Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 5 Nov 99 16:09
David Gans (tnf) Sun 7 Nov 99 13:29
Friday, March 26, 1999, 8:15 pm EST In a way, I left for the gig at bedtime last night. I started thinking about what I would play in my main stage set, between Roy Book Binder and Jorma Kaukonen. A big opportunity, for sure. "Show off your songwriting," said Rita. Well, yeah -- but also my fingerpicking, and a well-chosen cover or two... I wouldn't have just written out a set list last night and stuck with it -- it's not that simple. So many factors affect song selection, and although it's possible I could have set a routine that far ahead and had it remain that way -- and had it work -- it makes much more sense to let the moment, the mood, the weather, etc. influence my decision. I figured I'd start with "River and Drown" and dedicate it to Randy Judy, the promoter of the Suwannee Springfest. I started the song in the southern California desert, at one of Howard Freiberg's hippie gatherings, but I really had the Suwannee (MagnoliaFest) in mind as I developed it. Rita suggested a string of "river" songs. I said, "It almost never works that way." But then I thought about "Blue Roses," "Brokedown Palace," and "Hooker River," and that would be a fine way to get two thirds of the way through a 20-minute set. Follow that with "Normal" -- or maybe slip "Falling Star" in there and then close with "Normal." Should I do "Thunder Road"? The flow of songs is an important consideration, but I also need to be careful not to do anything that requires a risky vocal reach. I was down with a cold for several days, and although I did very well indeed at Anna's on Tuesday, I don't want to push my luck in front of a large audience that is mostly unfamiliar with my work. It's a background process throughout the night and the long, long travel day: getting in the mood to perform, forming a sense of what I want to do in the short time available, but not locking anything in until I've landed in Jacksonville, made the drive to Live Oak, tuned up my new strings and begun to warm up in the tent behind the stage. Only then, just before I walk out there, will I make the final decision -- and even then, I'll be open to new information from the crowd and the experience of being out there singing. If I keep the vessel clean and the spirit bright, there will be room for miracles. The Suwannee Springfest is a great gig for me. I've got two main stage slots, a songwriters' showcase spot on another stage, and three sitting-in- with-bands opportunities. I've been to MagnoliaFest, Randy's more Dead/hippie-oriented event in the Fall at the same site, twice before, with Eric. I am delighted that Randy offered me a spot as a solo in a more generally bluegrassy setting, and I was flabbergasted when I saw that he was giving me the coolest tweener set of all: just before Jorma's closing set on Friday night. So I want to be great, for my own sake and so Randy will know he was right to invest in me. I wake up at 5, bounce into the shower and out the door. Oakland Airport is close, and the economy parking lot is a short walk from the terminal. At this hour, it's a breeze to get to the plane. I'm flying Delta to Dallas, and then to Jax. The Dallas flight is uneventful; I sleep through much of it. I'm a little bit worried about the quick connection to Jax -- not so much about getting myself on the plane, but will my checked baggage (i.e. guitar) get there? It won't do me much good to get to Jacksonville without my Turner. The Jax flight taxis out onto the runway, but then the pilot announces that the cabin door is not completely closed so we're going back to the jetway to take care of that. After a few minutes back at the gate, we're informed that the problem is more serious than they had thought and we must wait here in the plane while maintenance assesses the situation. I go back to the bathroom, then ask a nice flight attendant for some water. We shoot the shit for a while, until word comes over the PA that the plane cannot fly and the flight is canceled. Off the plane we go, and into a huge line at the Delta desk in DFW. Three hundred people need to find a new way to Jacksonville. I was philosophical at first, but they did not handle it well. Why the hell don't they have a spare aircraft? This is a major hub for Delta, and this is the start of spring break. Traffic is heavy. First they pass out phone cards, so if and when we learn our respective fates we can make some calls at their expense. Then the Delta guy stands on the counter and reads names of handfuls of passengers who they have already booked on the few available seats on a few available flights -- some of them this afternoon, some of them early tomorrow morning. These people are given hotel vouchers and urged to get outa here asap. The rest of us stand around and fume. As the news gets bleaker, I begin to wonder if I wouldn't be better off going home. I'm not in any of the groups assigned to new flights, and the arrival times they're talking are already into tomorrow evening. I don't see how they can get me to Jax in time to do much of anything I need to do. Then there is good news: There is a plane almost ready to go. It had just received a new windshield, and as soon as they've finished putting everything back together in the cockpit and checked it out, they'll board us and send us on our way -- well, 170 of us, anyway. I hope that includes me. This information is imparted a little at a time, by Delta employees working without a PA system in a noisy crowd. Yes, it will include me. I will be in Jacksonville tonight, but it's doubtful I'll get to Live Oak in time to play. They pass out $10 meal vouchers so we can get a bite while we wait for our new flight, which is expected to leave around 5 from Gate 27. I call Dollar Rent-a-Car so they'll hold my vehicle, and I call my assistant at home and ask her to track down Randy at the festival and let him know what's up. The flight actually leaves closer to 6:00 CST. It is now 8:50 pm EST, and we're descending into Jacksonville. No way in hell I'm gonna make my 9:20 time slot on the main stage.
