Dave drove home.  A car in front of us was cut off and almost turned over by another car swerving for an exit on 128.  We stopped and they were ok; Sarah called 911 and the State Police were soon there, though the guy who did it had driven off.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

DSO At the Calvin Theater

It was a bit of a depressing week … in a depressing year in politics and popular culture.  So we figured what the heck, lets’ go see DSO in Northampton on Saturday, 11/12 and cheer up a bit!

Made some plans and headed first to Mt. Tom State Reservation in Holyoke on a slightly chilly but beautiful, blue Fall day.  I think I’d been skiing at Mt. Tom way back in my teenage days, but the ski slopes there have been closed for years and now it’s a mish-mosh of picnic areas and hiking trails.  It’s a beautiful area with great views of the Connecticut River and the surrounding hills, and features 47 of the 80 tree species native to Hampshire County, according to the website.

We made it out there without much traffic in early afternoon, and had a great hike on one of the loops recommended on their site: part of the M&M trail (Monadnock to Metacomet), over the summit of Whiting Peak at 1014', back down the East side of the mountain on the DOC trail, and then back to the road on the level Quarry Trail.  That section of the M&M trail is very vertical, but the reward is being on top of some spectacular cliffs, looking Northwest.  The ground was thick with fallen leaves and the footing could be very treacherous on the not-level parts, which was most of the hike, but the scenery was fantastic.  We saw many young people on the hike, and a couple of old ones, which was the theme of the day.

We then spent some time hanging around Northampton, where we saw many, many people younger than us, a lot of them dragging their kids and/or babies around downtown.  Had a beer at the Toasted Owl, some great Middle Eastern food down the street, and then another drink at Foundry before heading over to the Calvin Theater, where the box office was mobbed with young people getting last-minute tickets (the show sold out).  They wouldn’t let Sarah bring her camera in, but we’d parked nearby and she took it back to the car.

This was our first time at the Calvin and it’s a pretty little theater, though it shows some signs of age.  And the bathroom floors became swamps by the end of the concert, perhaps related to the fact that it was packed with young people drinking and carrying on … which is fine with us.  But the sound was not good; sure, it was loud enough, but they seemed to have a hard time ( and to then give up) with un-muddifying it.  RobE and RobB managed to sing well and project through the mud, but Jeff Mattson never sounded good.  Maybe he was having a bad vocal night (though his leads were great), but I think the real culprit was the sound in the theater, which is narrower and has a lower ceiling than (e.g.) the Wilbur or the Capitol.  At the end when RobE rambled on about the show they covered and the filler they were about to do at the end of the night, we could barely make out what he was saying.
And I’ll have to say that the setlist they did was a little disappointing.  Here it is:

First set:

  • Touch Of Grey
  • Minglewood Blues
  • We Can Run
  • Friend Of the Devil (which was the 30DoD song for the day!)
  • Mama Tried > Mexicali Blues
  • Help On the Way > Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower

Second set:

  • Foolish Heart
  • Man Smart (Woman Smarter)
  • Scarlet Begonias
  • Truckin’ > Jam > Drums > Space > China Doll
  • One More Saturday Night
  • Black Muddy River
  • Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues
  • I Second That Emotion

OK, a little disappointing with Touch, We Can Run, and some uninspired playing.  But in all it was a lot of fun.  I’ve never not had fun at a DSO concert, and one of the great things was the crowd was going nuts, dancing and freaking out through the whole thing.  There was not a depressed person in the house!

As mentioned, Jeff pulled off some great leads, RobE was trying as hard as he could on the vocals, and RobB is always great.  Lisa didn’t appear at all, which was a little disappointing too, but what are you gonna do?  Not every DSO show can be Europe ’72 or Boston ’69.  Highlights to me were a great Minglewood, a very good jam in the second part of Help, and a fine Man Smart that had everyone dancing.

I was texting Dave and he figured out the show early: Brendan Byrne Arena, 1989-10-14.  I told him, no wonder they sound like they’re playing in a hockey rink!  I think every Saturday show should end with Saturday Night, so that made me happy, as well as the encore of Black Muddy River, a song I love, and the filler of Tom Thumb and Second That Emotion.  Skip sang Tom Thumb woodenly (this must be sung by the bass player), but threw in “started off on Diet Coke” and “I’m going back to Massachusetts” which got quite the roar … we’ll keep our universal health care and marriage rights here (and we’ve just legalized marijuana), even if the rest of the country changes.

Took a bit of doing to push our way out through the crowd a few minutes before midnight; everyone was having so much fun they didn’t want to leave!  Sarah drove us back and even though the traffic remained light it was a long haul.  Got to bed just before 2:30.