Saturday, July 28, 2018

Hot Club One More Time

The Hot Club Of Cowtown, whom we are nuts about, seems to have pencilled in a visit to the Bull Run every summer.  We missed it the last two summers but were some of the first to buy tickets when they announced their gig this July 27th.  We got a ticket for John too and though we didn't get the front center table, we were right behind it and sight lines were excellent.

It's been an incredibly hot and humid summer and that Friday was another stifling day.  Left the new office in Waltham about 4:20 though, and had not too many issues with traffic while picking up Sarah and Dave at Alewife, though the Western exodus was at (late July) high tide when we left there.  Got out to Shirley in decent time anyway, arriving around 6 for an 8:00 show.

Which left plenty of time to yuck it up with John (who'd arrived a few minutes before us) and have an excellent meal with a few People's Pints.  They had left a little "dance floor" where the 2nd and 3rd row center tables would have been and I don't think anyone danced (which gave us more room at our table, especially when the other four seats there were not taken, though the Sawtelle Room was otherwise pretty packed).  We're from Massachusetts and though we dance when the situation warrants it, we were all there to see the damn Hot Club.  Everyone there knew how excellent these guys are and we were all really looking forward to it.  We hadn't seen them for three years, and that's way too long!

No Whit or Jake in the bathroom but as I was exiting about half an hour before show time, a blonde in a beautiful dress came bursting out of the ladies and I stopped short to let her by.  Took me a second to realize it was Elana, and she was booking back for the green room, apparently hoping not to run into any fans.  As she turned in I essayed, "Are you going to be playing Exactly Like You tonight?"  She turned on the charm (though she didn't turn her head, maybe not made up), and said, "Sure, we can do that!"  I told her, "Thanks Elana" and she was gone.

Back to the table and they came out right on time and surely satisfied our wishes for a great Hot Club show.  Whit's excellent old amp had died three years ago in Shirley, but he had a "new" old one that sounded great, and of course his fingering on the fret board was obscene.  Dave later tried some of those chords and almost broke his hand in the attempt.  Jake was booming and holding the whole thing together, actually bringing out his bow a few times for the ballads.

But the most amazing thing about this band for me is the power and volume Elana brings to the fiddle.  There's a recorded conversation between Jerry Garcia and David Grisman where David says, "It's louder but is it better?" and Jerry says, "Louder *is* better in this world, David."  I've seen plenty of fiddlers who can get the tone and the power Elena gets, like Carrie Rodriguez, Jason Carter, Allison Krauss, Tim O'Brien, Brittany Haas ... I even saw Vassar Clements once.  But Elana also has her volume turned up to 11 and when she touches a string with the bow ... well, she doesn't just touch it, she attacks it, and that's for the soft notes.  For the loud notes she's sawing away with an earnestness that makes you pity the poor instrument, though it seems to love it.  As much as Whit is amazing to watch and listen to (he played some great rhythm guitar during her leads) and as dominant as Jake can be, my head kept turning back to Elana because she's so unique.

Elana's singing wasn't as good as we've heard it, possibly a little cold or allergies.  She also announced that her wonderful dog, Eva, had died.  I remember seeing them at Passim and having a nice conversation with Elana outside while Eva on the leash charmed all passers by.  Whit was singing very well though, and this was such an entertaining concert.

They played a bunch of hits and then got to the part of the concert where they had to catch up on requests, and played mine.  The last song of the (2 hour!) set had me in ecstasy: this was the first time I'd ever seen them do Orange Blossom Special and they nailed it.  And the song I was really hoping for was Whit's incredible cover of the 1906 song, Chinatown, in which his fingers actually leave his sleeve.

What a great show and what a fun night!  John had a word with Jake and then we packed the car with the things he'd brought for us rather than discard them on his way down to Florida (he was taking the Orange Blossom Special).  And we made it home in the normal time on a beautiful mid-summer night.

"Hey, talk about a-ramblin'
She's the fastest train on the line
Talk about a-travellin'
She's the fastest train on the line
It's that Orange Blossom Special
Rollin' down the seaboard line"

Saturday, July 21, 2018

JRAD On the Harbor

OMG, it had been over 6 months since we last saw JRAD and we were suffering serious withdrawal!  In the meantime of course we’d seen Tommy’s band, Ghost Light, back in April and or course Marco a few days ago.  But there’s nothing like Joe Russo’s drumming and they were coming back to Boston on Friday, July 20th.

The perhaps bad news was that they were going to play the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion.  There are a lot of things wrong with this venue, like getting there, steep prices, a lousy sound system, airplanes taking off overhead, cold rain and snow, etc.  But as it turns out the 20th was a beautiful summer day and everything turned out right (except for prices) to say the least.

Picked up Dave on Bowdoin Street (after a quick beer at the Red Hat) and we really had a remarkably easy ride down to the Seaport, where we parked in the public garage right across from the venue for only(!) $40.  Sarah had made reservations (for 5:15, only time available) at a pricy Mexican restaurant right next to the pavilion, in the same block with Legal Seafoods.  And she walked down there after work to claim our table in case Dave and I were late.  It’s a good thing she did, it got very packed very soon.  But it was a lovely setting, we were just inside the open doors looking out over the harbor and the fish pier.  Boats came and went from the docks right off the restaurant with confusing tumult.  The water was incredibly choppy and the docks apparently charged a steep price by the minute.

Anyway, had a very good meal and a few beers, and then moseyed on out onto the harbor walk to gawk at the large crowd some more, and at a dead fish floating by.  Then walked over to the pavilion and were some of the first few in about 45 minutes before the concert was going to start.

We had great seats in row 12, just left of center.  We cruised around some, got a couple of beers after we arranged loans with our bank, and then hung out right at harborside.  Can’t overstate what a lovely evening it was, with a very gentle breeze, great temperature and humidity, a clear blue sky, and lovely Boston Harbor rife with activity.  Fortunately the wind was apparently from the right direction and there were no planes taking off overhead, they were heading out to sea.  Time to get to our seats and then the guys came out right on schedule, though the venue was not at all full yet.  It did fill in and must have been close to a sellout eventually (people had been waiting in line for tickets when we entered).

There was plenty of tuning, but there were no false starts.  Joe was in charge and finally he lifted his sticks, looked at everyone in turn, and then hammered his kit and suddenly they were doing Good Lovin’ on a summer night in the city.

