Today I awoke to the news (big shocker) that Michael Vick has been signed to the Philadelphia Eagles.
This guy is a scumbag, and a thug, who electrocuted dogs with jumper cables and drowned them. And because he can THROW A BALL everything else is irrelevant.
We talk about how important sports are to kids, and how these people aren't just athletes, but role models embodying the values of teamwork, and discipline, and hard work.
Michael Vick is an example only that if you show some ability, you can do whatever you want and still become a millionaire athlete.
If you are so inclined, please send this to everyone you know. Let's help the integrity-challenged Philadelphia Eagles do something positive, instead of something negative. Let's help them to be better, by letting them know that actions count!
You can call, or write, or ... I mailed a can of dog food to the team at:
Philadelphia Eagles NovaCare Complex One NovaCare Way Philadelphia, PA 19145
If you're so inclined, you can also phone them at:
Philadelphia Eagles Football Club General Information: 215-463-2500
There's no reason why Michael Vick can't, since his "rehabilitation", do something besides football. Maybe - just maybe - he can live a normal life, with a normal wage, and be a normal person - is that option so bad?
Here we are at the Meadowlands, again. Not on stage, this time (you can't get VIP treatment every time!). But the old Park magic worked as usual, and on the morning of the show we scored Front Row tickets in the section diagonally off the stage at about the (floor) 7th row. Not too bad.
Oh, and the event? The kick-off of the 2009 Clapton / Winwood tour of course!
The show was fantastic, there is something about these two performers, in that each of them brings out the best in the other. Not in the Jack-Wants-to-Kill-Ginger-Maybe-I'll-Distract-Them-By-Playing-My-Ass-Off manner, but more in the Mutual Respect manner. In 2001 ol' Clappers was talking retirement, and clearly bored with playing, who would have guessed we would have this amazing resurgence from 2003 onward?
Of course, this was a special event in another way ... since I had met Miss Macpai almost exactly a year to the day earlier, at the Clapton concert at Jones Beach, on Long Island. So I proposed ... and on bended knee, at that. Happily, she accepted (not excepted), but not before some jerk pushed me over trying to get out to his car so he could wait in traffic!
After a day's rest, off we went for the 6 hour drive to the Three Rivers Festival in Pittsburgh. There for a while we were worried that we might have to fly to Europe to see one of our favorite performers, Dana Fuchs, and her crack guitar playing partner, Jon Diamond, since the fans in Europe are far more appreciative of REAL music than many people in the U.S. But the time and place were right, and our travel was rewarded with a hot set of rock, blues, gospel, country, and rockabilly, all neatly included in Dana's originals.
After getting to talk to Dana and Jon (two of the Nicest People in the Music Business), and making some new friends in the crowd, next we were treated to the exuberant energy of the always-incredible Robert Randolph and the Family Band, with a pleasant surprise, the also-incredible Aubrey Ghent on steel guitar as well!
How the heck do you follow Clapton, Winwood, Dana, and Robert ... an an engagement? Do you go home and call it a weekend? Heck no! You drive another 6 hours from Pittsburgh to Atlantic City, for one last 2009 Fleetwood Mac show!
Memorial Day Weekend is also "Fleet Week" in New York. We started off at a street fair, surfing the tables of wares and food, and getting a decent case of sunburn as summer began in earnest!
From there I made my way to somewhere I've wanted to go for years, but never seemed to find the time ... the USS Intrepid Museum, recently renovated and returned to her new berth on the Hudson River at 46th Street. The wait was long (over an hour), but passing the time with the river breeze blowing on a pretty day wasn't exactly an unpleasant chore.
The museum is chock full of exhibits, and it's fun to romp around an aircraft carrier. I was 6 years old the last time I was on a carrier, and at the time the klaxon that accompanies the deck elevator scared the jeepers out of me and caused a screaming fit. Finally, I was able to face my fears, and conquer the elevator, 36 years later!
Admission also includes entrance to a submarine, and perhaps best of all, one of the most beautiful machines ever designed and built, the Concorde:
Alas, it was all over too soon ... until next Memorial Day !
Here we are back at the Highline Ballroom, in the queue (though none of us is named "Mabel") waiting to gain entry up the winding staircase. As a group pushes their way up the stairs, we hear the query "can we Squeeze by?" and who passes us on the stairs but ex-Squeeze frontman Glenn Tilbrook, who we're here to see! Sort of like a groom seeing a bride before the wedding, it's a little disconcerting to see the artists before the show.
