June 10, 2009
A main character in my upcoming novel* has feeble short-term memory. His pockets spill over with scraps of paper covered in scribbled notes like tattoos on the leathery arms of an aging biker. A minor character fills her study with bound books chock-a-block with the lists of her daily life.
I’m not a list person, although I often write notes to myself. In the car. In the bathroom. But in a way maybe these notes are lists — things to remember, events by which to gauge time, yet not in list form.
My book deals with memory, history, and the chronology of a life whose gaps are filled by the most unlikely sources.
I’ve always seemed to chronicle my life by the music I was listening to at the time. I’m very aural. Aural Retentive, you could say. Live music shows were always fun (and cheap years ago) and something stupid would usually happen. Sometimes, magic happened.
This partial list isn’t about the highlights of my life, but rather the pleasant diversions along the thread of time stretching across my adult life.
And it’s the first list that came to mind. Looking back on it, I realize I smoked a shitload of pot in those days.
Oddly enough, I wrote this just before reading Greg Olear’s wildly entertaining Star Track post featuring the most perspicacious list I’ve read in ages. Read it if you haven’t (after you read this one!) — the man is a masterful writer. He’s Totally Killer, but everyone here knows that.
Aerosmith – First show ever. My friend Tony and I “score” pot from his older brother, and smoking it is like inhaling burnt Scotch tape. No high, just headache. Steven Tyler tries to make us clap along with a song halfway through the set. When only a smattering of the crowd does, he shouts: “I can’t hear you! What happened, did you lose your hands?!” Despite my virgin concertgoer status at the time, I consider this to be stupidest thing anyone’s ever said on stage. The designation still stands today.
Pat Benatar – 10 min. into the show she passes out — BAM! — right in the middle of the stage. Heroic roadie rushes over, dramatically scoops up the neo-pseudo-punk waif. Incident is later attributed to “prolonged fast food diet.” Oh really?
Jefferson Starship/Red Rider – My friend Rick sneaks a bottle of Bacardi 151 rum into the show in his boot. After many shots, Tony and I wonder if rum poured into a puddle on the floor will ignite enough to force the idiots around us to move the fuck away so we can get closer to the stage: It does. They do. My shoe catches fire, partially melts. Now in the front row, we are amazed that the Red Rider lead guitarist looks totally stoned yet is still able to play note-for-note the intro to “Lunatic Fringe.” Also, Grace Slick is stinking drunk, but does nothing obnoxious — apparently she just wanted the show to end so she could nod out on the bus. Or drool in a young male roadie’s lap.
Miles Davis – I attend Miles’s “comeback” show in Ft. Lauderdale with the music critic of the largest newspaper in Florida. I comment that the baggy oversized hat and coat Miles is wearing and the way he shuffles around the stage make him resemble an old black woman in a bath robe and shower cap. Days later, the critic uses the description in the review and claims it as his own. I object. We argue back and forth, then put the incident aside and attribute the confusion to copiuous amounts of sensi niceness after the show. (Also, there is an unsuccessful attempt to interview Miles backstage, although the sidemen are super talkative. Percussionist appears to be “coked up”.)
Joan Jett – I am bothered throughout the show because it appears Joan is looking directly at me the entire time. Staring right at me. Directly into my soul. I attribute this to her freakishly heavy eyeliner and my own paranoia brought on by pre-show shenanigans with a white rhino. I learn later that the girl next to me thought Joan was staring at her.
“Rock Superbowl” – Tangerine Bowl, Orlando, FL – REO Speedwagon, Sammy Hagar, Loverboy – (Yes, I’m that old.) Music is average, but the crowd is the real show. A guy named Worm and his ghoulish bodyguard walk the stands offering acid, hash, speed. They’re hawking it right out in the open. A crumpled beercan fight ensues between rival groups in the stands around us — crushed aluminum discs fill the air. Worm and the ghoul get caught in the middle. Ghoul is unfazed, says Anyone hits me I kick his ass (even though women are also involved in the fracas.) A can zips over my head from a guy directly behind me and smacks the ghoul square in the forehead. Ghoul points a meaty finger at me, slams his fist into his palm and immediately climbs up and over rows of humanity to get at me. With the aid of horrified and heroic onlookers, we convince the ghoul it was not me who threw the can. Ghoul yields gracefully, actually apologizes and then lumbers off to find the other guy. I spend the rest of the show in soiled boxers. Remainder of day is a blur.
They Might Be Giants – The stage is in the courtyard of an old hotel. My girlfriend and our friend Mike and I are mesmerized by a guy spinning like a dervish next to a fountain in the middle of the courtyard, wondering if he’ll fall in, hoping he will. He spins to every song, including “Whistling in the Dark”. We can understand spinning to “Twisting”, but “WITD”? Security makes him stop. They also eye us because there is NO SMOKING. We hate the ’90s.
Blue Rodeo – In the bar of the same hotel we watch the amazing Canadian alt-country rockers; keyboardist near the end of the show plays Hammond B3 with his face — and he’s GOOD! My girlfriend wins a t-shirt from an earlier tequila promotion — after the show she gives the shirt to a homeless guy lying on the sidewalk. I am duly impressed. Consider proposing.
Jazz Fest, New Orleans – T-shirt-donating girlfriend and I are now married. We see the Neville Bros., Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Marcia Griffiths, Fats Domino, many others. We spot Peter Buck from R.E.M. walking in the crowd a mere six feet from us. It’s high noon, a blazing sun overhead and he’s wearing black jeans, a long sleeve black shirt, and black Converse Chucks. We stalk him. We lose him when we peel off to get more beer. We decide he might have been a jerk in person anyway. We are happy.
Buckwheat Zydeco – The show is at Dobbins AFB in Marietta, GA, outside a hangar. Halfway through the show a wild and fast-moving thunderstorm tears through the base toppling tents, sound equipment and scaffolding. Huddling inside the hangar with other nervous fans while the storm rages outside, we see the band in the office doing shots.
Elvis Costello – I missed the opportunity to see him in the ’80s and kicked myself for years. It’s too embarrassing now to divulge the bands I chose to see instead — bad memories there. This show more than makes up for past mistakes. E.C. is at the top of his game. A full moon rises over the amphitheater as a solo spot shines on E.C.’s face while he sings “I Want You” as the finale. Stirring. I am glad I waited to see this with my wife.
David Bowie – The guy is still amazing, but somehow looks like an alien without(?) even trying. The show is top-notch despite the Brian Eno-influenced stuff from the five-year-old “Outside” album he played too much of. Security discovers the harmless skinny joint in my shirt pocket upon entrance. We hate Y2K.
Lucinda Williams – Atlanta Botanical Garden. L.W. argues (during the show!) with the lighting guy about the spots in her face, and with a roadie about the box fans blowing her sheet music away. It’s July in Atlanta and about 100 degrees outside so we feel for her. It’s distracting and she apologizes, blesses us and goes on. Wife and I are troubled by the tight security that constantly shoos us away from garden statuary and plants. L.W. calms down, and this turns into one of the best shows ever.
Pre-show meal for first show: burgers and beer.
Pre-show meal for latest show: Sushi and wine.
Vibe at first show: Security? What security? Relax and smoke up!
Vibe at latest show: “Don’t touch that, sir. Keep off the benches, ma’am.” So polite.
Time marches on.
*Upcoming novel, dependent upon finishing second half, landing agent, finding publisher. So easy!