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Robbie Robertson…

Another email telling me about various events coming up from AXS. Interesting. Robbie Robertson doing a story telling session to promote his new book at the Ace Hotel and a free book. Ok I’m in. I get the four tickets and ridiculously cheap as far as I am concerned. I haven’t thought about Robbie in quite awhile. I have my favorite song by him downloaded Broken Arrow. Of course I came across it because Andy covers it beautifully. You all should know who Andy is by now and Renee too. It was the 40th Anniversary of the Last Waltz apparently last weekend. I didn’t know that although I should. I had no problem when my sons were little and they insisted on playing the same videos over and over and over again. With Marco it was Teletubbies and Barnie. With Max it was the Wiggles. Sorry he is the second child -we remember less.   That was because I had a lot of experience at this when we lived with Andy. He played two videos over and over and over again for seven years, The Last Waltz and Don’t Look Back.   There was nothing like watching these with Andy albeit ad nauseum. He managed to find something new each time he watched those films and so you did too. It didn’t matter either that it was the hundredth time he saw it.

Storyville was especially a fond memory. I remember when it came out and how fascinated I was by the location itself as these were the years I spent a bit of time in New Orleans for work, a city I adore and definitely on the list to visit again soon. It’s been over 20 years. I bought the book about Storyville as well. Hmmm. It isn’t on my bookshelf this morning. I swear I should have inspected Andy’s boxes when he moved out all those years ago. I’ve been more of a Robbie fan than any other band member. It still surprises me that Levon was the drummer. Ok I didn’t say that out loud to the rest of the group last night. So when tickets came available immediately I said Andy has to come to this as he is pretty much the only rabid Robbie fan I know. I will badger him to until he does. But this one was surprisingly easy. One text and a reply of I’m in and Lorna of course. I was going to take my video partner who has now come to enough events and has shown himself to be a very capable stage door partner in lurking that I should probably elevate him to friend status. But he declined as he takes my policy of only huge fans should go with me to events very seriously. Well I know a lot of Band fans but no singular Robbie fans and so back to Andy. Think, who? DT he asks (I am now going to use initials to protect the innocent and to not get sued or something as this is LA and who knows how touchy people are about ending up in your damn story without permission.) DT declines. Bad choice anyway. He’s a newly minted parent. We shall invite him to things in about 13 years. A chance CL post by JD of Dylanboy fame looking for a Rick Danko type bassist sends a light bulb over my head. Of course! So I message JD. I message Andy with my brilliant discovery only to be told Andy has asked SG without telling me. Text as follows. He’s such a nice a guy he has to go. Well yes of course he is but so is JD. Yes but SG is an author. Hello!! I know he gave me a copy of his book! But JD is a MUSICIAN with a Band cover band for God’s sakes!! Yes but SG is a musician also. Good Lord we are getting nowhere! I’ll see if I can get another ticket and that my friends is how Julie from the Love Boat rolled with this event. And then a text at midnight from Renee the night before the show, what time are you all getting there for the show tomorrow? HUH?? Did Andy go and offer the ticket to Renee too? Uh 7pm I say tentatively, why? Turns out a friend of her and Mr. P’s couldn’t attend and so they were going as well. Outstanding!

As events go this was just spectacular. What a raconteur Robbie is and Chris Connelly as the moderator was so not annoying at all. I have no clue who he was but everyone else seemed to so I will leave it at that. Robbie’s new book Testimony is fascinating in that it STOPS at the Last Waltz. I love that actually. His stories about meeting Dylan and how he came to the Hawks and how Big Pink was founded and Woodstock and the Last Waltz itself were funny and entertaining and just wonderful. Magical music or life events never start out with a plan to be so. They often start out as a simple sincere idea and desire. The story of how the Last Waltz came about solidifies that concept and then some. The same holds true for Dylan changing his folk direction with the Band in 67. To me the true artist remains true to the convictions of his artistry regardless of the popular opinions of fans or sycophants or handlers or anyone else. A true artist must FEEL deeply the conviction of what they are creating and must never waiver from that. It is this terrifying fearlessness which brings us the greatest music and other art.