The opening act was a New York band called the Spring Standards, and spring, indeed, as they brought a musical fresh breeze with them. In a somewhat unique arrangement, there was no drummer, and instead each performer had 1/3 of the drum kit. But just like in a late night infomercial "but wait ... there's more!". The artists regularly switch and trade instruments, so everyone gets to play just about everything. As is our wont, we quickly navigated our way to the front and claimed a space leaning on the stage in front of the leftmost microphone stand, and were treated to a fun but too-short set of originals and classics. Glenn himself came out during the last song, "Little Bug", which quickly devolved into a spirited reworking of The Who's "My Generation":
I must admit I went into this show with a few reservations. I don't particularly like Squeeze. Well, no, that's sugar coating it. I find it to be the worst type of '70s and '80s Synth pop, which I am glad died as a musical force. So with my mental barrier set so low, I was unprepared for what a great band the Fluffers are, and what a musically dense experience this would be. Glenn Tilbrook has to be one of the single most at-ease and comfortable performers I have ever seen, and he's not only one heck of a guitar player but a totally engaging stage presence. The band careened through a set of classics and with many artists, the most dreaded thing you can hear is "this is from my new album", but in this case the new stuff is better than the old, especially the unforgettable 'Still'.
The thing I really can't figure out why anyone with the formidable guitar skills of someone like Glenn Tilbrook would downplay them, which he clearly did on the new album, "Pandemonium Ensues". It's decent, but over-produced. The live show is anything bu, and little did we know that the real pandemonium was on its way, as the Spring Standards repaid the favor with a visit to the stage for the encore, a cover of Lipps Incorporated's "Funkytown". There's no way to describe it in words, video will just have to do:
I was able to tell Glenn, later, that (1) that he and the Fluffers should release a live album / dvd and (2) I have the perfect name: "Pandemonium Ensued". He laughed heartily ... it remains to be seen if it will be seen !
"How do you follow THAT? ... (pause) ... "Play another song!" - Pete Townshend
So how do you follow Eric Clapton sitting in with the Allman Brothers?
Simple ... you go to the next gig and see what happens!
The next night found us out at the Meadowlands for our second-of-three Fleetwood Mac shows of the 2009 tour ... but with a difference. As a surprise, Miss Macpai had won a charity auction that included killer seats (more about that soon) and "VIP Access". We knew in advance that we'd get to meet Mick Fleetwood, which I was eagerly anticipating. What I didn't know, was that instead of the nondescript backstage room I envisioned, we were ushered up onto the waiting stage past the rack of Lindsey's guitars (marked "Death Row" !). After years of going to gigs and trying to get a glimpse of what equipment is being used on stage, it's an almost surreal experience to simply ... walk over and look.
As many times as I've been in large venues, I've never been up on the stage, and it's amazing how unlike-you-think-it-is. For one thing ... the venue seems SMALL from up there. When the lights are up, you can make complete eye contact clear back to the soundboard - and beyond.
Mick was, as expected, hilarious and gracious and oh so verrrrrry English, in a nutty-old-uncle way. Of course once we were there I forgot to say what I had intended, namely "it's so cool to meet someone who was on Star Trek ... so how's the music thing working out as a second career?" so I instead concentrated on mortifying Miss Macpai with the suggestion to Mick that she didn't know much about the "real" (ie pre-1975) Fleetwood Mac. Mick caught my wink, but she didn't as she sputtered to defend herself, which he enjoyed as he was in on the joke.
After an all-too-short time with one of music's great drummers, I wandered back to where we had set our coats .. on Lindsey's pedal board. Yes, again that word "surreal" pops up. You spend all this time wondering what effects people use in concert, and the next thing you know, you're tripping over them.
The highlight of the trip up to the stage was wholly unexpected. We were given very few admonitions, but the one thing that was stressed was "Don't touch Stevie's mic ... she freaks out!". But as we circled the mic, we looked down at the TelePrompter (I guess if Obama ever wants to sit in, he's covered), and there in front was a piece of tape that read "New Jersey" ...
On the way back to our backstage waiting area, Macpai mimed singing along at Lindsey's mic:
Then, not 30 minutes later, the view from the other side of the mic:
Miss Macpai gets all the credit for this one, too. Our "VIP" seating was very good, second row but on the left side of the arena. For us Lindsey-heads, that was the wrong side! Macpai asked if we were allowed to wander up to the stage when the lights came down (there was no barrier), and the security guard said that no, only people in the front row with special armbands were allowed up. A quick discussion with our VIP person later, we were equipped with day-glo armbands, and our seatmates were warned to GET OUT OF OUR WAY when the lights went down. So we literally spent the evening directly in front of the mic stand where we stashed our coats just a little while earlier.