David Gans (tnf) Sun 7 Nov 99 13:37
Sunday, March 28, 199, 9:30 am EST Of course I didn't make it to Suwannee in time for my Friday night set. I pulled in a little after 11 pm, got my laminate and parking pass, then wandered around a bit looking for the promoter, Randy. He drove by me in his golf cart, and stopped to greet me. Randy said it's probably just as well that I wasn't there, because Donna the Buffalo was very late on the Dance Stage, with a HUGE crowd (packed so tight they were blocking the sound from coming out of the PA speakers!), and Jorma delayed the start of his mainstage set til they were finished. So I wouldn't have had much of an audience anyway. Exhausted from a frustrating day, I headed for the hotel and got a good night's sleep. Saturday morning I arrived at the Dance Stage around 10:30. I was invited to sit in with the Crawfish of Love during their 11:00 set, and with Glass Camels in their 1:30 pm set. There was a loose jam titled "Beth's Boogie" supposed to take place in the 10-11 hour, but it was just starting to think about happening as I arrived. And almost immediately, Cathy Lee called out to me, "David, you know 'Day Tripper,' don't you? Help us out here!" and Dave Roberts of Crawfish handed me his Telecaster. So I sang "Day Tripper," with Landon Walker on standup bass and Scott, the drummer of Crawfish AND Glass Camels, and another woman whose name I didn't catch playing some percussion stuff. We did another song together, but I'm damned if I can remember it now. With Crawfish, I sang "Brokedown Palace" and "Pancho and Lefty," and then at the end of their set I joined them (along with Dave Hendershott of Glass Camels) for a pretty sweet "Bird Song." With Glass Camels -- in front of a much larger crowd, many people dancing - we did "Eyes of the World" (not terribly interesting from my standpoint, but I enjoyed singing it) and "Season of the Witch." The latter was suggested by a Glass Camels guy who remembered our doing it together in the MagnoliaFest in October '97. I really got into my singing and guitar playing on that one, and the Glass Camels all played really well on it, too. Good crowd reaction. After wandering around the vending area and catching bits of various sets on the main stage, the Dance stage, the Florida stage and the Workshop stage, and visiting with Donna the Buffalo, Blueground Undergrass and other folks, I found myself with nearly four hours to kill so I went back to the hotel to take a bath and read a book. I got back to the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in plenty of time, and hung out with Lorin Rowan (my immediate predecessor on the Workshop Stage) while we waited for the current performer to finish his overtime set. Then I sat in the back and enjoyed Lorin's excellent set, which included a song he wrote with his brother Pete which I've heard the latter perform ("Deal with the Devil") and a nice instrumental. He has a new CD coming out with the Lorin Rowan Trio - himself plus violin and cello - which should be nice. We exchanged phone numbers and I invited him to appear on my radio show back in the Bay Area. My showcase stage time slot was unfortunate, with Blueground Undergrass rippin' it up on the Dance Stage a few hundred yards away and Peter Rowan and Tony Rice on the main stage. I had a dozen people including the sound man. I wasn't thrilled with the sound on stage, nor with my vocal performance, but I did a good job for the people who where there. One young couple in the front row laughed and laughed during "Normal," and they got a major kick out of "Monica," too. But it was a disappointing occasion for me. After I packed up my stuff, I went down to the main stage and caught some of the Pete and Tony show, and It Was Good. Back to the Hotel Room before midnight, and asleep before 1. Sunday, March 28, 1999, 6:10 pm EST I'm sitting by the pool at the Quality Inn in Jennings, Florida, 20 miles from the gig and 200 yards from the interstate. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of birds in the palms and the pines. The sky is utterly empty and pale blue, the sun washing out the sky behind the hotel administration building. It's been a delightful day, and it will be a peaceful, if dull, evening. I've got a load of washing in; I miscalculated my needs, or I suppose I should say I forgot how dirty I was gonna get walking around the music park -- and I would prefer to have clean pants for my flight home. My main stage set went very well. I opened with "Normal" and then sang "River and Drown," "Brokedown Palace," and "Blue Roses." Then I told the crowd that the merchandising people had asked me to do the title song from one of my CDs, because so many people had asked about it: "Monica." I followed with "Popstar," and that was that. Afterwards I went over to the merchandising booth to sign CDs, and there were many people with kind words to say. I sold six Home By Mornings and two Monicas, which ain't bad at all. I was very happy with my performance. My voice served me well, and my guitar playing was nearly flawless (one else chord in "Brokedown," but I recovered swiftly). I hooked up with Gary Burnett and Dwight Holmes, and we walked over to the dance stage, where Glass Camels was preparing to begin. We went and got some food while they began their set, and while they were jamming out the end of "Black Peter" was summoned to the stage and directed to Dave Roberts' Telecaster. A fine instrument, but the amp was pretty gutless so I wasn't able to play much out-front stuff. Instead, I concentrated on my singing and played an aggressive rhythm guitar. I wasn't as lost in the mix as I thought I was gonna be, and there was plenty of interaction among the FOUR guitarists (Dave Hendershott and Paul Wells of the Camels, and a very good