PRESCRIPT: Pieces like this are often time sensitive and sending them out distanced is not always the best way to do it. My life is such now that I see a pen and paper off in the distance. There is a haze and a fog and obstacles preventing its reach that no swimming against the proverbial tide or crawling on hands and knees seems to get me there. Chores and kids and house and life are strewn about so that it becomes both exhausting and futile and necessary all at the same time. I am learning to push those things out of the way with a greater and greater force. This morning, I gave a fierce shove to my morning walk and Zumba workout to reach the pen and paper to finish this train of musical thought started weeks ago during one of my joyous musical weeks.
The funny little goose bumps and silly little shivers up and down my arms this morning in anticipation of the Coldplay concert I will see at the Rose Bowl this evening is as physiologically good as it gets. Induced and exacerbated by my friend Sandi telling me about her favorite CP song called Fix You. I watched it live in Paris some five years ago this morning. I was pierced to the soul by this beautiful song and even more perfect rendition. Like a kid who sneaks down to the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve after Mom and Dad have left the presents and gone chasing the sugarplums in their head, my fingers ran to Setlist.com. I had to unwrap the present now and know the set list odds of hearing this song played tonight. The odds are very good.
I have not been a huge Coldplay fan. I love Viva La Vida but took me years to stop calling it Living La Vida Loca. One of the things I have treasured over the past few years with my writing polisher and business partner, Michael, is our shared love of music, albeit as different musical taste as you can get. I call him my business partner. He refers to himself as the hired help. He is an older CP fan, not by age but by album release. He turned me on to a few great songs by them that I had never heard before, Yellow for one, Trouble for two.
Sharing musical finds is a sacred pastime of mine. I have found very few in my life travels to do so with. When I met my partner, I lobbed Bob and Bruce at him, the litmus test for me of anyone’s musical taste. He didn’t catch them right away, if at all. He was reluctant, given my penchant for heavy lyric above all else music, to share much of his with me. A chance trip through Facebook and the find of a very prolific posting friend of his led me to so many different kinds of his type of music. I remember the day I played Gary Neumann’s What the Clock Said. His jaw dropped that I loved that song. I like to think that over our past several years of American Bandstand like music sharing without the dance numbers, we have had a bit of influence on each other musically. He liked Dawes a lot and I fell in love with David Bowie posthumously because of his recommendations. The one thing that I have found most fun in learning about and listening to all this new music from him is that I have to really listen in stereo. Because the music I am most drawn to is lyrically prominent, with the surrounding sound a pretty packaged compliment to the words, I listen with mono ears. Listening to Michael’s music requires listening to it with stereophonic ears. There seems to be this common theme in much of the songs wherein there is a steady repetitive beat but not just drums and/or bass alone. It’s almost an entire song with a steady repetition and so your ear is drawn to this. With that constant is then a flurry of music wrapped around it and over it and under it, sort of independent of the basic song and so you listen to that part with the other ear. It is quite a pleasing effect. He has liked a lot of the music outside his realm that I played for him over the years as well. He actually watched the film Don’t Look Back by Bob a few months ago, a result of a video job that my friend April gave us to do. I won’t say Michael’s going to be strolling around humming Desolation Row anytime soon though. He still remains in the “ l like Dylan’s words and songs, I just wish someone else was singing them” camp. Well problem solved, as he knows, having done enough audio copying for Andy, that he and his associate Renee, put on the best Dylanfest every May with fifty to sixty musicians all singing Bob’s songs. No better place to see Dylan not singing Dylan.
Andy, my musician friend and West Coast honorary little brother, is another person who I have constantly played, “hey listen to this” with for near 30 years. This is very different, though, in that our musical tastes are so alike that the chances of his liking something I find or he plays for me are about 99% easily. I was a Dylan fan when I met Andy, but with a much narrower selection of songs and albums. You can get an honorary degree in Dylan by hanging out with Andy this many years. Hang out with April, though and you get a Dylan Doctorate. April is hands down the Dylan knowledge queen. She knows every lyric and every song like I have never seen before. A small digression.
