Aside from passing (and laughing at) the busses stopped at a toll booth, the drive up to Maine was uneventful. The next day would prove to be anything but, however, when security spent the day alternating between, “yes, two doors for admission, 100% guaranteed” and “no, only one door for admission, 100% guaranteed” giving half the crowd some great exercise, down and back up the stairs a hundred different times. Once they got that straightened out though, the wait proved to be far easier then the day before, the sun was shining and a light breeze was blowing. In the line I was at, the folks behind were mainly locals who’d never seen Dylan before, making for vastly different conversations (though I still managed to “discuss” the band again w/ my friend from the day before. One of our main points was Denny’s lack of acoustic playing, that will be relevant later on). The local attitude reminded me of the steel town from The Deer Hunter. And I mean that in the nicest possible way, I have nothing against the setting for DH and the folks in line seemed to be really cool people.
The door I was at was a straight shot in, and afforded me the opportunity to watch all of soundcheck. They checked Tweedle, To Ramona, Not Dark Yet, and Senor, along w/ a lot of other things unrecognizable from where I was. (Of those, only Tweedle was played). Like I said, this was a straight shot in, the door opens, my ticket is scanned, all that required of me is that I run at the slightest angle to the left to get in front of T and Denny, no stairs or anything, easily the most peril-free run in I’ve ever had…….so of course, I take it upon myself to trip over the ONLY possible thing to trip over; the cable housing, not even an inch above the ground. I go flying, and out of the corner of my eye, I see 2 security guards begin to run over to me. I was the second guy in, but I have no idea how close behind the crowd is. The security guys are either running over to a) prevent me from getting trampled, or b) hold me for running, neither of which seem like pleasant out comes, so even before my momentum brings me to a stop, I leap up, take a step back for my hat (which had blown off on impact) and race w/ newfound urgency to my spot.
When the lights, at the last possible second go down, we are surprised to be hit w/ River for the opening number. The next 3 are standards again preformed at an above average level, the month-plus long break hadn’t slowed them down at all. Shelter is absolutely, mind blowingly beautiful. Denny slayed that song, just took it and dominated it. Even the band-hater was impressed. Easily in the top 3 songs I’ve ever seen live!
The show continued to crank, nothing a let-down, or even anything but a privilege to see. The slide on Rollin may have even been better then the previous night, not an easy accomplishment. They were doing some really interesting things w/ the lighting, which included a really sparely lit Workingman. They only had a couple of rotating small spots for that one, the rest of the stage was black, which I thought worked to a certain degree, until I looked at the rest of the audience. One of the moving lights was behind Dylan, and since everyone else was staring at him (gasp! What a concept, looking at the man whose name appears on the ticket! haha ) the spot was just cruising around blinding everyone. I’m sure from stage, it looked like synchronized waving as everyone shielded their eyes.
Its Alright Ma was another highlight for me. I never had great luck seeing it before, but always dug it, and I was really impressed w/ it. Great thumping bass groove, Donnie on banjo (can never find fault w/ that), just everything came together for it and while its still one of the more commonly played songs in the last couple of years, it was really one of the standouts for me that night.
Only 2 songs later though, and we were about to see history in the making, though I don’t know how many people it actually registered w/. DENNY FREEMAN PREFORMED ON ACOUSTIC!!!!!!!!!! Now, I always knew he had and could play on acoustics, to think that he couldn’t or didn’t own one is just insane (though I’m willing to be the one he played was Dylan’s). However (as some of you may have figured out) I consider myself to be a fan of Denny’s, I was unaware of any studio tape, or live tape, or really any recorded evidence of him ever playing on one, so imagine my shock when the techie handed him a big old Gibson!!!!!!! I had seen it there the night before, on the stand behind his Tungsten, but I just assumed it was Dylan’s, and it was only hiding out behind Denny because the stage was so small, but no, this was for Denny to play!!!!!! (And I was here to see it!!!!!) My friend saw it too, and we both began to freak out. This is history! haha
A big selling point of the anti-Freeman faction, here coughJoeycough and in line was that he never plays acoustic, that w/ him in the band, you lose those all-acoustic numbers from the Larry-Charlie days, which, yeah, is a valid point, and I understand where they were coming from. Not anymore! In all honesty, I could not hear Denny as well as I would have liked, his seemed a bit lost in the mix (where I was standing anyway), but those times when I could here the slide, it really seemed to work well w/ the rest of the arrangement. I was directly in front of security (not to mention just excited to be seeing this) but I managed to get one blurry photo, cause I knew Joey’d never believe me if I didn’t have photographic evidence to back it up. Denny didn’t seem particularly enthused to be on the acoustic, but lets hope that Dylan does decide to being back at least one all-acoustic number per show in the coming weeks and months.