guitarist whose name I barely caught and which I've forgotten). We played "Playing in the Band," with me alternating lead vocals with Dave; that jam went on and on, in an energetic and crowd-pleasing way, and at my suggestion we rolled swiftly into an upbeat "I Know You Rider." There was a large crowd dancing enthusiastically; I was happy with what I did on the guitar, even getting in a bit of a solo when the rest of the band came down to my level. Next we did "Shakedown Street," a song I have never performed with my own bands but which I've done several times with various other bands. It was a fun time, and again I concentrated on a killer rhythm vamp and background vocals. This jam went on for a good time, to the dancers' delight, and then (at my suggestion) we eased into "Here Comes Sunshine," with me on lead vocals. After two verses, we jammed off in C and then headed back into "Shakedown." Sweet! The crowd went nuts. The Glass Camels do this Dead thing right: They don't make set lists ahead of time, and they really listen. We had agreed before the set to do "Playing in the Band," but everything else was spontaneous and inspired. Everybody gave good ideas and good ears to the transaction; the energy was positive. I like playing with these guys, and they like having me with 'em. I also got a chance to play with Blueground Undergrass, which surprised me since I'd just met them this weekend. But some of them heard me with the Camels, so I guess they figured I could handle it. As they were finishing "Orange Blossom Special," the Rev pointed at his brother Johnny's stand full of guitars and motioned for me to join them. I picked up a Fender but waited for them to finish "Orange Blossom." Then they started "Midnight Moonlight," and I sang harmony on the choruses and also lead on the second verse. I took a solo in the middle, which they do Old and In the Way style, but I don't think I played very well. I kept it short, and concentrated on the rhythm vamp again. It was fun to play with them -- and fun to listen, too. So the weekend went well for me, overall. I would like better time slots; I'll work my way up to them. Late in the afternoon, Randy Judy cruised up in his golf cart to tell me, "I think your singing voice has improved tremendously. Your solo set sounded great." And he's right: I have gained a lot of power, confidence and technique since he heard me last. All this, and I got to see the amazing Tony Rice; hadn't seen him since he was a pup in Emmylou's band. I made friends with Lorin Rowan. Donna the Buffalo opened with my favorite song of theirs, "Conscious Evolution." A fine time! The farther I get from home, the more respected I am as a musician.
David Gans (tnf) Tue 23 Nov 99 18:01
April 7, 1999: Last night was a special night at Anna's. I asked Eric to take the evening off so I could warm up for the tour (I'm flying out today, and starting the tour in Milwaukee tomorrow night). My friend Jim Page is in town, and we've been looking for a stage to play together on, so I invited him to share the Anna's gig with me. My performance was plenty satisfying, although my voice cracked spectacularly once or twice. That was just an artifact of warming up, and I'm not worried about it. The really cool thing about last night was that I earned the admiration of a musician I admire greatly. Jim is a terrific, soulful, earnest songwriter, and I really love his stuff and the way he presents it. When we played together, we made some real magic happen. He praised my melodic sense and the lyrical quality of my playing. This made me very proud! When the gig was over Jim said, "Let's plan some gigs where we can really work some stuff out and play it right." I am so there! If we toured together I could play my stuff, and play with him on his, and it would be great. He's gonna send me some tapes of his stuff to play along with. I'll be like Robbie Robertson to Dylan, discovering all those internal melodies and counterpoints and helping to illuminate Jim's wonderful songs. AND I'll get to play my own stuff to an audience that is _attuned_ to songcraft. I am one happy musician as I head out on the road today! (It took us eight months to make it happen, but Jim and I are going to play four Northern California dates in December! Details in the next post.)
David Gans (tnf) Tue 23 Nov 99 18:03
David Gans & Jim Page separately and together Radio appearances: Friday, December 10, 3-4pm: Friday Folk-Off with Dave Stafford & Mark Cook, KKUP 91.5 Cupertino Sunday, December 12, 10:30am: KPIG's "Please Stand By" with John Sandidge. 107.5 in the Santa Cruz area, www.kpig.com on the web. Tuesday, December 14, between 3:00 and 5:30pm: Steve Meadows show on KZSC 88.1 Santa Cruz Live performances: Tuesday, December 14, 8pm: Henfling's, 9450 Highway 9, Ben Lomond CA. 831-335-1642 Wednesday, December 15, 8pm: Freight and Salvage, 1111 Addison St, Berkeley. 510-548-1761 Friday, December 17, 8pm: Cafe Van Gogh, 314 West Main Street, Grass Valley. 530-274-8384 Saturday, December 18, 8pm: Blue Rock Shoot, 14523 Big Basin Way, Saratoga. 408-867-3437 David's schedule is always up to date at www.trufun.com/gigs.html
Gail Ann Williams (gail) Wed 24 Nov 99 11:30
> Friday Folk-Off Heh! Oh you wild unplugged people.
David Gans (tnf) Wed 24 Nov 99 12:07
There's a show on KHSU up in Arcata called "Folkin' Around"!
be a straw (dwaite) Wed 24 Nov 99 13:10
KKUP is one wild station. They have a transmitter on top of mount umiminum in the Santa Cruz mountain.
David Gans (tnf) Wed 24 Nov 99 14:07
Umunhum -- please! it's a sacred place: when I was in high school, we used to go drinking up there.
be a straw (dwaite) Mon 29 Nov 99 08:48
highest point in the mountains! :-)
Jon Jackson (jonj) Mon 29 Nov 99 09:56
Does Virgil still do "On the Virge"? What night is it?
