Friday, December 12, 2014

Wild In The Streets!

I was surfing cable TV for free movies. Some of the free movies offered On Demand are old classics worth watching again. Most of them are films that just didn’t make it. Once in a while you can stumble on a gem. Here is my analysis of a cinematic masterpiece, Wild In the Streets! Well, it’s some kind of masterpiece. Yes, there will be spoilers. 
The trailer for Wild In the Streets hit theaters in the spring of 1968. The Generation Gap may have been at its widest. Teen fads had been recognized before, but now teens had more economic power. What would happen if they got political power too? The film’s trailer sparked some interest. At least it would be a wild drive-in movie.   
Wild In the Streets is a bizarre time capsule. It was brought to us by American International Pictures. American International provided drive-ins with Beach, Biker, Monster and Horror films. It was the home of Roger Corman. When that logo comes on the screen we know we’ll be in for a wild ride. Next we see the names of the producers: “Samuel Z. Arkoff and James Nicholson.” Another sign of quality! Wild In the Streets was directed by Barry Shear. Shear was known more as a “TV director.” Some of the early scenes in suburbia look like they were filmed for a sitcom.  
The movie came out in May, 1968. Back then, I had free access to the local drive-in. Two high school buddies worked there, and they would let me drive in the exit at any time. (Thanks Tony M. and Pat A. Even though the drive-in is long gone, I’ll leave their last names out, just in case some statute of limitations is still in effect.) This was very cool. It was a place to go, a teenage haven where I saw many drive-in classics for free. One night I caught the second half of Wild In the Streets. 

  Young Max Jacob Flatow is played by Barry Williams, who was later in The Brady Bunch. Max just doesn’t fit in. He’s stifled by the American suburban nightmare. Shelley Winters plays his overbearing mother. She visits him in the basement where he’s playing with a chemistry set. She picks up a suspicious looking stick. “What’s this?” “Dynamite,” Max flatly answers. She picks up a vial of clear liquid. “What’s this?” “LSD” is his laconic reply. Shelley humors Max, and she doesn’t appear concerned. She doesn’t know, like we do, that it really is dynamite and LSD! 
He tells his mother he’s saved up eight hundred dollars. “Is that enough to move out?” Max runs away from home, blowing up the family car on his way out. No longer hampered by his parents and stifling suburbia, he becomes a wealthy Rock star. He’s a millionaire, “After taxes.” The adolescent Max of the first half of the movie is gone. The new Max is played by Christopher Jones. It’s a whole new movie!  

Chris Jones was born Billy Frank. His mother was an artist, and she was committed to a mental institution when he was four. Billy bounced around with relatives, orphanages and foster homes. He lived at Boys Town for a while. 
Jones had a strange career. Maybe everyone had a strange career in the Sixties. He was a James Dean look a like. He thought he could escape his dreary life as an orphan by joining the military service. He quickly learned it was not for him. He stole a car and went AWOL, heading for New York City.
Jones already knew that he was a dead ringer for James Dean. He saw Dean’s films and tried to learn as much as she could about his life. On the trip to New York after he went AWOL, he stopped in Dean’s home town in Fairmount, Indiana. Dean’s relatives were so struck by his resemblance to their lost relative, that they took him in and showed him Dean’s bedroom and motorcycle. The motorcycle was still out in the barn. 
After he got to New York, a friend talked him into turning himself in and resolving his AWOL problems. He spent six months in jail. After he got out of the brig he stayed in New York and studied painting, sculpture and acting. He acted on TV shows. His “uncanny resemblance” to James Dean got him into The Actor’s Studio. He performed in a long run of “Night of the Iguana” where he met Shelley Winters. They became close friends. 
He married Susan Strasberg, Lee Strasberg’s daughter. The marriage was short lived. His “erratic behavior” and jealous rages drove her away. Jones played Jesse James on a TV series. Female fans loved Jones, but the show was crushed in the ratings.   
Jones certainly had “it.” With his looks and charisma he attracted some of the most beautiful women in the world. He had affairs with Pamela Courson, Sharon Tate, Pia Degermark and Olivia Hussey. 
Jones almost had his own fatal car crash. He was in the film “A Brief Season.” Dino DeLaurentiis produced it and gave Jones a $20,000 365 GT Ferrari as a bonus! Jones loved to get the car up to a hundred miles per hour. It seemed to be only a matter of time. He had a scary crash near Rome. The similarity to Dean’s car crash was eerie. Jones said he “flattened himself out” to avoid being decapitated. The car came to a stop on the edge of a hundred yard cliff. Jones had only minor injuries. 
The role of Max was a break through role for Jones, and he got some good parts after the film’s success. David Lean cast him as the British soldier in Ryan’s Daughter. Lean realized at once that it was a bad choice. During filming, Jones learned of the death of Sharon Tate. He became morose and hard to deal with on the set. His voice had to be dubbed. The filming of Ryan’s Daughter was a year long ordeal for most involved. When it was over, Jones returned to Los Angeles. He already had a reputation for being difficult, but he was still offered film roles. He turned them down. He rejected Hollywood and became a recluse. Many called him a disturbed individual. He lived off his movie earnings and painted.  

Max and his friends hang out at his mansion. He has what’s called an entourage or a posse now. There is constant drug taking, cuddling and slow, sensual massage. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this scene? It’s the Sixties dream! 
The drug scenes seem innocent now. This was long ago, when drugs were “cool” and few knew the real dangers of experimenting with them. Many people were afraid of drugs, but not many really knew how destructive they would be. At this point in the Sixties it was still a bit of a lark. At Max’s mansion they pass around a plate with lines of white powder.  
The band is Max Frost and the Troopers, and they are a collection of characters. Billy Cage (Kevin Coughlin) is the genius accountant and guitar player. The bass player is played by Larry Bishop. He has a hook on his hand, so he’s “Hook.” Bishop had to know his way around show business. He was the son of late night talk show host and member of the Rat Pack, Joey Bishop!
Sally Leroy (Diane Varsi) sings and plays keyboards. She’s also Max’s girlfriend. Varsi had broken through with a role in the movie Peyton Place, but she was known as being a rebel. She clashed with studio execs and eventually dropped out of acting.   
The drummer is Stanley X, played by Richard Pryor. He’s an anthropologist!  Pryor doesn’t get much screen time. I kept waiting for him to break into one of his savage monologues or maybe have his hair catch on fire. This film had to be one of his first big breaks. Larry Bishop told that Pryor freaked out the cast and crew, especially  Shelley Winters, when he showed up naked on the set one day. Have to wonder what the real story on that one is. Must have been a long night.  
How did Shelley Winters wind up in this one? They must have wanted a recognizable name on the marquee. Winters was 48 and had been in show business for over twenty years. She was a regular on late night TV talk shows, and was definitely someone from the other side of the divide of the Generation Gap.  
Max’s mother learns of her son’s success and insists she and her husband go see him. She shows up at one of his concerts shrieking at security, “That’s my son!” Later, she winds up driving Max and some of his posse around. She’s uncomfortable behind the wheel and after a puzzling joy ride she crashes into a young kid, killing him. Max picks up the dead tyke. He’s outraged. It looks like he really does care about his people.
