First up on our hit parade was a local show by The Psychedelic Furs, you know, that English rock band founded in London in 1977. Led by singer Richard Butler and his brother Tim on bass guitar, the Furs are one of the many acts spawned from the British post-punk scene. Their music went through several phases, from an initially austere art rock sound and later touching on new wave and hard rock.
I was originally turned on to them through that legendary San Francisco radio station KFOG and this tune: Ghost in You.
We were going to see them at Tahoe a couple years back but my dang appendix decided to burst. That kind of precluded me from doing anything for a while. If you haven't read about that fun experience you can catch it right here: Angels on My Barcalounger.
The Furs line-up this time around was a bit different than the above Ghost in You link. Besides the Butler brothers there was a different guitarist, different drummer, a midget on sax and a Boy George dress alike on keyboards. Only, you know, she was a real girl and pretty darn good looking. Which Boy George was not. Either. Actually.
The show was at the 900 seat Grass Valley Vets hall, about ten minutes from the house. We parked across the street for free in a friend's commercial lot. The sheer magnitude of the convenience was off the hook. Our seats were pretty good too.
Bleacher bucket seats. Front row. Right smack dab in the middle of the auditorium, right behind the sound board and about eighty feet from the stage. The sound was awesome.
We saw Crosby and Nash in the same auditorium a few years back. We were in, like, the fourth row. We could see the color of their corneas. Crosby was wearing contacts. Those front row seats were great for Crosby and Nash. But I kinda figured the Furs would attract more of a rowdy on your feet kinda crowd. I wanted to be able to rock freely but also be able to sit and still see when necessary. I mean, at 63, our mosh pit days are definitely over.
The isles and stage were eventually rushed about midway through their set, my concern was substantiated. We rocked on completely unfettered.
Richard Butler, the lead singer, besides making all the notes shine, was magnanimous and gracious. He was all over the stage, shaking hands and playing to every nook in the cranny as he sang. His brother, the guitarist and the midget on sax were also quite generous with their antics.
The drummer and Girl George pretty much stayed in place. I mean, can you imagine how hard it would be to lug a drum set around the stage?
The Furs ran through a litany of hits and had the joint jumping My lovely wife may have just turned 63, but that girl can still rock and roll like she did in her 20's.
Next up on our summer hit parade was at a larger venue about forty miles away at the Toyota Amphitheater in Wheatland.
My lovely wife bought me pre birthday tickets to see Fitz and the Tantrums. Fitz and the who what? Yeah, they are an American indie pop band from LA that formed in 2008. Another KFOG turn on, these guys (and incredibly sexy girl) put on one hell of a high energy show. You can check them out right here: Out of My League.
The Toyota Amphitheater, while located in the middle of absolutely no freaking where is a very nice 18,500 seat venue. It was constructed by Bill Graham Presents in 2000 and it was based on the model of Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California.
We arrived about an hour before the show and had no trouble getting a decent free parking spot. You can pay twenty bucks for preferred parking, but I don't think you'd ever get out after the show. With one four lane road coming in from the south and the same from the north, the traffic out after a show there is legendarily fucked. Typically it takes an hour or so just to get five miles to a freeway. And then your forty to ninety mile ride home. Because remember, this venue is in the middle of NO where.
I was a bit concerned about this before we even left for the show. Hell, at our age we're lucky enough to still be awake at the end of a show let alone having to deal with a two hour journey home afterward. Might as well just sleep over in a motel. Oh yeah. This venue is in the middle of freaking no where and is MILES from any over night accommodations. Might as well just book a room in Kansas. Or just sleep in the car.
The security lines were quick and friendly, and I was completely amazed at all the concessions that were available. There was one souvenir booth, three food booths and about three hundred forty-seven booze booths. One right next to another. It looked like Bourbon Street in New Orleans at Mardi Gras. And the drinks did not come cheap.
My lovely wife had a twenty dollar double Margarita (made with real Patron tequila) and I had a six dollar Arnold Palmer (made with real Lipton tea.)
The booze was a lot cheaper at those Days on the Green. Besides the fact they were forty some years ago and booze was a hell of a lot cheaper, they also did not sell booze at rock shows. Ever. I guess they figured most everyone was frying on psychedelics and didn't need any alcohol. I guess they finally figured out folks could do both. We'd always bring our mix own in. Along with the acid. And copious amounts of weed.
What can I say? It was the seventies and we were young.
Since cans and bottles were not allowed, we'd fuel inject a watermelon with vodka. Then we'd make a dozen or more Harvey Wallbanger oranges, shooting up each orange with a shot of vodka, a shot of Galliano and a half shot of Grenadine syrup. At least we were healthy drunks. And nobody ever confiscated our fruit!