Joe was playing a slightly bigger kit than when we’d seen him in December and wasn’t as far forward on the stage.  Marco was over to the left with his grand and organ, powered by a massive Leslie in back of him.  Tommy was playing Wolf again and had no scarf on … he even took off his jacket after a while but of course still wore his cap.  Dave was on the other side of Joe and from the start was playing like a demon, he was not delicate all night long and that’s a good thing.  And on the far side was Scott, singing and playing as well as ever.

Here’s Costello’s notes:

Show #157
Blue Hill Bank Pavilion
Boston, MA

Set One (7:38PM - 8:56PM)
Good Lovin’
Iko Iko @
Cumberland Blues >
Shakedown Street # ->
The Wheel Jam -> Jam ->
I Need a Miracle $ >
Ramble On Rose

Set Two (9:22PM - 10:52AM)
Uncle John’s Band % ->
Space ->
Morning Dew
China Cat Sunflower ^ ->
I Know You Rider

Sugar Magnolia/Sunshine Daydream &

Entire Show with Tommy playing Wolf.
@ - With a Man Smart Woman Smarter Tease (MB)
# - Unfinished
* - Not played since 2017-01-13 Music Farm, Charleston, SC, a gap of 60 shows
$ - With an Unknown Tease (TH)
% - Unfinished
^ - With a DD Bass Solo & The Wheel Teases (TH & Band)
& - Not Played since 2017-10-05 Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, NY, a gap of 36 Shows

It was a wonderfully long Good Lovin’ and the crowd filled in fast with spasmodically dancing people.  And then they went on from there in their adventurous JRAD ways.  I called Iko Iko and they soon came out of space and were feeding us that NOLA beat.  Dave called Cumberland next, and after a long, spacey outro from that they then picked us up and shook us with the opening of Shakedown.  Joe had his band cracking.

And the sound was really fantastic for that venue.  We were up close and it probably could be criticized by the people in the back.  But as I say there was no wind and we had a huge stack of speakers right in front of us.  It wasn’t like being in a HOB where the room gets filled with the sound … we were in a big tent.  But no complaints on that score.

Another thing to mention is that it was your typical Friday night crowd.  Not sure what it is about Friday nights, but that's when all kinds of things happen and crowds get rowdy.  Date night?  End of week??  Anyway, there was a constant murmur (at least) of conversation all during the show, some of it loud.  When you looked around you realized that the great majority of concert-goers were there to listen to JRAD and were distressed by the sound.  But there was a loud minority of people there who thought it right to shout at each other during the show ... probably much worse in the back of the amphitheater.

Great first set, though perhaps a little confusing.  They never finished Shakedown and then took a long time to finally end up in The Wheel and then didn’t really play that once they got there.  They ended it with a neat, wonderful Ramble On Rose, though of course we had to boo the line about New York City, being baseball season.

The place had gotten packed but the lines at the bathrooms and the beer stands were still pretty non-existent.  I managed to elbow back up to the harborside with my fancy beer and had some nice conversation with other delighted JRAD attendees.  The tide had been very high before and now was a couple of feet lower, but it was a nice night on the seaside and there was no marine smell.

OK, back to the seats and then they came right out and lit into the second set … many people had to scramble back to their seats when the music started.  I think the band was conscious of the venue curfew and probably of the start of a challenging tour.  They had played in Brooklyn the night before and would be playing the Peach Festival in Pennsylvania the next day.

Althea was perhaps the song of the show, it was done with a rollicking panache that Dead & Company can’t approach.  Perhaps not as soulful as DeadCo does it, but composed in a balls-out, all-play style that really made you feel like you were listening to a spicy woman telling us to cool down Jim and then all right, that’s fine … I’ll go on with life and you’re the one who’s going to be blue.

Dave had predicted their cover of Bobby’s Gonesville, and that was done with the same rollicking beat.  If you’ve never seen Joe Russo … well, I don’t know what to tell you.  And they kept up that spirit and that aggression through the second set, ending with a great China Cat morphing into the acid-country roll of Rider.

Not too long a break and then they filled in the remaining time with an encore of a long, full Sugar Magnolia with Scott singing his tail off.  This was really a fantastic show.  We’ve seen some top-notch concerts from JRAD but this was a very memorable one, with the great weather, the great seats, and the adventurous setlist, though we would have loved to get a Dark Star!

Back to the garage quickly when they finished and we got out of there with not much problem.  Took Dave down to Quincy and then back home not too late.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Cowboy Junkies in Lexington

We've been fans of the Cowboy Junkies for years and they've just released a very good new album (All That Reckoning) and are touring behind it.  It's wonderful that a band could be around for as long as they have and maintain and keep leveraging the style they started with 35 years ago.  We were lucky enough to have the tour come by us, and we grabbed tickets to their performance in Lexington, at the refurbished Cary Hall.

I drove by a dormant Cary Hall for years on my commute and they've recently done things to the interior and opened it up for concerts, everything from local pops to some "classic rock" things that would attract middle-aged people like us, like the Cowboy Junkies, David Crosby, Brian Wilson, etc.  They supposedly sold out for the Cowboys, and most of the people there were serious fans, though it wasn't really as packed as it could get.  I suppose it was a summer Wednesday night (7/18) and a few people didn't show up for the show.

Ok with us!  We had 12th(?) row seats in the left orchestra and the sight lines were great.  The sound wasn't great; though they had some pretty good speakers (arrays left and right suspended above, big ones on stage), they never seemed to concentrate on getting the mix right.  And that's what you want with that band!  Their strongest point, and it's really a strong one in my world, is that if you get Alan Anton's bass just right and mix in Michael Timmon's guitar you can get this tragic, bluesy sound that's unique.  And though seeing the band was a lot of fun and they all played very well, they didn't really approach that sonic atmosphere.

But it was a mellow mid-week night in a beautiful summer in a beautiful setting.  Cary Hall was probably partly to blame for the generalized sound, as it is modeled like a big hall for oratory, like Fanueil Hall in Boston (Lexington is very concerned with their Revolutionary pedigree).  But the hall was looking excellent and we were in a great mood for a sterling night of music.  They put out a vase of roses for Margot, naturlich, and Michael was on his velvet bench, strumming that excellent guitar sound.  Anton was over on the right laying down a simple but deep bass and Peter Timmons was really the surprise for me, leading lots of the songs on his traps, especially the new ones.

