Monday, February 25, 2008

Voodoo-Ghraib and the LPW (Dallas, 2/23)

First appeared here-

Waking up on a “Bob Day” is a great feeling. Waking up on that day in a hotel room 2 blocks away from the gig is even better. Waking up in that room, on that day, having started the trip under the assumption that you’d be an hour away right now is one of the better feelings in life. While we all know (and it would be demonstrated again to us later in the evening) that Dylan attracts the sickest and most twisted of the sick and twisted, and weirdest of the weird, he also attracts some of the coolest people you ever want to meet. Thank you so much. 

The beginning 20 folks were in a slightly different order then they had been Friday, but otherwise it was the same crowd. More folks arrived earlier, and it wasn’t really much warmer, but the forecast was for a clear day. Hopes were high. The general consensus was that Friday’s blew Thursday’s (apparently a great show in its own right) out of the water. Many agreed that Friday’s was the best show they had seen, which begged the question- could they top it tonight? The sun did come out, as expected, and made the wait at least warmer then the previous days. 

Voodoo-Ghraib prison opened its doors again at 3 pm, but today’s doors were an hour later. Apparently they saw we had so much fun in there, they wanted to give us an extra hour to enjoy it! The front chooses a line in the cement and sits down, determined not to cross it. This works, to some extent. Everyone knows who has been around them in line, who’s put in the time and who hasn’t, and for the most part, folks respected that, in the beginning. First you have some room, you can sit cross-legged it the need strikes you. That becomes a little cramped, so you tuck them to your chest. Finally some end up having to stand while others sit. The pressure is definitely building, but the front still has control, they ain’t a-goin’ nowhere. This was the front’s second or third day of this insanity. If there is ever a day that schmoozing or creeping your way up is not going to work, its today, but still, some people try. Its frustrating when faced w/ this venue’s absolute lack of regard for any sort of order, or rules, or logic. Its even more frustrating when faced by a single person who doesn’t understand, or who doesn’t care. I honestly cannot talk to that sort of mind, I have no idea where it’s coming from, but for some reason, I found myself in a heated (and bizarre) conversation that, by all logic, by all reason should never have taken place. It was almost like being placed in a simulation, where anarchy had become the way of the world, where the sane are the minority. Even now, looking back, its really surreal, sort of “how did it even come to this!?!?!?!” sort of thing. 

The “peaceful protest” stance seemed to work the best, and aside from a small bulging on the very end, we seemed to hold them at bay, at least until the first set of doors. Once again, all hell broke loose at the scanners/top of the Stairs of Doom. I was all but carried down the stairs thanks to one particularly powerful push, yet I was the one who narrowly avoided being snagged by a “security guard”. It was a very Hollywood moment when I got through the second set of doors, into the room. All sounds stop. Time stands still. I can see nothing but the glow of white letting me know where I need to run to. I don’t think I was the first one in, but I was pretty close to it, but in that moment, there was no one else, not in front of, not to the sides, and not behind me. No one. 

We were able to snag a lot of the rails for those who deserved them, but some people still managed to get screwed out of what they deserved. Baffling. This is where the fun really begins though, as me and another 3 down from me attempt to trade spots. There is a random local who somehow appeared on my left, grabbing the rail w/ one hand, poised to leap into my place before my replacement makes it. There is a building and viable pressure from the left, threatening to make any space that opens disappear. Then, of course, there is the crushing pressure from the crowd behind. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND this phenomenon! Do you think that by smashing closer to the front, that those ahead of you will be squeezed through the small holes in the rails, leaving you in the front row?!?!?!?!!? It doesn’t work! It is only extremely unpleasant for those up front! Don’t do it!!!!! At this point, I kind of lost it, and perhaps in hindsight, I should not have called the jerkoffs w/ the jackets the things that I did, but they should not have said and done those things to me to begin w/. 