At the current venue my lovely wife and I shared a fifteen dollar tri-tip sandwich, and then had some form of Asian taco for another fifteen bucks. I know, Asian and taco usually don't go together in the same sentence. It's like Ravioli Foo Yung. But they did that night and they were actually quite good.
And as we sat dining on a lovely, shady piece of lawn, I began to notice my lovely wife and I were close to being the oldest people at the show. There were lots of kids in their teens and quite a few thirty and forty something adults chaperoning those kids.
It was definitely NOT the same sort of crowd that attended those Days on the Green or Winterland shows. I was really hard pressed to see any kind of puffing of any kind of sort going on anywhere. And no one, not nobody, was freaking out on psychedelics.
I brought my handy dandy very discreet vape pen. It got me by on the streets of London, I figured it would get me by at an apparent almost teeny bop rock show. Hell, back at those Days on the Green my compadres and I would always bring a stash of ten to sixty joints. Pre-rolled, ready to go. Besides the acid. Or mushrooms. Or mescaline. And every one around us was toking and tripping too. It was glorious.
This time around I had to pretend to be a responsible adult, taking very discreet, casual, puffs at opportune moments. Good thing I had my sunglasses on.
Being about the only sixty somethings in the crowd reminded me of the time my lovely wife and I went to see Stevie Wonder at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. We were, quite possibly, the only two white people in the room. Out of about twelve thousand. It was a fabulous show.
Turns out Fitz was number two on the bill, some group (I had never heard of) named OneRepublic was headlining. And some way too loud douche bag named James Arthur opened. I don't know what he was trying to over compensate for, but he was almost making our ears bleed. And we've been to some loud shows.
He's got a couple catchy songs getting air play, but he was really loud. My lovely wife went off and got some ear plugs from first aid. They helped immensely with his set, they weren't necessary for Fitz or OneRepublic.
Our seats were almost as fabulous as the Fur seats were. Second row center behind the sound board. The sound was great as were the visuals. Until the tall guy with the big head in a baseball cap sat down in front of me.
I was never that tall, even at my zenith, and now I am shrinking. I was once 5' 8", and now I'm something like 5'61/2''. Something like discs compacting. Or arthritis. Just Gettin Old.
Or maybe I've been jumping up and down at too many rock shows.
I took a measurement. The top of my shoulders were about even with the top of the chair back. And I wasn't even slouching. The top of the jolly green giant's shoulders were about eight inches above the top of his chair back. Same chairs. Same back. And then there was his jolly big head. The size of a basketball. How does a short guy deal with that?
It reminded me of the time I went to a reggae show at The Wilturn Theater in LA. We had great fourth or fifth row seats until a guy with an afro the size of Mars sat down in front of my friend's partner. There was no way to see around that, and there was no way to see above Lurch. I had to continually lean from side to side for a visual.
They should make a rule that if you're over six feet tall you're not allowed in the first few rows. Anywhere. For anything. The same should be said for those crew cab pick-ups with the massive trailer hitch on the back. They only get to park in the back two rows where they can considerately take up the two spaces they actually need so they don't stick four feet out into the driving space.
Fitz, Noelle and the midget were also quite generous with their antics. All over the stage, both singers were moving and dancing throughout the entire set. They were also quite gracious, thanking the crowd for helping them live their dreams.
I have to say, most every one there came to see OneRepublic. The young eighteen year old girl sitting next to me had never heard of Fitz. She was totally there to see OneRepublic.
It was her fifth rock show. It was somewhere in the one hundreds for us. I mean, we are in our 60's and have been rocking for over forty years. She was incredulous when I said my lovely wife and I used to go to shows in the 70's on acid.
One Republic was very professional. They are an American pop rock band formed in Colorado in 2002 by lead vocalist Ryan Tedder and guitarist Zach Filkins. Tedder was all over the stage, working the crowd. And most of the crowd knew every word of every song.
I hadn't even heard of one of the songs.
I know they have scads of hits, and I have heard a couple of them here and there. But we left after the sixth song, they all sorta sounded the same to me. We didn't quite get it, besides we wanted to be sure we wouldn't have to spend the night in the car.
Fortunately, everyone was still inside singing along to tunes I didn't understand when we made our escape. I'm very glad we left when we did. There were scads of kids in bright orange vests waving flashlights like they were 4th of July sparklers. If there were more than one car converging someone was probably going to die. I think they thought they were directing traffic.
Speaking of Traffic, next up on the Summer of Rock tour was Steve Winwood at the Fox Theater in Oakland.