And of course they had Jeff Bird, who's as important as any other member of the band.  He started on lap steel but then picked up his mandolin and got some really, really weird sounds out of it.  The string interplay between him and Michael, who's one of the most original guitarists I know, was top notch all night.  Jeff also chimed in on percussion.

They opened with the first part of the title track from All That Reckoning, and Margot soon informed us that they'd be playing some new songs, some old songs, some more new songs, take a break, and then come back and play all old songs.  And that's kind of what they did, doing Mountain Stream, Missing Children, and the excellent Shiny Teeth from the record.  They mixed in some old songs, like Bea's Song, 'Cause Cheap Is How I Feel, and 200 Miles, which was fantastic.  Then they closed the first set with the reprise of All That Reckoning, just like on the record.

Margot had been up front about their touring behind their new CD and wanting everybody to buy it.  And there were some long lines to buy it (at $20) at the break.  Sarah and I wandered around a bit and admired the evening, but then got back to our seats among the gentlemanly white crowd.  I thought we were all supposed to get off earth?

Whites (and Americans) are silly, but as I say it was pretty impressive how much of the crowd were fans of Cowboy Junkies.  There were silly suburbanites chatting each other up of course, but when it came time for Alan Anton to lay down that line and Michael Timmons to twist us over it, there were people grooving to the sound all over the hall.  Too bad they didn't get it quite right, but it was close!

Anyway, more great stuff in the second set including a totally out there Working On a Building, a poppy Southern Rain that got the feel of the day so well, and of course a climax of a funky Sweet Jane.  But the one I'll always remember is when they were doing an acoustic interlude and Margot introduced a request for a wedding song: Angel Mine done by just her and Michael.

We stood up and gave them a round of polite applause when they were done, but they still came out and gave us a two-song encore: Neil Young's Don't Let It Bring You Down and then a rocker I didn't recognize.  This was a lot of fun, though a summer simmer rather than a really hot concert.

Back home quickly from Lexington, on a school night.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Green River Festival 2018, Sunday!

We were exhausted at bedtime on Saturday and woke up Sunday feeling pretty rejuvenated.  Good night's sleep but we knew we were in for another day of heat.  Went down to the above-average hotel breakfast at the Hampton Inn Brattleboro and mingled with the expected softball players and friends.  Djokovic was in the midst of decimating Kevin Anderson for the Wimbledon men's title.

The others were going to gather for the World Cup final, but we were bound to do the old thing of getting a top spot in line, waiting it out, and then setting up our chairs in our normal spot, halfway between the soundboard and the stage.  And that's what we did!

Packed up all our stuff (with the great help of the hotel luggage dolly), checked one last time in the microwave, and hit the road for Massachusetts by about 9:30 and were pulling into College Road by 10:00 or so.  We felt we were sufficiently early, and it was creepy how we were able to pull right up to the circle at the start of the parking lots without being challenged.  Turns out the staff and Greenfield cops were surprised that anybody besides vendors and volunteers would show up that early!  We were smart and let Dave out to wander in as soon as possible, though we didn't have time to get him out a chair before: a) they realized we weren't vendors or volunteers and b) the cop started waving angrily at us and being as firm as possible.

He told us with a little edge in his voice, "Only vendors and volunteers are allowed in before 11!"  We started to tell him that yes we understood that, we just needed to pull over for a second to get out a chair for our son who was going to wait in line.  Dave smartly started walking towards the line at that point so he was not in the "conversation."  The cop replied by saying a little more slowly and with a little less edge in his voice, like we were simple and just hadn't understood, "Only vendors and volunteers are allowed in before 11."  We shrugged and drove around the circle and then pulled over where there was no question that we were out of the way and I got out so I could open the back and get out a chair for Dave.  The cop ran after us, waving, and shouted, "Only vendors and volunteers are allowed in before 11!!"  I walked up to him calmly and said, "I'm sorry, I'm only trying to get out a chair for my son who's in line already."  He said, "Only vendors and volunteers are allowed in before 11!!!"  I wanted to say, "Just turn around and look 100 feet behind you and you'll see a line to get in, those people are not vendors or volunteers," but I decided I shouldn't burst his bubble.  This guy knew how to say only one thing apparently.  I tried one last time, "But my son is in line already."  He actually went off script and said, "Is he a vendor?" I said no.  "Is he a volunteer?"  I said no.  He raised his eyebrows like he had won the debate and almost shouted, "Only vendors and volunteers are allowed in before 11!!!!"

Anyway, maybe it was I was the dumb one after all.  Probably what he was trying to say was that, "My instructions are to only let in vendors and volunteers until 11 but if people walk in and stand in line it's not my issue and I don't know anything about it but I'm not about to let you give them chairs!  I'm just doing my job, sir."  So we pulled down the road just enough so we were out of his line of sight.  Then we pulled over and Sarah got out with two chairs and walked in to join Dave in line.  Jeez, now I just had 50 minutes or so to kill.

That was fine with me and I drove around a bit to check the surrounding area and then tried College Road again.  By that point the volunteers had figured out what they should be doing is to coach the early arrivals into forming a discrete line of cars, and I was about 10th in that line.  I called up the World Cup on my phone and realized it wasn't starting until 11 itself!  Oh well, they finally let us cars in well before 11 and I grabbed our favorite parking space (minus one), checked in with Sarah and Dave in line in the sun, and then went back to the car in the shade to watch the game.

Dave texted me that they were about to move and I joined the line, though this was a false alarm.  The fact was, they were a little more organized than in the last few years, but were just not ready for the crowds or how soon they'd be arriving.  Not like this should have been new to them, but I've never gone to a music festival where they did things perfectly.  But the GRF again is a nice mellow experience, and we were all talking and joking in line.  I shared news of the first half with our line neighbors, including the oddity that France had only one shot on goal but was currently leading 2-1.

OK at last it was time to get in and we had no problem grabbing seats at our favorite spot between the stage and soundboard, in the bright sun.  And P&D joined us soon.  We were in the beautiful GRF for the Sunday set one more time and life was great!  One thing I should mention was that we were really impressed with the lushness and subtle colors of the Greenfield Community College grounds, looking their best in the first month of summer and holding up well to the amazing crowds.  Don't know if Sunday sold out, but it sure seemed as crowded as Saturday.