In any event, we were eventually able to make the trade, and I am in the same spot as last night, right in front of T and Denny 8) . They open tonight w/ Rainy Day Women, anything but my favorite. I watch T a bit, but since I already know how to play this song, and it is Dylan’s name on the ticket, I feel as though I should watch him for at least one song haha. I turn my head. I can see Baron and the soundman in the wings behind Dylan. I see a figure pass between me and Baron. Well, OK. At first I didn’t think anything of it. From my angle, since I could see into the wings, this person must be in the wings, a stage hand or something, maybe Stu was having instrument trouble or something. As the person gets father out, I can see it is a woman, and that she is not ducking down and being discreet like a stagehand or a tech would. She was also dressed too nicely, in a purple furry dress. My next thought is that she was w/ the venue, coming out to make an announcement of some sort (i.e. a bomb threat or something). She walks w/ purpose now, very quickly, and plants herself directly in front of Dylan at the mic, startling the hell out of him. (And if anyone does not believe he doesn’t see very well, she was practically on him before he saw her). He makes the exact face from the “Sweet Liz Eindhoven 93” video, and leaps back. This time, unlike the YouTube video, he does not go back to singing. She kinda flaps her arms at her sides a bit, its clear she’s talking to him. T, w/o losing the beat, moves up to protect Dylan, trying to position himself between Dylan and the Large Purple Woman. Baron has finally freed himself from the wing at this point and forcefully removes her, and Dylan steps up to the mic, “everybody must get stoned.” He put up w/ it, but when he looked at T after she was gone, no one was smiling. I don’t know, and no one I talked to seems to have a clear consensus on whether she came from backstage, or just climbed up there from the audience, but it speaks wonders for a venue’s security when a large, purple woman can get up there uninhibited (and even then, the 2nd verse of the first song?!). 

Be it the breech of the LPW, or the tensions seething in the crowd, this wasn’t going to be last night. Which is not to say it wasn’t great, but after last night, expectations were set unreachably high. The first real stand out of the night (again, the others were above average, I cant complain) was Senor. Levee was too reserved, like someone was holding back when the really wanted and needed to let go. Spirit was good, but it was really Stuck Inside which brought things back up. Til I Fell In Love was easily the best performance of the night. Never a song that really even crosses my mind, ever, but it was super smooth tonight, w/ T and George laying down this insanely catchy and groovy…… well, groove haha Was over far too fast, could have listened to that one for 20 more minutes. Lonesome Death is another one I never think of when making show wishes. It was just really kind of a strange song, very thin and sparse, lit warmly, but very thin. It was hard to find a beat in it. I mean, there was one but it was just a very odd song, and an odd performance. Not bad, just odd, for reasons I can’t quite express. 

Workingman’s, not as good as last night’s, was still excellent, but this time, and all throughout tonight’s show, that little bastard kept turning around and playing almost full back, so I couldnt even confirm that what I remembered was even correct. It was like he knew what I was trying to do and so he was just x w/ me haha. Summer Days was definitely mellow and again, it felt like they were holding back. Ballad and the rest show were consistently high, but nothing that makes you jump out of your shoes. I was happy for Watchtower, which always gives the show that extra push to go out w/ a bang. The audience really cheered, and I almost entertained the possibility of a second encore, but alas, we were not as lucky. 

I grabbed my jacket, and tried to make it out of there as quickly as I could. Clarx had convinced me that I should go out to the stage door, that there would be no security and I might get to meet T. I knew there wouldn’t be any time to actually ask him about the song, but I figured it was at least worth a shot, at least say hi or something. I round the corner and my muscles tense. Aside from the security guy, sitting and fingering an unlit cigar, there is no one. I know it probably doesn’t seem like it, especially to those I met, but I cant talk to people. I mean, I can, if I’m talking about film or music, but other then that, I don’t know how to talk to people, I cant. I was hoping there’d be at least one other person chilling there, but no, I would have to small talk w/ this guy. I really didn’t want to lurk in the shadows, and really freak the guy out, so I told him who I was waiting for and why, and just sorta asked him about his job and stuff, just tried to show that I am a nice, sane guy who really means no harm, but I don’t know if I just made things worse, probably, huh? 

Anyway, about 4 more people arrive before the band gets out. Most just want to know if Dylan is still around, and when he’s not, they go on their way. Donnie is the first to amble out. He’s so unsung, and such a talented guy, and no one out there even recognized him, so I felt like I should say something. 