Hal Holbrook is John Fergus, a liberal running for Congress. He’s looking for the youth vote. Max and his band perform at a rally for him. Their first number is “Listen To the Music.” They play a song for their adoring fans, “Fifty-Two Per Cent.” (Fifty-two per cent of the population is under twenty-five.) Max addresses the crowd. It’s a long monologue about the injustices of the day. A kid can be drafted and sent to Vietnam, but he can’t vote. They play a song with the ominous lyrics, “Fourteen or Fight!” Max wants the voting age to be lowered to fourteen! The crowd gets into, it chanting, “Fourteen or Fight” over and over.
It struck me how much Max acted and sounded like Jim Morrison in these scenes. His stance and timing closely resemble The Lizard King during one of his crazy onstage monologues. The Doors would keep a slow, nervous beat going while Morrison rambled on about getting pepper sprayed by security or some other atrocity. Max’s pacing during his political rant sounds like Morrison on “Five to One” from the Doors Absolutely Live album. “No one here gets out alive... They got the guns, but we got the numbers.” 
  Max calls out “the troops” for a demonstration on Saturday night. Anyone who believes in the cause should come out to the Sunset Strip on Saturday night. This was after the real riots on Sunset Strip chronicled in the Buffalo Springfield song “For What It’s Worth.” “Something’s happening here.” The authorities fear the worse and assume the demonstration will be violent. 

The big hit from the soundtrack was “Shape of Things to Come.” It was a crazy, rocking song, and “is not to be confused with The Yardbirds song of the same title.” “There’s a new sun, rising up angry in the skies!” It rose to #22 on the charts in 1968. Most of the songs on the soundtrack were written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, a very successful songwriting team. They had written hits for The Drifters, The Vogues, The Animals and Paul Revere and the Raiders. The song was used in a commercial recently for an ad campaign for Target stores. It was another jarring use of an old song. The revolution will be televised. It’ll just be part of TV commercials. 
All the music scenes are lip synched and dubbed. A group of studio musicians named Davey Allan and The Arrows recorded most of the music. Les Baxter helped with the arrangements. Some of the songs were arranged by Mike Curb. He was a successful producer who later ran as a conservative candidate for governor of California.  
Other bands credited on the soundtrack are The 13th Power, Jerry Howard and The Second Time, and The Gurus. They’re pseudonyms for the studio musicians. Davey Allan had a long career making movie soundtracks. He was “the King of the Fuzz Guitar.”     
Senator Allbright is played by Ed Begley. He’s outraged by the call to demonstrate and demands a meeting with Fergus and Max. He insists that Fergus  persuade Max to call the demonstration off. Also at the meeting is famed San Francisco attorney Melvin Belli in a cameo. Allbright even calls him “Belli.” Max and his crew are obnoxious and Begley storms out with his eyes bugging out in rage. 
Belli is only one of many cameo appearances. Peter Tork buys a ticket for a Max Frost and The Troopers concert. Teen idol Bobby Sherman interviews Max. Walter Winchell plays a puzzled reporter who tries to explain the demonstration scenes to Mr. and Mrs. America. Dick Clark ties to give some perspective to the demonstrations.   
The Troops gather. We see some clips of the Sunset Strip. American International had released Riot On Sunset Strip, a look at the recent disturbances. Most of the footage looks like a busy Saturday night on the Strip, but there are some scenes that look like real clashes with police. 
  Max and Fergus work out a compromise. Max wants to make sure his genius fifteen year old accountant can vote, so after some haggling they agree to lower the age to fifteen. It doesn’t seem to be much of a compromise. The authorities have given in. Max and Fergus calm the demonstrators by flying to various hot zones in a helicopter. They’ve won! It made me wonder: What the heck would happen if they lowered the voting age to fifteen? The voting age was lowered to eighteen in 1971. 
A Congressman dies and Max figures out that one of his entourage is old enough to be elected to the vacant seat. It will be his girlfriend Sally Leroy, played by Dianne Varsi. She takes her seat acting very stoned and wearing a goofy, tri-corner hat. She defiantly proposes an amendment to lower the age for holding office. 
Dianne Varsi catapulted to fame in the movie Peyton Place. She was always a rebel, and wouldn’t play the Hollywood game. She rejected the lifestyle and avoided doing movies.  
To make sure the amendment gets passed they pour LSD in the water supply. There’s a comic scene where the band members sneak up to a river and dump LSD into it. In the Sixties this psychedelic threat was taken seriously. The mayor of Chicago, Richard J. Daley, feared the water supply would be dosed during the Democratic National Convention in 1968. The Yippies had threatened to do that. Chicago police guarded the reservoirs. Daley tried to have the movie banned within Chicago city limits.    
Each legislator has a teenage “guide.” Max instructs each guide not to eat or drink anything. Then they won’t be tripping and they can make sure each legislator votes for the amendment. The stoned legislators yuk it up in uncontrollable hilarity. Their legislative chambers swirl around them in uproarious psychedelia as they vote. The amendment is passed and quickly ratified. Now Max can run for President. 
With the new voting age it’s easy for Max to get elected President. The only problem is figuring out what party he’ll run for. He’s a bit bummed when they decide he should be a Republican. There’s a quip about Ronald Reagan that insinuates he’s washed up. During the campaign Max speaks from the historic Monterey Fair Grounds. It’s obvious that they’re just using some stock footage and that Max isn’t really there, but it’s an interesting shot of the old fairgrounds. 
The campaign is not without trouble. Some cops panic and start firing on the young demonstrators. This was years before Kent State. Was the movie predicting the inevitable? Was it only a matter of time before demonstrators got shot?
In one of the key scenes Max shrieks at the crowd, “If you give me THE POWER!!!” So, that’s what it’s all about. If we give the vote to teenagers we’ll wind up with a Rock and Roll dictator. It is a cautionary tale. As the ads said, “If you’re under thirty you’ll want to see it. If your over thirty you have to see it!” 
Max wins in a landslide. He quickly enacts his plan. He puts young geniuses and computers in charge of the economy. He withdraws U.S. military forces from around the world. The soldiers become his police force. Surplus grain is shipped to Third World countries. He dissolves the FBI and the CIA. The solutions were so simple! It’s “the most truly hedonistic society the world has ever known.” 
Mandatory retirement is now 30 years old. After age 35, people are rounded up and sent to reeducation camps to be “re-grooved.” The former military are now police. They herd the terrified middle aged people to the camps. The camp members have to wear a robe, and are constantly dosed with LSD. Ed Begley, the former Senator, is at “Paradise Camp.” He looks ecstatic, and he’s not the only one who seems to be enjoying his new life. They wander the camp, stoned out of their minds all the time.  
Max’s mother takes to the new lifestyle at first. Fergus tries to get her aid in stopping Max. She can’t be bothered, “I’m doing LSD therapy.” Later it turns into a bad trip. The soundtrack plays “Shelley in Camp” performed by The Gurus as Shelley tries to escape the camp by climbing over the barbed wire fence. It’s another chance for Winters to chew the scenery.  
Even some of Max’s closest followers seem to be having their doubts. Sally Leroy has a freak out scene in a fountain. Maybe you shouldn’t take LSD every day. Someone wonders if it is a good idea to get rid of everyone over 35. Won’t they be needed for something? Max goes off on the older generation. “What do you ask a sixty year old man? You ask him if he wants his wheelchair facing the sun, or facing away from the sun.” Ouch! 
Fergus decides he has to take matters into his own hands. He realizes he’s created a monster and he tries to assassinate Max. This was filmed before the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy. Violence was in the air. Max almost becomes a martyr, but Fergus is stopped before he can shoot him.  