Checked out a few vendors, talked to some volunteers, looked at merch, and then joined the mellow mash of people in front of the stage at 12:45 for:

Molly Tuttle - Molly is the reigning IBMA Guitarist Of the Year (the first women ever nominated for the award), and there actually was more of a crowd up front to see her than there had been for the first Sunday performer in any other year I could remember.  I guess her reputation preceded her.  And it didn't take long before we were all gobsmacked by her talent, her fingering, and her tone.  There were plenty of bluegrass whoops and hollers even with her first few songs, she was so impressive.  When Dave joined me after one song I gushed to him, "She's playing lead and rhythm and I can't even see her pick the lead she's so fast!"  She did her great cover of John Hartford's Gentle On My Mind, which was just surreal it was so good.  But the most gobsmacking thing for me and Dave was when she closed with the first Grateful Dead song of the day, Cold Rain and Snow.  This is actually a traditional murder ballad, though the murder itself is not talked about, just hinted at.  In her womanly arrangement, she was the one who was walking down the stairs combing back her yellow hair, and it was she who murdered the no good (I presume) man.

Wow, that was a great start!  Got some food and water and watched the late-arriving crowd, they already missed one of the best acts of the weekend.  But it wasn't long before the next main stage act came on:

Ballroom Thieves - Wasn't at all familiar with them but the writeup in the program convinced me that I'd like them and I sure did; this was just the kind of genre-straddling, quirky act I love.  They're a college band themselves (they met at Stonehill College and called themselves "from Boston").  Drummer Devin Mauch kind of sits on the floor with sticks and mallets and plays a djembe and a bass drum, as well as a small kit and assorted percussion.  Martin Earley plays a traditional acoustic guitar and sometimes a shiny electric, but it's Callie Peters who really defines their sound.  She started off on a big red bass more shiny than Earley's but soon switched to an even shinier, spotless gray cello which she struck and sawed on with her bow.  This was an incredible sound!  Her cello seemed to be set so that she could either get a ringing viola sound or a raunchy growl out of each string when she switched a pedal, or maybe it was the strings were rigged alternately through different filters.  As with Tuttle, it was beyond me how she did that and it was enthralling.

Well!  Dave and I were were already pretty toasted and a trip to the car and a sojourn in the shade had mixed effects itself.  We both headed for the porta-potties after that and just as he asked me, "Who is this Chris Smither guy anyway?" and I was about to say, "Who is Chris Smither!?!?!?" ... there he was, doing his small set at the Green House.  We stopped to watch him and suffice to say that Dave immediately made up his mind to catch Chris's full set later that afternoon.

And I want to talk some about my "theme" of the festival.  As loyal readers will recall, I commented that the festival two years ago had the theme of great guitarists (Derek Trucks, David Hidalgo, Sonya Kitchell, David Littleton, etc.) and last year it was great drummers such as Joe Russo and Mike Calabrese.  Took a stupid guy like me a while to figure out the theme of this festival ... it was incredible woman performers!  Just that day we'd seen Molly Tuttle and Callie Peters dominate the show already (see below about I'm With Her).  Saturday it had been Ruth Ungar who dominated my attention with The Mammals, Alicia Aubin with Big Mean Sound Machine, the incredible Allison Russell with Birds Of Chicago, and of course Karina Reykman with Marco Benevento.  On Friday it had been no less than Amy Helm, and the two great singers with Twisted Pine, Rachel Sumner and Katherine Parks.  Geez, though the last couple of bands that afternoon consisted of all guys, the men could have stayed home (or in the audience) that weekend and we'd have all just gone nuts over the talent these women brought.

By that point, as mentioned, the relentless heat and humidity were really affecting me, and I thought I should sit down for the next act with a little food and a lot of water.  Tried this for a while but two things happened: a) I couldn't take the sun and had to move out of the seats as soon as I finished eating and b) the next act cast a spell on me something serious.

I'm With Her - I had caught a bit of them up at the Green House Stage and of course have seen Aoife O'Donovan many times and think she's great.  I'd also seen Sarah Jarosz and she's an incredible talent.  I'd never seen Sara Watkins, and was possibly more impressed with her than the other two.  And I've heard their excellent new record as well as the things they've released on Spotify.  BUT ... I was not prepared for the level of excellent musicianship I saw.  I thought they were another one of those super-groups who get together and have fun but basically take turns playing each other's songs and are not really a band.  I was wrong, they just blew me away with how well they melded not only in their harmonies but also in their ability to accompany the ensemble's vocal sounds on instruments: O'Donovan on guitar (better than I've ever heard her play guitar before), Watkins on incredibly tasteful fiddle, guitar, and mandolin, and multi-instrumentalist Jarosz on fiddle, mandolin, banjo, and whatever else she could lay her hands on.  They had to swap instruments a few times, there was not room enough on stage for all of them.

As I say, the spell had me good and after I couldn't take sitting in the sun any longer I crept up to the stage and got pretty close, though there were hundreds of others up there.  I wondered a couple of times if I was about to fall over, but my legs held up, I concentrated on breathing calmly, and I had what started as a full bottle of water but soon was gone.  Perhaps it was the extreme conditions to some degree, but the emotion of their singing almost had me in tears at various times.

They finally neared the end of their set and Aoife and Sarah turned to Watkins, who picked up her guitar and did her excellent new song, which is just a great road song about wanderlust and how we Americans still can dream, Overland.  And then they were scratching their asses a bit, wondering what song they'd close with.  A woman just to my left was trying to hold it in too, but then dropped her cool and shouted, "Are you *ever* going to cross muddy waters??"  And just as she got out the last syllable of her exhortation, that excellent trio started into their great cover of John Hyatt's Crossing Muddy Waters.  The woman who called it went into paroxysms of ecstasy or something, we were all at least a bit outside our normal selves because of the weather.  Anyway, I'm With Her knocked the place down, all of them smiling beautifully and trying to look cool in the shade up on stage.  Wow, what a set this was!

Yikes, we were all of a sudden getting close to the end of the festival, but I realized I needed some time in the shade immediately if I was going to enjoy it.  I went directly over to the Parlor Room Stage, and hundreds of other people had apparently had the same idea.  Chris Smither had already started his act in the tent, with a lap steel player and also his excellent partner/producer, Goody Goodrich, on guitar.  Dave reported later that he had closed with the second Grateful Dead song of the day, Sitting On Top Of the World.  I'm told that Michelle was in that tent for one of her favorite artists, great that she could get away for her set!