I didn't realize it at the time, but I wasn't unchanged by my encounter with Mick Fleetwood. I've always possessed impressive Air Guitar skills, but I have never played drums, or even Air Drums. So imagine my surprise when I checked YouTube weeks after the show and there I was (backwards Yankees hat), Miss Macpai pogo-ing her best in front of me ... and there I am, at the feet of one of my favorite guitar players - yet, I'm not playing Air Guitar, but Air Drums in concert with Mick!
I didn't even know I had it in me ...
It's also surreal, indeed, not only to have this great experience but to have a friend send you a YouTube link and ask "... is that you?". Yes, I didn't even know the person next to us was shooting video (with a nice shot of Macpai's vintage rings!).
If it was the plot of a work of fiction ... no one would believe it.
In Miami, in 1970, Eric Clapton meets Duane Allman, who joins (D)eric and the Dominos in recording the timeless "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs". Duane goes back on tour with the Allman Brothers, and meets his untimely fate an all-too-short time later. For whatever reason, somehow in the next 39 years, over the course of thousands of gigs, the paths of Eric Clapton and the Allman Brothers Band just go seperate ways.
Meanwhile - and here's the really unbelievable part of the story - in 1979 a nephew is born to Allman Brothers' Drummer Butch Trucks, and named "Derek" in honor of the album. By the time he was 9, Derek was playing professionally on stage, and at 11, he was touring with the Brothers and on his way to becoming a legend in his own right. Fast forward to 2006, and Derek joined his quasi-namesake, Eric, for a massive world tour that would stretch into the next year, and feature an ever-growing list of selections from the Dominos album.
Finally, in 2009, the musical wheel went full circle, as the Allman Brothers Band celebrated 40 years, and 20 years of an annual residency at New York's Beacon Theatre. Rumors flew about the possibility of a musical convergence, with speculation rampant. Miss Pai pulled out a calendar, and picked a date ... March 20, 2009. We would be there - would Eric?
The 19th came and from the venue, text messages started to fly ... it was true, EC was sitting in with the Allmans. All the other special guests had played just one night, for a song or two ... had we missed our chance by just one day?
The 20th arrived, and there we were. Sure enough, when we walked in, EC's Tweed Twin amplifier was on stage - but, as a friend of mine likes to say "hey ... they made more than one". Then, EC's guitar tech, Lee Dickson (who, inexplicably, isn't even mentioned in EC's book?) walked by. We knew we were in for a treat, but little did we know it would be one of the musical highlights of a lifetime!
This was truly one of those experiences that can be relayed, but not truly understood by those who were not there. It's become sort of trite and cliche to rehash the old lines about how music can create a shared experience, or bring people together, but there it was, something magical that just kept getting better.
Serendipity - probably the prettiest word in the english language. Sometimes, things fall into place serendipitiously - like this weekend!
We began with Van Morrison's Astral Weeks Live at the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden. Everything was perfect - sound, lighting, and a crack band.
The evening began slowly, with an eclectic set of originals and covers, then progressing into "Astral Weeks". The show was clearly being filmed, to what end I do not know.
From the soul, jazz, and blues of Van Morrison, the next night was spent at the Mexicali Live in Teaneck, New Jersey, an in-depth, intense voyage deep into Texas Blues and Jazz with Chris Duarte. He's not only one of the nicest, most fan-friendly people in music, but his live shows are known for their free-form expression, changing set lists, and epic length.
It was nice to fnally get to meet Chris after enjoying his music for so many years - especially considering that I had to go from Virginia, to New Jersey, to see someone from Austin who now lives in Atlanta. Talk about travel! Of course I hit the Merch table for some cool loot only available at shows, including the uber rare (and of course, uber-pricey) Japanese release of Texas Sugar Strat Magik. But after my last experience with asking someone to take our photo at the Mexicali, this time we took the photo FIRST ... then dug into the offerings!
From Manhattan, and then to New Jersey (it is the Garden State, ya know), it was a road trip to the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh for the first show of the Fleetwood Mac tour.
It was a brutally cold night, but from the first notes, the band came out firing on all cylinders. There were some first night jitters on Stevie's side of the stage (and some weird jitters from the strange dude sitting behind us) but it was a great evening. Pittsburgh has always been a great rock-n-roll town, and if you ever wondered "why open a tour in Pittsburgh?", this is the reason why, because those folks were up and on their feet all night, and really into the music.