I was driving and listening to KCSN one day, the best radio station from Cal State Northridge ever and my partner’s alma mater, and I heard Dawes do A Little Bit of Everything for the very first time. I was totally and completely blown away. The first person I called to share it with was Andy. The gold standard of whether I really like a song sometimes is that the first thought that goes through my head is Andy should play it or Andy and Renee should play it, if I hear a female part prominently. That day I literally pulled over and texted Andy and said have you ever heard of this band? YES, was the enthusiastic as Andy can be reply. Come over tonight and so I did and over some 22 minutes in the freezer timed perfectly Sierras, Andy told me the story of discovering this band on a fieldtrip with his son a few years before. They were the musical guests at the Grammy Museum that day. Taylor the leader of the band along with his brother Griffin are the sons of Lenny Goldsmith of Tower of Power and who now has his own band and Andy and he now share a bass player in Dave Batti: six degrees of musical non-separation. Andy told me the story that Taylor told that day at the fieldtrip of being the opening act for Bob Dylan a few years before and actually waiting for Bob after the concert as their tour buses were parked side by side. A fist bump by Bob telling Taylor he thought his song A Little Bit of Everything Thing was great sent him straight to songwriter heaven am sure. Andy played me all his favorites and I was hooked and then some. They are without a doubt my favorite new band and the best singer/songwriters to come along in near forty years. It’s no wonder Bob liked them. It’s no wonder they love Bob.
The next one I ran Dawes by is my musical gal pal extraordinaire, Ms. Sandi Behar. She knew of them and loved their music. Well this much of a musical find requires an up close and personal look, does it not? So ticket mistress me, does what I do best and finds out where they are playing and organizes a musical field trip. What a great time we had with this one. First Dawes had a new album coming out in the fall. They were to play as an opening act in August, but executive decision by me- no way was this band opening band material. We either see a full concert by them or nothing. They are too damn good to go see for a 45 minute set. That’s music-interruptus at it’s worst. Rewarded we were by waiting, like all good virgins sometimes are, because by September they had a new album out. First Andy, his son Chase, Lorna (Andy’s girlfriend and my most ZEN BFF) and I saw them in a tiny record store in Long Beach where they played a beautiful semi-acoustic set and signed posters and CDs for the fans. As I said to Taylor when he signed my poster, “Don’t believe any of these people, I AM your biggest fan”. Two nights later as luck and my ticket-enchanted life would have it; I had two tickets to see an entire show at the Masonic Lodge at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery with Sandi. It was one of the best, and I know she would agree, wonderfully magical experiences of our musical madness friendship. When you meet kindred musical spirits you hold them close and treasure them, as they are rare in one’s life. This wonderful lady who I met through Andy is certainly one of my rare few.
The following spring, I organized a posse of Dawes fans that included Renee and husband Patrick, Andy, Chase and girlfriend Sam, Lorna and Sandi to see them at the Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. This is by far one of my absolute favorite venues. A little ticket trickery on my part, which I am not going to disclose, had balcony seats turned into first and sixth row front and center for what was a phenomenal Dawes show. Andy had only seen the short record store performance, so it was a pleasure watching him watching them at this full-blown concert.
It is only fitting that as I contemplated yesterday who I should take to see Coldplay tonight, as I had to let poor Sandi off the hook with her work schedule and our previous night’s musical Lukas magic, that I decided to see if my partner would go. I like going to shows with a fan and even better if they have never see them. I set out to find my tickets and within a half hour I did. Great seats on the 50-yard line about 26 rows up from the floor. The man said he was selling at less than face value because he had to work. Perhaps, or perhaps the fear set in of concert crowds and mayhem from the prior week’s Las Vegas debacle. I will never know and he will never say. I am sure there are many more who live by the news rather than by the numbers these days. So I’ll drag Michael kicking and beaming tonight thanks to a lovely man who couldn’t go.