I realized there was no way I could combine "shade" and "Smither," so I went way over to the far side of the hill, sat down in the shade, and concentrated on breathing in time to the wonderful sound of Chris's boot pounding rhythm on the floor.  A few songs (including a great reaction to the topical Nobody Home) and I was as rejuvenated as I figured I was going to get, so I headed back up to the main stage.  There was already a large group of people crowding in front, trying to stay in the shade cast by the lowering sun.  I joined it at the back and was in the sun for a little while, but then a few people shifted so I could move up and the sun set a little bit, and I was soon at least in shade to see...

Robert Earl Keen - I've only been a fan of Robert's for 35 years or so, and most of the others up front with me had probably been fans for a long time too.  As Robert has commented about his shows, the fans seemed to know the words better than he did!  The first part of his set was mainly "the old stuff," and we all bellowed out every syllable to Corpus Christi Bay, I'm Coming Home, Gringo Honeymoon, Feelin' Good Again, Amarillo Highway, If I were King, etc.  Gringo Honeymoon especially resonated so much on that hot day; we were all looking for a cool beer in the shade and Captain Pablo was our guide.  He blew a smoke ring and he smiled at us, "I ain't never going back."

It's kind of amazing how often Robert slurred and/or messed up and/or forgot a line or three but how the crowd kept on singing.  And he had an excellent band that could turn on a dime from a pure bluegrass sound to textbook outlaw country, but mostly stayed in between in Robert's sweet spot.  Again, I wasn't sure how much longer I could take before I fell right over, especially when he went from the great old stuff to his just-good newer stuff that didn't have us rocking in quite the same way.  Anyway, he ended with (surprise) The Road Goes On Forever and how can you help but sing along with that and jump up and down a bit?

Oh no, GRF was almost over!  The balloons were pretty much grounded again, there had been some thunderheads in the vicinity and even a welcome sun shower or two that afternoon.  But the balloons were finishing their tethered rides, the Flying High Dogs were grounded, and the Arts Tent and Arcade were deserted.  Everything was concentrating on the main stage uphill.  We all congregated at our seats, the sun was approaching the hillside behind the stage, and big chunks of the crowd were peeling off and going home.

Though the weather was challenging, many of the performers commented on what I say above, that Greenfield was looking beautiful that early-summer weekend and it was so much fun to be outside in the real world with the lovely green hills and fields all around us.  Robert Earl commented that this was nothing like Lubbock!  We texted our friends where we were and they pretty much all came up for at least part of the Sunday closing act, which was:

Old Crow Medicine Show - This was another act I'd never seen, though I've been listening to and greatly enjoying them for years.  As with many acts at the festival, they've recently released a new record (Volunteer) and I feel it's one of their best.  They did a number of songs from that and a number of their classics, including the third Grateful Dead song of the day, CC Rider.  They've got such a large and talented band and were tripping over themselves with their stage changes and instrument changes.  It seemed the techs were bringing out new instruments for everybody between each song ... maybe because the old ones were drenched with sweat!?!

Anyway, I say again, we and many of the people in the crowd were reaching the end.  We had a long drive back ahead of us and our exit timing was great: we packed our stuff, folded our chairs, made one last porta-potty run, said goodbye to all our friends, and were ready to leave as soon as they started into Wagon Wheel, which we knew would be the dénouement.  Excellent song and excellent band and we hated to tear ourselves away, but we were ready for some air conditioning.

Got the stuff stowed, got the car started, got the air conditioning blowing cold air in our leathery faces (and weathered hands), and made it out of the Greenfield Community College lots just about as Old Crow was singing the closing chorus.  On the highway soon and the ride back actually went incredibly smoothly.  We were home almost exactly two hours after we started packing up to leave.

So how was the 2018 GRF?  I think it'll take me a long, long time before my first answer to that question will be about anything but the weather.  Maybe the me of ten (or twenty) years ago would have shrugged it off, but the heat and humidity that weekend just sapped me and made me wonder how much longer it will be that I'll be able to go enjoy music in a setting like that.

But enjoy it I did!  We expected that the 2018 lineup would not knock us over with its excellence, such as with LSD and JRAD last year or Tedeschi Trucks and Los Lobos the year before (or the old Rubblebucket before that).  But we also realized that we needed to concentrate on the acts we knew we would like (see comments about being unsuccessful at this the last few years) and we know the rhythms of the GRF well enough that we were able to do this well.  We were in the right place at the right time all weekend and saw some excellent musicianship, as well as having fun with our friends.  What more can you want?

And I have to say that my answer to the question of how was the 2018 GRF, if and when I get beyond how extreme the weather was, was that the women musicians I saw that weekend were extraordinary.  That was the overriding theme of the weekend and the sounds of Katherine Parks singing Heart Of Glass, Ruth Ungar singing Maple Leaf, Molly Tuttle singing Cold Rain and Snow, and many more will stay with me for a long, long, long time.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Green River Festival 2018, Saturday!

Woke up Saturday at a decent time, but I was exhausted and not feeling good.  We had a nice hotel room (except for Dave’s fold-out bed, which looked like a Medieval torture device), but I had had a horrible night’s sleep after a wearing evening.  I didn’t mention it in Friday night’s blog, and I didn’t pay perhaps as much attention to it as I should have at the time, but the weather was gruesome and the energy was just drained out of us.  I think plenty of other concert-goers felt the same way.

We’ve experienced heat, rain, and more heat … yeah, and more rain … at GRF, but this weekend’s heat and humidity has been from another world.  Neither was the worst, but the two of them together just left you in a brain-dead fog if you weren’t constantly concentrating on how you were feeling and taking care of yourself.  Maybe I’m getting older (no!), but there were times, as I said to Sarah, where I could have been in line at Walmart, just spacing out.  You had to concentrate to feel the music sometimes instead of just letting it wash over you.  And a big part of this was that the sun and the mugginess made your body droop and your face melt.

But whatever, it was Saturday morning at the GRF!  I sucked it up, showered, and went downstairs for a nice breakfast with girls in softball uniforms walking around in a heightened state of tension and Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal battling it out in the fifth set at Wimbledon (Djokovic finally won).  Possibly the biggest event of that morning, though was about to start…

It had been an excellent 2018 World Cup and the third place game, England and Belgium, was about to start.  Back up in our room we could not find it on the TV but had brought an HDMI cable and were able to get logged into Fox Sports on my laptop and get it on the TV by the time it started.  We texted the group and they all jammed into our large room, sprawled over the couch, furniture, chairs, and bed, and we had a great time watching the game!  Belgium was the more inventive team that day and after England almost tied it but their best shot was swept off the line, Belgium scored again to seal the victory.