Now I know what you may be thinking. Why the heck didn't we go see him in Reno? It's a lot closer and we could get room service.
Good thought, but my father/daughter date was way overdue. As a matter of fact, our last date was a Giant/Dodger game in 2015. Or was it 2014? See how derelict I can get?
And since she lives in Oakland I though I'd check out what was happening at the Fox Theater. And Winwood was. On September 6th.
I asked her if she'd like to go see a rock legend for our date this year.
She said, "Sure".
I asked, "How does Steve Winwood sound?"
And she replied, "Ooh, wasn't he with the Eagles?"
I blame myself. Apparently I skipped the Winwood lessons. Oh well. Better late than never.
She has seen a couple other legends on her own, like Trent Reznor and David Bowie. I am also happy to say we saw the Dead together while Jerry Garcia was still alive. So there's another one. And then both the kids first show was Fleetwood Mac, unfortunately after the pop duo had joined. But they did get to see Fleetwood and Mac, along with Christine McVie. And I suppose the pop duo of Buckingham/Nicks is almost legendary, but not to me and I am digressing.
The Fox Theater is a lovely, 3,000 seat venue. Beautiful inside, the sound is also quite good. I splurged on tickets, we were front row in the balcony, just off from center. No big heads this time. Once again I figured the front rows of the main floor would get a little rowdy, they did.
Especially when he launched into "Light Up or Leave Me Alone." As a matter of fact, the first few rows, which already harbored a number of dancing patrons, got real lively. The air in the auditorium also got quite lively with that old rock concert standard, marijuana.
Ahhhhhhh, I was back in familiar territory.
The crowd apparently did not want to leave him alone, so quite a few lit up. Including us.
The show opened with Lily Winwood, Steve's daughter. A blossoming folk artist, she is touring in support of her first CD. I'm pretty sure that's why Steve is touring too. In support of her first CD.
She has a lovely voice and is an accomplished guitarist. Midway through her short set she asked if every one was ready to rock and roll. After a resounding cheer from the audience she then said she had a few more sad folk songs to sing first.
The girl has a sense of humor too.
The Winwood set on stage was small and compact. They were using about a third of the stage. In contrast to the last show with Fitz and One Republic. Who used up the entire stage. The difference being one was a rock show and the other a rock concert. More familiar territory.
Steve didn't disappoint. He also didn't need to dance around. His music spoke for itself. He's primarily known for his work on the Hammond organ, but he is also quite an accomplished lead guitarist. He also had this other guy on guitar named Jose Neto.
Wow. Just wow. A tall, thin guy, Jose was attired like some sort of a wino derelict in casual sweat pants, baggy shirt and stocking cap. But when he began to play you knew. Both his hands sashayed all over the face of his guitar like two wild rabbits playing tag in a field of daffodils.
There was another guy that was an all round utility musician. Sax, flute, clarinet, organ. A handy guy to have on your team. He was exceptional too. And then there was a conga drummer and a regular drummer. No bass.
The "high" points for me were "Can't Find My Way Home" and "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys", both singalongs with the mostly greying crowd. As a matter of fact, we'd gone to another extreme at this show. My darling daughter, at 37 was probably the youngest person in attendance.
"Dear Mr. Fantasy" also garnered a lot of vocals. Old folks singing along to tunes they listened to on the sofa during psychedelic exploration.
The band was tight, the music exceptional. They'd get lost in jams quite a bit, and more than once the conga and drummer probably spent too much time bopping back and forth.
I kinda wish they spent a little less time on their jams and maybe included a couple more hits from the 80's. While a little bit of a pop slick era for Steve, that decade long catalog has quite a few catchy tunes, like "Valerie", "Arc of a Diver" and "While You See a Chance". They only played "Higher Love" from the 80's.
They mostly played tunes from his Blind Faith and Traffic days, with a couple Spencer Davis and a couple jazzy new songs mixed in. Blind Faith and Traffic? Tunes from two legendary bands played by the original composer? Yeah, I can settle for that.
We were just at a local Farm to Fork or Whatever the Fuck event. It was fun. Good food too. They also had a three piece band in cowboy hats do a very rudimentary version of "Gimme Some Lovin."
Winwood played it much better.
That pretty much concludes our Summer of Rock. Since it's almost fall. Thank goodness. it got hot here this year. We do have a date with Garrison Keillor in October at the GV Vets. My lovely wife's Valentine's present. Some folks might think that's more our speed, but we still do it all.
Homestead Update: The new rooster in the hen house, Bruce, appears to be acclimating nicely. He's already trying to jump on a few of the hens and is garnering a surrounding harem when he perches up for the night. It must be good to be king.