The show was big. Very big. Stadium big with the coolest bracelets lighting up at different colors upon Coldplay’s commands. I was so upset they turned off after a few miles down the freeway. We could have kept them lit for good, couldn’t we? I am sure there is some terrible technical reason why not. Fireworks, twinkly lights and colorful balloons are enough to make me happy, but I missed the intimacy of music a bit more up close and personal. The last time I was at the Rose Bowl was for the Rolling Stones Voodoo Lounge tour decades ago. Thank you to my friend Trish for that musical reminder. Coldplay is a wonderful band, although as agreed, the sound is not the best here. The seats are tight but the night was just beautiful weather-wise and with a full moon. Speaking of Full Moon Risings, they did a great tribute to Tom Petty with Free Falling at the end joined by that James something guy from the carpool Karaoke and a great horn section. Really nice. They are a great band and the musicianship top notch. They are true Guitar Heroes, playing their years old guitars for all their worth and that is not measured by the costly sheen. One guitar looked like the first cast on a third grader’s broken leg, covered with colorful signatures and writing. It is only the Guitar Zeroes that think they need to change out a shiny brand new $1000 instrument with every few notes, as if musical soul and talent and passion exude from a price tag. We got lots of Coldplay favorites and even the Fix You song I love, albeit more the album version than the softer piano only one I saw on YouTube, but lovely just the same. My partner was happy with the choice of a song from their very first album entitled Don’t Panic. That album, Parachutes, has been a phenomenal find for me this week as well. Music is timeless and when one discovers it doesn’t matter really. Parachutes is as near a perfect album as it gets. Now on to part one of my musical week.
The Wednesday night before was one of the most magical of musical events. The Los Angeles Chapter of the Lukas Nelson fan club rides again, this time to the Fonda Theater in Hollywood. These old theaters we have around Los Angeles are such terrific venues to see music at. This one did not disappoint. Lukas is Willie Nelson’s son. I discovered him quite by accident several months back through one of my musical internet meanderings. He was doing an impromptu rendition in a lounge on a cruise ship with just a couple of old veteran musicians on the piano and trumpet of his Dad’s You Were on My Mind that simply took my breath away for about an hour. Fast forward to June and a Facebook conversation with Sandi and a few others about their seeing Lukas and his band, the Promise of the Real, at the previous weekend’s Arroyo Grande musical festival in Pasadena. They were talking about how great he was. But didn’t I send you that YouTube of him months ago doing the song, I asked? They didn’t remember anything like that. Hmm. Well this certainly requires an up close and personal look by me, does it not? So while we were FB chatting I mentioned we should see him. I then looked up where his tour was and sadly no Los Angeles shows for the rest of the year. The closest show was Sacramento at the end of July. Well within the hour, I had the tickets, the itinerary and the agreement of Sandi, and two other fans and friends, Yoli and Christine- fans of Lukas, friends of ours- ready, willing and able for an overnight trip to Sacramento to see him.
Phenomenal night, phenomenal band. We saw him at the Ace of Spades in downtown Sac, a great, intimate musical venue. We then found out that he was adding a show in Los Angeles in October at the Fonda theater and that is how the Lukas Nelson Fan club plus a few more additions like Jacki, music photographer extraordinaire and Lorraine joined the club. Vampire musical energy. It’s the only thing I could come up with to describe what Lukas has. I bought his CD at the Sacramento show. I listened to it, maybe once in my car. It does nothing for me. They are nice songs. He’s got a nice voice. That’s it. I have watched a few live performances with the band videos of him on YouTube. Ok, not bad, pretty good as rock country goes. But enter a room with him. See him and his band from a few feet away from the stage at a show you paid like 30 bucks for and every one of your senses becomes assaulted and engaged. He is pure, pure musical magic, albeit black magic I am starting to think, on that stage. Like a vampire whose selfie you never took or seen, his musical energy simply cannot be captured on any medium. It exists in live form only. You watch his soul and fire and charm and heart and all laid bare for you right on that stage to share and enjoy and it’s an experience one never forgets. Everyone is better live than on a record some would say. That’s not the same here. The usual course of events is that we develop a kinship and connection to the music first by listening to it on record or radio. . We then want to see it performed live and sometimes we are pleased and sometimes not, but we go back to listening to our favorite artists on the record or tape or MP3 and we are fine with that experience. What I am saying here is, I can’t listen to him on those mediums cause it kind of bores me. The songs run together in a way. There is nothing remarkable about listening to them in my car, but I can say with absolute conviction that there will never be a Lukas Nelson concert in Los Angeles and parts nearby that I won’t be at if humanly possible. Lukas travels a lot with his Dad playing on his tours and his band is also Neil Young’s touring band. All very nice, but this is another musician that I have no interest in seeing as an opening act or part of some long bill that gives them a 45 minute set.
As musically special weeks go, the first one of this October was a gift in so many ways and I treasure and thank all the people I got to share it with. And so I reached the pen and the paper this morning. Now it’s time to get back to the walk and the Zumba until the next piece beckons.