Monday, December 13, 2010

Summer of Love Revue Pier 39

Most locals avoid the Fisherman’s Wharf area in San Francisco. Pier 39 has been around for almost forty years. It’s a bit plastic, but it draws a lot of tourists. There are a few good restaurants, but most of it is tourist schlock. Is it just another mall with a great view? It’s one of my guilty pleasures that I still like going there.

My wife Kathy did it again! She won free tickets from TV station KRON for “The Summer of Love Revue.” It would be at “Theater 39 on Pier 39.” Yes, there is a theater on Pier 39. It was used for a long time for an Earthquake simulation ride. It’s up the stairs from The Hard Rock Cafe. The Hard Rock is a sponsor of the show tonight.

It was a nice night. Lights reflected off the water in the Bay. It was about seven, getting late for the Wharf area. Pier 39 has a wide entrance off Bay Street. A Black man played saxophone there. He was accompanied by a tape machine. There were still some tips to be made. This guy had the best spot at Pier 39.

We wondered what kind of event this would be. I expected it to be a lecture with film clips. We were a bit surprised when we showed up and there were ten people waiting in the ticket line. Most of us in line had either “won” tickets from KRON or were guests. We did see some people who had actually bought tickets. There was a sign:“$28.50 or $32.50.”

A woman behind the box office window struggled with guest lists and tickets. A guy in a long platinum wig came up to the waiting line, “ARE YOU READY TO ROCK!” Yes! We are ready! He posed for a picture with the three ladies in front of us. We later learned he was “Hippie Dude.” People in Sixties clothes were going in and out of the theater. The show would be: “A Live, Fully Costumed Music Revue.”

In recent wanderings around town I saw that there are still tourists and visitors coming to San Francisco and spending some money. Would they pay for a Sixties “Summer of Love” experience? Yes, now you can live, or relive, the glory days of The Summer of Love in the friendly surroundings of Pier 39! This could become another Beach Blanket Babylon, the long running comedy revue. Beach Blanket Babylon had become a San Francisco institution. Could the Summer of Love Revue become another Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 attraction? Maybe it would be a Ripley’s Believe It or Not of the Sixties San Francisco Rock scene. This could work, even in these economic times. Tourists have certainly been ripped off by worse things.

The doorman was a Black man wearing a black beret, a black leather jacket and an armband. It was the Black Panther uniform. The lobby was a large room with some psychedelic decorations, posters and a big peace flag for photo opportunities. There were plenty of postcard ads offering a ten dollar discount on future shows.

The theater held 250. People found their seats while vintage footage of the Sixties played. Most of it was familiar footage to me. There were clips from the Monterey Pop Festival. A tape of Sixties music played. They played some more obscure songs from the Sixties: Status Quo: “Pictures of Matchstick Men.” Kenny Rogers and the First Edition: “Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Condition Was In.”

Some of the actors and musicians wandered around in period garb. They wore big wigs and leather fringe jackets. They did look a bit corny. They were trying to spread the spirit of the Sixties. The Sixties were becoming a distant part of the past. It really was a long time ago now.

Andrew Hernandez greeted the crowd. He looked familiar. Later I figured out he was the same guy who produced the Monterey Summer of Love event in 2007. (Another event Kathy won tickets for!) He thanked us for coming out. He said they were “still working things out” and asked for patience. “We didn’t sell tickets in the first rows so it could be a dance area.” If you felt inspired you could dance in the aisles, or “just go ahead and dance at your seat.”

There would be much more live music than I had expected. Show time was near and we were shown a clip of The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Hippie Dude came onstage. He would be our first MC. “I was there, man... thirteen years old.” Well, he saw The Beatles on TV. Uh Dude, if you saw it on TV, were you “really there?” Besides, if you remember The Sixties, you weren’t there, right?

He talked about the last Beatles show at Candlestick: “The media said The Beatles changed San Francisco, but we know it was San Francisco that changed The Beatles.” He spewed some Sixties cliches, “Don’t take the brown acid!” I started to find him a bit irritating. Maybe he was stalling for time. He announced the first act, “One of the first San Francisco bands, The Mamas and the Papas!” I thought the Mamas and Papas were considered a Los Angeles band.

“The Mamas and the Papas” came out and sang “Monday Monday.” They did sound like The Mamas and the Papas. One guy wore the John Phillips trademark beaver hat. It was a good song to start with. People were starting to get into that Sixties spirit. I saw heads bobbing. They did a great “California Dreaming.”

A spirited “Jefferson Airplane” was up next. The musicians and singers rocked! A Liquid Light show started on a big screen behind the band. Groovy! Boudeeka, a tribute band veteran, was Grace Slick. “Patrick” did a pretty good Marty Balin. It wasn’t the real Jefferson Airplane, but that didn’t matter right? You’ve got to get into it, man. Do your own thing. Don’t be uptight. They did sound like the Airplane.

The slow intro to “White Rabbit” started and the fog smoke machine made its first appearance of the night. They did a Rocking “Somebody to Love.” “Marty Balin” started to leave the stage. “One more, Patrick.” There was revolutionary nostalgia with “Volunteers.”

During the break the “Michelle Phillips” from “The Mamas and the Papas” came out in a different character. She was a young Hippie chick, full of altruism and Love for her fellow humans. She told us about The Haight Asbury Free Clinic. “If you’re having a bad trip, there’s always someone there to talk you down. For free!” She warned us to use condoms. “There a bad strain of gonorrhea going around.” She was the wide eyed innocent of the Sixties. “We’re starting to find out that heroin is a very addictive drug.” They were also discovering that speed was a “bad drug.”

Next was “The Santana Blues Band.” The crowd suspended belief and got into it. They had a Hammond B3 organ. We could see the fan rotating and cooling the organ. A synthesizer was perched on top. Hippie Dude played some great keyboards.

There were more dancers. Some were musicians waiting their turn onstage. Members of the crowd joined and danced to the Santana rhythms. There was “I Ain’t Got Nobody ... To Depend On,” and the big Woodstock hit, “Soul Sacrifice.”

Backstage was painted black, and you could see the pipes. The background was spare, but even this was authentic. Most Rock halls back then were dingy old theaters or clubs.

The “Santana” bass player went up to the mike. “I want a beer. The guy who hired me said I would get beer.” The “Marty Balin” guy from “Jefferson Airplane” delivered a couple of bottled waters.

“I’m serious. I want a beer.” He picked up a bottled water and gave it a disgusting look. He tossed it over his shoulder. Not everything was peace and love back then. Some beer was finally delivered.

“John Fogerty” joined Santana for a song. A future event by the Summer of Love Revue will feature The Creedence Clearwater Revival.

It was a good show. Most of the musicians were young. They looked to be in their twenties. There were some tribute band veterans. Sure, I would rather see the original musicians from the Sixties, no matter how gray and hoary they are getting, but that hasn’t been happening too often lately. Musicians from the Sixties are getting pretty old. Most of them haven’t been interested in the music of that era for a long time now. They’ve got their own music to do. (“We’ve got a new CD out!”) There’s also my favorite: They can’t remember anything from the Sixties anyway.

Maybe it’s time for younger musicians to take over playing the music of the Sixties. These young musicians were not only playing great, but they were really into the music. I think the older musicians are embarrassed that they still play music from forty years ago.