Everything is now peaceful and Max is in control. He wanders into the countryside alone. He comes across a group of young boys playing. They don’t trust him. “You’re old!” The young boys look innocent but ominous. The apparent leader of the boys says to the others: “We’re gonna put everyone over ten out of business!” It’s Billy Mumy, who later appeared in many science fiction classics and the TV series Lost In Space. 

After watching the film I did the obligatory Google search. and Wikipedia give the usual basic information, and some great stories.  
Wild In the Streets is based on a short story by Robert Thom. “The Day It All Happened Baby” came out in paperback when the movie was released. American International had planned an action film named Wild In the Streets that fell through. The title was too good to waste. The film hit theaters on May 29, 1968. It had a budget of $700,000 and brought in four million dollars at the box office. 
IMDb says that “according to Kenneth Bowser,” Phil Ochs was offered the role of Max. Ochs read the script and thought that it made fun of youth culture and turned the part down. 
Now the Internet search gets juicy. Chris Jones had a torrid affair with Pamela Courson, Jim Morrison’s long time lover and soulmate. Courson found a love letter Jones had written to his ex-wife, Susan Strasberg. Courson flew into a jealous rage and they split up. Morrison flew to Paris to bring her home. Was this humiliating for The Lizard King, or was it just one of those Sixties things? “Yeah man, I got to go to Paris and get my old lady.” 
Jones had an affair with Sharon Tate, even though she was married to Roman Polanski. Her death at the hands of the Manson family shook him deeply. In a bizarre twist he later lived in the caretaker’s cottage at 10048 Cielo Drive, the house where Tate had been killed! What went through his mind when he was living there?
He was also shaken badly by the death of Jim Morrison. Morrison had been his other idol. Jones said that when he heard the news of his death, it was the worst he had ever felt.  
The movie was a minor sensation at the time, but it was hard to take it seriously with the real social changes going on at the time. Maybe Phil Ochs was right. It did demean the youth culture and put it up on the screen with bug eyed monsters, Beach and Biker movies. It was fun, but it reduced the the movement to a drive-in movie. Hey, people are trying to fight a Revolution here, man! 
Wild In the Streets is a look back at a not so innocent time. The film has some eerie moments. Did it predict the assassinations of national leaders and the shootings at Kent State? There was something in the air back then.  

Most facts and stories came from or Wikipedia.  
I was surprised how much there is about Wild In the Streets in the Blogosphere including:  And I thought it was an obscure subject. 
Pop culture critic Sam Tweedle weighs in here:
The trailer is readily available on There are also sites that make the entire film available.  


Monday, October 27, 2014

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival 2014

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. 2014. 
This year’s post may read more like a list. I’m not going to say a lot about the conditions and crowd. There will be some standouts that I’ll mention. Most of the crowd were normal, law abiding citizens. Again, my theory is to spend as much time there as possible. I did wander this year, much more than I expected. Some song titles are approximations, or a scrap of a lyric. 
Some of the titles I figure out after a Google search of a lyric on that Internet thing. This one will be rough around the edges. I want to get it posted before it’s ancient history. There are many clips already posted on Youtube, and the Hardly Strictly web site has great footage.     
When the schedule came out John Stuber of the Albany All-Stars gave me a call. “This year it’s Hardly ANY Bluegrass.” Many of the Bluegrass icons who performed when the festival started are no longer with us. There were not as many of the huge stars as years past. No Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton or Steve Martin. There were still some big names, but it’s the mega-stars who bring out the masses.   
10/3. Friday. Heat wave in San Francisco. Temperatures near the nineties. Sunny. The crowds will be huge. Nearby casual fans would come at the last minute.  
Friday is by far the best day to go. The crowd did build up later in the day. There are four stages active today. Saturday and Sunday will see seven stages active. Helicopters hover overhead.   
Arrow Stage. There’s a small, new stage at the back of The Arrow Stage. The Bandwagon Stage. It’s a converted RV camper. It’s opened up so that it’s a stage. The banners with Warren Hellman’s bio hang nearby. There’s also a larger trailer that I assumed was some kind of VIP thing. We can hear Peter Rowan’s Twang an’ Groove starting in the distance. Our MC is Zeke Moats from Grizzly Radio. 
11:00. Bill Kirchen & Too Much Fun. I missed him the last couple of years. “Hammer of the Honky Tonk Gods.” “Get a Little Goner.” Austin de Lone is on piano. “Here’s our pro-science, evolution song: Rocks In the Sand. “There’s a Man At the Bottom of the Well.” 
Blackie Farrell joins for “Rockabilly Funeral.” Kirchen says he needs some sun screen for his Telecaster. It’s early, but the sun is a big factor. Great, rocking version of Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changing.” Kirchen says, “I hope they are!” “I Ain’t Never Had Too Much Fun.” 
The last song is “Hot Rod Lincoln,” and Kirchen seems rushed to get his entire history of Rock and Roll into the time left. He plays a few riffs from the greats of Rock and Roll. He does Elmore James, Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf riffs in less than a minute. There’s a shout out to his fellow high school student, Iggy Pop. (Must have been a hell of a class.)  
Great start. I would have walked over to see this act alone. 
I wander a bit to get out of the sun. Catch the last song of Peter Rowan’s group at The Banjo Stage. They make an announcement that John Prine will be late. His flight out of Chicago was delayed by the recent control tower problems there. He will play later, at 4:15. This last minute change to the batting order opens up a chance to see Dave and Phil Alvin at The Star Stage, but first, Buckwheat Zydeco at The Arrow Stage: 
“What She Said Boogie.” Long Zydeco Rocker. Buckwheat has great stage presence. Great live act, and the crowd loves it! He goes to the organ for a Blues song. “Peace Love and Happiness.”
I head to the Star Stage for the Alvins. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down are still onstage. Female singers. “California Line.” “Open Your Hips.” 
A guy and his wife are searching for a spot. “Shade is at a premium,” he tells her. I can hear Hurray for the Riff Raff from The Arrow Stage. For a while, it sounds like Pink Floyd is playing over there. 
Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin With the Guilty Ones. There’s a delay. At least fifteen minutes. Looks like a technical problem. 
An old guy is on his cell phone: “Somebody stole my tarp!” I’m tempted to taunt him. In past years people have spread large tarps and then wandered off leaving prime real estate empty. They’re really putting a stop to it this year. You just can’t spread out a huge tarp and leave it empty. Security will remove the tarp if there’s no one there. 
The Alvin’s new CD is Common Ground. It’s a tribute to Big Bill Broonzy. Dave says that during recording: “No one got hurt.” (The brothers have had a stormy relationship.) “Feel So Good.” “Key To The Highway.” Dave tells us Phil took harmonica lessons from Sonny Terry. He plays harmonica on a Blues song. “Southern Flood Blues”   What would it be like to wake up and find the Ohio River on your doorstep? “Trucking Little Women.” 
They do a comic song: “All They Ever Do Is Ask About My Brother.” They can kill a rattlesnake with their bare hands or write a paper on numbers theory, but people will only ask about what the other Alvin brother is doing. Phil Alvin has written scholarly tomes on mathematics. Many people say that’s impressive and then ask him what his brother has been doing lately.  
People huddle in a strip of shade on the left. On the right is a big open space in the sun. You can walk up much closer to the stage. People will usually brave the sun to get close, but not today.   
“Dry River.” “Please Please Please,” The James Brown song. Rocking version of “Marie Marie.” “Get Back Baby.” Closing medley with band introductions. 