“Ah, hey Donnie, great show tonight!” A few others chime in w/ “yeah, good show” etc, to which he replies, in a real slow and real thick Hills accent, “Aw, thanks y’all.” I don’t know why more of you Dylan gals aren’t into him, he’s really got the country-boy-charm thing down. 

George and Stu came out next and got into the waiting van. Still no T. I lean against the wall where the security guard had been standing and watch as he loads them up. Suddenly, someone says “Tony!” and I turn around. He’s still in the doorway, leaning against the wall, like 2 feet away from me. :shock: Wow. Cool. He was finishing a conversation w/ a man in a blue shirt, then looks up at me. Wow. 

I stick out my hand. “Tony, hey, you’re my x hero, man. I really admire your playing.” (or something along those lines) 
He shakes my hand. “Oh, well, thank you very much.” (something in that vein) 

Apparently, and unbeknownced to me, this is all I wanted to say, because the security guy quickly inserted himself between us. T starts talking to the man in the blue shirt again about cigars, so I’m not going to bother him anymore, but this security guy keeps sidestepping in front of me w/ his arms up. I take a step to the right, he takes a step to the right, I take a step back, he steps back. I’m not even trying to get to T anymore, this guy is just way too close and it was freaking me out. T and the guys are now all safely in the van, all I want to do is get to the other side of the little alley, where I see a friend standing, and this guy is still blocking me. T is gone, I want to talk to my friend, get out of my way!!!!!! I don’t know if this is because of the LPW, or if the one security guy I don’t want to be is the only one who actually is doing his job, and the other folks out there did sorta mob around T, so I cant really blame the guy, but he was making me really uncomfortable. But hey, I cant complain, I finally met T! Didn’t really learn the answers to any of the mysteries of life, namely how to play Cry Awhile ;) , but at least I got to shake his hand finally! 

The next morning, I took a bit of a “tour of death”, dropping by Dealey Plaza, then out to Laurel Land Cemetery to visit Stevie Ray Vaughan’s grave. That was heavy. I’ never been to anyone’s grave before, and it was, it was heavy. 

On the way back, the warm, bright sun showed me that I really hadn’t missed anything weaving in and out of convoys and jockeying for position amongst the semis. 

Unless there is a drastic change in policy, I would never, in my entire life, go to that venue again, maybe not even for Dylan, and that is really saying something. The sound was incredible, but their staff was more then incompetent. Not only did the LPW incident happen, there was absolutely no kind of authority figure whatsoever for our entire stay in the the Voodoo Hell the 3rd night, and their general disregard for lines, and safety in general is quite angering. I realized when I was about to be wanded that I had forgotten to put my pocketknife in my car, and I was not about to go do that and lose my spot in line. I got my pocketknife in, they didn’t even know. And this was not a planned body cavity hide. Lets suppose the LPW didn’t take her meds this morning, and she got her pocketknife in, ya know? 

Now I know Dylan does not read these boards, and even if he did, he doesn’t pick where he’s booked. I’m hoping that the management reads this. I truly appreciate the no “skip the line” bullshit (though, how would they have done it, if there’s no line to begin w/?), but, please, please, barring some change to their policy, DON’T go back to the Dallas House Of Blues!!!!!!

Does It Get Any Better? (Dallas, 2/22)

First appeared here-

As the storm clouds began building over the Rocky Mountains in my rear view mirror, I coulnt help but smile. Warm sun, clear skies, and Dylan and Co. lay ahead of me, and these poor saps were going to freeze. Little did I know. 7 hours (and one run-in w/ Johnny Law) later, I found myself in Texas… an ice storm. Fog so thick you cant even spy anything 3 feet ahead of you, windows and mirrors covered in blurry crystals, road signs and speed limits barely legible through the drift frozen to their faces, and small herds of TX vehicles cautiously skating up the road. I had laughed earlier that day, at the thought of driving in TX w/ stud tires, now I couldnt have been happier to have them on. 

At 5 am, I was watching the Dallas skyline drawing closer, the sky getting just the slightest bit lighter all the while. I had finally made it! That wasn’t so bad at all. I have heard horror stories about driving in Texas, and Dallas, all my life, but that was no different then anywhere else. 