David Gans (tnf) Fri 24 Dec 99 13:25
Thursday, April 8, 1999, 4:00 pm Drinking decaf and trying to eat an uninspiring low-fat poppy seed muffin at the cafe next door to Thai Joe's. The Metro has no ad, and the listing for today says "Grateful Dead tape night." The other weekly has nothing at all for Thai Joe's tonight. On the up side, Thai Joe's created a lovely color poster for the gig -- I hope there are copies all over town. And The Onion has me in the listings AND this item (one of only two) in the Picks for April 8: "David Gans is the host of the syndicated radio show The Grateful Dead Hour, and he's one of the band's highest-profile fans. But his 1997 album Home By Morning is simpler, gentler, and more spare than the work of most of his peers and influences. Recorded with Eric Rawlins, with additional performances by mandolinist David Grisman and pedal-steel man Bobby Black, the album doesn't include Gans' biggest hit, an affectionate 1998 novelty hit titled, well, 'Monica Lewinsky.'" Friday, April 9, 1999, 10:30 am Last night was frustrating and mixed. The audience was both appreciative and noisy, and forcefully Dead-oriented. There was one table full of rowdy young women who kept shouting various Dead titles. Even after I said I couldn't do "Sugar Magnolia," for example, they kept calling for it. I did way more Dead songs than I ordinarily like to do, and several that I never do -- "Loser," for example. There was one large table full of people who didn't give a shit about the music at all, and just got louder as I got louder. I almost stopped the show a couple of times, it was so annoying and distracting. But I forced myself to address the people on the fringes who were very clearly paying attention. But between the rowdy "fans" and the loudly uninterested patrons, it was a bummer of a night. The ones who were supposedly into my performance were pleasantly responsive at the start of a familiar song, but went right back to jabbering after a few bars; they hardly bothered to respond at all to original stuff and unfamiliar covers. I did all my new songs, and they worked out well: "Gulf Coast Highway," a Nanci Grifith tune I stole from Eric; and "Dupree's Diamond Blues" and "Mission in the Rain." The idea is not to do more Dead songs each night, but to do more different ones and rotate 'em through. But last night all I could do was shovel Dead songs into the din and pray for some attention. Thursdays are Grateful Dead Tape Night at Thai Joe's, you see. This audience doesn't seem to know how to treat a live solo performer. The pay is excellent, but I don't know if I want to go back there again. If I get booked in Minnesota next time, I'll have to do Thai Joe's on my way up because the money is so good, but jeez. The food is terrific, I must say. Joe's wife is a splendid chef, and the preshow meal -- which I shared with my niece, Caitlin and her bandmate Kevin -- was a pleasure. And she gave me some seafood soup to take home, which I will eat for lunch before I leave for Champaign. And this morning I discover that my portable DAT deck is broken. Fuck! Spend 20 minutes looking in the Yellow Pages and and calling around, and I've located a replacement at a Guitar Center that isn't too far off my path to Champaign. Today will be better. Today can't help but be better. 12:30 pm Okay, in fairness, I have to also report the sweet part. Early in the first set, a woman came in and sat at one of the front tables. She was decidedly non-Deadhead-looking, around 50, and she had a copy of "Playing in the Band" in a ziploc bag. She paid very close attention to my performance. At the break she told me her daughter had turned her on to the Dead -- her one and only show was July 8, 1995 at Soldier Field (the Dead's second to last show). She asked me to autograph the book for her daughter, who was ill and couldn't come to my gig. I wrote, "Kim -- Turning your mom on to the Dead is SO COOL!" Margie also bought a copy of Home by Morning. And also, re last night: they called me back for TWO encores, hollering for inappropriate GD songs all the while.
David Gans (tnf) Wed 29 Dec 99 12:50
Saturday, April 10, 1999, 11:00 am Last night was an entirely new kind of hell, but I turned it into a weird triumph of sorts. The stage sported a little tiny disco mixer, brand name Realistic. What genius chose that as a brand name for audio products, anyway? It's a Radio Shack house brand, that's who. And the toy mixer was connected by a long thin wire to a stereo system behind the bar. One little speaker above the stage, the other up on the wall over toward the bar. I connected one microphone and hooked up my guitar stuff to the other mike cable. The sound check was a sobering experience -- a dark, hollow quality to the sound, as if it was coming in from a distant radio station. That long unbalanced cable without a line driver was no help. Cinzanoz is a nice enough place -- a wine bar and restaurant with a very nice menu of adventurous-looking seafood steaks, etc. The guy who booked the gig is long gone; Jeff, the owner of the joint, was nice enough, but there was a not-quite-happening feel to this scene as I enjoyed my ahi steak and waited for showtime. By the time I was ready to go onstage there were some friends in the house: <jules> and her new beau, in from Chicago; <ec> and <pellmell>, who live in Champaign; a taper named Tom and another who turned out to be a familiar name from the net, Ken Kleber. Ken brought his girlfriend. And Dave Witzany from WEFT was there, along with the station manager, a pleasant fellow with an American flag do-rag on his head. Mick had been wandering around the WEFT Happy Hour with his 7-month-old son on his shoulder when I was over there doing an interview. So there was a core of nine people who were there to hear me play. Others in the showroom area may or may not have come to hear me; some were pretty ob- viously not interested. I took the stage and the proprietor turned up the stereo. Bad news: my guitar was overdriving the input of the mixer terribly. Everything sounded terrible. It took me a while to get the attention of anyone who worked there, and when I did, there wasn't much they could do. I finally recruited Dave and Mick to try to help me cope with the terribly gain-structure issues I was facing. Nothing worked. By turning down the output of my guitar almost all the way, I got it to a place where the guitar might be somewhere hear acceptable -- but I couldn't make the microphone and the guitar sound good at the same time, no matter how the controls were adjusted at this end or that. So I thought I'd try just singing acoustically and using the stereo to bring my guitar up to an audible level. That strategy failed, too, because something was loose in this rickety setup and there was an almost-continuous buzzing sound, with