This year’s panhandling sign: “We need like seven dollars.” Three ragged, but attractive young women are looking for funds. An old guy cracks, “They’ll get it.” 
Back to the Arrow Stage. The trailer I noticed before is open. It’s a preview of an exhibit about Warren Hellman and HSB at the The Contemporary Jewish Museum downtown. There are posters from every year of the festival. TV monitors show highlights and interview from over the fourteen years. It’s air conditioned! 
Cibo Matto With Nels Cline. No idea who this is, but the small “bio” handout says they’re from “New York/Tokyo” and that “guitar great” Nels Cline of Wilco is in the band. Everyone onstage is in total white. They do an odd Devo/Rap song. The crowd loves them. They are entertaining. I can imagine them in a night club. Another HSB surprise. 
John Prine at The Banjo Stage. “Grandpa Was a Carpenter.” “A song about a woman from the North: “Iron Ore Betty.” “Christmas in Prison.” “Angel From Montgomery.” “Whistle and Fish.” Song about murders in a forest preserve: “Lake Marie.”
One guy close to the stage stands up. He just starts going totally psycho, flailing his arms and head. It could be dancing, but I’m not sure at first. It’s one of Prine’s more upbeat numbers, but this guy seems to be on a different level.
The crowds are getting much bigger. Four o’clock seems to be the witching hour. Prine’s set is very subtle in parts and the party people chatter through it. This happens whenever Prine plays here. The party/cell phone crowd seem to be better about obnoxious talking. Maybe it’s because they’re texting. There are still times they’re totally oblivious. Steve Earle joins for “Muhlenberg County.” 
There’s a half hour gap in the action. It’s too far to get back to The Star Stage for Lucinda Williams. She has many hard core fans. I can see them heading over there. I wait in the shade for: 
You La Tengo at the Arrow Stage. First song sounds like a Lou Reed song. Droning Heavy Metal. Then they do a Country and Western song. They sounded interesting, but I was fading. “Rushing By Too Fast.” 
I started my exit route. Ryan Adams was at The Banjo Stage. Surprisingly good. Hung out at the picnic tables in the back. “Stay With Me.” Made a short stop at The Rooster Stage for some of Coner Oberst. 
Day Two. Saturday 10/4. 
The heat wave continues. It will be another sunny, clear day in the Park. 
Arrived 11:00. Top priority is Whograss at The Star Stage. It’s a band put together especially for this occasion. On the way I wondered who was going to be Keith Moon. It’s Praire Prince on drums! I’m not sure, but the concept may have been his. Also in the band: Chris von Sneidern (guitar) and Peter Straus (bass.) I can just imagine these guys playing one night. Maybe one of them does a Who riff. One note leads to another. The Who played Bluegrass style? The results are amazing.  
“Theme from Tommy.” It will be a big sound. There’s a blasting “I Can’t Explain.” Adrenaline is rushing in the morning. It’s some of the “majesty of The Who.” “Substitute.” 
Pete Sears joins on accordion for “I Am One” and a great version of “Squeeze Box” featuring Sears on the accordion. 
“Baba O’Reilly.” Jeff Ryder nails the string part at the end on his fiddle. 
“It was forty eight years ago today that The Who recorded Boris the Spider,” but we’re not going to hear that one. Chuck Prophet joins to sing “Pinball Wizard.” It starts as a slow C&W Johnny Cash style song. It’s really funny how the lyrics fit. “From Soho down to Brighton, he must have played them all.” The crowd laughs at the synchronicity. Prophet says, “OK, let’s do this!” and the band plays the “real” Rock version. 
“Joseph” joins to sing “My Generation.” He sang onstage at the memorial show for super roadie Marshall Holmes at the Fillmore.
One of the best acts I’ve seen at any Hardly Strictly Bluegrass! Great sound. They really captured the spirit of The Who. Another day that starts with the first act being well worth the walk. 
My original plan was to save the legs and camp out at The Rooster Stage where Buddy Miller would be presenting a “Cavalcade of Stars,” but first I stopped at The Arrow Stage. Blue Rodeo is a member of the Canadian Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They sound great, so I hang for a while. “Rise Up.” A sad song: “You Are the One.” “Disappear.” Great song. “Hasn’t Hit me Yet.” 
A V formation of Canada Geese do a low fly over of the crowd during a great piano solo on “Disappear.” “I Am Myself.” “Feeling Left Alone.” The crowd loves these guys, and they sound like they deserve their spot in the Hall of Fame. 
It’s not that far to The Banjo Stage for the Alison Brown Quintet. I never plan on it, but I always see her at HSB. This year I only catch the end of “The  Appalachian Celtic” set.
They announce that the festival is being streamed on the HSB web site, courtesy of Moonalice. It’s hot enough that I find it tempting to go home and just watch it online. It would be easier to see what’s going on onstage. Is that the future of HSB? Well, I’m here already. Might as well watch it live. 
There are seven stages going today, but there are still thirty to forty minute gaps where nothing is going on. I want to see The Porch Stage at least once this year. It’s usually pretty laid back here. The Felice Brothers come onstage. I’m surprised they’re playing here. I saw them at The Rooster stage last year and they drew a big crowd. It’s a larger than usual gathering for The Porch Stage. 
“I’m All Right If You’re All Right.” “Put Some Whiskey In My Whiskey.” “The World Will Go On.” “Sixteen Miles.” 
Back to The Banjo Stage for The Time Jumpers. It’s now 1:25, and I still haven’t even seen The Rooster Stage. I get into the old time sound of The Time Jumpers. “Six Pack To Go.” “All Aboard.” “I Hear You Talking.” Vince Gill joins and they do “You Got My Number, Liza Jane.” 
The Time Jumpers are great, but I find myself drawn to the bigger sound coming from The Arrow Stage: St. Paul & The Broken Bones. Have to check them out just for the name. They’re from Birmingham, Alabama and play a Stax/Volt style of R&B. 
An old guy lets a young lady off the hook in “You’re Too Young.” “A Sam Cooke song, done Otis style,” “Shake.” It’s still early, but the crowd is getting into this party music. “To Die For Me.” “Your Love Is Like a River.” Band has a great horn section. 
The singer’s voice is a bit abrasive, but he’s pouring his heart and soul into it. The crowds are getting big. They do a Gospel song. I missed the title. “Call Me.” The big finale is “Try A Little Tenderness.”    
Maybe it was because some of the veterans I usually attend with were not here this year, but the demographic here seems to be changing. The crowd looks younger. Maybe the older generation is getting tired of traveling to the festival and dealing with the crowds. There are still geezers here, but it looks like things are changing.
The Bandwagon Stage at the back of the Arrow fills some of the time between sets with Heidi Clare (Go To Hell Man Clan) and Ron Thomason from Dry Branch Fire Squad. It’s a small area with an intimate setting. Instrumental. “Sing As We Ride.” The Bandwagon’s online address is: I check it out later. It says The Bandwagon will be like a food truck for music. 
I walk by the Polo Fields, back to The Star Stage. I know it will be crazy crowded, but I’m shooting for the back to back Social Distortion / Chris Isaak. This is the one time I get “trapped” in the crowd. I’m trying to cross Lindley Meadow. Most people are already camped out in spots. It’s hard to navigate. Sometimes it looks like there’s no where to go. People in large groups stop and look around for a spot, but it’s too crowded. There’s no where to go. Pedestrian gridlock. Because I’m solo it’s easier for me to wind my way through the crowd and get to the street. 