The musicians rotated and would pop up in different bands through the night. Some struggled with the oversized wigs. They also changed Sixties clothes from band to band. It was a bit comic, but it really was a “full costumed revue.” There were technical problems, especially with the sound. I guess that was authentic too. Was there any big Rock show back then that didn’t have problems with cords, mikes or amps?

After “Santana” there was an intermission. Amateurs behind the bar struggled to keep up with drink orders. There was a jar of free earplugs, just in case.

Across the wooden walkways of Pier 39 was The Eagle Cafe. In its original location, it was a watering hole and social center for longshoreman, dock workers and members of the Merchant Marine. It became a union hall during the labor troubles that hit the waterfront.

When Pier 39 was being planned in the early Seventies The Eagle Cafe was the last business to hold out. The owner wouldn’t sell until he was assured that the bar would be taken apart and reconstructed as part of Pier 39. It was taken apart piece by piece and reassembled at Pier 39. It even had the same wood. The walls were covered with photos of the old days in the bar. It looked a bit out of place on Pier 39, but it was a relic of the past.

A couple of years ago new owners renovated it. They took out most of the old photos and mementoes of a lost time in San Francisco. It was now another “nice” restaurant on Pier 39. At least it was still there. The iconic Cliff House had removed one of the best rooms in San Francisco when they moved the bar away from the windows that looked out on Ocean Beach. You don’t know what you had until it’s gone. I’ll get off my twisted soap box and return to The Sixties.

“Janis” and “Big Brother and The Holding Company” opened the second half of the show. “Janis” was Boudeeka. She was one of the “Janises” in a recent stage play here: “Janis.” The play rotated three women in the Janis role. It’s hard to be Janis three or four nights a week. Boudeeka sounded and acted like Joplin during “Piece of My Heart” and “Down On Me.” She finished with “Bobby McGee,” a popular choice with the crowd.

I’ve seen Janis and Hendrix tribute bands before, but I don’t remember ever seeing a Steppenwolf tribute band. It was different. “John Kaye” had big guitar problems in the beginning. A middle aged guy in a tee shirt rushed around trying to plug him back in. It was just like the old days. In one of the few casting mistakes, the roadie looked too old. “Steppenwolf” had a more Heavy Metal sound to them, especially compared to the positive vibration Sixties sounds of the other bands. They opened with a great “Magic Carpet Ride.” How often do you hear “Sookie Sookie” anymore?

They played the inevitable “Born to Be Wild” and the Baby Boomer crowd loved it. There was more dancing. It was like being in a bar in the old days. Maybe the band wasn’t a big name, but people had a good time. “Heavy Metal Thunder!”

There was a long wait while they got everything ready for “Jimi Hendrix.”

Carleton Powell was “Jimi Hendrix.” His opening stage patter sounded like Hendrix. He opened with “Voodoo Child.” He had the Hendrix moves. He humped the amplifiers with his guitar. He thrashed around, knocking over mike stands. He wasn’t Hendrix but he put on a great show. The Black Panther doorman came in to check out “Hendrix.” “Janis” joined him for the second number: “Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire.” “Jimi” and “Janis” onstage at the same time! It was loud enough that some were using the free ear plugs that were available.

During “Hey Joe” “Hendrix’” guitar strap broke. A middle aged guy came out and struggled to fix it while “Hendrix” played on. It was a bit comic. The older roadie scurried around picking up mike stands. The big finish was “All Along the Watchtower.”

Singers and musicians from the earlier bands danced in front of the stage. More people in the audience were dancing, shaking it. No, it wasn’t the original Rock icons onstage, but this crowd was having fun. With seven acts, the show was long. It was getting late. This was definitely an older Baby Boomer crowd. Some of the crowd had drifted out. I don’t think it was because they were bored. We just don’t stay out that late anymore, but we had to stay to see Shred Zeppelin.

Hernandez came back onstage: “How about Carleton Powell?” Applause. “He really paid his dues.” Hernandez told us the drummer for most of the other bands that night was sixteen years old!

We had been promised a special treat, an encore bonus: Shred Zeppelin! They belted out “Good Times Bad Times.” The singer did sound like Plant! The band rocked. An older drummer was Bonzo, playing the drums.

About half the crowd stayed for Shred Zeppelin. It was a bit bizarre. We found ourselves laughing. “You’re not supposed to laugh.” “Communication Breakdown” Then the big finale: “Whole Lot of Love.”

Would enough tourists pay to see this? There were people in the audience tonight reliving their past. The show could be changed every night. Not only can they do different songs, they can do different bands. Past shows had a Doors segment, which they didn’t do tonight. There will be a “Woodstock Night” in November and a New Year’s Eve Show. If they could get somebody from the Sixties to make a cameo appearance, it would be huge. It was a fun night for us, especially with free tickets.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Paul McCartney Up and Coming Tour

“We should go see McCartney.” My lovely wife Kathy was looking at the San Francisco Chronicle’s Pink Section ads. I thought she was kidding. Our music expeditions lately have been either free or very cheap. She had a hunch this show would be a really big one. There were tickets advertised in the fifty dollar range for “The Up and Coming Tour.” I had to admit I had been craving a Big Rock Show. Music tours and shows were taking a beating in today’s economy. Some tours had been cancelled. I went through the phone tree ordeal and got us two in the third deck. Section VR312.

I was always a Lennon fan, so I hadn’t even considered going. This would be Paul’s first appearance in San Francisco since the last Beatles show ever at Candlestick Park in 1966. Since then he had played in the Bay Area, but not in San Francisco.

Why did I have such a loathing for McCartney? Was it because they shot Lennon and not him? That was hardly fair to Macca. Maybe it was the Lordship thing? It was because of Wings. Lennon may have gone off the deep end sometimes with his revolutionary rhetoric, but most Wings songs made me sick. Kathy pointed out it might be a last chance to see a Beatle. I knew he’d be playing Beatles songs. Well, he did get busted for pot in Japan.

McCartney had just caused a minor stir when he visited the White House. He joked that at least this president would know his way to the library. A Republican politician demanded an apology. Sir Paul ignored his request.

Touring can be aggravating, even for a British Lord. There had been a scary incident near Mexico City. After a show there, the tour bus driver got lost and turned off into an area of town they should not have been in. The bus drew attention and a crowd grew. These weren’t Beatles fans. They probably didn’t know who was inside. It was an impoverished neighborhood and they resented what they thought was a party bus full of rich tourists. They started rocking the bus. Those in the bus said it was a scary moment. Federales intervened.

The day approached and we started to get excited. The show was at AT&T Park, where the Giants played. It was familiar territory and we thought we would have a jump on most of the crowd. We’d get there early, park and stop in one of the local restaurants. The demographic for this show was very similar to the crowds at Giants games. So, we shouldn’t have been too surprised that many had the same idea we had. We did find parking, but the local restaurants were jammed.

On the way to the park we saw two Hippie mamas sitting in their car enjoying a joint. Grandmamas really. They passed it back and forth on a big roach clip, oblivious to any legal repercussions. I thought no cop would really want to mess with these two.

We arrived at the park and there was a big crowd around the gates and in the plaza with the Willie Mays statue. Frank Chu was standing on the corner with his sign detailing intergalactic conspiracies. Another sign told us to: “Fear God.” They were ignored. There was more than the usual Big Rock Show excitement in the air.