This is only the second time I have ever seen Robbie Robertson. The first was actually in a little theater in New York in 1976 during the Last Waltz year. The infamous Capital Theater in Port Chester, NY. This 1800 seat theater re-opened in 1970 as a concert hall. It had been a movie theater before that. Everyone in the 70s played there. It was no secret that the mob had a big interest here. Not sure how else you could have gotten acts who were selling out the Garden to also play here. Obviously an offer they couldn’t refuse. Don’t be judgmental. Just because they happen to kill people who annoy them doesn’t mean they can’t bring us great music as well. And don’t pretend that thought hasn’t crossed your mind once or twice. Janis Joplin debuted Mercedes Benz at this theater by the way. I digress.

Other than the requisite hits you heard on the radio, I didn’t really know much Band music until my future brother in law turned me on to Stage Fright way back when I first met him and his wife at Customs in 74 in their best friends of mine first capacity.   I had such a nagging suspicion this year that I saw the Band play live at the Capital Theater.   Unfortunately my recollection of the 70s is not very good. Yes the old adage if you remember the 60s you weren’t really there holds true for the 70s as well. I actually tracked down my ex brother in law who I hadn’t spoken to in decades to see if I was hallucinating or did we really see them and he confirmed that we most certainly did along with my now dead ex-husband, may he rest in musical peace.

Robbie didn’t only regale us with the happy and exciting musical tales he had to tell. He also gave us a depiction of the addictions that plagued the Band and the rest of the musical and youth world during that time that was so spot on. It was a time of innocence and experimentation as he said. No one really knew the affects of any of it. But especially true was his assessment that there are two types of people when it comes to doing drugs, alcohol or any other potentially addictive substance. He said there are dabblers. Those who experimented and easily walked away and then there were those who it stuck to and those, like some of his own Band members, are the tragedies and the casualties of those times and today as well. I saw much evidence of that growing up during those times myself.

Later that same evening, we said our goodbyes, but as has become quite the habit since my son Max used to make us go to the stage door after every play I took him to, I knew I needed to find this one. JD seemed the obvious choice in this group. First he is no stranger to stage doors as an actor and second the most likely to follow me down this path. And so we go through the parking lot and into the back woods of the theater and we find a relatively small group of stage door people all with something to sign. Us, we couldn’t even find a pen between us. My favorite was the guy who actually brought with him what appeared to be his entire Band/Dylan vinyl collection in those old carrying cases we used to have for LPs back in the day. This one was light brown vinyl. Hadn’t seen one of these in forever. The black car is there and parked close to the stage door. They kept moving it kind of and a few of the handlers seemed to be edgy and gauging exactly how to get him in the car as quickly as possible. Finally he came out and he hesitated briefly but the handlers just swept him in to the car quickly. What a bummer!!   Everyone started saying Robbie come on just sign one thing. He didn’t. JD and I said goodbye and I walked back to the valet where my car was. Yes I am very spoiled. I began talking to a guy who showed me his Blonde on Blonde original LP in a cardboard box he had brought to the back stage door.   He was a lot younger than I and was so proud to tell me that this was an original mono version or something. I said yea that’s nice I have the exact same one at home. Anyway bubble firmly burst, he told me that Robbie is really a nice guy and usually stops and talks to the fans and his take is that the promoters here or whoever wouldn’t allow it. Who knows? If so, bad promoters!! A side note to this, while at the show I got a message from my sister-in-law sending me a write up in the local Reno paper about my niece who sang on stage for the first time in an event on Saturday night called Local’s Last Waltz in Tahoe. She sang lead on Rag Mama Rag and was well received and has her picture in the paper as well. Apparently this band called Jelly Bread does this show recreating the event for the past several years. Andy and Renee and Hard Rain have also done a Last Waltz event. Hmm maybe it’s time to do it again. So ends another magical musical sort of night. The good part is when I go see Robbie again in 20 years, I will have this internet writing to remember the last time and won’t have to randomly track down people to find out what the hell I did all those years ago! Thank you to all who said ‘yes’ to this event!   Keeps me from going alone and annoying random strangers.

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