On the other side of John F. Kennedy Drive, people have gathered in the shade. The drive is blocked off by a temporary fence of iron traffic “horses” for the carts that whip VIPs and musicians from stage to stage. There is an occasional intersection where we can cross. On the other side of the street we can hear, but we can’t see. This is great after escaping the crowd. There’s some breathing room over here.   
Mavis Staples. The Gospel and R&B legend who was there when it happened. A walking historical legend. The band sounds great. Professional R&B sound. “If You’re Ready.” Mavis reminds us that she was there for the history. “For What It’s Worth.” Great version of The Buffalo Springfield song. “He’s All Right.” “Can You Get to That?” 
People start to jump over the metal fencing on John F. Kennedy Drive so they don’t have to walk to the next intersection where they can get across. They’re sneaky about it. Mounted police are patrolling the area. Once in a while they catch someone, but then they just give them a lecture and let them go. Guess they don’t want to dismount and do the paperwork. Some people sneak across, ignore the mounted cops and then just melt into the crowd. It’s a little piece of HSB anarchy! 
After a little break I walk around and get the side view of the stage for the end of Mavis. “Respect Yourself.” “I Won’t Turn Around.” “The Weight.” Powerful R&B!  
The Towers of Gold Stage is right next to The Star. I was just going to go to the back for the Heavy Mental act Social Distortion, but I could see there was nowhere to go. The whole area looked filled. I just stayed with the side view. 
There’s a short wait. The Rolling Stones “Gimmie Shelter” is blasted over the speakers shortly before they take the stage. It gives me chills! 
Social Distortion. Shaky on these song titles. Song about Hell. “Hell Comes To Your House.” Their sound reminds me of The Clash. They played a song that sounded like The Pogues: “Prison Bound.” Great Heavy Metal Punk sound. 
Usually there’s a tarp put up on the fence at the side of this stage so people don’t stop to watch. It does cause traffic flow problems. A small group near the fence very subtly took the tarp down so we had a great side view. 
There have been mosh pits at Hardly Strictly before, but this one was huge. I never got the mosh pit thing. This one looked like a “fun” one. It didn’t have the menacing edge I’ve seen in more hard core pits. Guys stood on the periphery and I noticed their mosh pit function was to push guys back into the rotating mass. There were very few women even near the pit. One brave young woman did crowd surf. 
They finished with a great cover of “Ring of Fire.” 
The Star Stage. Chris Isaak. “I’m Gone.” “Somebody’s Dreaming.” “Six Blocks.” 
Isaak tells the crowd he lives six blocks away. “I can walk here!” He talks about playing guitar in this same meadow thirty years ago. Never imagined he’d be playing here in front of a crowd like this. 
Isaak’s set brought back memories of other shows of his that I’ve seen, but I faded and started back. It had been another long day, but I had to stop at The Rooster Stage for Robert Earl Keen. Got there in time for “The Road Goes On Forever.” The crowd was in a festive Saturday night mood. Whooping it up! 
Sunday. The Rooster Stage. Arrive about 11:30. It’s a little cooler today. Still sunny and clear. There are no Blue Angels this weekend. Fleet Week will be next week, so we won’t be buzzed by jets this year..
Get there in time to hear the last song from the Go To Hell Man Clan: “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.” Head to The Arrow Stage for The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Jimmie Dale Gilmore was playing at The Bandwagon Stage in the back. “Beyond the Blue.” “I thought I had a handle on religion.” Jimmie Dale says, “I slept on streets that Warren (Hellman) owned.” 
I knew The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band has a fanatic following. There are more people here this early than I’ve ever seen at HSB. “Down In The Easy Chair.” A Steve Goodman song: “Face On the Cutting Room Floor.” Another low flying formation of Canada Geese flies over the crowd. 
Their 1971 album “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” arguably started the modern roots, Americana music scene. They play a Jimmy Martin (“The King of Bluegrass”) song: “My Walking Shoes Don’t Fit Me No More. John McKuen plays a banjo song for Warren Hellman, “Return to Dismal Swamp.” (He played with Dave Mason at Napa’s Uptown Theater.  
Jimmy Fadden tells us some of the history of the band. They’re from Long Beach. They played the Carousel and Fillmore ballrooms in San Francisco in the heyday of the Rock Ballrooms. 
A Fadden song: “Working Man.” (Nowhere To Go.) Their big hit: “Mr. Bojangles.”
“Here’s a Colorado song,” “Rippling Waters.” It’s a long song with great solos, especially piano. The crowd gives them a big ovation. They do a Bayou Party song medley. It’s still  early, but it’s Cajun party time!  
Went to The Banjo and caught some of Hot Rize (featuring Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers.) “Shady Grove.” One of the band members is called Dr. Banjo. 
So far today things seem more relaxed. More laid back. Is it because the acts aren’t as big? Is it because the party people prefer Saturday night?  
Jerry Douglas Presents The Earls of Leicester. “Salty Dog.” Real old time sound, but no dobro. I’d caught Douglas two years in a row. Psychedelic sounds drew me back to The Star Stage. 
Moonalice started with what sounded like a Jefferson Airplane song. There’s a long jam that they work “Eight Miles High” into. “Let’s Ride.” For Warren they cover “Down the Road A Piece.” Pete Sears joins on piano. “That’s All Right Mama,” the Big Bill Broonzy song again. 
I see Praire Prince sitting at one of the picnic tables. He’s on a cell phone. I do a double take and he gives me a little nod. He acknowledges that I know who he is, but I can tell he isn’t in the mood for the fan thing. 
I catch one scene. An old guy is with four twenty something guys. It looks like his son and his friends. The old guy demonstrates some kind of wild mountain dance. He flails his arms and legs around. A bit of a rooster dance. The young guys laugh, but they are impressed the old man can still move like that. He’s passing it on to a new generation.
Dr. Ralph Stanley and The Clinch Mountain Boys. “Sing a Worried Song.” “One Day.” “Walking Down the Road.” “The First Mistake I Ever Made.” 
Stanley is eighty seven years “young,” and he has been performing for sixty nine years. He doesn’t play banjo today and sings on half of the songs. He’s the stone face of HSB now. 
“Little Boy Called Joe.” Jim Lauderdale joins for “I Feel Like Singing Today.” 
The new album is The Legacy Continues. “Orange Blossom Special.” 
T Bone Burnett at The Rooster Stage. “Never Wonderland.” I love his dark, ominous sound. Get ready to be stung or bitten. There’s a big beat, but the first number sounds more like a spoken word piece. We’re going to “Hefner’s Land.” Walt Disney lives there and takes pictures of go-go girls. He sells them to the local kids, who love Uncle Walt. 
A song about hard times, “There Would Be Hell to Pay.” 
A small hawk flies up into a nearby tree and perches. Thought it could be a Cooper’s, but when it flew out later it looked like a juvenile Red Tailed Hawk. The big crowds don’t seem to bother the raptors at all. 
“La Bamba.” An old Rocker from Texas has to have a good “La Bamba” in his repertoire. T Bone praises Richie Valens. 
A Waylon Jennings song: “Long Time Gone.” “I like to play songs by my friends,” T Bone says before a great, rocking version of “Blowing In the Wind.” Burnett is one of a very few who can name drop Jennings and Bob Dylan as “his friends.”  
“Humans From Earth.” Eerie and ominous. 
“River of Love.” “The frightening thing is not dying.” A great line from “Primitives.” “Scarlet Tower.” “That was a little night time music.” 
