a bit too Bob Dylanesque
Saturday, May 24 2014
I met Gretchen at the bookstore in Woodstock when she was closing it down for the day and then we went to the new pizza place next door to Tinker Street Cinema, a place called Rick's Wood Fired Pizza. It's a somewhat fancier dining experience than your usual pizza shop; the ingredients are mostly organic and prepared in a gourmet fashion, making it a bit pricier than one normally expects for a pizza. Also, they still lack a liquor license, so there was no beer with the pizza. The staff were super friendly and responsive, and when we said we were in a hurry to get to our next thing, they speeded up our order and somehow had two vegan pizzas and a salad ready for us in only about five minutes. The better of our pizzas was the pesto one. I don't usually like pesto all that much, but the arugula & pistachio pizza was maybe a little too rabbit-friendly for my tastes. The key to any good pizza, though, is the crust, and here both pizzas excelled. Some might have thought it all a bit oily, but I love it that way.
The main event for the evening was a Bob Dylan tribute at the Bearsville Theatre. Today was Dylan's 73rd birthday, and the tribute was in part of a fundraiser for Family of Woodstock (an emergency relief provider for people in need) and another charity that provides help to broke musicians. We met our friend Kate there, and Gretchen had paid extra so we'd have good seats.
The Bearsville Theatre is one of those places I used to love because they have Hurricane Kitty (overpriced though it is) on tap. Now, though, Hurricane Kitty just tastes bad to me. Gretchen got me a pint of it and everything about it was wrong. It even had a weird celery aftertaste that was just wrong. Later when I got another beer it was Stella Artois, which, though essentially flavorless compared to an IPA, is inoffensive.
Tonight's show was opened by some teenage rock and roll students from the Paul Green Rock Academy. Later, when Gene Ween (one of the more famous of the tonight's musicians) requested a harmonica player, one of those kids came out and produced an awesome impromptu harmonica solo to rapturous applause of the kind Lady Gaga lives for.
Most of the musicians tonight were unfamiliar to me, though some of them (particularly the drummer for most of the performances) were actually well known. I don't know who the skinny squirrely guy hidden inside a huge oversized suit was, but he later told us that he's been living with someone else's liver for the past nine years and that we should seriously consider becoming organ donors. Only later did I realize that the huge suit was concealing a distended belly, perhaps one of the consequences of a liver transplant. The most famous person on stage tonight was Donald Fagen, the nearly-neckless gentleman who co-founded Steely Dan. Mostly Fagen kept quiet and played piano with a mischievous look on his face, but at some point near the end (while accompanied by much younger musicians), he sang a series of songs from behind his keyboard, somehow sounding surprisingly like Bob Dylan.
For me, the highlight of the evening was the Duke McV!nnie band, which includes our friend Jane the Cellist. I'd never actually seen the Duke McV!nnie band before, though I'd heard reports that McV!nnie himself (the lead singer and Jane's current boyfriend) has a voice similar to Tom Waits (and one story has it that Tom Waits' whole schtick is an imitation of Duke's style). I'm not a fan of Tom Waits' vocal stylings, and McV!nnie's singing voice definitely sounds similar. But there's an energy to the band's live performance that is glorious to behold. Their performance tonight of "The House of the Rising Sun," (which I didn't know to be associated with Bob Dylan) rocked the house like nothing before it tonight. I've seen Jane play her cello, but tonight she showed herself to be something of a virtuoso (her solo in that song was applauded like nothing else except that School-of-Rock kid's harmonica fill). I was also intrigued by another member of the band, a young man whose only job was to get what I can only call "sound effects" out of his electric guitar. Sometimes he did this by holding some strange electronic device in his strumming hand while working the fretboard. Other times he made heavy use of the whammy bar to create a ghostly texture. It was all refreshingly beyond the conventions of normal rock and roll.
Another person on stage that Gretchen and I knew was Don the Jazz Musician, whom we'd met socially through his now-ex-wife Susan the German Translator. Gretchen got a chance to talk to him seconds before he went on stage, where he stood around looking like a befuddled homeless man in between clarinet or saxophone solos.
Another highlight of the evening was a super-slow version of "Blowing in the Wind," performed in the way one would imagine Low doing it. The problem with slowing a Dylan song down is just how damn many lyrics there are that need to be sung. The slowed-down "Blowing in the Wind," good as it was, went on for something like ten minutes.
Truth be told, though, I didn't have as good of a time as I expected to, and certainly not as good of a time as Gretchen or Kate. Though I respect Bob Dylan, I've never much liked his voice and have only seen the beauty in his songs when they've been covered by others. Tonight, most of the performances were perhaps a bit too Bob Dylanesque for my tastes; I really only liked the ones that went some interesting new direction. (I would have loved, for example, a Bob Dylan song interpreted through hip hop.)
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