It was almost seven o’clock and I heard someone say they had just opened the gates. Everyone got the usual search on the way in, but I noticed there weren’t that many people working the lines. It took about forty minutes to get in. It could have been an ordeal, but this crowd was very polite and orderly. Peace, Love and all that.

We got in and there weren’t many people working security or crowd control. We knew where our seats where, but many did not. This caused logjams of people. A few people giving directions would have been great. It was more obvious cost cutting. I think they counted on the peaceful, more mature Beatles fans to do it on their own.

We made the climb to our seats. We were near the top of the upper deck. It was a long walk up the stairs. There’s an awesome view of the Bay from up there. We could see sailboats and other vessels on the Bay. We couldn’t see the sunset, but the water and clouds were a great sight. We could see clear to the other side of the Bay. It had been unseasonably cold in San Francisco. It was cold, but it wasn’t windy. Most of the crowd was bundled up. AT&T isn’t as windy as Candlestick, but you have to be prepared.

To our left were piers with large shipping docks. There’s not too much shipping that goes on in San Francisco anymore, but the huge dry docks are still used for repairs. If McCartney could see this view would it remind him at all of Liverpool?

We were very high up in Section 312, almost near the top. A light tower blocked our view of the grand piano a little bit. They would be dots from up here anyway. There was the now obligatory big screen above the stage.

A weird Macca party tape played while images from the Sixties rolled on the big video screen. There were 45 RPM record covers, photos of celebrities of the time, lunch boxes, ads for shows, concerts and sock hops. They were relics of a distant past. The items scrolled across a background of what looked like psychedelic wallpaper for a kid’s bedroom. It was very Yellow Submarine. Icons of the Sixties rolled by including Eric Clapton and Frank Zappa! There were even a few bars of Michael Jackson songs in the mix tape. It was strange considering the bitterness after Jocko bought the Beatles’ song rights.

The Union Jack flew next to the American flag in center field. Was it just a friendly gesture, or was this some kind of requirement when a Lord of the Realm was present? A large Coast Guard cutter circled in the water beyond the center field scoreboard. Were they just cruising, or was it a security precaution?

The music tape and the pictures kept circling. There was an hour wait. An opening act would have been nice. Was this another cost cutting measure? It could have been a big gig for someone.

The crowd was like a Giants baseball crowd. There were a few more geezers. Some came huffing and puffing up the stairs to section VR312. Some leaned on canes. Most paused for a breather. A few looked like they might not make it. There’s no other way to say it, some of this crowd is elderly. There were family groups. The parents were taking their kids to see a Beatle. They were passing the torch and hoping the kids could experience some Sixties magic.

It’s finally show time and the band takes the stage. They open with a couple of Wings songs. “Venus and Mars/Rock Show.” (I’ve listed the Wings song titles from the San Francisco Chronicle account.) “Jet.” The band does sound great. The response of the crowd shows there are obviously many Wings fans in attendance.

Paul is in a Nehru style tuxedo. He works the crowd a bit. He says it’s his first time here since the Candlestick Show. “We couldn’t hear ourselves. Everyone was screaming then,” and on cue there is a chorus of female screams. “Now they have these loud things.”

Macca says he “wants to take this all in” and walks around the front of the stage looking at the cheering crowd. “We have to do all these things up here,” like play the chords and remember the words. He says it can be hard, especially with all the distracting signs in the crowd. He reads one: “Remember me from Cow Palace 64?” Paul laughs, but then he says, “Oh yeah, I remember you now.”

It’s the first Beatles song of the night: “All My Loving” and just like that, it’s all worth it. The song brings a flood of memories for most of the crowd. Over forty years ago. This song came out before they were condemned by many after Lennon said they were bigger than Jesus. It was before they smoked pot with Dylan. Before LSD. It was before Paul died. It was before the Maharishi. It was before they sent Charles Manson messages on The White Album. Paul might have been “the cute one,” but he’d survived some weird scenes.

There was some animation of the Fab Four on the video screens. I assume it’s from The Beatles’ version of Rock Band. It looked a little creepy as they bounced around in the background.

Rusty Anderson plays lead guitar on most numbers. He looks familiar and I learn later he also toured with Ozzy. Brian Ray switches on and off with Paul. If Paul puts on the bass, he puts on a guitar. If Paul plays guitar, he fills in on bass.

“All My Loving” really cranks everything up a notch. It reminded me how in the old days bands would play a Beatles song in their set, especially if things weren’t going well. A Beatles song at least livened things up a bit, and many times it saved the night.

There was another Wings song, “Letting Go" and Paul says, “We thought it would be hot here.” It was amusing to think of Sir Paul making the stereotypical San Francisco tourist mistake. He said he didn’t bring his overcoat, “I’m keeping the jacket on. This kind of weather builds character.”

He looks great, spry and energetic. He is sixty-eight and his hair is dyed, but he still has the Beatle charm. Sometimes he looks like a bloke just going out for a good time. It’s also obvious he’s enjoying playing for a live audience.

“Got to Get You Into My Life” is another Beatles Rocker. There are no horns, but keyboardist Paul Wickens fills those in with his synthesizer. Every Beatle song takes us back. The nostalgia fest is on!

The band starts “Highway.” There’s feedback and the piano squawks, out of control. Paul stops the band. “It would be easier if this was on tape. This is LIVE!” Paul is always the crafty entertainer. He makes light of the technical problems. They’re going to happen. At the end of “Highway” he breaks into the riff from “Foxy Lady.”

Paul takes a seat at the piano. He talks about Jimi Hendrix. It was a privilege to have known and played with him. “Hendrix was a nice guy. He was shy.”

He tells a story about Hendrix and the release of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. “We always released on a Friday back then.” That Sunday Paul went to see Hendrix play in a London club. Hendrix opened the show by playing Sgt. Pepper’s. It was an amazing tribute.

“Back then we had whammy bars,” Paul tells us. Using the whammy bars would knock the strings around and put the guitar out of tune. Hendrix was looking for Clapton. “Is Eric here?” he asked the crowd that night, “I want him to come up and tune my guitar.” Paul says Clapton hid.

There’s not too many that can tell a story like that. It made me think of all the scenes McCartney had seen.

“The Long and Winding Road”

I didn’t realize you could see the lights of the Oakland Coliseum from VR312. I thought the lights came from some industrial docks. I was only sure it was The Coliseum after I saw the lights of the large electronic marquee in front of the stadium through binoculars. It was fireworks night. So we did get an extra fireworks show. There were tiny dots in the sky across the Bay.

“Nineteen-Hundred and Eighty-Five.” “Let ‘Em In.” I’m starting to squirm a bit. There are too many Wings songs. Maybe Paul is too good of a songwriter. He writes peppy and happy, positive songs. They stay in your head like commercial jingles.

“Here’s for the Wings fans,” “My Love.” Yuck.

“I’m Looking Through You.” I remember listening to this and the rest of Rubber Soul. We had a copy we listened to so many times it turned white.

Paul dons an acoustic for “Two of Us.” Maybe most of the Wings songs are behind us!

Paul says they were aware of the Civil Rights conflicts going on in America at the time. He said they wrote "Blackbird” to send some kind of encouragement to the people in the struggle. This would have been pretentious for almost anybody else. “Things are better today,” Paul says and it sounds a bit ironic in the Bay Area. There had been tension in the East Bay after the Mehersle verdict a week ago. There were few Black people in this crowd. Tiny dots of light swirl around on the screen behind the band. They spin around and coalesce into the head of Obama.