occasional crackles. Every connection had some shaky adapter between the cable and the device. I tried a few songs this way, just powering out the vocals and hoping for the best, but it was futile. I was about to apologize to the crowd and drive back to Chicago in shame -- or ask the WEFT guys if they had a little mixer they could bring over -- when Dave and Mick asked me if I'd be interested in an acoustic guitar they have over at the station. "Bring it on over," I in- sisted, and they walked the block and a half to WEFT to get it. It was an inexpensive dreadnought of some brand, roughly the sort of guitar I like to play. The strings were stale and limp, tuned a full step down from reality. I tuned it up and then noticed that there wasn't a strap button at the neck joint. I was going to have to play sitting down. I grabbed the leatherette bar stool from the back of the stage, and immediately I was transported back in time 25 years. "I don't feel like playing anything I ordinarily play," I said, and started in on "Peaceful Easy Feeling." At this moment my despair receded and I realized I had the power to make this a unique and triumphant experience. There were nine people ready to receive with sympathy and good humor whatever I had to deliver, and so I was damn well gonna deliver. I played four songs or so, just to get comfortable in my weird new circumstance, and then announced I was going t take a break and change the strings. The tapers moved their microphones right up to the stage. Even with the new strings, this guitar was a low-tension affair. "It's like a guitar with a built-in tambourine," I said. While I was changing strings I was schmoozing with Ken Kleber, who had a lot of requests, some of which I was prepared to attempt. "Lodi" was one of those, and it sounded pretty good. A group of four people took a table to my left, very near the stage, very definitely not there to hear me. They weren't necessarily _opposed_ to hear- ing me, mind you, but they seemed to regard me as some sort of coin-free jukebox with an unusual user interface. "What would you like to hear?" I asked. The man who was facing me said "CSN," and the blonde woman next to him said, "Jimmy Buffett! James Taylor!" I launched immediately into "Sweet Baby James," which got a warm reaction from this quartet as well as from others in the room. I followed that with "Brokedown Palace" and the blonde woman listened attentively with an inter- esting, hard-to-read but possibly deeply emotional look on her face. Then I did "River and Drown," during which her interesting look disappeared. She shook her head and mouthed something along the lines of "More James Taylor." Oh, and she was smoking, too. I wasn't able to deliver any Dan Fogelberg to this party, either. There were other parties in the room, and some of them were polite and even attentive at times. I got an especially good response with "Mission in the Rain," and I noticed Mick the station manager (I never got his last name) reacting very positively to "An American Family" as the portrait unfolded. It was an oddly satisfying, even joyous, night. It was also a disaster. The tape will be interesting and memorable; all I asked is that they make it clear on their lists that this is not what my show usually sounds like! Sunday, April 11, 11:00 am Last night was everything I needed it to be. The Heartland is truly my home venue these days. After the fraternal-twin debacles of Milwaukee and Cham- paign, I was ready to play in a comfortable situation. The opening act turned out to be more than an acoustic duo, which made me mildly cranky at first. The third guy had a frame drum with pedal, a talking drum, various percussion, etc., so it wasn't the rockin' ensemble I had feared. F.M. Smith with Rob Bonnacorsi (?sp), who I met when I jammed with Cats Under the Stars last June, and the percussionist whose name I never got. They played a pleasant, dreamy set. Whatever fear I had about being blown off the stage by an ensemble were to- tally baseless: this audience was here for me. And the house was full, too. I was welcomed warmly as I took the stage and Wagner and Josh got the sound system together, and after Josh introduced me I played tree requests in a row: "Blue Roses," "Rubin and Cherise," and "The Minstrel." Every show at the Heartland has been fun and sucessful, and this one was the most fun and successful ever. I was totally at home, and the audience was totally welcoming. I asked for requests and got plenty of input. I parried and joked, and I sang and played with power and creativity. There were times when the music was taking care of itself so well that I found myself thinking about other things. It was a triumph all the way, even when I did silly things like stop "Wild Horses" in the middle 'cause I had forgotten a chord (I was transposing in my head). A guy around my age at a front table surprised me by asking for "Peaceful Easy Feeling." I remarked that I don't usually do that song but I had done it last night, and I damn well did it again. This and other requests along the way led me to make some comments about my '70s wimp-rock roots, and later in the evening (after I sang "Longer Boats") I said, "If I'm not careful I'm gonna wind up in Las Vegas doing some kind of '70s nostalgia show!" A guy down front said something about seeing me in a jump suit. This was a PERFECT opportunity to sing "Elvis Imitator"! I had transcribed the lyrics a few weeks ago and I had been trying to work up the song, but I just wasn't getting anywhere with it so I wans't planning to perform it. I had the lyrics with me, though, so when this idea came up I fished for them and went ahead and dd the song. it was a roaring success! Afterwards I said, "This may be the one and only time I ever perform that, so thank you for being part of it." But I think I may do it again, now that I know I can rise to the comedic occasion if the vibes are right. Just about everything worked last night, and the stuff that didn't work didn't throw me off track. If I had done "River and Drown" later in the show it wouldn't have felt over-long as it did in its early slot. Circumstances brought forth "Licks off of Records," which I had been considering but hadn't brought out for some reason; now I know it'll work, so I will use it. But sparingly: the sarcasm of that song felt a little strong for the atmosphere last night. While I was singing last night I realized that one of the things that makes me connect so well with Jim Page is that we are both pretty earnest. I like that about myself. The irony in songs like "Popstar" is about enough. Hmmm , what about "Desert of Love?" There were some fine instant medleys; lots of peak vocal performances; my guitar playing was solid and inventive all night. It was an absolute peak experience for me as a performer.
