Tea for the Bloggerman


All Along the Waterfront: Bob Dylan at AEG Concerts on the Green
September 10, 2008, 12:47 am
Filed under: Concerts, music, Travel | Tags: , , , , ,

Last weekend I had the pleasure of taking a hot, uncomfortable bus ride down to San Diego. I was hungry, sweaty, and cramped, but it was all worth because on that Saturday (the 6th) I would be seeing the one and only Bob Dylan, one of my idols, in concert in a place I hold dear more than any other location.

I woke up at around 5:30am on Friday in order to prepare for my 8am Greyhound bus ride. The bus ride lasted until 4pm with a transfer in San Bernadino, and upon arriving in San Diego I felt instantly better. Yanira met me near the Pizza Hut that is connected to the Greyhound station and we proceeded from there to 7-11 where I bought some Arizona iced tea to quench my thirst. From there we walked to the trolley station where I bought my three-day trolley pass and waited for the train. While waiting someone walked by wearing a 2008 Montreal Jazz Festival shirt. Small world.

The trolley came eventually and we boarded. From there it was on to the Old Town San DIego area where Yanira lives. From there we ordered pizza, decorated cupcakes for the birthday of one of Yanira’s roommates, and watched two French movies, “Amelie” and “Paris, je t’aime,” both excellent movies that I would recommend to anyone. It was no surprise that I would like “Amelie” because of my extreme fondness for the soundtrack. Yann Tiersen’s accordion is immaculate; the movie cannot be more than a little less than perfect with that music.

The following day was Saturday, the day of the concert. Leftover pizza was on the menu for breakfast, yum. The only thing on the schedule before the concert was a trip to Old Town, which we went on around noon. I love Old Town San Diego, a place where some of the early buildings of the Spanish settlements in California are preserved and maintained as museums. There are also lots of other tourists attractions too, restaurants and shops and the like. All in all a lovely place to spend the day. And what a lovely day it was too. The weather could not have been better. Why oh why must I live in blazing-ass Vegas?

In Old Town we looked at most of the shops and buildings before sitting down in a restaurant for iced tea and chips while watching crazy raver circus performers give knives to children. At one of the vendors I found something that made my heart soar like a big soaring thing: a toy accordion! And a great one at that! The sound is so rich and loud! I’ve been toying with it since, but I can’t do much with it. I can play Sabbath’s “Iron Man” thanks to a tab I found online, and a C major scale, but that’s about it so far. Yann Tiersen here I come!

At around 4ish we left Old Town and went back to the apartment. More leftover pizza was eaten, blankets were grabbed, and we were off to Qualcomm Stadium. We got there around 4:45ish and the line was already enormous. The concert started at 8, doors opened at 7. Guess we weren’t as early as we thought. We assumed our place in line and waited like good chirren, talking amongst ourselves and with the obsessive middle-aged woman Dylan fanatic behind us. She  was also a Leonard Cohen fan and my Leonard Cohen tour t-shirt gave us away as fellow Cohenites. Around ten minutes or so into our waiting a security person from the venue made his rounds down the line to inform everyone that no cameras would be allowed but lawn chairs were okay. Even though their website clearly says “no cameras with removable lenses” and “no lawn chairs.” Le sigh. I prepared to take the trolley back to the apartment to drop off our cameras and come back, but asked the guard anyway about our situation. He said to just explain that we didn’t drive to the stadium and they would do something stupid like ask us to take the batteries out or something. So we waited more, camera bundled up in our blankets hoping they wouldn’t search. I had Yanira hold the blankets because she looks far more innocent than I.

Eventually the line starts moving and behold, four tables of security personnel going through and searching everyone. We went to our table and said we just had a blanket and jackets. They said we could just shake them down and keep moving. Yanira feebly shook the mass of blanket in her arms and we were allowed safe passage. Eat that, AEG!

We made our way to the front of the large field and laid out our blanket with the rest of the crowd. It appeared like it was going to be a nice night, laying out on our blankets listening to Dylan croon. But alas, people soon started to crowd to the front and everyone had no choice but to pack up their blankets and lawn chairs and smash forward. Before the havoc I made my way to the merch table and bought a poster and the “eco-friendly” bag I mentioned earlier.

At 8 the concert begins and man, what a concert it was! Bob was in top-form that night, completely annihilating the low bar I had set for the concert. Watching recent youtube videos of him would lead one to believe that his voice is COMPLETELY, not partially but COMPLETELY, destroyed. Not rough and smokey like his vocals on Modern Times, but  REAL GONE. Like Tom Waits with a tracheotomy gone. Watch this clip to get a feeling of what I was expecting:

But his voice was far from that; in fact, I would even describe it as strong! And Bob appeared to have such a good time playing, which shatters his image as a morose musician tapping on his keyboard for a couple of hours and leaving to collect his check. He smiled in between verses, would occasionally glance at the audience (but still kept from facing us), stuck his tongue out on more than one occasion, bopped his knees at particularly rhythmic moments in songs, and walked around the stage in between songs with a sort of skip in his step. His harmonica playing was also very surprising; it appears Bob has actually learned how to play it, and is playing it well.