They do Paul’s tribute to John Lennon, “Here Today.” It’s what Paul never had a chance to say to Lennon. I’m sure they were mates for a long time. It’s hard to imagine what it was like to be a Beatle. We thought it had to be the greatest thing ever. We didn’t know The Beatles were trapped. It’s been a long time since Lennon was killed. Maybe it’s my bitterness that he’s been gone so long, but the song left me feeling flat.

Back to more Wings with “Dance Tonight” and “Mrs. Vanderbilt.”

They play “San Francisco Bay Blues.” It’s a nice touch and a great sentimental favorite here, with a great view of the San Francisco Bay in front of us!

Paul talks about George Harrison. He still misses him. “Not many people knew that George was a great ukulele player.” They often played ukuleles together. He asks the crowd to look skyward and say Hello to George and everybody does. They play George’s signature song, “Something.”

“Sing the Changes” “Band on the Run.” How many Wings songs are there?

Paul says they’re playing the next song for the first time in San Francisco. “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La Da” Wait a minute, aren’t almost all of these songs “the first time in San Francisco?” Most of them are being played for the first time in America.

The drummer doesn’t have much to do on a couple of songs. He’s a large Black man, Abe Laboriel. The few times he’s not needed he grabs a tambourine and sings along with great enthusiasm.

“Back in the USSR” One of the expected highlights. The band sounds great, and they do a great job on the Beach Boys harmonies. The crowd rocks out. It’s hot enough on stage by now that the big jacket Paul wore is now gone. At the end Paul raises his bass over his head in triumph, exactly like he did with The Beatles.

Paul talked about playing Russia a couple of years ago. The Beatles grew up in the Cold War era and never imagined visiting Russia, never mind playing Red Square. He met the Russian Minister of Defense. “He was younger than me!” Many in Russia learned English by listening to Beatles records. Paul is glad and honored this happened. Another high ranking Russian official told Paul, “I learned English by listening to your records! Hello Goodbye!”

They do a great version of “I’ve Got a Feeling.” The band gets to let loose.

“You may wonder why we change guitars so often up here... We’re showing off!” There’s a reason for bringing this guitar out for this song, it’s the guitar Paul played when they recorded the next song: “Paperback Writer!”

“A Day In the Life.” To me it sounds eerie, especially in the beginning. It’s more drama for Beatles fans. Did they ever do this one live? Anywhere? They tack on a little bit of “Give Peace a Chance” at the end and the crowd sings along.

Paul goes back to the piano for “Let It Be” a song many have been waiting for. It’s a moving moment. How many times has Paul played this? He knows how much it means to the fans who have paid to come out and see him. It’s like the first time we heard it.

Fire pots onstage explode to start, “Live and Let Die.” It’s still hard to believe this one was covered by Axl Rose. The band rocks and we get a much closer look at our second fireworks show of the night. Are we getting near the end? Paul is shaking his head and has a smug look on his face. No, it’s not going to end like this. There’s much more to come.

A smaller piano is brought center stage for “Hey Jude” The crowd is already singing, but Paul leads them in a sing along. Macca calls for just the men to sing and does some exaggerated macho posturing. Come on guys, loosen up. The women do sound louder, but the men do sing.

They leave the stage for a short time and the cigarette lighters come out. They come back with “Day Tripper.” Paul goes back to the piano onstage and rips into “Lady Madonna.”

The piano revolts before the next song. “It’s gone crazy,” Paul says and goes back to the baby grand. “I like this one better anyway.”

“Do you want more?” Paul asks. The crowd does seem to be fading. McCartney and the band seem to be gaining energy. It’s amazing, considering his age. It dawned on me. No wonder. This isn’t the original Paul! The Walrus really was dead! If this was the second cloned “fake” Paul, he was still quite the trooper. Even the second Paul has been around for over forty years. The crowd cheers when they recognize “Get Back” They’re really churning them out now.

They leave the stage again, and come out for a second encore. Paul names some of “the greatest crew in the world.” We don’t know how much goes into a production like this, he tells us. I don’t think he ever named those in the band. “Believe it or not, we have a pyrotechnician named Shakey!”

It was a Saturday night, but big outdoor shows get complaints by the NIMBYs in all parts of San Francisco. Even a Lord of the Realm has to answer to the dread Entertainment Commission. Eleven o’clock is the usual witching hour for big outdoor shows at AT&T Park, but the show went on.

I found myself wondering what’s left? What have they not played? How could I forget? “Yesterday.” I remember hearing it on TV that first time on Ed Sullivan. I was suspicious because it wasn’t a Rocker, but knew it would be a huge hit. It was another song many had come out to hear.

Next was one of the big surprises of the night: “Helter Skelter.” The screens behind the stage showed animated roller coaster footage. Just in case anyone thought the song was about leading a violent overthrow of civilization with dune buggies. This song reminds us that The Beatles were a great Rock and Roll band.

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” We can feel things winding down. The band plays a great version of “The End” the jam that ends Abbey Road. They do a great version on a song most of this crowd knows note for note. Abe Laboriel plays great drums.

It’s been a long show with many Beatles hits. The crowd does seem to be pretty well spent. They do the last lines of “The End,” “The love you get is equal to the love you make.” The crowd is happy, upbeat and buzzing as they walk down the catwalks on the way out.

Local political columnists Mattier & Ross reported there were only three phone calls complaining about the McCartney show. Two were from the same guy saying it was too loud. The third was from a woman sitting on her deck complaining that it wasn’t loud enough.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Alice's Summerthing

It had been cold, gray and windy all week. Sunday was a glorious sunny day and even a bit warm. We blew off some World Cup drama and got outside. There was a free music event in Golden Gate Park, Alice’s Summerthing. It was being run by radio station Alice, 97.3 on your dial. It was music we usually didn’t listened to. We never listen to that station. but figured we would walk there and see some birds on the way.

We saw an ad with a list of the bands. We’d never heard of any of them. This would be a great chance to catch up with what some of the kids are listening to. I kept thinking of the Zappa line: The kids and their music are really where it’s at.

We’d be entering unknown territory for us. Alice played today’s version of Middle of the Road Rock. The kind of music that I would usually jab the dial to change the station as quickly as possible. It was a free event. Why not give it a chance? It was an event we hadn’t gone to before. It might not be a whole new subculture we were discovering here, but it would at least be different from the events we usually go to.

It was late in the season for birding. Most migrants had left. Veteran bird watchers said it was one of the worst spring seasons for seeing migrants. We’ve been to other events in Golden Gate Park and most birds flee the events with big crowds, but there always seemed to be hawks around. We’d seen them circle large Bluegrass Festival crowds. They seemed at least oblivious to the crowds and noise below. It almost seemed like they enjoyed it.

Alice’s Summerthing is held at Speedway Meadows, the site of free shows in the Sixties. We parked by the buffalo paddock. A recent article in The Examiner said they were thinking of adding some buffalo to the herd there. The ones in the paddock are getting old and the herd needs some new blood.

We knew the route from the buffalo paddock to Speedway, but we took a small detour to the area around the Polo fields. On the fields there were a couple of Soccer matches going on. These players must be hard core to be out here during The World Cup. They were missing Argentina vs. Mexico.

