For some reason blogspot has decided I'm not allowed to title any of my posts anymore. The cursor won't appear in the title box when I click on it. It's one of those things that happen in our technical realm that can't be explained--or at least can't be explained by me. This is a real shame because titles are important. My last post was of a quote, and I decided not to title it because I felt that the quote spoke for itself. I'm wondering now if that by not giving it a title I automatically triggered some default that won't allow me to title anything else. Dammit. Blogspot's idiosyncrasies have screwed me before, causing me to have to abandon a former blog because of some irreversible trap I fell into which banned access to posting on the old one. I might have to switch to another blog host, or whatever they call them. There, rant over. (Plus the diversion of blame, which makes it the machine's fault and not mine :]
I had a great weekend. I went to see the folks in VA and was treated to two concerts, both of which were outstanding, but for different reasons. The first concert was folk legend and flat-picking pioneer Doc Watson who, for all of his eighty-four years, is incredibly spry and energetic. I went to this concert with my mom who now might be the biggest Doc Watson fan I know. She was completely charmed by him. I've seen Doc a number of times, but only twice with my mother. The other time was about ten years ago at Wake Forest University, and that time I remember Doc doing a slow yodel song, possibly a Jimmy Rogers tune, and my mom letting out a long (and loud) lamenting sigh as he hit the falsetto. As for me, I experienced chills.On Friday Watson had his usual line up. He comes out with his grandson Richard, who is the son of Doc's former picking partner Merle, who died tragically in the early eighties. Part of the fun of this show was watching Richard's laid back approach to playing and performing, and hell, life in general. He experienced technical difficulties throughout the concert; a capo was slipping, he couldn't find another one, he kept prompting his grandfather to tell the wrong story, and at one point he dropped his pick into the sound-hole of his guitar and fumble nonchalantly in all of his pockets until Doc requested that he "play a little rhythm son." He picklessly obliged. After about half a dozen numbers, including Gershwin's chilling Summertime, Richard happily shuffled off-stage to make way for Doc's other playing partner, Jack Lawrence.
Lawrence is everything Richard is not, and the contrast is one of the best features of the show. Lawrence is a precise and soulful technician and one of the best flat-pickers of the next generation removed from Doc. Still, his semi-formal approach is less relaxed than Richards and brings the audience out of the Watson living-room and back into a grand theater. He is historian of bluegrass and old-timey music, and funny as well--at one point he said that he grew up so far back in the sticks that even the Episcopalians handled snakes--and when he and Doc played twin lead a great roar came up from the crowd.
One song Doc played was the old Moody Blues song Knights in White Satin. I had just read a review of this song in a book titled The Worst Rock and Roll Records of all Time. In the review, the snide and proud-of-themselves reviewers claimed that this song was nothing but LSD induced hippy shlock where you string non-sequiturs together and let the drugs do the rest. I bought into this opinion until Doc introduced the song and explained that it is simple love song where the knights in white satin are letters to a lover which the author never sends. His simple distillation of the song into a piece about unrequited love made me realize how easily this venerable man gets to the essence of a song and adapts it to his own style. More people than just my mom let out a melancholy sigh when he performed it.
Peace, Love, and AARP (the American Association of Retired Persons)
On Saturday we went to a very different event, but one that had an equal amount of charm. My sister Lindsay bought tickets to a concert titled The Summer of Love. The featured acts were Jefferson Starship, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Its a Beautiful Day, and Tom Constantin (who holds the distinction, along with Bruce Hornesby, as being the only surviving keyboardist for the Grateful Dead--they had four others, all died while with the band or after leaving the band.) All of these bands were active in or around the bay area of San Francisco during the time of The Montery Pop Festival, which brought the summer-of-love to its peak. I was a little hesitant about how this concert would be, believing that it was going to be an exercise in extreme nostalgia, but I was wrong about that to a certain extent.
We went with a friend of Lindsays who is a fellow artist. Rose and Lindsay have been applying for grants which will allow them to teach art to inmates around Virginia. They have already been working at the county jail for about a year. A grant would allow them to expand into more "correctional facilities." Rose brought her niece, who is the daughter of one of the original members of the kick-ass women's ensemble En Vogue (Free your Mind, and the Rest Will Follow.) A cool group to be at a concert with.
I was dressed in wannabee-college-professor-chic, a threadbare, but comfortable, button-down and khakis. Turns out, this wasn't an unusual get-up. The guy sitting next to me had on the exact same costume! And there were more like us. There were also plenty of tie-dyes and burkenstocks but I was amazed at how many of the audience looked like they had just walked out of a seminar about eighteenth-century poetry or something. Most of them looked as if they could deliver a lecture at a moments notice.
These types of events are perfect for crowd watching. I saw a guy who looked exactly like Donald Sutherland in M*A*S*H. He had on a white fishing hat and a faded Hawaiian shirt and was tall enough, and damned if I'm not really convinced it wasn't Sutherland. He turned around once and caught me glaring at him and shuffled off to another part of the crowd.
We only caught two of the acts, Big Brother and Jefferson Starship. Both were really good but I have to say that Big Brother kinda blew the roof off. The singer, who had the enormous responsibility of taking Janis Joplin's parts, was just phenomenal. I tried to look up her name on the band's website but came up empty. Jefferson Starship, who's original line-up has long since been scuttled, was decent and energetic and chose some great songs such as Jorma Kaukonen's Good Sheppard and The Grateful Dead's Loser.
At one point, while Jefferson Starship was playing a driving rocker called Ride the Tiger, I looked over at the couple to my left. Here was a couple, in their mid-fifties maybe, and the woman looked as if she might be a school-teacher or a housewife. She was dressed in a very unprepossessing pink top and slacks with short curly hair and I could picture passing her in the aisle at Target or somewhere with a handful of coupons and a cartful of pastels and knits. I noticed she was singing every word to the song (and there are a lot of words to this song) in perfect rhythm, swaying back and forth with her eyes closed as if caught in rapture. The song could be about a number of things but it evokes freedom and individuality whether it be sexual, mentally-experimental or just an attitude of going for it. I looked at her husband and he was less animated but was also into it, and he bopped his head back and forth, infected, however conservatively, by his wife's enthusiasm. I really liked this image and for some reason it made me believe a little more in the American-at-large, who I often condemn when I am in less charitable moods.
As we left the pavilion, the band started up their encore. It was the great revolution rally cry Volunteers. As the band was giving this call to citizen participation, most of the crowd got it and were waving peace signs and dancing and getting their last ya-yas out before loading up the Subaru and heading back to the sub-division. I noticed there was a young woman in front of me looking at the stage with a bored expression. She looked at her boyfriend, and he at her, and she just shrugged, indicating that she just didn't get it. She had her cell phone and red-bull placed firmly in front of her, and she looked ready to leave. I realized that she was probably exactly the age that many of the audience members were during the summer of love and I felt the generation-gap manifesting itself decidedly into my interpretation of this event. Then I looked over at Rose's niece, a young woman of about the same age, and she was jumping up, dancing, and waving. There's hope, I thought.