After all this (if you're keeping tabs, it was NY > NJ > PA) it was a trip back to Virginia, and into the teeth of the worst snowstorm of the year. Most of the DC and Northern Virginia area were pretty much shut down due to the weather, but the roads were passable. And the best part? We found a store open, and purchased the just-released-that-day live CD version of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks Live. Just as everything else on this perfect weekend just fell effortlessly into place, we put the CD on and it ended just as we arrived home in Virginia.
This weekend, we had the treat of seeing blues legends BB King and Buddy Guy at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan. In inimitable New York fashion, before we were treated to a scene on the sidewalk as scalpers worked the crowd for this totally sold out show.
The pairing of BB King and Buddy Guy actually worked quite well ... mainly because BB's stature as the "senior" bluesman meant that Buddy went on first. Which meant that he was sober! Sober Buddy always puts on a good performance ... Drunk Buddy ... well, let's not go there. Having Buddy go on first also had the reward of meaning that, with a shorter set, he didn't have time for as much of his painfully boring schtick, and had to get down to the business of performing, which he did admirably.
Buddy brought out 9 year old guitar prodigy Quinn Sullivan during his set. By the age of 21, this kid is either gonna be a legend, or a burn out of epic proportions.
BB came out, and I think I speak for most everyone there when I say that we'd be happy just to hear him sit and tell stories all night ... he may be infirm, but he still has what my buddy Andy calls "THE NOTE". Whenever I go to a show and I'm talking to Andy later, he'll ask "did you hear THE NOTE?". Well, BB still has it!
Later in the set, and apparently for the only show on this tour, Buddy and Sullivan came out to jam with BB on stage:
BB is a national treasure, and it's fantastic that he's still touring. It's not every day you get to see a couple legends (and a potential legend) on stage!
This weekend, it was a trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ...
... No, not the real Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in Cleveland, but to the "Annex", in Manhattan. It's always amused me that while the HoF is elsewhere, the Coastal Elites can't stand to go there, so almost all events have been hosted in Manhattan. We wouldn't want all those snobs have to get "passports" to go to "Real America", would we? (Yes, I Went There).
Apparently just to ease the hypocrisy a little, there's now an "annex" in New York. It's a nice collection, a subset of what is available at the "real" Hall of Fame.
Of course, it pales in comparison to (1) the Mangano Annex (home of the original Head on a Stick, the Not Miami annex, and of course the Annex to the Annex, across the river in New Jersey.
On a weekend of record-setting cold, with snow coming down, what better to do than to take a trip to Central Park to find the iconic statue of Balto. Long before his animation fame, and even before his name was a punch line for Johnny Carson, Balto was part of the team that helped save the city of Nome in the run that led to the annual Iditarod race.
The island of Manhattan has been changed so much that it's hard to envision it in its original state, a land of hills and valleys. But one of the things New Yorkers walk by every day, are the huge granite rocks peeking out from beneath the soil in Central Park.
These rocks were deposited by glaciers that once covered not only North America but the entire northern hemisphere, and created the landscape we know today, including most of the geography of the US. What is interesting, is that in these rocks we see evidence of a recurring pattern of warming and cooling cycles throughout the history of our planet, occurring long before mankind made an impact and likely continuing long after we are gone. And here, in the middle of Gotham, the city that more than most others has embraced Environmentalism as Religion, we see proof that there are processes at work that dwarf humanity.
Michael Crichton (RIP) made such a good point, because to many on the "Warming" bandwagon, to even suggest some healthy skepticism is akin to heresy and treated as such.
But here in the midst of the coldest winter on record, perhaps Balto's bloodline (well, not Balto's, since he was actually neutered and didn't have offspring) has been diluted a bit, since I came home to find Cody the Codependant Husky carefully positioned between not one but TWO space heaters!
I think Defective Dog is likely hoping for at least just a little Global Warming ...
There are few things I love more than a good road trip, and as always it's the journey not the destination. Once I left Atlanta after the Soul Stew experience, I had some time to kill and decided to explore a road sign I had seen on the way south.
Sure enough, the I-85 exit marked "Toccoa" led me to Toccoa, Georgia, the site of the WWII facility Camp Toccoa as immortalized in the HBO Miniseries Band of Brothers.
The site of the original camp is long gone, located on private property in what is now an industrial park, but the infamous path to the top of Currahee Mountain is still there in all its' Georgia Red Clay brutality, now renamed the "Col. Robert Sink Memorial Trail".