David Gans (tnf) Thu 30 Dec 99 11:12
Sunday, April 11, 1999, 11:59 pm Tonight was sweet and satisfying, though a lesser event than last night in some ways. My voice was showing the strain a little in the first set, but I warmed up and did much better in set 2. I made a point of doing a lot of songs I haven't done in a while, and I was pleased to see how well the performance flowed with that material. There were some flow problems, particularly in set 1. I wondered if the fact that I was consciously avoiding certain songs was interfering with my spontaneity. The audience was smaller than last night's, but no less a pleasure to entertain. There were a lot of enthusiastic young Deadheads, and I experienced a little of what annoyed me in Milwaukee. I'm going to have to get used to that and develop a manner of dealing with it. And I'm probably going to have to get used to doing a greater proportion of Dead stuff as my audience builds. I improved my performance of "Dupree's Diamond Blues" considerably tonight (this song was a definite low point last night). I played the "Uncle John's Band->Sultans of Swing" thing I thought up a moment too late on my last tour. It worked very well; if I can get past a certain reluctance to perform UJB at all, this will be a nice opportunity to play some guitar. I did very well on the guitar solos tonight, and managed a reasonably error-free "Dark Star." I have finally found my way into "Rubin and Cherise," and I'm enjoying the development of a vocal approach. What with the addition of "Mission in the Rain," I seem to have taken a firm step in the direction of Jerry's solo repertoire that I find a little surprising. On the other hand, those songs deserve to be performed. BTW, I copied the opening lines of Mission and pasted them between the third and last verses as a bridge. Nice result. My version of "I Bid You Good Night" -- which is based on my "Things We Said Today" vamp -- is a good groove, but it needs to be combined with something else. I've got Things, and "Leave Me," and a gazinta from "Pancho and Lefty," to work with, but I'll need more elements than that. IBYGN into "Love Potion #9" might be worth trying. This project seems to be drawing the continuous-groove-chain-of-songs energy away from the dreamy G stuff, which is probably for the best anyway. Without any forethought whatsoever, I dived into a new way of playing "Jacqueline," and I think I can ever remember what it was. The comfort and confidence I feel here at the Heartland is a great thing. I hope I can carry it forth to the rest of the tour.
David Gans (tnf) Fri 31 Dec 99 15:33
From DeadNet Central: >SunWasBlue - 09:30am Apr 12, 1999 PDT (#11 of 12) >My son and I experienced the Sunday night Heartland show. Thank you, thank >you, thank you. What's higher than a rave review? We were totally baffled as >to why the facility was not overflowing into the streets! Subject: David Gans 4/9/99 Champaign Date: Mon, 12 Apr 1999 23:29:09 -0500 From: Ken Kleber <firstname.lastname@example.org> Organization: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Newsgroups: rec.music.gdead I just wanna add some comments about this show. My buddy Tom and I decided to tape this show and got there real early. We talked with David for awhile and he was very friendly. I had e-mail conversations with him and I've listened to the GDH for 7 years and was glad to finally meet him. I gave him a bunch of requests (Powderfinger, Monica Lewinsky, Monkey & Engineer, Lodi, Masterpiece, etc.) and he was nice enough to play many of them. The show started with major technical problems and a VERY uncooperative staff at the bar. David didn't look happy but tried to make do. The guitar was causing all kinds of feedback and the microphone sucked. Finally, he ditched the mic and sang over his electric guitar. This proved fruitless due to the large number or disrespectful morons in the place. When one guy offered David an acoustic guitar, he agreed. For the next hour and a half, David played an acoustic guitar and sang from a stool on stage -- no microphones or amplifiers. I moved my mics up within three feet of him (with his permission, of course) and turned the deck up to high sensitivity. Despite a very talkative and rude audience, we were treated to a fine collection of both originals and covers. Some of the highlights were Mission in the Rain. Monkey & The Engineer (my request), Monica Lewinsky, and An American Family. I had a great time, as did those I was with. I suggest you check him out when he comes to your area. What a show! My tapes came out so-so. The crowd is very present and I don't exactly have high-end mics (CSB's), but I'd be willing to spread tapes of this special evening if there's interest. Just drop me an e-mail. On a side note, David asked me to make it clear that these tapes are not indicative of a typical show. He normally plays working equipment in a better environment. :-) Thanks David for an excellent evening!