Burnett says this is the first time this band has played together in eight years. He says Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is the best music festival in the world! “Ordinary Man.” 
I head to The Star Stage for a last lap. It’s now five o’clock. The crowds are enormous now. The meadow in front of The Star Stage is packed. I stand way in the back and listen to Lake Street Dive. They sound like a good party band. Oddly, they’re not from Chicago. Another band I’ll want to look into.   
I toyed with the idea of going to The Star Stage for Dwight Yoakam. He had put on a great show a couple of years ago, but I’ve learned to look ahead on JFK Drive before I join the herd. Masses of people are headed for the big finale that will feature Emmy Lou Harris. I’ve learned to stay away from that stage. I decide to just go to The Rooster and see whoever is there. It’s on the way home. 
Jason Isbell. Many people had left The Rooster Stage after T Bone Burnett. It’s an HSB mass exodus. I get a pretty good spot on the hill on the right. This is Marx Meadow. It’s where HSB started for me. In fact, it’s where I saw my first free music in San Francisco, many moons ago. 
About ten minutes before the scheduled start, streams of people come in from other stages. I can hear people: “Oh! There’s so much room here.” They’re refugees from the other stages. They’re ecstatic to find a place to throw a blanket. 
“Go Home.” “Can You Leave Our Love Behind?” or “Rising From the Past.”  
“Decoration Day.” Jason’s knockout wife, Amanda Shires, is on fiddle and violin. Chad Campbell plays keyboards and accordion. He’s the brother of a member of St. Paul and the Broken bones.”
“Tired of Traveling Alone.” “Codeine.” “One of her friends has given her codeine.” I remember this song from The Drive By Truckers a couple of years ago. “Live Oak.” “I wonder who she’s pining for now?” “Somebody Take Me Home.”  
Another great Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival for me. I did wander more than I planned and saw many acts and the usual HSB surprises. 


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Weekend in Golden Gate Park

So I’m walking in Golden Gate Park last Saturday. Perfect weather. I’m approaching the DeYoung and I hear music. It’s definitely Heavy Metal. It’s a Led Zeppelin song. I loop around the Japanese tea garden. It’s about noon, so I can’t figure out what’s going on. If it’s a big event I probably would have seen a listing. It sounds so much like Zeppelin that at first I thought it was a tape, but no, it’s a live band. It’s free music in the Park man! Maybe it’s Zepparella? They’re an all female Led Zeppelin cover band. 
I get to the Spreckels Temple of Music Bandshell, and sure enough it’s Zepparella. I’ve been wanting to see them since I first heard about the band. They usually play clubs. This has to be an unusual gig for them. Outdoors in the sunshine.  
It was amazing. They’re three young women in white pants and long hair. They all have the Rock star swagger. The singer, Noelie, looks like Percy. (Sometimes Robert Plant’s onstage mannerisms struck the boys as too feminine. They took to calling him “Percy.”) She has the head shake, and sometimes she sounds like him! She does have his stance and act down. 
They were the entertainment for the inaugural 420 Games. The 420 Games are being held so that athletes who smoke marijuana can battle the stereotype that everyone smoking marijuana is a couch potato. After all, we now know that there are professional athletes who smoke marijuana. The area at the Bandshell was the end of a 5K Fun Run. There would also be a cycling competition in Marin and the “Marijuana Olympic Challenge” in Sacramento. I am not making this up. I swear it’s true. 
  There were a few booths scattered around with various products, most of them 420 related. There wasn’t much of a crowd. Many of the runners were in an area segregated from the non beer drinking world by a cyclone fence. A small crowd sat on park benches watching the band. 
I didn’t notice at first, but I didn’t see anyone smoking marijuana. Unusual for an event called The 420 Games. I learned later that organizers had discouraged smoking of “illegal” marijuana. They didn’t want it to be another “smoke in.” The 420 Day celebration held on April 20th in the Park on Hippie Hill had gotten out of hand. It wasn’t the pot use. Large, unruly crowds had left too much trash. It had cost too much to clean it up.  
Zepparella pounded out the hits. Talking About Love. Black Dog. Ramble On. A couple of songs from Houses of the Holy. A great version of Kashmir. The guitar player was great. I guess it’s unfair to compare her to Jimmy Page. They did Moby Dick with the obligatory drum solo by Angeline. It was amazing how much they sounded like Zeppelin, and it was loud. Very loud for noon time.    
Each member got a bouquet of flowers. Noelie said that it was an honor to play on this historic stage where so many Rock greats like Led Zeppelin played. (That was a bit of a stretch. Zeppelin did play at the nearby Kezar Stadium. It’s also a historic stage because one Anita “Durt Gurl” O’Shea performed there.) There were definitely Zepparella fans in the crowd proudly wearing Zepparella tee shirts. There will be a new album coming out.  
The funny thing is that I just stumbled on this one. There are still days in San Francisco. I remember a visitor from France saying, “We heard that every day they have zee Rock and Roll on every street corner!” I remember we didn’t discourage him from this idea.  
The next day I hit Comedy Day in the Park. This could be a rough one. It would be a tribute to Robin Williams. It was early, about eleven a.m, but I was still surprised how small the crowd was. In the old days there was always a chance Robin Williams was going to show up for Comedy Day. Now we knew that wasn’t going to happen.
It had been a jolt to learn he was gone. There weree rumors that he was troubled and struggling. I kept thinking of his appearance at the memorial for Bill Graham at the Polo Fields in Golden Gate Park. Williams was going to announce the next band. There were technical difficulties. It looked like and it was a long delay. He went off in his impromptu, manic way. He kept looking at the stage crew, who were begging for more time. He went off into multiple personalities and scenes. The huge crowd got him at his best. It was one of the greatest stage performances I’d ever seen.    
I was starving and lurked around one of the food trucks until they opened. Slider Combo #2 was a great deal at eight bucks. I found a park bench at the back of the crowd. It’s usually the epicenter of the drummers on Hippie Hill. The plaque said it was: “The Jose Simon” memorial bench. Simon had been one of the founders of Comedy Day. 
Debbie Durst is the MC. She performed and hung out at The Holy City Zoo with Williams. There would be some sad moments. Williams had deep Bay Area and San Francisco roots. After he passed the local TV stations broke into regular programming and had “special reports.” It was almost like after the Kennedy assassination. A large picture of Williams was rolled out over the stage.
Williams was the kind of celebrity that everyone felt like they knew him, even if they didn’t meet him. It was more than the power of television. We felt we knew him because our daughter Anita and her school class were extras in Mrs. Doubtfire. They were great to the kids. They got a look at a movie being filmed and had catered lunches at the Italian American Athletic Club. Many of the scenes were shot in our North Beach neighborhood. 
Durst read a list of comics who had passed away in the last year. She made an appeal for the crowd to donate funds on their web site. The permits to have the event in the Park were $10,000! “We’ve got a stage and a sound system,” she said and vowed that Comedy Day would continue even if they have to use the Jose Simon Memorial bench as a stage, “and use bullhorns.”   
Father Guido Sarducci did the benediction. He said, “I’m sure he’d be here, if he were here.” The good father talked about how exciting it had been when rumors flew that Robin Williams would be making a Comedy Day appearance. “Is he coming?” “Is he here?” If he did show up word spread fast and the crowd buzzed.  
Sarducci says he can imagine Williams going to heaven. He’d ask God, “What does it all mean?” And God would tell him to, “Put your right hand in. Take your right hand out. Put your right hand in and you shake it all about.” The band picks up the wedding party classic. What does it all mean? The Hokey-Pokey! 