Ain’t Talkin’ was a great way to end the regular set, again, never heard a bad version of it, and the standard encore was received no complaints. I checked w/ the folks around me, but no, none had pics of the acoustic The ER crowd (all great folks by the way. Meet them, hang out w/ them, place bets w/ them (they pay!), they’re great people) broke into smaller factions and ours retired to the hotel, affording the security not one, but twochances to share in our post-concert joy.
I personally couldn’t have asked for a better experience over the past couple of days. I got my favorite spot both nights, the shows were insane (as I told a few friends before I left, I was actually more looking forward to seeing Freeman this time then anyone else), Denny played acoustic right in front of me, the setlists were awesome, I had a great time in line, the two folks I was hoping not to run into weren’t there (or, at least, I didn’t see them), and although “I don’t remember” was ANYTHING but the answer I’d been waiting years to hear, I finally was able to talk w/ my biggest musical idol! There’s no way he could have known how much that meant to me, but I do, let me tell you.
Life is good. I’m in the East, the weather is great, the bar across the street appears to be hosting Kiddie Night, so entertainment abounds; stereotypically accented Mick cops walk drunks out of the bar, a random nutter falls face first into the street w/ a satisfying splat, and I am seeing Dylan and co in less then 24 hours. How much better can it get?
Well, a short walk proved jut how much better. Milkcow and I, looking to stretch our legs, opt to walk up the street, check out more of what the town had to offer at midnight. We walk along, minding out business, talking amongst ourselves. We come to a brick wall, not unlike any other brick wall. We turn the corner and begin to cut through a hotel parking lot. The company flag (forget what company) flys high alongside the stars and stripes, illuminated by the floodlights on the ground. 3 men stand in the light, smoking. One looks up at us as we enter, and, as in Dallas, I find myself staring right at my idol! However, this time huge security goons are not ushering him into a waiting van. This is it, the moment I’ve been waiting for (not to sound psychotic or anything), this is my chance! The song! My quest! All the trouble, all the work, t-ride, schlepping rails, and here I was! The answer! The meaning of life! My white whale is in the crosshairs! This ends tonight!
My knees are completely numb, but I stride over and ask if I can bother them for a minute. I explain the situation, and patiently await my answer. An inquisitive look, followed by a blank face, and the answer “Ah man, I don’t remember!”
The whale is getting away! My quest! In vain!