Wait, why the fuck weren’t we in line in the hot sun at the Festival by then?  Well, it was because the Saturday lineup was kind of thin and there was no reason to grab great seats at the Main Stage.  Our strategy was to hang out for the game, leave when it was over around noon, go directly to set up our chairs at the Dean’s Beans Stage instead of uphill, and basically to take a mellow approach (for us) to Saturday.  Which was what we did.

Got packed up soon after the game was over and were on the road for the Massachusetts line by a few minutes after noon.  The cars were backed up on College Road when we got there and the sun was blazing and the humidity was frying our brains.  But Dave got out and headed in; they had smartly made a “bags” line and a “no bags” line and Dave went straight in with no bags and got our seats (alongside P&D) downhill.

In the meantime, Sarah and I waited in that long line of cars, got a parking space far from the entrance, and then waited in line for what seemed like an hour (it was) to just get in through the “bags” line.  But the important thing is that we got in, dumped our stuff at the beachhead downhill, and then I took off for the upper stage.  Though there were few great acts up on the Main Stage that day, one of the acts I most wanted to see had already begun!  Here’s what I saw … I think:

The Mammals – I’ve loved Ruth Ungar’s and Mike Merenda’s band for years and had never seen them (I’ve seen Ruth with Sometymes Why).  I think I have all The Mammals records and they’re *so much* in my personal sweet spot for uplifting humanist string music I can’t describe it.  I tell other people to listen to them and they say huh?  They’ve recently re-formed and put out perhaps their best record.  When we finally got past the bag check, Ruth was singing the beautiful Stayin’ Up Late and I hated to run downhill.  But I was soon back up and they were crooning the title track, Sunshiner.  I hurried up front and their music ran all through me (it was early in the day and the humidity hadn’t worked its evil ways yet), as I swayed to Make It True, Culture War, Fork In the Road, and then they closed with perhaps one of the loveliest songs in recent memory, Maple Leaf.  We all wanted to fly like maple leaves, and the day was just starting!  I was so glad to hear the bulk of their set after waiting forever to get in.

Big Mean Sound Machine - I got some iced(!) coffee and slowly made my way back downhill after that, anticipating a band from Ithaca College (Dave's alma mater).  Dave had seen them often in college and had gotten me psyched, he called them "Ithaca's answer to Rubblebucket ... without vocals."  Dave and I got right in front of the horns and had a great time.  The 8-person band was led by Angelo Peters on funky effects-laden bass and synth, and the funk permeated the two percussionists (one on ethereal congas), keys/synth player, guitarist, and trombonist (Alicia Aubin), trumpeter (Jack Storer), and saxophonist.  They spun wonderful grooves and immediately had us all dancing to their long pieces.  Aubin and Storer were particularly fascinating, playing long inventive, note-perfect brass solos ... didn't hurt that we were right in front of them.

But I tore myself away before the set ended because I could tell I needed water, food, and shade badly already.  I got refreshed and then got some nutrition (beans, rice, and guacamole) from La Veracruzana and headed back down to the Parlor Room Stage (set up pretty much the same as last year) to find a shady spot to eat in.  Caught the last few chords of Jack Broadbent's set but didn't see him.  The tent was packed already and gave you claustrophobia just looking at the sweaty people struggling their way out of it.  OK ... after a bit I was full, hydrated, and refreshed, and so headed on into the tent myself and grabbed an aisle seat for easy escape before it got really packed, and it sure did a few minutes after that.  But I was bound to see a whole set of...

Birds Of Chicago - Though it had flaws, the Parlor Room Stage was exactly the right setting for this band at this moment.  I was sitting down in the shade (though I had to get up like 20 times for people to enter and exit my row, this is not a successful "seating" situation) and I was able to concentrate on the music and on the wonderful vocals, flute, and banjo by Allison Russell, as well as the great musicianship of the rest of the band.  They were playing mellow versions of their best songs, and they were smiling, giving way to each other, and just being brilliant in turn.  Again, they didn't do Roisin Starchild, but they covered Love In Wartime, the really fun Baton Rouge, and the earnest Try from their new record.

Oh boy that was fun.  I somehow made it out of that hot tent as soon as their set was over though, and wandered back to our seats over at the Dean's Beans Stage after running into friends playing soccer and frisbee and admiring the sky.

Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express - They were just starting up when I got over there, and they were ok IMO.  Chuck's got some hot licks and they played some great SanFran and/or classic rock tunes ... and you know that's what I like.  But they were a little cliched and the music often took a back seat to presentation.  Which isn't the SanFran ethic I should say!

Anyway, wandered around at that point and saw a tune and a half from:

Yes Darling - This novelty act is Ryan Montbleau and Hayley Jane and they're really godawful.  OK, there's lots of talent there but they're interested in duo acting rather than playing good music.  They probably improvised a bit but had their pieces all ready to act out and Hayley knew just when to react to Ryan's guitar chords and Ryan knew just when to react to Hayley's innuendos.  Perhaps entertaining, and the Parlor Room Stage was as packed as ever, but not what I was going to stand in the hot sun to watch.

So I went uphill and got more water (must have re-filled my water bottle 50 times over the course of the weekend) and...

Interjection here that they had a new stage at the GRF, alternately called the Green House Stage, the Pop-up Stage, or the Tiny House Stage.  They set up a "tiny house" with a porch over in the shaded area between the porta-potties and the beer wagon and it was just marvelous, a very successful addition.  The acts would rotate over there just before their appearance on the big stages, when they were already all kitted up/made up and looking fresh.  They had several video cameras focussing on them with this "living room" backdrop and I'm sure the idea is to make promotional videos that will appear on YouTube or some other channel.

And the performances there were marvelous!  The acts knew that this was their close-up for Mr. DeMille and they rose to the occasion, staring right into the camera and/or the small audience while doing three (this was apparently the limit) of their best songs.  Sarah has some wonderful pictures of the Birds there and I was fortunate to see a song and a half from Chris Smither and most of I'm With Her's tiny set.

Another piece of the great GRF experience was their vendors and information providers.  Had a wonderful (and persuasive?) talk with a guy from Green Mountain Energy and a fun talk with a woman selling Jay Blakesburg photos, that she'd enhanced and framed.  I was captivated by one of a young looking Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, and realized while talking with her that it was from the first time we'd seen them, at Gathering Of the Vibes in 2011.  She told me about her experience of seeing them there on that hot, hot day.