It was getting windy. The banner with Robin Williams’ image on it didn’t want to cooperate. It flopped around and stagehands rushed to nail it down. Cardboard recycling boxes went flying. The wind would settle down.   
It’s comedy time! First on the stage would be the “Fresh Faces of Comedy Day.” They were young comedians who had never performed at Comedy Day before. Each comic gets five minutes onstage. Ronn Vigh would start it off. Durst says he’d still have a job if Joan Rivers was still alive. It sounds a bit brutal, but Vigh was a writer for a Rivers TV show. It was typical Joan Rivers humor.  
He does sound a bit like Joan Rivers, especially with his pacing. He’s Gay and he’s a football fan. He says they should have Gay translations explaining what just happened to the casual, Gay football fan. 
“How many people out there do yoga?” A surprising amount of hands go up. It is San Francisco. “I hate people who do yoga! And I’m a yoga teacher!” “You know what I hate?” He tells us about being harassed at a party. “I’m standing there with a glass of wine,” and a woman comes up to him. “What are you doing? You’re a yoga teacher! How could you do that?” Uh ... like have a glass of wine. So, because I’m a yoga teacher I can’t have a glass of wine? “OK, Moonbeam!” 
“You know what else I hate? Vegans!” He does a good routine about a vegan kids birthday party. The kids are so malnourished that they can’t break the pinata. When it breaks, vegetables fly out. 
Next is Gary Anderson, a young Black comic from New York. He asks if people in the crowd want to get into better physical shape. Well then, just get thrown in jail! You’ll lose weight and come out buffed from all the weight lifting. “Everybody who goes to jail loses weight.” So, what you do is put a gram of coke in your pocket, or more depending on your fitness goals, and get busted. He also does a routine about renting in New York City. Should he just tell prospective landlords that he’s Black? 
Priya Prasad spoke in a heavy Indian accent for the beginning of her five minutes. “You are all shitting there, laughing and having fun.” If anyone else did it, it would probably be considered offensive. She told some zingers about her parents. Her mother thinks drugs are “the gateway to lesbianism.” 
There were other Bay Area comedy icons coming up later in the afternoon. Tom Ammiano, Bucky Sinister, Scott Capurro, Margaret Cho, Bob Sarlatte, Dana Gould, Will Durst. Diane Amos would get the “Standup Comedy Legend Award.” Most of the big names wouldn’t be onstage for three hours. People were still coming in with lawn chairs.  I headed for home. The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. Besides, what else would I find going on in the Park on my way home? 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Redwood City Blues Festival 2014

The Ninth Annual Redwood City Blues Festival. Sponsored by Redwood City’s Police Athletic League. 7/26/2014. 
The Bay Area was in a heat wave. The temperatures were in the nineties, but the sun was the real problem. It was still a beautiful day. I arrived a little after noon and missed the first act, Deeva and the Blazers. Onstage I saw a familiar face, Noel Hayes, the radio station KPOO DJ. (89.5 FM) He spins great Blues songs on Wednesdays between nine and noon. Hayes introduced Taylor P. Collins.  
The program told us she was coming back, “After a two year absence from performing due to a serious health issue.” The band played a hot instrumental to get things going. Taylor came onstage. She does have quite a  powerful stage presence. She wore white and the front of her head was shaved. Long braids hung down her back.
The band was great. Eight pieces laid down a real R&B sound. 
One great thing about the Redwood City Blues Festival is that usually you can walk right up to the stage for a close look. Today’s crowd looked smaller to me than in years past, but it was early. I watched a couple of songs from up close: “A Change Is Coming” and “Ain’t Doing Too Bad.” Sounded like “Ain’t” was Collins’ song now.  
The stage is in the town plaza. The stately San Mateo Courthouse looms behind it. People lounged in lawn chairs. Some looked beaten down by the sun already. The hard core did stir a bit and came to the front and danced. The sun was already getting to me. The plaza is nice, and there are a few shops along the sides, but there isn’t much shade. 
I wandered a bit when she started working the crowd. “This won’t work unless everyone stands up.” “After you stand up, make the person behind you stand up... Now hold hands!” Most of the crowd got up and did it. 
She has a powerful voice and the band was sounded great. Yeah, she ain’t doing too bad. They do “Give Me One Reason To Stay” a Traci Chapman song. Then the band did an instrumental. It sounded like the pace was slowing.
The big movie theater across the street wasn’t open this year. You used to be able to go in and take a look. The Fox Theater is still used for music events. Next door is The Little Fox nightclub. I’d been there a few times for Blues shows, including the memorial tribute to Johnny Nitro. It was great to cool off and I could still hear some of the music from the stage until they started blasting some kind of mainstream Heavy Metal from the back of the club. It was all right, but I’d still rather have heard some of the live sound. In years past you could sit inside and still hear.   
“What time is Mark Hummel on?”  a guy asked the bartender. I pulled out my program. Two o’clock. He asked for a rundown so he could plan his day.  
The next act was doing a Howling Wolf song, and I wandered up to the stage again. Frank “Tebo” Thibeaux was in a black and silver shirt and pants playing an acoustic guitar. He was accompanied by a young white guy with a large Afro. The program said that Thibeaux opened for John Lee Hooker Jr. on his tour with this tribute to Howling Wolf. He really did sound like the Wolf. He sure had the voice for it. 
I had pulled out the San Francisco Blues Festival tee shirt for this occasion. It’s a black tee shirt with “San Francisco Blues Festival” in psychedelic letters across the front. An old Blues fan recognized the shirt. “That was a great festival! Too bad it’s gone.” We commiserated on the demise of the San Francisco Blues Festival.  He was a bit hyper and went on his ways looking for someone or something in the crowd. 
Tebo did a couple more great Howling Wolf songs. “Sitting On Top of the World.” “I Should Have Quit You.” After “I Ain’t Superstitious” Tebo sounded ominous as he said, “Maybe I’ll go to jail.” It was part of the introduction to the next song, “Mr. Officer” which is from their new CD, Swamp Man. “Mr. Officer” told the story of a domestic disturbance. “But I’m the one who called you,” the narrator says as he’s being arrested. The poh-lice tell him it doesn’t matter.  
Some of the same people were still dancing in the heat and the sun, and I had to hand it to them. There were a few that danced up there all day. One bald black guy was putting on quite a show. He was thin and shirtless. I’m not sure if he was homeless, mentally ill or just whacked on some drug. (“I’ll have what he’s having.”) He had a different intensity to his dancing. He did what I guess were ballet moves, or maybe he thought they were ballet moves. He wiggled his fingers in the air. He acted oblivious to the other dancers and danced across the plaza in bigger and bigger arcs. He would do a slow swan dive and lie down on the pavement, which could not have been very comfortable. It had to burn. Don’t make eye contact. 
I lost another round of the endurance contest with the sun and wandered around downtown Redwood City. It was nice in the shade. Much of the town is new and modern. The newer buildings have a plastic pre-fab look. The Century 20 movieplex may be the heart of the town now. This had to be a great weekend for the smaller businesses. They had to be making money this weekend. 
Cops were walking around, but they looked friendly. This was their event, a fund raiser for the Police Athletic League. (PAL) I wondered if they were so friendly the rest of the year.
There were chain stores, but many places looked like old businesses. There was an “Old Spaghetti Factory.” I’d been to the one in Jack London Square in Oakland. Years ago I had gone to the “real” Old Spaghetti Factory in North Beach. Many of the Beat writers and artists hung out there. It’s still weird to see it’s a chain restaurant. 
