Friday, September 28, 2018

Hot Tuna in Ithaca Sidelighting Other Events

It sometimes seems this way before a vacation, but we really hadn't had any extended time off work/responsibilities for about a year.  So we were very psyched for the reunion/adventure starting on Thursday, September 27th.  Louise and Marin had arrived in Woburn the night before and we were all saddled up and ready to leave for Ithaca a little after 8.

As you may be aware, that's prime commuting time, and we had to lead them (us in the Subaru, them in the Fit) through a long, slow, convoluted passage up to Route 3, where we got some traffic relief heading Northwest, and then Southwest on 495 and through Worcester on 290.  Finally made it out to the Pike and were on the way West, texting with Dave as to his progress from his start in Quincy.  Andrew had gotten a really early start from Somerville and was out there by mid-day.

Amazingly, just as we pulled into the Blandford Service Plaza, we heard back from Dave.  He had just pulled over at the Blandford Service Plaza himself and wondered where we were.  We parked right behind him and then drove in convoy the rest of the way on a beautiful early Fall day.  We stopped at the World of Beers in the Guildford Mall for lunch ...

... and then made it out to the Homewood Suites in Ithaca a little after 3.

This was the start to an extended 90th birthday reunion for my father.  Not only we New Englanders, but Sally, Jim, Mollie, Mickey, and Hakey were able to attend.  They were still en route from Brooklyn/LaGuardia but soon arrived at their rooms across the hall from us and this was a very joyous occasion.  It was also a very bittersweet weekend, as the medical news was not good.  Though we had a wonderful time, wonderful weather, and the planned events all went off without a hitch, this may have been the last time visiting my father (their father, father-in-law, or grandfather) for some of the attendees.  This was one of those times when life seems largely writ, when the little parts of the event burn into your consciousness.

Well, while all this was going on, it so happened that Hot Tuna was playing the State Theatre in Ithaca!  That seemed like a change of pace event that was sent from above, and we were able to get tickets (6 of us opted to go, me, SarahE, Dave, Andrew, Jim, and Marin) and enjoy a very mellow evening of folk-blues.

We got down to State St. (which was being used as a staging area for that weekend's upcoming Apple Festival and so was littered with parts of carnival rides, etc.) just a few minutes before opener Chris Smither took the stage, and we settled into our 5th-row center balcony seats with a couple of drinks (they only had Miller Lite and Ithaca Apricot Wheat, so I opted out).  Chris is a legend of course, but that legend may not have reached to Ithaca.  Took a while to warm up the crowd, but Chris worked at it and soon had the people chuckling to the lines about Trump* in Nobody Home.

I've seen Chris many time but loved this because we were way up high in the balcony and I could see his footwork on his sounding board.  I'd only heard it at prior events.  His singing and playing were as good as ever and he played a masterfully-paced set, ending with his great cover of Sitting On Top Of the World and one of his best recent songs, Leave the Light On.

Didn't take them long to reset the stage and then Jack and Jorma came on.  Jack was looking as nonplussed as ever with his office swivel chair and his huge acoustic bass.  This was their first stop on a new, long, acoustic tour after previously this summer playing a string of electric sets, and Jorma was still feeling the hard edge of the blues apparently.  He had his gut-string guitar up on stage but started right off with the steel-stringed one and his full set of finger picks.

Here's the setlist from, though this may not be quite right.  For instance, I remember Sea Child as being earlier in the set:

  • Ain't In No Hurry
  • True Religion
  • Hesitation Blues
  • Serpent Of Dreams
  • Barbecue King
  • Let Us Get Together Right Down Here
  • Sleep Song
  • Watch the North Wind Rise
  • Whining Boy Blues
  • River Of Time
  • Death Don't Have No Mercy
  • Trial By Fire
  • Sea Child
  • Good Shepard
  • I Know You Rider
But anyway, this is largely correct and you get the point!  They were feeling it and playing some old, classic stuff like an excellent True Religion to get us rolling, and an ethereal Serpent Of Dreams and North Wind to space us out (they got way out there for those two).  They capped it off with a couple of classic Airplane songs and with their definitive cover of Rider.

But their set did take some effort to digest.  As good as they were, they were also perhaps a bit soporific to fans not exhaustively familiar with their songs, and the set dragged some.  But this was excellent stuff and though it was a mellow night, it also had some fireworks.

And I have to mention that they didn't do one of my favorite songs ever, Come Back Baby.  I believe they've done it every other time I'd seen them, and so I didn't feel short-changed.  This was another comment on the uniqueness of the setlist.

Jack and Jorma did their thing of standing right behind their chairs (Jorma had his triangle chair) while the crowd went nuts, and then just sitting down without drama for an encore after everyone calmed down.  As usual they played Water Song ... a short one this time.  Then they strutted off to their next encounter, a couple of old guys who still had it.

*I don't like to mention the current President by name, but politics was a major background presence over the next week-plus and so I might as well start right off naming names and (hopefully) kicking butt.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Bowlings At City Winery

Went for a nice late-summer kayak on the Sudbury out of Lincoln with Dave on Saturday the 15th, and then we all drove into the city to see Holly Bowling solo at City Winery.

The room was already a quarter full when we arrived, but we found an empty table way up front on the right-hand side.  Couldn’t see Holly’s fingering from there, but saw plenty of her action on the pedals and the sound was excellent.  The lid of her grand piano was open right in front of us, and the strings reflected off the polished under-surface.  This was great, because at times she used a mallet to hammer them, used a salad server kind of thing to pluck them, used a weird pen-laser thing to make them resonate, or manipulated them or the hammers manually.

One of Dave’s Twitter friends joined us and clued us in a bit to the Phish songs.  She did all Dead and Phish covers and was excellent.  Her first-set covers of China Cat, Estimated, and Row Jimmy were just full of richness, and her second set was a seamless journey in and out of Terrapin.  Here’s a setlist:

Set 1: China Cat Sunflower > Taste, Estimated Prophet > Row Jimmy, Divided Sky
Set 2: Twist > Terrapin Station > Twist > Terrapin Station > Mercury > Steep > Terrapin Station > I Know You Rider

Holly didn’t talk much, this was a piano recital after all.  But when she did she beamed at the audience and seemed to really appreciate the large crowd filling most of City Winery.  She came back out quickly and treated us to a beautiful Brokedown Palace as an encore.

Holly asked us to stay to talk and get signed stuff, but we took off.  Luckily, her parents were there.