Three seconds after exiting the highway, it becomes painfully clear that you have just entered the 6th circle of hell. One way streets run both East/West and North/South, intersecting w/ themselves, and if you stay on one too long, you may just end up in Bolivia. I’m pretty sure the nexus of the universe is somewhere in downtown Dallas. I had to have broken, at least 15 traffic laws, but I eventually found the venue and a place to park. It was 5.30 and there was no attendant, but I made a mental note to go back after dawn and make sure it hadn’t been towed.

I made my way to the small, bundled line of 7 that had already formed (we were even mistaken for the homeless shelter and on point). Forget the winds in Chicago, because the winds in Dallas are 15 times worse, frigid and biting, tearing through my 30 year old sleeping bag w/ ease. I searched in vain through my trunk for any warm clothing, and all I could come up w/ was a crusty sweatshirt. I’d left all my warm clothing back in CO. My complements to the clouds though, they did a great job of keeping the sun away all day :? 

It wasn’t too bad of a wait though, everyone else in line had gone to Thursday’s, and all reposts were that it was a consistently excellent show, great setlist, and that we would be in for another treat tonight. It also drew tales of a troubling (and soon to be repeated) venue policy. 

For some inexplicable reason, that Dallas HOB “does not do lines”. What does that mean, you ask. Well, this place has a holding pen, aptly titled “Voodoo Garden”, where, after wanding you three hours before gates, you are forced to wait. It’s a gigantic concrete slab, in the shade of the building (the sun had finally managed to fight of the clouds, minutes before we were herded in). There are to be NO lines in Voodoo Garden, no matter how much the soon to be audience begs, pleads, wants it……NO! (One woman was even told something along the lines of “this generation doesn’t want lines”) They want, and breed, a stampede (they even sell alcohol to the Voodoo cattle . The front of the line, now the front of this mob, tries, for the next three hours, to keep those in the back from shoving forward, but even they are inched forward. 

Now, when they do decide to open the doors, they do not pre-scan the first x-number of people, no, they merely pull the doors open. The crowd is propelled forward to the top of a flight of about 20 or so stairs, (going down), where there are 2 women scanning. Since there are no lines, these women are hit w/ the full force of this chaotic rush. I truly feel bad for them, they stare death in the face every night. They do their best, but there is no way they can scan everyone, and the force from the back squeezes us down the gigantic flight of stairs. Mark my words, someone will be seriously injured one of these days, its only a matter of time. This time, when we get to the bottom of the stairs, there were security guards that wouldn’t let us pass (worked for me, I was able to catch up); they had not let the handicapped man in yet, so had we gone bursting through the second set of doors that they were blocking, the serious injuries would have happened that night. He got in (whether or not he was in a safe position seemed to be irrelevant to the HOB folks) and the second set of doors, set at a 90 degree angle on the left side, were swung open (outwards, of course) and the crowd surged forward. I caught the corner of the door in the chest, and I was stuck between the door pushing outwards, and the crowd pushing in. I was able to twist around the door, and ran like hell to the rails. 

I ended up in the best spot of my life; directly in front of T and Denny on the rails! Some were not so lucky though. When looking around, you could see the injustice. Folks who’d been there when I got there were standingbehind local folks who weren’t even there when Voodoo Holding Cell had been opened. We griped and moaned and complained, and vowed to come up w/ something tomorrow to somehow take better control of this, since clearly the guys who are paid to do so weren’t going to. 