David Gans (tnf) Fri 31 Dec 99 15:42
Tuesday, April 13, 15:50 pm EDT, Midland MI I got up at 7 this morning to appear on the Morning Show at WUPS, my af- filiate in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. I had a great time bantering with the hosts. They played the "Capitol Hill mix" of "Monica," and I sang "Brokedown Palace" live. Nice people, a very low-key operation on the top floor of an office building occupied mostly by Mid-Michigan Community College. My spon- sor, Rick of R&K Special T's, came by, too, and I recorded a sponsor tag for him. I checked out of my hotel room at noon and drove 20 miles east on the ar- rowstraight Michigan Highway 20 -- and I mean arrow-straight, a four-lane boulevard connecting tiny Mt. Pleasant with the larger town of Midland. The earth is so flat around here that you can practically see into the next town from miles away. I parked on the quiet main drag and walked up and down a couple of blocks in search of breakfast. I stopped in at a jewelry store to get a new battery for my watch, and now I'm sitting in a booth at LaSalle's cafe, under a poster for the Beatles at Shea Stadium. Also on the wall above my head are 45s by Lesley Gore, the Beatles ("Ballad of John and Yoko") and Wayne Newton. There's lots of Elvis stuff on all the walls, and more Beatles and other rock'n'roll items on the walls and hanging from the ceiling. The clientele is about what I'd expect in a small town in the upper Midwest -- but just a moment ago a pair walked in wearing Revolutionary War-era garb. 4:30 pm, Clarkston MI It is a lovely day, cool and absolutely cloudless. After breakfast, I left town and picked a road at random, driving in a generally southeast direction. Not a whole lot of physical features to in- terrupt the rectilinear symmetry of this grid. Small family farms for the most part, with some extraordinary houses here and there. I spotted a scarecrow-like item, near a house rather than out in a field, wearing an overstuffed red t-shirt with "Peace and Love Always" painted on the front. I've crossed the Chippewa River, the Pine River, the Tittabawassee (?) River, several unnamed cricks and ditches, and some unusual road kill. Wolverines? I made it to Flint by mid-afternoon and found the club in a back alley. I really, really had to pee, but the place was locked up. I got back in the car and drove around in search of any place to empty my bladder, finally finding a hamburger joint. To my intense relief, the door I went in was the door closest to the men's room. Then I drove out of Flint in the direction of Detroit, looking for a motel. I found a Holiday Inn that wanted $114 a night; no way. I drove on several more miles and ended up at a small, independent in Clarkston. Earlier today I had wondered if there was a motel room left in the country that didn't have modular phone jacks, and guess what? I found one. Gonna lie here and relax for two hours, then head back into Flint to play my show. I wonder if anyone in this town knows who I am. The two radio sta- tions I promoted myself on are quite a distance away -- though distance is a funny thing in this flat part of the world. Maybe my audience is closer than I think. Wednesday, April 14, 1999, 9:15 am The Back Room is about as nondescript as a club can be. The name of the place is painted in low-contrast colors on the wall next to the entrance, which is a recessed yellow door opening onto a deserted alley in downtown Flint, Michigan. I missed the place on my first pass through the alley. There was no mention of me in the April 13 square on the poster taped to the wall next to the door. I came back from the hotel at 7:00, the appointed time for sound check. I banged on the door for a good long while, and eventually the bartender let me in. He was very nice, showing me to the band room and allowing me to plug my computer in so I could download my email, etc. I had just missed Dan, the sound guy. Although my info sheet for this gig said "free food," there wasn't any here, so I went across the alley to the Torch (the only available option, apparently) for a burger. There I found three guys in tie-dyes at a table, and they invited me to join them. They wound up being three quarters of my audience. Since the chicken sandwich on the menu was fried rather than grilled, I went for the burger. The guy at the Back Room said the Torch Burger was pretty good; he was wrong. The salad had green olives and grated orange cheese on it. When I asked for the check, the waitress told me the tab had been picked up by a guy at the bar who said he was the promoter of my show. The guy was gone, and he never introduced himself to me later, either. By the time I finished my dinner, it was after 8:00 and the club was open. There was a woman sitting at the bar playing a video game, and no one else in the place. Two of my three dinner companions -- who had all met each other for the first time outside the club and seemed to be forming a nice friendship, which was cool -- were tapers, so they got busy setting up their stuff while I set up mine. There weren't any more patrons in the bar when I finished and went upstairs to warm up and wait for the sound guy. By showtime, there were a few more people in the bar, but they were regulars, not fans of mine. I found another handbill for the club, better-designed than the one posted at the door, but also not mentioning me. It was cool that one of my three new friends came all the way from Grand Rapids after having heard me on WYCE Monday afternoon. The other two read about my show on the net; one came from Ann Arbor, I think. I forget where the third guy was from -- Flint, I think, but he's moving to Eugene, Oregon this summer. I couldn't understand why the promoter would guarantee me $200 for a gig with a $2 admission and no evidence of any promotion whatsoever. Not much evidence of a Deadhead scene at this bar, either. A few minutes before to 10:00 I was feeling pretty shitty over the emptiness of the club downstairs. I made the huge internal effort necessary to push that stuff aside and take the stage with the intention of delivering a memorable show to the three guys who made the effort (the fourth attentive young dude showed up during the first set). The best thing about last night's show is the set list. I had some trouble