Many locals don’t even know there are stables near the Polo Fields. They’re slated for demolition. I remember reading about it, but can’t remember exactly why they have to be torn down. We saw some swallows zipping around the now shuttered stables.

There had been a section of concrete stands that had been erected almost a hundred years ago. It had been demolished and removed. A neighborhood group had protested, saying they had some historic value. I’d found the stands fascinating. They were a link to another time when the Polo Fields had actually been polo fields. They had been falling apart and were now gone.

The San Francisco Police Department have stables for their mounted Golden Gate Park patrols here. God knows what sights they see out here. I’m sure there must be tense situations in this stretch of the Park. Besides looking for miscreants, the mounted patrols of San Francisco’s finest have provided many great photo opportunites for the tourists.

We spotted some swallows and some interesting looking doves on a wire outside of the SFPD stables. A female officer came out of the stables. She seemed friendly, but I had a touch of the old paranoia. Was she going to chase us away? “Are you bird watchers?” she yelled. We must really look the type now. The binoculars may have given us away. Did she think we were spying?

She invited us in to see a sparrow’s nest inside the stables. We plunged into the belly of the beast. It was a police facility. It was nice of the female officer to call us in. “I’m going back to eat,” she told us. The nest was in the back, near a horse walking area. A pair of adult barn swallows landed on a fence near the nest and kept a wary eye on us. They are colorful birds.

We snooped around the stables a bit on our way out. There was a small room with trophies and photos of past mounted patrol officers. I was tempted to ask if the police stables were also slated for demolition. On our way out we saw our host officer was watching the last half of Mexico vs. Argentina. It looked like the end for Mexico.

We went farther on a path surrounded by eucalyptus trees. The trees almost created a tunnel. The music from Alice’s Summerthing came through the trees. We heard hawks screeching overhead. One flew into the trees. We saw at least four of them. We got a great look at them perched overhead. They looked like juveniles. They were screeching at each other and flying around. They put on a good show. The music coming from Alice’s Summerthing sounded good and had some psychedelic edge. It did sound a bit like the Jefferson Airplane.

We later found out it was One Eskimo. Later research revealed they were “a shoe-gazer band” from England. The chorus had the word “Baby” over and over. At home I did the inevitable YouTube search. The first hit was on their song, “Kandi” and it did use the word baby over and over. It must be their big hit. I would have listened to more of them, but found myself imagining how cool it would be if The Jefferson Airplane were on the other side of the eucalyptus.

We turned the corner and left the relative tranquility of the eucalyptus path. A huge banner told us we were entering “Generation Alice.” The crowd stretched across Speedway Meadow. The field was pretty well filled up with the only apparent spots way in the back. People had already been camped out for a while. We’d missed the first act, Thriving Ivory. It was hard to guesstimate how big the crowd was. I’ll say 40,000. We walked around a little and settled down on the left side, far from the stage. This spot was all right with us.

It was one of the most laid back crowds I’ve been in, and young! There were a few geezers, but most of this crowd was college age, even younger. Many of the older people looked like they were acting as chaperones. It was a change from the Baby Boomer crowd at events we usually went to. We’re teeny boppers again.

They were giving away many free samples. This was a great marketing opportunity. I suspect the Alice radio station is just one big marketing opportunity. There was a booth handing out hand and face cream as we entered. This is the demographic that makes them drool. Booths along the side of the crowd passed out swag to the young attendees.

The next act was “American Idol winner, Kris Allen!” Young girls in the crowd screamed. It was a bit Beatlesque. I hadn’t heard female screaming like that since Rod Stewart. Well OK, Chris Isaac. I hate American Idol and braced for the worst. It might be tough to make it through this one. Kris Allen had some kind of star thing going and the first song wasn’t bad.

I recognized some lines from the second song. It sounded vaguely familiar. Kathy figured it out! It was “Gangster Paradise” the song by Coolio that Weird Al parodied in “Amish Paradise.”

“Can’t Stay Away From You” “The Truth” “It’s All Right”

My attention wandered. I took a walk up the left side of the crowd. There were booths with more freebies: Pop-chips. Fruit snacks. Diet Dr. Pepper, and ONLY Diet Dr. Pepper! There was a big VIP area with a few people inside the tented barricades.

People in the crowd closer to the stage were standing. There was a backstage VIP area. About ten people were hanging out near the stage exit in there. They were patiently waiting for the winner of American Idol to leave the stage.

Kris Allen said it was it was the one year anniversary of Michael Jackson’s passing. (The exact date was the day before.) To commemorate this event, they would perform “Man In the Mirror” with everyone singing along. Some people did sing along. It wasn’t exactly a tearjerker. I had to hide the snide.

On the way back I passed a couple of tables where they were passing out excess food from the VIP buffet. It was a nice touch. We had a great Cuban pulled pork sandwich among other goodies. Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch? I’m still not going to listen to their radio station.

Another passable song, “Live Like You’re Dying” and then they do the Beatles’ “Come Together.” Was it a nod to the parents and chaperones in the crowd?

“I don’t get this demographic.” I was just kidding, but we usually weren’t around this kind of crowd. “There are no tattoos,” K noted. That’s it. On any walk around San Francisco you’d see more tattoos than all the freak shows in the Midwest combined used to have. There were very few illustrated people here today. There were many kids and family groups. Fun for the whole family!

It’s Dork Rock. These are all the good kids. I assumed most of the crowd were college students. There were many Asian fans. I wondered how much of the crowd had been drawn by the American Idol connection. I smelled a little weed, but there wasn’t much smoking and drinking going on. There was an ID station to get wristbands to buy beer and drinks. The drinking area was across the meadow and we never did make it over there.

There were some big banners informing us that Bud Lite was a sponsor. So, Bud Lite sponsors this, but Budweiser has pulled out of sponsoring The San Francisco Blues Festival. I’m sure it makes sense for their marketing purposes, but WTF?

The last band would be Lifehouse. A tape played of Alice 97.3’s “Alice Generation” sounds. It was largely peppy party music. At least there was some good synthesizer. Oh my God, am I getting soft?

There were some weirdos on the crowd. A young guy with a whiff was wearing a black fedora and had on a tee shirt that said: “Lucky Fuck.” Does he have to advertise it?

It was a long wait before Lifehouse. “What do you think they’ll play first?” a young teen age girl behind us asked her friends. That’s what we used to do. She had the excitement of going to the Big Rock Show. We still get excited, but we hadn’t expected much today. I was losing patience, then they played the big Lady Gaga hit. Now this I can understand. A Big Beat and a lot of hype. I was a bit annoyed when it was cut short by the introductions for Lifehouse.

The first half of the crowd stood in the opening excitement. Many stood throughout. Kris Allen and his band had looked very clean cut. These guys reminded me of Rockers from the Seventies. They looked more like a Rock band. The guitar player sported a big Ourobous tattoo, the coiled snake. They acted a bit more like Rock Stars. They looked older than their fans. The bass player had a weak combover. They reminded me of bands that banged around in the Seventies. Not having huge success, but living the road life. The hair was shorter, and the music more Pop, but it was the same kind of act. I’ll assume Lifehouse makes some money.

