Greg Lake: 4/25/2012

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“If you were stranded on a desert island with just one album to listen to, what would it be?” If you are my age, I’m sure you’ve answered this question many times. My response was pretty standard: Brain Salad Surgery by Emerson Lake and Palmer. Throughout the years, I have owned this on vinyl (twice), on cassette, on 8-track, and on CD. It is an album I never tire of listening to.

I dug out this stub because Greg Lake passed away a couple days ago. He died the same year that his bandmate Keith Emerson also died. 2016 has been a terrible year for musicians.

I went to this concert with my friend Bill, a former bandmate of mine and a writer for various music publications. He had acquired a pair of complimentary tickets, which included a pass to meet Greg after the performance. I have to say, I was pretty excited to meet someone who has inspired me musically for most of my life.

We drove to Raleigh, got some food, then went to the venue. The manager there was very accommodating and invited us in early, gave us more food and beverages, and made us feel like VIP’s. The venue was intimate and we had great seats. Finally, the lights went out and Greg Lake took the stage.

This was his “storyteller” tour, so it was just him on the stage, playing bass and guitar along with recorded tracks, and of course singing. He also spent a good deal of time between songs telling personal stories about bands, recordings, and life as a musician. I felt like I got to know him on a deeper level and gained a more rich understanding of him as an artist. He played a broad selection of music from his early days in King Crimson through ELP and solo material. For me, it was an amazing experience, but it got better.

After the performance, we went to the VIP guest room and waited for Greg to arrive. After a bit, he showed up and people queued up to meet him and ask him questions. I of course had to bring a copy of Brain Salad Surgery, which he graciously signed for me. I felt a little intimidated meeting him, but he was pretty relaxed. I asked him what new bands he listened to. He said none, really. I felt a twinge of sadness for him. There are some great musicians out there now, and I thought he might find enjoyment and inspiration from listening to them. To quote his song: “C’est la vie” (which he played).

Greg Lake will be sorely missed, but he has gone on to join the great gig in the sky. Godspeed.

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Fantastic Negrito: 10/16/2016

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I discovered Fantastic Negrito while listening to a Studio 360 podcast while driving. I was so blown away by his story and the power of his music, I immediately downloaded his album, The Last Days of Oakland. Every song was amazing and he catapulted to the top of my favorite-new-artist list. So when my friend Bill told me he was coming to Asheville to perform, I immediately went out and purchased tickets.

Fantastic Negrito (real name Xavier Dphrepaulezz) has an amazing story, one worth reading about. My friend Bill interviewed Negrito and published the story in the Mountain XPress (click here to read article). I encourage you to check it out.

Negrito played at the Asheville Music Hall, an intimate venue that allowed me to get close to the stage. I went with my friend Greg, and we met Bill and his wife Audrey there, so it was great hanging out with close friends.

Often times, when you have high expectations about a musical act, they can fail to meet those expectations. But that was not the case with Fantastic Negrito. His band was tight, energetic, and inspiring on so many levels. After the performance, all I wanted to do was create and express myself artistically.

In an effort to support him, I decided to purchase a vinyl copy of his album, even though I had the digital version through Apple Music. Xavier came out afterwards and mingled with the audience, graciously giving autographs and talking with fans. I got him to sign my album and let him know how inspiring he was. If you get an opportunity to see him, I strongly encourage you to do so.

To close, I want to mention that Fantastic Negrito was the overall winner of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series. Click here to see that performance, and be inspired!

Brian Wilson: 8/18/2016

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The Beach Boys were responsible for the soundtrack to some of my more memorable summers growing up. We would have pool parties at this girl Wendy’s house and play spin the bottle and truth or dare while the Beach Boys constantly crooned through the stereo. And while I had seen the Beach Boys twice before this show, neither time had Brian Wilson, so this concert was a real treat and more than just a trip down memory lane.