Soon the new intro music is playing, and our anger (anger is an understatement) at the venue quickly morphs into excitement. The stage is tiny, and everyone is set up so far downstage (that means they were close). They open w/ Cats (my favorite opener) and it quickly becomes clear that this is to be no ordinary show, these guys areON. The sound in the venue is absolutely mindblowing, even on the rails. Dylan is on guitar for the first couple, as always, so Denny steps back and lets him take most of the leads, which, especially on I’ll Be Your Baby, sound really good. The intro for It Aint Me went on long enough that it almost felt like they were going to medley into something else. 
Dylan moved onto the keys for Blind Willie, which, at that point of the night, was the highlight. Earlier I said that I the only two I really want to hear from this band that I hadn’t were Blind Willie and Cold Irons. Got to check one off the list, and man, was it incredible, best I’d ever heard. Denny absolutely NAILED it, I mean, everybody did, but Denny just went above and beyond. I actually thought of Josepi, because absolutely no one, not even jokingly, can say it sucked. Rollin and Tumblin (ironically appropriate, for I’m sure it was what more then a few did down the stairs getting in) was just, off the charts, again, best version of the song I’ve ever heard. Every single song just belonged to Denny, he owned the whole night! 

Workingman’s was also in top form, but what’s even better (for me anyway) is that I think I learned it. Like I said, T was right in front of me the entire night, but usually he’ll turn his back to the audience from time to time and play to George, or Stu and Donnie, or whatever, so I’ll catch bits and pieces for songs, but never the whole thing. This time, he was just so close, and I had a perfect view of both hands for the whole song, so I think I got it! I left my pen in my car, and no one else had anything to write w/, so I wasn’t able to concentrate on learning any others that night (a real kick in the nuts when they played Mississippi), but hey, I’m not complaining. 

Visions is never one I look to hear at shows, I usually see it as filler in shows, but, man, this one was so beautiful. Donnie was on banjo (which is never a bad thing haha), and, just, it was ineffable. The layering, the fullness of the sound, everything. One of those that seems to go on forever, and you never want it to end. Honest W/ Me, again, Denny took his solo farther w/ then that band has ever been w/ that song. Never seen a bad version, but this was just insane. Mississippi was a trip to see, as was this Summer Days, very reminiscent of the Larry and Charlie days, for those constant complainers. Predictable encore setlist, and I know I’ve used this phrase to death, but Thunder was…….this was the ultimate version, this is how that song was meant to be seen/heard/played/etc. Absolutely nothing like it. 

This was, unequivocally, the best show I have ever seen in my life, to say nothing of the guitar work. I don’t know that that will change for a long time, possibly ever. Dylan’s voice was great, as great as you can hope for w/ him, the musicians were mindblowing, the sound was unbelievable, and both the band and the crowd really seemed to be feeding off each other in very positive ways. I have got to say, if you ever get a chance to stand by Milkcow at a concert, do. I mean, if I were taping, I would have had to kill her, literally, but she has fun haha. I had the best seat in the house, I was right in front of T and Denny, so I looked over at Bob maybe 10 times that night, but every time I looked over, he was always starring right back, not at me, but the dancing gals on both sides of me, really digging that they were digging him. He seemed happy too, any time I saw him he was bouncing around, twisting and pointing and whatnot, and when they came back out for encores, he went around right in front of us in the dark and “shot” the dancing gals on my right and left. You really do get two shows for the price of one; both factions of dancers (one on my right, the other on my left) were incredibly entertaining. They were cracking me up all night and I could only see them peripherally, I can only imagine the perspective from those on stage. Denny actually recognized me right off the bat (I wasn’t going to take it personal if someone I met 5 months ago wasn’t able to pick me out of a dark crowd he didn’t even know I’d be in :roll: ) and so we were sort of acknowledging, nodding or pointing or thumbs up or whatever to each other all night, so that was pretty damn awesome. I mean, I could have walked away happy just because of that, but the show was just so completely out of this world, the whole night was more then worth the HOB holding cell/stampede bullshit. After the show, I (almost literally) bumped into him coming around the corner. I don’t think he wanted to be recognized, and looked like he had more important places he wanted to be and I didn’t want to keep him, so we just exchanged a couple of quick words, but it was the icing on the cake to possibly the best show I ever will see. 

Because I know Roll will ask- They were wearing the black suits, Dylan had on a black jacket w/ some sort of thing hanging from it, like where one might hang a Purple Heart or something. Uh, I think he has his white hat on, I honestly don’t remember haha. Maybe someone who actually looked at him might be able to help me out here haha. Donnie of course looks different then any other time I’ve ever seen him, and T has lost a TON of weight, either that, or traded in his suit for one that’s 4 times too big.