It's one thing to see a trail like this in a movie, and another experience entirely to walk it, much less consider the ordeal of running to the top and back weighed down with a full load of gear and weapons.
As I had more time to kill (AirTran sucks!) I happily found located just a few minutes' drive away, the Currahee Military Museum which has an impressive collection of artifacts from Camp Toccoa on display:
The museum has a very personal touch, as many of the items were donated by those who attended the school:
The museum even located and transported some of the stables in which the troops were housed during their stay in England, and they are used to good effect as displays for personal items and exhibits. A five star hotel, these were not!
Headed north from Toccoa up I-85 one soon finds it hard to miss the Giant Peach water tower in Gaffney, South Carolina.
Finally, on the road home, far later than I had planned, I saw a sign that made the whole drive back worthwhile ... a sign from my childhood, and perhaps the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow :
Of course, a healthy and hearty meal is a requirement if I'll make it to one of my most important goals this year ... to attend the 2009 Annual Run of Currahee, "Three Miles Up and Three Miles Back", the first weekend in October:
Break out the running shoes, it's gonna be a year!
For New Year's we made the jaunt to Atlanta for a serious helping of Soul Stew. Earlier in the day we visited The Happiness Factory, because what goes better with some nice hot Soul Stew than an icy cold Coke in a supercool machined aluminum bottle?
The Sun Ra Arkestra opened the show, and went a little far out in left field, which was fine because it gave us a chance to wander a bit and check out the Fabulous Fox Theatre (which really is Fabulous, by the way!).
The band took the stage and promptly began to tear the place down, opening with a blistering "Talkin' About" that would have stood my hair on end had I had any! After a couple of numbers from Susan's new album, Mike Mattison came out and they performed a couple from Derek's new album (not due to be released for a couple of weeks).
After that, it was Soul Stew to the max, with an eclectic blend of originals and covers, with the nicest surprise just before midnight being the Allman Brothers' "Dreams".
The party really took off at Midnight, when the band launched into an unexpected string of Beatles' covers, and really took it out in style.
I can't think of a better way to bring in the new year, and here you go, just remember ... PLAY IT LOUD!
November was an interesting month. Sometimes you order meals to your liking, but other times you have to mix and match ingredients on your own. Since we hadn't had a proper serving of Soul Stew since August, we had to make our own, first with two Derek Trucks shows and the next week with Susan Tedeschi at the so-called Fillmore Theater at Irving Plaza. This is a rather sad attempt to tie Irving Plaza with the sadly-demolished Fillmore East, but the place is cool and it's nice seeing Bill Graham's memorabilia displayed.
Susan's opening act was 50s-styled Brit boogie artist James Hunter who put on a top notch set:
Susan put on a great set, with a lot of material from her new release Back to the River but also a nice spectrum of back catalog numbers and covers.
It was a fun show, and my first of hopefully many trips to "Irving Plaza". It's a fun place, check it out!
For the weekend of November 6-7, we had a Derek Trucks two-fer.
The first night's concert was held at the classy Highline Ballroom. As I was approaching the city coming up I-95, I got a phone call asking about my ETA and the ominous phrase "well you better get here fast because someone is hitting on me". Of course, it was all right, because the person doing the "hitting" was none other than Derek's dad Chris!
Even though the place was wall-to-wall packed, we used the Park magic to maneuver ourselves right down front by the Count (who looked as if he was perhaps ready for his nap!). It was a great, but in some ways reserved, show, and perhaps the highlight was a great performance of "Anyday", luckily found on the 'tube:
The next night's show was held at the Blender Theater at Gramercy. It's an old converted movie theater, and as such the floor slopes down toward the stage at a pretty steep angle. This makes for a nice viewing angle for the height challenged among us, but makes standing for an extended period somewhat problematic (shin splints, anyone?).
The vibe the second night was totally different, where the first show had a very laid back, groovy vibe, the next night's energy level was much higher.
The opening act was Eric Krazno's new band, "Chapter Two", and Kofi came out and sat in during their set:
Things really took off with the band on fire, including a nice sit down set of blues, featuring a blistering "Meet Me in the Bottom" which has the same riff EC used for If I Had Posession Over Judgment Day - talk about musical cross-pollination!
Later in the set, the members of Chapter Two joined DTB on stage, creating a long 3-song pre-and-post encore jam:
I shot tons of video that night, which can of course be found on the Geetarz YouTube page. And I did record the second night's show, which can be found at Archive.org.