The set list was excellent as well. Mostly newer tunes from Modern Times, “Love and Theft,” and Time Out of Mind, but a number of revamped classics were included like “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” “She Belongs to Me,” “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again,” “Highway 61 Revisited,” “It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding,” and “Like a Rolling Stone” and “All Along the Watchtower” for the encore. I had my fingers crossed for “High Water (for Charley Patton)” but I was completely satisfied. Highlights of the concert were “It’s Alright Ma,” an impossibly deep “Ain’t Talkin'” which gave me flashbacks to Tom Waits’ dark tones at the Phoenix Orpheum, and the profound “Workingman’s Blues #2” which should be near the top of anyone’s top Dylan song list.

Despite the packed conditions, the slightly heavy smoke and the idiot near us who would scream “HURRICANE!” between every fucking song, it was an excellent concert. I sincerely hope the Neverending Tour stays neverending, because I must see Bob again. Once you go Bob you don’t go back, as they say.

———————-

Setlist:

Cat’s in the Well
The Times They Are A-Changin’
The Levee’s Gonna Break
She Belongs To Me
Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again
Ballad of Hollis Brown
To Make You Feel My Love
It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)
Working Man’s Blues #2
Honest With Me
Lenny Bruce
I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)
Highway 61 Revisited
Ain’t Talkin’
Thunder On The Mountain

Encores: Like A Rolling Stone, All Along the Watchtower

———————-

Video Clips Yanira and I Took With Our Smuggled Camera:

“Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again” minus the first few seonds.

A verse of “Workingman’s Blues #2”

A good portion of “All Along the Watchtower”

Long Live Bob Dylan.



So Long, Montreal — Part One: Getting There
June 29, 2008, 4:35 am
Filed under: Travel | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Yesterday I returned from a marvelous journey to the center of the uncivilized world: Montreal, Quebec. The great poet Leonard Cohen is currently on his first tour in 15 years, a tour that as of now has no U.S. dates. As soon as the tour was announced I knew I was going to see him. There was no option. Leonard has been a profound inspiration for me for years, and traveling to see him in concert would be my hajj. So, after checking schedules and making plans, I found myself up at 6 in the morning one day ordering two tickets to his June 25th concert in Montreal. Plane and bus tickets were to follow.

The journey sounds simple enough on paper. On the night of the 23rd I would take a plane from Las Vegas to Philadelphia, then transfer planes to arrive in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania [Sidenote: I’ve heard three different pronounciations of that city’s name in the past few months–Wilkes-Bear, Wilkes-Bar, and Wilkes-Berry]. From Wilkes-Barre I would take a bus to a town called Hazleton to meet the fabulous Yanira Garcia, fashion designer extraordinaire and fellow Leonard Cohenite. From Hazleton the two of us would board a Greyhound bus, making stops and transfers along the way in New York City and Albany. The return trip would simply be the reverse a few days later, making time to catch some of the Montreal Jazz Festival, the largest jazz festival in the world which just so happened to be occurring at the same time as the concert.

And so, at around 9:30pm on the 23rd I, along with a messenger bag full of papers, my mandolin, and a suitcase of clothes, were in a taxi headed for McCarran Airport. I arrived and rode my plane east to Philadelphia. I arrived early the next morning and took a shuttle bus from one portion of the enormous airport to another to catch my second plane. The small plane flew for half an hour and arrived in Wilkes-Barre, which is by far the nicest airport I have ever seen. It is small, clean, and simply decent. They even have a “Meditation Room” stocked with various religious texts and four pews, perhaps for traveling church congregations. From Wilkes-Barre I took a taxi to the bus station, and boarded my bus to Hazleton.

I only spent a few hours in Hazleton but my time there was pleasant. I like Hazleton; it is a very fake town. Hazleton tries very hard to appear to be a small town, but it is far too densely packed with people and buildings to successfully pull of the illusion. However, if anything is an indication of a town’s size it would be the number of Starbucks that are located there, and Hazleton has ZERO. No Starbucks’, how do you like that?

So in Hazleton I met up with Yanira, we had lunch at a health food restaurant called the Dragonfly, then lounged in a Wendy’s to charge our cellphones before the bus arrived. Later we boarded the bus and off we went. The bus rode down the Pennsylvania countryside and through the barren wasteland that Springsteen calls New Jersey until we arrived in New York City. There we got some food and waited in a long line. Within two hours time the line began to move as Greyhound staff checked passports and other documentation. The bus from New York drove for a few hours until it reached Albany, where it stopped for a half hour to refuel and be cleaned. From Albany it was a straight shot to the border. At the border we were forced from the bus to gather all our belongings and file through customs. Who, what, where, when, why, and back to the bus we went.

Montreal is not very far away from the US/Canada border, but it certainly seemed like it. We arrived in Montreal around 7 in the morning on the 25th. There we gathered our luggage and went to the information booth to find out how to get to our hotel. We thought we could walk and started walking, but soon we found ourselves lost, cold, and hungry. So we returned to the bus station, waited for the currency exchange window to open, changed out our filthy American dollars for shiny portraits of Queen Elizabeth II, and took a taxi. At the hotel we checked in, found our room, and slept soundly for a few hours before our big day officially begun…

TO BE CONTINUED.