They did a song called “Nerve Damage” and then “Take Me Away.” They rocked, but they didn’t cross the line into reckless abandon. They had all the stage moves down. It might have been a little too rehearsed. They looked like real professionals. I wondered what they did backstage. I had no reason to, but I imagined them being total louts, terrorizing their young fans.

One song had a long bass run at the beginning. I thought it sounded like the beginning of Alice Cooper’s “Dead Babies.” They sounded good, and their fans were digging it, but I was still looking for something with a little bit more edge. I hadn’t expected to find at it something named “Alice’s Summerthing.”

A few of their songs were obvious popular anthems for Generation Z and/or “The Millennial Generation.” The guitar player raised his fist and held it in the air, like the Black Power salute at the ’68 Olympics. Many in the crowd returned the salute.

It was time to leave. This would be a “dumb” crowd. They would be confused and have a hard time getting out of Golden Gate Park. It would probably be a big traffic jam. We wanted to get a head start on this crowd. We made our way back up the sidewalk on stage right and got a last glimpse of the spectacle. We had a laugh when we ran into our next door neighbors. Still making the scene. It wasn’t my kind of music, but it had turned out to be another great afternoon in Golden Gate Park.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Conversation with T Bone Burnett

A Conversation with T Bone Burnett. April 23. Saturday Night. Sundance Kabuki. Presented by the San Francisco International Film Festival.

I arrived early. I’ve worked at the Festival, so I know what they mean with the warning on the back of the tickets. “Ticket holders must arrive 15 minutes prior to show time to be guaranteed a seat.” “Get your seat,” I’d been advised earlier.

On the way in I spotted staff waiting for the man to arrive. There were some staff people in the audience, a sure sign that this should be a special event. Jeannette Etheridge, the owner of The Tosca Cafe in North Beach was in a group of VIPS in reserved seats.

T Bone Burnett had just won an Oscar for Best Original Song, “The Weary Kind” from “Crazy Heart.” He also had to be celebrating Jeff Bridges’ Best Actor Oscar.

They played some T Bone Burnett tunes while we waited, among them “Zombie Land” and “Fear Country.” I’d been lucky to catch Burnett play at The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. It wasn’t expected that he would play tonight.

We’re in the big theater. This is the same room where I saw Rock shows before The Kabuki was converted to a movie theater. I saw Iggy in this room. There were great Tubes New Year’s Eve shows here. The configuration is much the same, but it’s a movie theater now. It’s redecorated and certainly more sedate. There are large Japanese fans on the wall. It’s the biggest theater in Sundance Kabuki and is used for the bigger events.

Deputy Director Steven Jenkins gave a short introduction. There was a short description of Burnett’s musical accomplishments. A complete listing of the records and the artists he’s produced and appeared with would be too long to repeat. “We’d be here all night.” “Take a good look at your favorite CDs.” There’s a good chance T Bone Burnett was involved. Burnett worked on the Coen brothers’ “O Brother Where Art Thou?” movie soundtrack. The hit movie gave “Roots” Americana music a big boost.

Jenkins thanks some people and sponsors. He also thanks his brother Larry. Larry is in Burnett's management team and helped talk him into appearing tonight. Elvis Mitchell will act as MC. He’s a film critic from Detroit. He hosts a public radio show, The Treatment.

Burnett and Elvis Mitchell come onstage to big applause. “Oscar winner T Bone Burnett!” Elvis is a Black man with dreads in a ponytail. Burnett is in a suit coat and dress shirt. I really didn’t notice until later, but he wasn’t wearing sun glasses. There would be no Roy Orbison look tonight. There are two chairs and a small table onstage.

Elvis starts by saying that Burnett is one of the few people who was directed by Bob Dylan. Burnett says that playing in the Rolling Thunder Revue with Dylan was “his first gig.” The tour was filmed and released as “Renaldo and Clara.” “Did anyone see ‘Renaldo and Clara’?” A show of hands reveals that over half of this audience has seen it. Burnett is surprised. “I told you these were your people,” Elvis tells him.

So, what was it like being directed by Bob Dylan? Burnett talks about Dylan’s directing style. Everything was improvised. Dylan would choose a few actors and a location. “You’re going to have a scene with her.” There were no lines, and that’s all the direction they got. It was like the tour. “We were winging everything.”

Burnett says the tour was great. Every night was different. The music performances were better than the film. “Joni Mitchell would come out and sing a song by herself. Then she’d play one with Dylan.” “Then someone like Rambling Jack Elliot” would join them onstage. The combinations of musicians and songs changed every night.

Burnett said he never saw “Renaldo and Clara.” “Oh wait!” He was at a meeting with Japanese investors who were shown an eight hour version. They were puzzled and didn’t invest.

Burnett says that despite his sometimes gruff manner, Dylan was great to work with. “Directors can be stubborn. Isn’t that right, Jeannette?” The owner of The Tosca Cafe in North Beach gets a mention from onstage. I’ve heard that Burnett stops in there when he’s in town.

Elvis says the sound track for The Big Lebowski is underrated. How did it get started? “We were very stoned,” Burnett says. The director, Joel Coen, had great musical taste. “We started with Beefheart and went from there.”

The room goes dark for some clips on the big screen. The first clip is from “O Brother Where Art Thou?” It’s the scene where they’re recording “Man of Constant Sorrow.” Burnett says we’re too used to hearing those old songs with scratches in the sound. “We wanted the music to sound new. It can’t sound old and scratchy. It’s always now in movies.” He says George Clooney can sing, but in the end they had it dubbed. There’s a clip from “Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood.”

What were the films that influenced him to make music for movies? “Gilda” and “American Graffiti,” especially “American Graffiti.” “It changed the way music was used in movies.”

Burnett talks about editing. It’s hard to explain. You work on it and work on it, and suddenly it’s there. He compares it to being a sculptor. He cut fifteen minutes from “Crazy Heart” and then realized it was done. “It was just there.”

They go back to “The Big Lebowski” soundtrack. “We wanted to get that guy who did the strange instrumentals in the Fifties. Who was that guy?” Someone from the crowd suggests Martin Denny. Yeah, that guy! Elvis says, “Yes, it’s a very knowledgeable audience.”

They talk about “Stone Mountain.” The director was Anthony Mighela. Burnett: “You can’t understand this country unless you understand The Civll War.” Elvis: “So, you were interpreting it for him?” Right! Burnett talks about Civil War songs. Most of them were bloody. “Both sides would go back to their campfires and sing. ‘We killed a thousand of them today. Just wish it was more.’” It was real righteous God is on our side stuff.

“The Folk process takes place over years.” “The guy we call Homer was the result of three hundred years of different singers and storytellers in Greece.” “I want to be a story teller.”

Elvis asks Burnett about the “Gothic ethos of the South.” Some of his music is Gothic, “Like the South.” Yes, Burnett is from there. He grew up in North Texas. Texas is a little Gothic. New Orleans is very Gothic. Burnett says it’s a good place to be from.
We see some more clips on the big screen. In the “Walk the Line” clip Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) plays a Rock and Roll number. The young audience starts rocking. Everyone starts to realize that Cash will be a big star. After the clip, Burnett comments that Johnny Cash had a unique way of holding the guitar. Phoenix had a hard time duplicating it.