The other two men try to help out, and I realize that they are two other capos of the Dylan mafia haha, but nothing anyone says is going to jar T’s memory. Damn! Somehow, the 5 of us ended up just standing there chatting casually about music, records, film, and basically anything else under the sun, everyone just breaking each other’s balls there in the parking lot. Tony Garnier has got to have one of the strangest senses of humor on the planet, but he’s such a funny guy, and it was SUCH a trip for me to finally get to talk to him! I was having the worst time trying to get thoughts from my brain to my mouth though; there was so much I wanted to say and for some reason it wasn’t coming out. I almost called Lord Buckley Lord Byron. Looking back, its probably a good thing I made as (little) sense as I did; I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was probably Hour 36 of zero sleep. They finished their smokes, and we go our separate ways. What just happened sinks in as I leave the hotel parking lot, and I spend the rest of the night elatedly pacing up and down Main Street. Yeah, I didn’t get my answer, but I cant complain
The dawn brings menacing clouds and wind... and thirst. I make an attempt to find the Walgreen’s that the Smoking Club came from the previous night. I set out on a mighty trek around town, only to find that a) I’d gone in the wrong direction, and b) it was nowhere close to being w/i walking distance anyway. I make my way back to Main. On the end is a small café, so I stumble into it. I place my order at the counter and lean back against a table in the middle of the room. The place is surprisingly empty, yet the waitress takes her sweet time pouring the hot water into the prepackaged hot chocolate dust. There’s a man behind me talking to the other waitress, but I’m too tired to care what he was saying, until he yells my name. “Stu!” I turn around. The man is George. How does he know my name? (Hey, I’m tired here haha)
Well, obviously not me, but I follow his gaze to where Stu Kimball is sitting w/ Denny. I look around. I am the only non-band member in the place What is going on here?! They’re following me haha Talked with Denny for a few minutes, which is always a pleasure, before heading back to the line (I’d run into him again a bit later as well, such an awesome guy!).
As predicted, there was a bit of a drizzle all day, but nothing we couldn’t handle. Until, of course, it gets down to crunch time, after which the clouds open up. Of course. It was during this time that a man identifying himself as being from the local paper came and asked me, as a representative of the first group in line, why I came to see Dylan. I answered honestly. “I mainly came to see the band.” Clearly, he’d never gotten that answer before, judging by the look he gave me. I assured him I was serious. Just then, a line friend (forgetting his screen name right now) who I’d had a long and enjoyable “discussion” about the band w/ earlier in the day comes running up, “No, no don’t print that! Bob reads these; he’ll never change the band now! No, no, don’t listen to him, he’s not normal!” haha The reporter, relieved at not having to include the “abnormal” (in a line of wackos haha), made his way down the line, finding folks who’s say what he wanted to write, spokesman of a generation and all that fun stuff. Reading the article the next day made even me groan.
Doors opened early for probably the first time in the history of the world, and in one of the strangest ways. A security guard shooed away the lurkers in front of the door, instructing them to line up at the side of the building. He then walks over to us, at the side of the building, and says, in a non-chalant (sp), conversational tone “Ok, I guess we’re open now.” Well, I was leaning on the corner of the building, so I pivoted around it and was off. However some were not so fortunate (I’ll let them tell the story, since I was long gone by then). The dumbass ticket broad took my ticket and slowly turned it over in her hands, forcing me to take my ticket back and do her job for her. I drop the stub into her bucket and immediately find myself in a pitch black room. A voice behind me shouts encouragement, and I leap down what I can only assume were sets of stairs (they could have been deep, alligator filled chasms for all I know, there were no lights on the floor) and am able to secure the spot I was aiming for. I am immediately struck by how low the stage was, it couldn’t have been more then 3 feet high.
They kicked off w/ Tweedle, and it was clear they were still as “on” as they were earlier in the year. The sound was terrible at the rails; Denny was loud and clear (not complaining) but the only time I could hear T at all that night was on Ballad Of A Thin Man. Didn’t hear the organ all night (again, no complaints) but the vocals were also hard to hear and the harp was nonexistent. Same for anything Donnie was playing. I really look forward to hearing the tape.
(Since I could only really hear Denny all night…)I hate Girl, but really dug this one for Denny’s playing. He continued to shred through River, and played an amazing Simple Twist. Slide on Rollin…..fuhgedaboudit! For some reason, I happened to look at house right during John Brown (an impressive number in itself) and Donnie was back there, swaying and bopping to a rhythm that could only have been going on in his own little world back there. Quite entertaining haha, but, again, great haunting version of the song. On just a personal note, this was the first LARS I had gotten since my first show; I was on an incredible streak.
Because of where I was, it was not the best sounding mix, but the energy on stage and in the sold out crowd was definitely noteworthy. On the way back out, I was able to confirm that they were, in fact, stair sets, and that there were a hell of a lot more then I ever remember jumping down haha No one seemed disappointed, quite the contrary, and hopes were high as we regrouped and headed out for Maine.