Chuck Prophet was still pontificating and so I kept wandering and was just in time to catch the Mardi Gras Parade uphill that they do every year but I've never seen up close, where kids get to march with the banners, sculptures, and costumes they've made at the Art Tent.  This year's parade was led by the members of Big Mean Sound Machine in mufti, some with kazoos.  And the stragglers in it were the aliens from Bella's Bartok.  After that interlude, I was just in time to catch a bit of ...

Femi Kuti and the Positive Force - Kuti comes from a line of African leaders, both politically and musically, and he had a full band with him, some of the members in traditional costume.  I only saw a few songs from them and have to say they were kind of boring.  Perhaps if I'd stayed longer I would have been more receptive to their groove, but it was a lot of him yelling political lines at the crowd and smiling that they just didn't get how serious he was, and then him pointing at the horn players to lay down another riff.  He also had backup singers who apparently had been told to shake their booties, and this itself was not politically appropriate.  Whatever.

Timing was good then to cruise back to the Parlor Room Stage, where they'd thankfully folded up all the seats and left plenty of dancing room.  This is how that stage should always be configured!  I caught four or five tunes from...

The Revelers - This is an all-star Cajun/Zydeco band (no black members, so favor the former slash term) that lets it all hang out and is very much in my sweet spot of music.  They had seven or eight or five or who knows guys on stage and they were all swapping instruments and a different guy did the lead on each song.  And they did that great heart of the country thing of being swampy and steaming and tender and vulnerable all at the same time.  None of them took the baton and shone with it, but they all took the baton in turn and let his heart shine.  Loved it, but then it was time to get back for ...

 OK, time to go settle down in our seats at the Dean's Beans Stage and enjoy the last acts of the night (by our schedule).

Bella's Bartok - Was just starting and they were a trip.  They had a couple of horn players (one of whom took his shirt off straight-away), a couple of percussionists, a couple of guitar and bass players, one dynamic lead in Asher Putnam, and a lot of facial hair, most of it expressed in mustaches.  Dave had seen them at GRF a few years back and was more than eager to experience them again, and I have to admit that this was really fun.  They sang in Turkish, sang in unison, sang in nonsense syllables, did some cracker-jack riffs on all the above instruments, and did not faint (accidentally).  The sun was just beginning to mellow out by then, though the humidity did not relent, and perhaps the most amazing thing about these very talented musicians' act was that they breezed on as if heat was the least of their problems.  This was very entertaining stuff and very impressive stagemanship.

All of a sudden, it was again getting late on Saturday night at our favorite music festival and one of our favorite bands was about to come on.  There was apparently some atmospheric je ne sais quoi going on that night, and so the balloons weren't really firing up, though they were desultorily lounging on the lower field while the sun was getting a little lower, then a little lower.

Dave and I were up at the rail immediately as soon as the previous act was done ... we weren't about to miss this opportunity to see Marco Benevento from up close.  Scott also knew that this was one of the acts of the festival, and we were so glad when the whole Taylor entourage showed up at stage-front!  The crowd filled in pretty well while Karina and Dave and Marco were doing their sound check.  And then finally it was time for...

Marco Benevento - We've seen these guys several times, see earlier blog posts.  And of course Marco is an essential part of JRAD.  Dave had seen Marco delivering pizza and hanging out with his daughter during Bella's Bartok and that added a nice touch.  But they were up on stage now and Marco had his super-cool super-funky cyberpunk green piano and Karina Reykman was looking fine and sounding finer and rocking the fuck out of the place with her white get-up and her excellent bass and her waves of sound, and Dave Butler was kicking the shit out of the atmosphere and egging on Marco and Karina.  They played the first part of the Fred Short suite to start and then went on from there to say the least.  They did an excellent cover of Dropkick and that was not all.  They did a mashup of a Butthole Surfers song, a Pink Floyd song, and an Elton John song.  Marco got the whole crowd singing along to Benny and the Jets.

No At the Show, but they couldn't do everything.  Their stagecraft was as impeccable as always.  Karina did her routine of running off stage and then dashing back on just in time to deliver a rip-the-world-apart bass chord.  Marco twirled a bit for the crowd and ended up climbing up on top of his piano and jumping off, a feat more precarious than it sounds.

But the meat of it all was the runs Marco took on that piano.  You'd notice him start to chord with his right hand and then that his left hand was scratching that itch and then pounding down into the nether regions, and then that the right hand was tinkling in ways that had never been tinkled before, and then that the two together were about to explode into the ionosphere.  And then they would and then he'd take it from there, sometimes playing the most Shortnin' Bread kind of Jimmy Rogers riffs that had us all nodding, and then sometimes drawing baroque tapestries and sometimes bursting through gauzy curtains.

Well jeez, I could go on.  The balloons were surging and alight, the crowd was thundering with applause when he stopped, and the stage announcer came out and urged us all on to an encore.  We were certainly using time for fun.

Well it was finally over and we were done.  It had been a long day and though Michael Franti was laying down a heavy (but poppy) beat on the upper field, it was time for us to exit stage left.  Hung out at the seats a bit and did last porta-potty stops (they had turned off the lights and you never know how scary a porta-potty can be until you do it in the total dark).  Then bundled up and found the car in the far reaches of the parking lots and slowly got rolling up to Brattleboro.

As it turned out, we were a little ahead of the others.  We took turns in the shower to wash off dirt and sweat and sunscreen and grime and don't-ask and more sweat and crud.  Finally we were presentable and rendezvoused with our friends downstairs.  The girl's softball team and their hangers-on were rocking the lobby again ... we never found out where they were from or how they did in the tournament, but they were having a good time.  We couldn't take the hip-hop music and we found the "Board Room," where we assembled and had an excellent time, showing PPTs to each other and eating chips late into the night!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Green River Festival 2018, Friday night!

I was a little disappointed this year when the Green River Festival lineup was first announced.  I kept hoping they’d add some acts I was really excited about, but excitement was slow to come.  They announced Josh Ritter, Michael Franti, and Old Crow Medicine Show as the nightly closers early on … one half-exciting act out of three is better than none.  And then they did add acts like Robert Earl Keen, Amy Helm, Chris Smither, I’m With Her … and Marco Benevento!