This tour marked the 50th anniversary of the release of the album Pet Sounds, which is an amazing work of art. For the tour, Wilson also recruited two other Beach Boys: Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin. In addition, nine other musicians shared the stage, bringing the total to twelve that I was able to count. One of them, Al Jardine’s son, was an incredible vocalist and soared on all the high harmony parts.

I went with my wife and we had decent seats in the balcony to the left of the stage, so we could see quite well. The sound was balanced and clear, and the band was very tight. They started promptly around 8:00, no opening act, and played a nice set that included standard surf and car songs (California Girls, Surfer Girl, Shut Down, etc.). Then they took a break before coming back to play Pet Sounds in its entirety.

Before playing “God Only Knows” (one of my favorite Beach Boys’ songs), Brian told the audience that it was the best song he’d ever written. Almost brought a tear to my eye, because it was always a moving song, but knowing that the artist must have poured his soul into it makes it all the more special.

After Pet Sounds, the band played a nice long encore of about six songs, including “Good Vibrations,” “Help Me Rhonda,” “Fun Fun Fun,” and “Surfin’ USA.” By the time they took their final bow together, I was so moved and musically satisfied, I could not think of a single other song I would have wanted to hear.

I think that the most inspiring part of the concert was the fact that Brian Wilson, despite his personal issues, was able to get on stage and perform, and that his friends who joined him were totally supportive of him. You could sense it. Brian had his moments, where he sat at the piano and looked around, or obsessively checked his watch over and over and over, but no one minded and he was still able to pour out his emotion through the music. It affirmed what I have always known, that music has the power to heal and inspire.

I may not always love you
But long as there are stars above you
You never need to doubt it
I’ll make you so sure about it

God only knows what I’d be without you

Johnny Winter: 6/29/1991

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I love Johnny Winter. As a guitarist, I am still in awe of his playing. That said, this concert was a bummer.

I went to this show with my friend Jim. We drove up from Miami to Ft. Lauderdale. Summers on the Beach was a club located right on Atlantic Blvd facing the beach and the ocean. Generally, it was a pretty fun place to hang out.

This concert was in late June, and if you have ever been to South Florida in late June, you know the heat is brutally oppressive. There is no way to comfortably exist without air conditioning. This sets the stage for the scene which was to unfold at this particular show.

We all know that club owners are notoriously sketchy, but they were particularly so in South Florida. Anyway, it seems that the owner had a brilliant idea on how to boost sales at the bar—turn off the air conditioning. The packed club turned into a sweatbox. Jim and I stood there, dripping sweat, waiting for Johnny to take the stage.

When he finally took the stage, it was a disaster. Johnny was kind of tall, so his head was right near the low-hanging stage lights, which also give off a lot of heat. He immediately began sweating profusely and cursing, yelling at people about the intolerable conditions. He played a little, stopped, yelled at some more people, then played another song. Finally, in a fit of disgust after playing about three or four songs, he stepped to the microphone and said: “This is bullshit! I’m playing one more song and then I am out of here.” And that’s what he did. It was very disappointing. Thankfully, I would get to see the legend perform another time before he died, but that is a story for another time.

Rock and Roll!

Grateful Dead: 9/11/1982

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I’ve accumulated quite a few Grateful Dead ticket stubs over the years. This one is from the second time I saw them, back in 1982 at the West Palm Beach Auditorium in South Florida.

There was a large group of friends with whom I went to this show. I seem to recall we had maybe two cars crammed with people. I cannot remember the names everyone who came along for the ride, but I am certain there were a lot of us. We pulled in to the parking lot and were greeted by the colorful intrepid carnivalesque caravan of the Deadheads. We found a place to park and immersed ourselves in the parking lot festivities.

When the band took the stage, I was ecstatic. They opened the show with “New Minglewood Blues,” which I thought was a great opener. My friend Cindy became instantly enamored with Bob Weir. Throughout the whole show, she kept reiterating how hot he was.