Another clip from the movie is Reese Witherspoon singing “Wildwood Flower.” “Wildwood Flower is the song everyone learns guitar on,” Burnett says. The song is familiar to many and Witherspoon had a hard time doing the song. At one point she left the studio. “I heard doors banging shut.” She went outside and screamed. Burnett went out and told her to just sing the song as if she was with a baby and singing a lullaby and no one else was there. It worked and Witherspoon nailed it. Burnett’s comment, “You can conquer worlds with enthusiasm,” draws applause.

Johnny Cash was intense. Burnett tells a story about a fellow band member who had borrowed an expensive Martin guitar from “Brian.” Cash saw it and asked, “Is that Brian’s guitar?” Yeah, he was told. Cash pulled out a key and put a big scratch on it. This left the band member in a spot. How could he return it now? He didn’t confront Cash.

We see a clip from “Lady Killers” and there’s another clip from “Crazy Heart.” It’s the scene where Colin Farrell sneaks onstage behind Bridges’ character, Bad Blake, to make a surprise cameo appearance. The crowd erupts when they see the Country and Western heartthrob. Bad thinks the adulation is aimed at him. When he sees the Colin character he figures out quickly that the excited applause and cheers were not meant for him. He looks a bit disappointed, but continues the song.

We’re shown a great version of “Strawberry Fields” from “Across the Universe.”

In a clip from “Cold Mountain,” a group of cowpokes are sitting around the campfire singing. It’s quiet and a bit ominous. One of them figures out that it could be his last night on earth. He’ll soon be dead. He starts singing anyway.

“The guitar was an anachronism. There just weren’t that many guitars in the Old West back then. They used banjoes and harmonicas.”

Jeff Bridges liked to work with first time directors. “He just likes it.” It has cost him in the past. “Jeff Bridges survived being in a Michael Cimino movie,” Elvis cracks. Bridges and the lead character from Crazy Heart “have much biographical in common.” They both went through frustrations and disappointments. “He couldn’t be Leonard Cohen. He couldn’t be Bob Dylan. He couldn’t be David Allan Coe.”

Every song has to have something to do with the story. The music can’t just be a diversion anymore. It has to have something to do with the story. Each song must move the story. Burnett compares the making of Crazy Heart to the story of Excalibur. “We just pulled the sword from the stone.”

The conversation keeps going back to influences. Was Elvis Presley a big influence on Burnett? No, Burnett says, “I missed Elvis... I was into Ralph Stanley and Jimmy Reed.” When he saw Elvis on “that TV show” “The “Comeback Special,” he was “Elvisized.”

What movies do you first remember the music from? What was your first movie music memory? Burnett says it was “Gilda.” He had been learning guitar and realized Rita Hayworth wasn’t close to forming any chords on her guitar. Burnett figured he could do better. Elvis Mitchell says the first movie music experience he can remember was “Cat Ballou.” In one scene they used a banjo that didn’t have any strings on it.

Burnett says that years ago people didn’t know as much about how music was made. “Now with MTV and Youtube, people know more about the mechanics of someone playing music.” In the past it was easier to fake it. Any lip synch that was even close was accepted. The actor’s musical motions didn’t have to make sense.

We see some more clips. They show the song mentioned from “Gilda.” Rita Hayworth sings and plays guitar. There’s a clip from “To Have and Have Not.” Hoagy Carmichael plays piano and Lauren Bacall joins him on “Am I Blue?” “There’s a lot going on in that scene.” Conspirators are lurking and “Bacall is trying to seduce Bogart.” “Hoagy wrote one of the greatest songs, 'Stardust.'" Elvis Mitchell says that Lauren Bacall’s voice was dubbed by Andy Williams in the movie.

We see a rare clip of Elvis Presley in “Loving You.” “This is one of the last looks at the ‘real’ Elvis. He still wore blue jeans!” Elvis is performing onstage in a small theater. Most of the crowd are teenyboppers, but there are some middle aged frumpy chaperones who show their disapproval. Elvis works his magic. Even the chaperones are won over and rocking by the song’s end. It is Elvis in his prime. The lights come back on. Elvis Mitchell says, “I’m a Black man named Elvis, but I’m not going to try that.”

The influences question comes up again. “I liked ‘One Eyed Jacks,’” Burnett says. “Marlon Brando was great in that.” “And ‘Giant... There was so much going on in that movie.”

Burnett says, “I’m not at my top game tonight.” He did sound a bit hoarse. Maybe he was a bit under the weather. “You’re doing great!” Mitchell assures him and the audience agrees.

It’s time for questions from the audience. “Would you collaborate with Ry Cooder? A lot of what you do sounds like Ry Cooder.”

“Don’t let him hear you say that!” Burnett says quickly. (Cooder has accused some, especially The Rolling Stones, of borrowing from his work.) Burnett praises Cooder, and says he’d love to work with him, but says it’s unlikely.

The next person doesn’t really have a question. He says he wants to give something to Burnett. A vinyl record is brought onstage. Does Burnett remember it? “I made this when I first got to L.A.” We couldn’t see the record. Burnett says he’ll autograph it. “It’s going on E-Bay,” Mitchell cracks.

What movie really inspired him to make music for movies? Burnett mentions “American Graffiti” again. Another film that influenced him was “The Last Picture Show.” “It was shot in North Texas, where I’m from... Before I escaped and joined the smart people in California.” Burnett talks about “the water tank scene.” In the scene three characters are hanging out on top of a water tank. The camera slowly pans across the desolate landscape. It’s in black and white. Ben Johnson says, “Isn’t it beautiful?” Burnett again says he’s glad he escaped Texas.

Burnett says you could always hear the drone of B-52s from the nearby air base. They were always circling the area. He “recently learned” that bombing sorties were flown from there during the Vietnam War. The planes would refuel somewhere over the Pacific, drop the bombs in Vietnam and then come back to Fort Worth.

Question: Why wasn’t Colin Farrell in the advertising for “Crazy Heart?”

If they used Farrell’s name in the advertising, it would be very similar to the clip we saw where Colin comes onstage behind “Bad.” The film makers were afraid that if Colin Farrell was mentioned in the advertising, it would have sent the wrong message. “It would have become a Colin Farrell movie. We didn’t want that to happen.”

Question: Can you tell us about the album you just made with Willie Nelson? “Fantastic! Willie is the best!” Burnett says they tried to bring Willie in to help promote the soundtrack for “Crazy Heart.” The studio executives said they couldn’t see how Willie Nelson could help sell Country and Western music. Everyone has a good laugh at that one. “Idiots!”

“Does anyone remember the song 'Glow Little Glowworm'" by Johnny Mercer?” Burnett asks. He says again that the Folk process takes place over time. “Bob Dylan is the Homer of our time!”

Question: Was he influenced by the “Bonny and Clyde” movie? “Yeah, I should have been there!” Burnett says. He wishes he had done it. He loves Peter Bogdanovich, “Especially that movie he made in North Texas, ‘Paper Moon.’” Maybe Burnett is a little under the weather, but he corrects his mistake. “Bonnie and Clyde” was made by Arthur Penn. “You can’t do chase scenes anymore,” Burnett says. “Bonny and Clyde” had the best combination of music and chase scenes. “It doesn’t make sense to try and do them better.”

Elvis Mitchell asks: How about “Deliverance?” Did Burnett like it? “You had to like Ronny Cox playing live.” Burnett didn’t like it. He feels the music was “co-opted” or “bastardized.” “I loved Ralph Stanley and Bill Munroe.” “The music was used.”