OK, I was excited though it could have been a lot more exciting.  But how do you follow the great acts of the last few festivals?  I and the others in our group realized that this might be a down year, but that was no reason for us to be down.  We were all psyched for another great GRF and it finally rolled around on the calendar.

There had been some fuckups about accommodations and tickets this year, like our hotel going belly-up on us (the ex-Rodeway Inn in Greenfield, which didn’t even have the courtesy to tell us it had died) and some in our group not getting tickets to all three days.  But we got rooms at the Hampton Inn in Brattleboro, which turned out well, and we had the chance to give endless shit to those who had missed tickets!

Worked Friday morning at our new office in Waltham and then back-tracked to Woburn to pick up Sarah and Dave, who had spent the night.  We threw everything in the car and took off for The West soon after noon on a hot, hot day that presaged a hot, hot weekend.

Got out to Greenfield and cruised into town where we had lunch at a pretty busy People’s Pint.  BBQ chicken wrap for me and a couple of IPAs and similar stuff for S&D.  Then we stopped for beer and supplies (Ginger Libation at Ryan and Casey’s), and drove straight-away over to the Festival.

The crowds had been so intense there the last few years that we figured the only way to get great seats for the great Friday lineup was to get there early, and we were right.  Our timing was great and we were in line behind just a few cars, and then got our good parking space and jumped into line, 20th or so.  The gates opened soon and we were on our way … but wait!

For years the GRF was “no alcohol” and they pretty much turned a blind eye to people slipping in cans or bottles of this or that in their coolers as long as they were discreet.  Then they realized that they had become immensely popular and had to become more of a big league Festival … another case of success ruining things … and they got the super-cool Berkshire Brewing Company a license and had them sell beer.  But people continued to smuggle stuff in and you knew it was going to happen that eventually they’d have to crack down more.  They announced that this year they were really going to inspect bags, and they did a pretty good job of balancing this with letting the long lines of people flow.  There were still a few people who smuggled in (just guessing here actually) mixed drinks in orange juice bottles.  But they were plastic!

And you've gotta understand what time we're living in.  One of the (disappearing?) charms of the GRF is that it's so mellow.  You (and your kids) can walk around barefoot with not a second thought!  The big rule was that you weren't allowed to bring in glass bottles and I'm all in favor of people policing themselves not to do this.  I'm all in favor of parties too, but seeing people smoke pot at their seats with kids (and other non-smokers) around last year was kind of a shock (didn't happen this year, perhaps because the designated pot-smoking area was open again).  I hope GRF stays mellow.

Anyway, got in soon after a bit of delay for inspection and grabbed great seats at our regular position from the stage, but to the right of the electrical conduit.  Yow!  It was the GRF again, people were streaming in, we were getting beer tokens and inspecting the used records.  Friend Steve the security volunteer was there again, and life was just perfect.

The lineup for the Main Stage (rebranded as the “Tea Guys Stage”) was pretty good, as I say, but I planned to head downhill for the Latin Stage (the whilom Three Rivers Stage which is now the Dean’s Beans Stage) at some point.  Here’s what I saw:

Twisted Pine – This band of young Berklee products has come a long way and has re-invented themselves several times since we first saw them.  They had the same lineup as last year (Kathleen Parks with a lot of makeup, Rachel Sumner looking as young-Kathy-Kallick as ever, Dan Bui on mando, and Chris Sartori on bass), but some new songs.  I liked their old lineup and the traditional songs they used to play, but I have to admit that this was fantastic stuff, perhaps the most impressive set I’ve seen from them.  Bui was flawless as ever, Parks was excellent on fiddle, Sumner rocked my head on guitar and smooth as silk woman bluegrass vocals as she always does, and their arrangements are great.

AND ... they were well into their set and then they took a breath, and then sang Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds.  This caught me totally unawares, I didn't know they covered this.  "Lucy" means a lot to me: Sergeant Pepper's was the first album I bought, and there have been several situations in my life when I've been watching the plasticine porters and then By Dog there's suddenly somebody there at the turnstile.  'Nuff said.

Their climax was Blondie’s Heart Of Glass, and as weird as this was (no more weird than Emmylou doing a Beatles song in the 70s??), it is an immensely successful earworm and played in my head all night.  But I wish they'd smile a bit more ... maybe it was glare but they all took some serious turns frowning at us all.

Amy Helm – Amy’s changed a bit too over the last few years.  In the past we’ve seen her with musicians who really challenged her and that had a certain tension that we loved.  She’s more in charge of the band now and though these guys may have been able to upstage her themselves (fantastic guitar player, bass player, keyboardist, and drummer), they stayed more in the background and let her vocals shine out.  I think she’s great and was fine with this!  She opened with Didn’t It Rain (we were hoping it wouldn’t and so far so good) and climaxed the set with her new song This Too Shall Light (her second album (with this song) has not yet been released) as the balloons took off in the still-bright evening, and she brought out Allison Russell to help with the encore.

Birds Of Chicago – I missed these guys a couple of years ago at GRF and was kicking myself.  They’ve recently released Love In Wartime and that is an incredible record (though they didn't play my favorite song from it, Roisin Starchild).  So I was psyched and was not at all disappointed by Allison Russell’s crystal-beautiful vocals and JT Nero’s grit.  They were perhaps a little cautious in this Friday-night set, but they let it all hang out the next day.

Before they were done I grabbed some food from La Veracruzana and then ran down to the Latin Stage for…
Orquesta Akokán – Managed to time this perfectly and was front and center on the rail when this huge Cuban band came out.  I was eager to see them but ended up being a bit disappointed.  They played a very formal style and even though there was probably enough talent on the stage to sink a ship, they were content to stay in the background and let the singer/bandleader, Jose Gomez, strut his stuff in his white suit and point to them in turn to take short leads.  As the woman next to me said, “He’s just like a small Ricky Ricardo!”  Anyway, did some dancing and some grooving but soon it was time to leave.
Back at the Main Stage Josh Ritter had started his set but it didn’t hold our attention and we packed up quickly and left, as we had planned to do.  It wasn’t a long drive up to our hotel in Brattleboro but we didn’t want to arrive really late, and our friends were waiting!

We checked in to the Hampton at exit 3, texted with the folks, and then mostly assembled downstairs in the lobby where a girl’s softball team and their parents/hangers-on were already assembled and making more noise than we could.  We tried our best to join in and had a fun time before dragging ourselves away to bed.