At the start of the second set, my friend Mike and I decided to go up front. The rest of the crew remained in the seats. There was an open floor and we managed to get pretty close to the stage, right in front of Jerry Garcia. What I recall most vividly about being up near the front was when the band segued into “Fire on the Mountain.” The stage was bathed in rich red light that gave the impression that there were actual flames emanating from the stage. This combined with the heat from the pulsating crowd caused me to begin sweating most uncomfortably. It was not long before I couldn’t stand the heat any more. We returned to the comfort of our seats and our friends.

The other thing that made this concert special for me was it was the first time I saw the Dead play “Terrapin Station,” which is still one of my favorite Grateful Dead songs. It was also the first time I heard them perform “Truckin’.” Another treat.

Thanks to the obsessive need for Deadheads to document the details of every concert, along with the wonders of the internet, I am able to include the complete setlist from this concert. “What a long strange trip it’s been.”


 

Set 1

New Minglewood Blues
They Love Each Other
Me and My Uncle
Big River
Dupree’s Diamond Blues
C.C. Rider
Loser
Looks Like Rain
Tennessee Jed
Let it Grow

Set 2

Scarlet Begonias
Fire on the Mountain
Lost Sailor
Saint of Circumstance
Terrapin Station
drums > space
Truckin’
Stella Blue
Around and Around
One More Saturday Night

Encore

It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue

Alvin Lee and 10 Years After: 9/11/1983

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Anyone who has seen the Woodstock movie will undoubtedly remember Alvin Lee and 10 Years After’s smokin’ performance of “I’m Going Home.” For me as a guitarist, seeing that filmed performance was one of those inspiring moments that made me want to play guitar. So when I heard that Alvin Lee was coming to the Button South, a popular rock club in South Florida, I was determined to go.

I was living with a Latin woman at the time, so of course, she was coming to the concert with me. I thought it would be OK, since she did like rock and roll, but unfortunately, she did not appreciate Alvin Lee’s long and energetic guitar solos nearly as much as I did, and after they ended the first set with a 10-minute version of “I’m Going Home,” she was ready to leave and letting me know in no uncertain terms. I was annoyed, to say the least. So I had to decide what was more important, standing my ground and stubbornly demanding we stay for the second set, or going home and maintaining a sense of harmony at the abode. I opted for the second choice, placating myself by focusing on the fact that I got to see the song that I wanted to hear most of all.

Sadly, Alvin Lee is no longer with us (he passed in 2013), so the fact that I didn’t stay and catch the second set is one of those rock and roll regrets. But I did get to see him, and the one set that I saw certainly inspired me.

Gratefully Yours: 10/26/1991

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The world is full of Grateful Dead tribute bands, but this one was unique because it featured Tom Constanten, original keyboardist for the Grateful Dead, along with David Nelson from the New Riders of the Purple Sage.

Summers on the Beach was a stereotypical Fort Lauderdale beach bar, but they used to get some decent acts in there. Being a life-long Dead fan, I was not going to miss this opportunity to see Constanten perform. Also, I do love me some NRPS, so I was psyched to see Nelson too.

The show was a lot of fun. The band sounded great and they really dug deep into the repertoire, playing some choice songs like “Mountains of the Moon” and “The Eleven.” I knew a lot of people there, since South Florida had a pretty close-knit Deadhead community. We all danced and sang along. It was just a fun night of great music.

The coolest thing, though, is that Tom Constanten came out after the show and mingled with the audience, chatting and offering to sign autographs. As you can see, I got my ticket stub signed by him. It was the perfect ending to a great night of live music.

Grateful Dead: 11/26/1980

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This ticket stub is from the first time I saw the Grateful Dead, who would become a major creative influence in my life. I figured it was appropriate to write about this stub today because next week, almost 35 years to the day, I’ll be taking my daughter to see Dead & Company, with surviving band members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann, along with guitarist John Mayer.