After the break from the sun I went back to the stage for the “Golden State Lone Star Revue with Anson Funderberg, Little Charly Baty and Mark Hummel. These were some familiar names from the North Beach days. Little Charly Baty was the bandleader of Little Charly and the Nightcats. Anson Funderberg is a transplanted Texan who has been playing the Blues in the Bay Area for years. Mark Hummel always blows some great Blues harmonica. 
R.W. Grigsby was on bass and “famed Texas drummer,” Wes Starr rounded out the revue. They started with “What Is That She Got,” a Muddy Waters song. “Lay It On Me.” After a couple of songs it was time to retreat from the sun again. I found some black iron benches on the side that were at least close to shade. There was a partial view of the stage and most of the crowd in the plaza. People sunk into their lawn chairs.
Hummel praised Tebo’s Howling Wolf tribute, and they do a Wolf cover of their own, “Shake For Me.” “We’ve got two great guitarists and we’re going to let them go.” They play a long Blues Rock jam. Little Charly Baty and Anson Funderberg have a friendly guitar duel. The black psycho ballet dancer walked off for a break. I didn’t see him again. 
The next song “Blues Stop Knocking At My Door” is from their CD, “The Hustle Is Really On.” Hummel tells the crowd they love the festival but that, “We’re playing the El Campanile in Antioch tonight. We have to make a sound check at 4:30. Doesn’t leave us much time.” They play the title song from the new CD. 
During the break I decided to visit the Court House Museum. It was a great chance to cool off. The court house and museum were right behind the stage. A female security guard watched me closely as I went up the steps. That was her mission today. Keep those stairs clear. The backstage view from there was tempting and people would block entrance to the museum. The young lady at the ticket desk had a great view of the stage. She was friendly but had to warn me, “We close in an hour.” I entered the cool of the museum. 
The Renaissance Revival courthouse was built in 1910. It’s circular inside and the biggest skylight this side of the Mississippi is overhead. The skylight is made of antique stained glass. There’s an old carriage downstairs. Up the marble steps is the history museum. 
Redwood City is near the Bay. It was remote enough to encourage smuggling even before prohibition. There’s an old picture of the docks. Looked like it must have been a tough town. 
Upstairs is the San Mateo County Sports Hall of Fame. There’s a big picture of Barry Bonds, who went to Serra High School. It’s amazing how many sports stars and influential figures in sports came from the Peninsula. Many of them are baseball stars: Eric Byrnes, Don Mossi, Keith Hernandez, Dick Stuart, Moises Alou and many others including umpire Ed Montague. There are also great coaches including John Madden and Dick Vermeil. Tom Brady. Jeff Clark who was one of the founders of the surf scene at Maverick’s. The back office is represented too, with a surprising number of administrators in professional and college sports.   
The wall is covered with plaques and this is more than just local hype. I wondered how so many sports figures came from this relatively rural area. The gene pool is just smaller than in the big city. Was there something in the water? Was it the weather?   
There were very few people upstairs. I found a side room with an exhibition about Maverick’s, the historic surfing spot. There was a surfboard in front of a big screen. It was virtual reality surfing. There was no one around, so I could give it a good shot. I stood on the surfboard and tried to navigate one of the breakers. I’ve been at the beach near Maverick’s many times, and I could recognize the shoreline. I’d make it to the top of the digital wave, but then come tumbling down, wipe out! It was well done on the virtual reality screen. I could see the bubbles, but I didn’t get wet. 
Oh yeah, the Blues Festival. The music was starting again outside. On the way out I stopped in the Court Room. It was even cooler than the rest of the museum. An empty court room can be a spooky place. Bad things must have happened in here. There was a glass case with a “Gloria Ball Swing Clock. Ansonia Clock Co.” It didn’t have an estimate or price tag on it. 
One room has a great exhibit about crime, vice and the lawmen who struggled to keep order. I was about to leave when I noticed some prints hanging in a back hallway. They were about famous duels on the peninsula. San Mateo was remote back then, and was a good, out of the way place to settle affairs of honor. One print showed “W.D. Howard trying to stop a duel between A.E. Smith and H.B. Truett. Howard is running out at the last second to halt the carnage. It looked like it was not going to turn out good. 
There was a print of the Broderick vs. Terry duel, probably the most famous duel in California. It was held on the outskirts of San Francisco. The print shows them nearly ready for the standoff. A nearby glass case had an ancient looking dueling pistol that was found at the site of the Terry/Broderick duel. 
It was time to get back outside for “Danny Caron’s Good Hands Organ Trio featuring Wayne de la Cruz.” Caron dedicated a song, “Promise” to Ernest Ranglin, a Jamaican guitar player. Ranglin had been present at the birth of Reggae, and had played on many historic tracks. 
“In Louisiana they call it Cajun Boogaloo, or Zydeco Boogaloo. Here we call it Redwood City Boogaloo.” The crowd perked up a bit during the spirited number. De la Cruz is a master of the Hammond B3. A few guys angled for the keyboard view. It was a great chance to see the master at work.  
Marina Crouse joins and belts out a powerful “Why I’m Crying.” “You’re with her, but I still love you.” They do “You Can Have My Husband, But Don’t Mess With My Man.” “I Idolize You.” “Deep In My Heart.” 
Most of the crowd was older. Most people bopped or swayed to the music in the heat, but some people really danced. A grizzled guy came up to me and gave me the knowing grin. He was missing most of his teeth. Yeah, we were there in the old days. In fact, we’re still here now. Now we’re Rhythm and Blues geriatrics. 
The equipment turnovers were done quickly. The sound was very good all day too. No major problems. The festival is very well run. Each act gets about an hour. Some acts went over their time, so things got a bit behind schedule. 
The next act is Aki Kumar. He’s from Bombay, India. Someone talked about him in the Little Fox earlier. “He’s Indian, and the guy is great!” He opens with a rocking “I Gave Her All My Money.” Every time he goes onstage he has something to prove. The program says that he has the “electric Chicago sound.” “Yes, I’m Coming, Open the Door.” After the song Kumar says, “Welcome to Redwood City!” Yes, an Indian can sing the Blues. They did some lively jump songs. 
During another break the MC pushes raffle tickets. “There are girls with big cans walking around. Oh, I didn’t mean it like that!” 
People drifted out holding their lawn chairs. There was still the main act coming up, but they were getting out of here. Getting away from the sun. There was a bit of a breeze as the day went on. 
The main act was Rick Estrin and the Nightcats. Rick Estrin, with his long face and stylish suit is a walking hipster caricature. They open with “Don’t Bite” and then do a fast paced song about getting a cool suit for “a party.” 
“I’m Tired.” Estrin blows a great harmonica and the Nightcats are cooking on “Barefooting.” Estrin blew his harmonica into what looked like a vintage microphone. It was certainly big enough to be technologically obsolete. I’m not sure how it changed his sound, but it sure looked cool.    
I started wandering towards the train station. It wasn’t far, but I didn’t want to miss the 6:41. There was a bench in some shade about a block from the stage, and in striking distance of the train. Downtown Redwood City is cool in the shade. Estrin and the Nightcats did a song that sounded like an old Hippie jam from the Sixties. I couldn’t place the familiar riff. 
It had been a smaller crowd than in years past, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of those there. It seemed less crowded. It was great to hear the Blues live again.