Thursday, September 22, 2005

Willie, Bob, Eric, Patty and Lance

Wednesday night was spent at Willie Nelson’s hurricane Katrina benefit, with proceeds going to the Red Cross just in time for Texas to need them after Rita blows through. It was to start at 6:30 (super early!!) and after a frenzied time trying to get there and get parked, we got in our seats about 5 minutes before it started. Good thing too, because the first act was Eric Johnson, and I would have been pissed with myself if I had missed him. His set was very LOUD! He was definitely set up to rock an arena, and he did that with only a couple of equipment glitches that had him muttering something off-mic. For those keeping up with such matters: light orange shirt, black pants, shaven.

Bob Schneider (just call him “Bob”) and his Bluegrass Massacre was next. We are not Bob fans but he always has a rockin’ awesome band, and this one is no exception. Warren Hood is one of the two fiddlers, and Jeff Plankenhorn is on guitar, Bruce Hughes on bass of course. Patty Griffin gave a stunning performance accompanied only by her guitar. I really think I like her minimalist style the best. Her voice is like a perfect diamond, there’s no need to accessorize it. I really think all the synth guitar, horns, etc. that she uses with full band or recording are too much. What a wonderful voice, and one of the best songwriters anywhere.

Next up were the Flatlanders who played a great set, and Robbie Gjersoe is fantastic on guitar! Always a treat! One of the best sidemen in town and that’s saying a lot. Jimmie Vaughan followed, with a guest spot from Lou Ann Barton. Then, for the first time, I got to see the great Ray Price! He’s rather old (almost 80) and has lost a little of his vocal skill but still sounded wonderful. He had a huge band (with three fiddles!!) but his voice is the star of the show. The Neville Brothers have at least partly moved to Austin in the wake of Katrina, and we are going to be getting lots of chances to see them in better venues. They put on a good show and a really loooong set. They’ve got a great sax player!

There was a special guest to introduce Willie: Lance Armstrong! He talked to the crowd a bit. Yaaaaay!!! We stayed for only about 2 Willie songs as it was very late for a weeknight.

OK, charity causes aside now, I’ve obviously got no beef there. This town is awesome for charity causes, and this time they couldn’t be too picky with venues on such short notice.

But... [rant] I am really not into stadium and arena shows, especially the ones with reserved seats, especially if they have the posh VIP bunch at the front who are more impressed by being VIPs than with the music. There was no place to dance and the crowd was dead anyway (with a few exceptions). I could probably have left my seat and danced over by the security guards at the entrance (not really fun). The Neville Brothers got people to stand up and dance a bit, but security was keeping the aisles clear so you weren’t allowed to dance anywhere but in front of your chair… uptight… not too outasight though. I am just a person who prefers clubs and general admission amphitheaters. You’re probably a big fan if you got there early enough to be in front, you love the music or the band, you really want to see the fingers on the frets, what’s on the pedal board or what’s written on the setlist.

You’re not there because you can spend $100 for a show, then plop in your folding chair waiting to be entertained – or maybe you got your front row tickets as a perq of some kind, a favor for a favor, schmooze for schmooze, and don’t even know or care who’s playing. Those people hate being sweatily jammed together by the stage in a dirty club where there’s no room to be served drinks and your pretty shoes will be subjected to broken beer bottles and the beer they contained (not to mention the one that got spilled down your back) [/rant]

This show had a decidedly different feel than the Tsunami Relief show that Willie headed back in January. That one was at the Austin Music Hall (and it’s on DVD if you want to see it for yourself). It was general admission, and a really rockin’ good time. Performers mixed it up, played/sang during each other’s sets.

There are a few reasons this one may have felt different besides the arena rantings, for one thing, the ACL festival is coming right up and people are more focused on saving their money for that – or – they’ve already been to a bunch of benefits (there have been a load of them) – or – people are much more personally affected by this: the Nevilles are here because they lost their homes with Katrina, now Rita is heading to Houston so there is much more relief and sheltering that will need to be done soon, and it’s right here at home.

Oh yes, and the show in Waco on Saturday with the Jug Band, Malford Milligan and Del Castillo has already been Rita’d. I think that’s good planning on their part. It was right in the path of the storm and they are going to need the indoor spaces for evacuees and supplies.

Take care everyone. Stay safe and hold on to loved ones and strangers. We all need each other now.

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