I suppose I should first say a little something about the infamous Hollywood Sportatorium. The Sportatorium, fondly referred to as the Sporto or the Sport-hole, was located out in the boonies of what is now the Pembroke Pines area of South Florida. Back then, it was the sticks. You drove past miles of cow pastures on a long road that was only one lane each way until you reached what looked like a huge barn in the middle of nowhere. The parking lot was a mud pit, the acoustics were wretched on a good night, the facilities were poorly maintained, but this was home for concert goers when I was growing up in Miami.

I’d started listening to the Grateful Dead at a young age. I had a friend whose nickname was Ola and he introduced me to the band, making me my first cassette tape that included songs like Morning Dew, Truckin’, and China Cat Sunflower. I started buying records and immersing myself in the music, sitting for hours with my guitar and learning the songs. When I heard that the Dead were coming to the Sporto, I rushed out and grabbed a ticket.

I’m not 100 percent sure, but I am fairly confident that I went with my friends Mark and Dean to this show. What I do remember was the feeling I had when the lights went down and the band came on stage. The band unassumingly walked out and began their tuning session while the audience energy began to build. I felt my heart rate increasing, anticipation crawling over me. Finally, after the short eternity, the band turned and faced the crowd and launched into “Alabama Getaway.” I was so blown away that I nearly fell backwards off the chair I was standing on. From that moment, I was completely hooked.

Years later, when I started collecting tapes of Grateful Dead shows, I acquired a copy of this show, which allowed me to relive the experience of when I first saw the band whose music continues to inspire me today. The tape has long since deteriorated, but thanks to the digital age, I was able to easily find the setlist online. My daughter told me last night that “Friend of the Devil” is her favorite Grateful Dead song. They played it the first time I saw them, so it would be truly special if they play it again next week.

Here is the setlist from the Sporto show, 35 years ago.

Set 1:

Alabama Getaway
Greatest Story Ever Told
Friend of the Devil
On the Road Again
Jack-A-Roe
Minglewood Blues
It Must Have Been the Roses
The Race Is On
Althea
Lost Sailor
Saint of Circumstance
Deal

Set 2:

Cold Rain and Snow
Samson and Delilah
China Cat Sunflower
I Know You Rider
Estimated Prophet
Eyes of the World
Drums
Space
Wharf Rat
Around and Around
Good Lovin’

Encore:

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

Chuck Berry and Donovan: 02/20/1988

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OK, so first off, observe the price of this ticket. That’s right — $0.00. This was a free concert, but it did require a ticket to get in, probably to minimize the number of people.

As you can imagine, Chuck Berry was the headliner, with Donovan as the opener (not a bad opener, in my humble opinion). Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans. The show was delayed and people were getting a little antsy. Finally the announcer came out and said that Donovan’s flight was delayed, so Chuck would play first and Donovan would play later. All I could think was I would HATE to have to perform after Chuck Berry.

The man came out on stage, and it was rock and roll in the purest sense. Words fail me in trying to describe the feeling I got from seeing the person who, in my eyes, was the grandfather of rock and roll. He was everything I expected. You knew and sang along with every song; he did his trademark duck walk and skip; and he had the youth and vigor of someone half his age. When it was over, I was floored. All I wanted to do was go home and play Chuck Berry tunes on my guitar. It was truly inspiring.

Then came a wait, a very long wait. The announcer spoke up again, ensuring that Donovan would in fact be there. Lots of people left, which I could understand. Hey, they just saw the great Chuck Berry… for free! But I do love Donovan’s music, so I patiently waited, seeking creative ways to entertain myself.

Finally, Donovan arrived. It probably worked in his favor that a couple hours passed between when Chuck finished and he started. It was just him with an acoustic guitar and the people who stayed were very appreciative. He played all his hits, as well as some obscure tunes (sorry, don’t ask me what they were). But I was really glad I waited around because he was great, not Chuck Berry great, but great none-the-less.

It still blows my mind to think that I got to see such an amazing show for free. I’ve seen some great free shows in my life, but they usually did not come with a ticket stub. Having a stub with Chuck Berry’s name on it makes me really, really happy.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you get out and see some live music soon.