There’s a question from the back. It’s a young woman with a heavy French accent. “First of all, thanks for not wearing zee glasses. You look very elegant and dreamy.” Was her question going to be what hotel he’s staying at? “How did you get so beeg in Texas?” A few audience members laugh. Burnett rolls his eyes. “I spent a lot of time by myself in Texas.”

Question: What kind of musical education does he have? “Did you go to school for this?” Burnett says he has no formal musical education. “It was fifty years of listening.” He was lucky because his parents were big music fans and had a great collection of 78s including Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. “I remember listening to 'Begin the Beguine.’ That was one of my favorites. Does anybody remember that song, ‘Naughty Lady of Shady Lane?’”

Time is up. The conversation has covered a wide range of music and film history. The two get up to leave the stage to a standing ovation.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Timothy B Schmit at the Great American Music Hall

Peter B. Schmit at the Great American Music Hall 12/13/2009

We got the call. Any interest in using tickets for Sunday night’s Great American Music Hall? Sure! It was a good excuse for a night out. Who’s playing? One of the Eagles. The bass player, Timothy B. Schmit, was doing a show to promote his new CD.

We showed up early. We had dinner tickets and the web site said to be there at 6:30. We stood in line with some excited Eagles fans. They talked about Eagles shows they’d been to. There was some kind of mixup and the doors didn’t open until 7:40. If we’d known what was going on, we’d just have gone somewhere and come back, but no one explained anything. The staff seemed to be avoiding the front door area. Two guys carrying instrument cases showed up, and pounded on the front door until someone finally answered. Great. Now we’ll probably have to wait for a sound check.

We finally entered the venerable building. It’s great to go to this storied club. It’s ornately decorated with Baroque flourishes and Rococo furnishings. This room has a great history. There are friezes in the ceiling and a big chandelier. It was built to be THE place for extravagant night life and entertainment in old San Francisco. Sally Rand of fan dance fame was one of the first owners. You can just tell there where some wild nights here. It’s a temple to San Francisco nightlife of the past. There are stories that staff members have heard and seen a ghost who wanders the club after closing.

Prohibition worked out all right for the Great American Music Hall, and it was popular with servicemen during World War II, but things change. The place did fall on hard times during the Fifties. It was a bordello at one time. It was a restaurant for a while, but that eventually closed and the building was abandoned. The building was condemned by The City, but it was saved by the Rock and Roll club that opened there in 1972.

Tonight there will be tables on the dance floor. They expect a more laid back, older audience. It’s a small, but enthusiastic crowd. The balcony will be closed tonight. It is a Sunday night. It looks like there are a lot of comp tickets for family and friends in attendance.

The opening act is Jim Bruno. He plays acoustic guitar and is accompanied by John Koontz on mandolin and guitar. They’re the guys who were trying to get into the club earlier. It’s a small but vocal crowd that greets Bruno with applause and cheers. They’re definitely fans. The music is crisp and the sound is great.

“Blue Love”

“Here’s a song of regret,” Bruno says, “We Were Blind.”

“California Rain” “A Matter of Time”

A couple of years ago Bruno read about Ray Davies getting shot in New Orleans. Ray had witnessed a purse snatching and played the good samaritan. He chased the guy and got shot for his trouble. What is this world coming to? Bruno thought when he heard the news. Ray Davies getting shot! So he wrote a song about it: “Ray Took a Slug in the Leg.”

Bruno invites everyone to a songwriting event he performs at. It’s at Biscuits and Blues on Wednesday night.

“We’ll Always Remember Tonight” “I Do It For You”

All the songs are on the new CD (On sale at a table in the back!) except the last one. Bruno is the opening act and only gets about a half hour onstage. He and Koontz give us a great warm up.

We had the dinner package. We had to chase down a waitress to get our order in. The upside with the dinner package is that you get to go in first and get the best seats. A couple of staff guys kept the seats reserved. The food was great, but it was a little awkward eating at the small cocktail tables.

A couple joined us. Mike and Kathy risked the wrath of staff by entering the green “dinner ticket” zone. They had good timing. They were a nice couple and big Eagles fans. Mike wondered about some of the great shows here the past, “Can you imagine seeing the Grateful Dead here?” It is a bit mind boggling. I wondered how they fit everyone onstage.

Its time for the main attraction: Timothy B. Schmit. We can see a good Rock setup: Drums, keyboards and a lot of guitars. He gets a great greeting from the crowd.

He reminds me of Jorma. He has very long hair and wears blue jeans. This guy has to have a lot of touring miles on him, but he still has a youthful look.

“I’m from Sacramento,” Schmit tells us. “This is what we used to call ‘going to the City.’”

“Stir the Wind” “Friday Night” Song titles are an approximation.

Schmit has a wry sense of humor. “I’m the guy who isn’t Don Henley.” He says there will soon be a tour by “That other band I’m in.”

“One More Mile”

Schmit says it’s great to play in at the Great American Music Hall. Schmit admits he’s lucky. “I got to play The Fillmore, Winterland ...” “You should come to Modesto!” A female fan yells from one of the front tables. Comments from the crowd can easily be heard. “I’ve played Modesto!” He starts rattling off Valley towns he’s played in: Lodi, Truckee, Tracy. My wife grew up in the Valley and got a big kick out of this.

“Because of poor management” there are no CDs for sale! Schmit says, “You can buy it from the aether. There’s no stores left anymore!” This gets a laugh from the Baby Boomer crowd. The music business has changed since he started.

Schmit changes guitars every song. He picks up a bass for the first time for an Eagles song: “I Can’t Tell You Why.” It’s his big Eagles song. There’s even a little dry ice smoke with some laser lights shining on it coming from the back of the stage for this one. The keyboard player stands out on this song. He’s playing a synthesizer and makes it sound like a big church organ.

Three black female backup singers come out for the next song. Schmit calls them, “The icing on the cake.” Schmit was a music business veteran before he joined The Eagles. He said that often questions of hipness would be brought up, “As would happen in those days.” He would just say, “What do I know, I’m just a white boy from Sacramento.” They do the song: “I’m Just a White Boy from Sacramento,” a very funny song. The backup singers seem amused and are certainly having a good time.

Schmit talks about being in the band Poco. He does a Poco song: “Keep On Trying.” Schmit mentions Richie Furay and the crowd applauds. He thanks Furay for getting him into Poco. When Furay joined The Eagles, he brought Schmit along.

Schmit was going to sing this next song, written by Richie Furay, when it was recorded: “What Am I Going To Do?” He says that Furay lived the lyrics on the next tour they were on and Schmit deferred to Furay, letting him sing the now autobiographical song on the album.

They rock out on “Parachute.” It features guitarist Hank with a big solo by him. “I Don’t Mind”

Schmit’s wife is in Hawaii. She’ll stay there longer than expected. She does album cover art on Expando. “Have I mentioned the CD yet?” He sings about missing his wife, “Ella Jean.” “I Don’t Like It When You’re Gone.”

The female backup singers come back for the finale. They ham it up and again look like they’re having a blast onstage.

“Something is Wrong” and then, “A Good Day” The last song on Expando.

“I Don’t Want to Feel Anymore”

“Love Will Keep Us Alive”

A great show on a Sunday night! Thanks to Al Cooper for the tickets.