concentrating, because of external factors and also because the bar even- tually filled up with people who weren't even slightly interested in what was happening onstage. And the bar was right in front of me, so the unconcerned were closer than the audience proper. My performance was brilliant in conception and flawed in execution. I played a lot of songs I haven't been doing lately, and I tried some new combinations (including the Bid You Good Night-> Love Potion #9 idea I proposed the other night). I thought up the Falling Star/Dark Star sandwich on the fly, and it worked out really well: the improvised transition from the E minor pause after the first chorus of Falling Star into the A Mixolydian of Dark Star was sweet and satisfying. Various patrons paid me a little attention now and then, and occasionally I saw a few heads bobbing in time with the music, but the overall atmosphere was murderous. I struggled to keep my mind on my performance; I hardly said a word between songs. The urge to wrap it up and get out of there was pretty strong, and so was my suspicion that the promoter wasn't going to be around when I went looking for my pay. I wound up playing a little under two hours: one long set with no encore. I was feeling pretty grim when it was over. I quickly packed up my stuff and took it out to the car, and then I asked the bartender who I should see about getting paid. He whipped out a handful of twenties, confirmed that there were ten of them, and handed them over with a smile and an offer of a beer. I don't know how this booking came about. Economically, it was a success; otherwise, a spike in the heart. It was only marginally better than taking the night off. But four guys had a good time and a kind word, and they knew it was a weird place to play on the way in so they were pretty sympathetic. Next time, we agreed, Grand Rapids and/or Ann Arbor. Today I'm off to Cleveland, where I have friends and a radio station and some real publicity.
David Gans (tnf) Thu 20 Jan 00 12:26
I just got the "go" from Cynsa, so the February 4 gig is ON! Mary Schmary & David Gans Friday, February 4 Noe Valley Ministry, 1021 Sanchez Street, San Francisco. Start time, admission, etc. TBA.
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 8 Feb 00 11:35
That was a cool gig. Can't wait til your diary catches up, so we can read what you thought of the evening, too. Relentless journaling project, isn't it?
David Gans (tnf) Tue 8 Feb 00 18:43
I am trying to get this topic caught up in order. Will install more installments this week.
David Gans (tnf) Thu 16 Mar 00 18:42
<scribbled by tnf Fri 21 Apr 00 09:54>
David Gans (tnf) Sun 23 Apr 00 10:50
Thursday, April 15, 1999, noon. Last night's show was at Wilbert's in Cleveland. Nice venue, similar in atmosphere to Johnny D's in Somerville MA although the layout is different. And the layout was a factor: there are three rows of tables in front of the stage, and the vast majority of the seats are off to either side. In order to make contact with the entire audience, I had to look way off to each side, and it's hard to do that a lot without feeling stupid. There were around 40 people there, I guess. My friend Chris observed that there were people at the far end of the bar who never took their eyes off me during the show but who never moved closer. Weird. I had a hard time feeling connected to the crowd because of the wide seating arrangement, and it took a while for the group vibe to emerge. I had a hard time creating any continuity, and the diffuse quality of the audience feedback probably exacerbated the struggle. Toward the end of the evening things became plenty intimate, so I feel pretty good about the night overall. As with the Flint show, this performance was conceptually very high but not perfectly executed. I think I was somewhat distracted by the effort of trying to connect over such a wide field. Seriously! My vocal pitch wasn't always entirely accurate, and I muffed a few chords along the way. But my soloing and improvisation were excellent, while the flow from song to song was often very difficult. I even said at one point, "There are nights when I never don't know what song is coming next -- and then there are nights like this one." There were several tapers, and quite a few people taking notes while I played. Someone made copies of the setlist on the club's copier for the other tapers, and I wound up with an interesting annotated setlist. It was also gratifying to hear many requests for my songs. I guess the tapes are making their way out there. Jesse Jarnow, who I know from the moe. mailing list and who has attended my shows before, was in there with a couple of friends. He made some requests that reflected his love of the Danksters. I also expect he'll post some interesting stuff in various places! The marketing director of the club was enthusiastic about my performance despite the less-than-earthshaking turnout. This comment was music to my ears: "We just need to figure out how to market you." I am giving really good performances. Everyone there last night was extremely enthusiastic, and many stayed around after the set to tell me how much they enjoyed it. They all promised to brig more people along the next time I play there. I need to connect with some real management and get some real career guidance. This is a long road I'm on, I know, and I need some help.
David Gans (tnf) Sun 23 Apr 00 10:51
Friday, April 16, 1999, 12:45 pm, Columbus OH Pittsburgh was a treat. I arrived in the late afternoon at the home of Tom Donaldson, brother of my friend Dougal Donaldson, poster on rec.music.gdead, and a member of the Compendium group. And for once, the inevitable conversation about Dead tapes wasn't tedious and inescapable: he played some very interesting stuff for me that I had never heard before. Nor was I bothered by the "cocktail party" he threw in my honor before we left for the gig. His friends were very nice, and all very excited to have me there. The venue, Graffiti Showcase, was great. Large brick room, with excellent acoustics thanks to generous amounts of Sonex on the balcony facades and other hard surfaces. The owner, Tony, and his staff were all pleasant to deal with. The opening act, Fungus, was not the best Dead cover band I've ever heard, but I will grant slack since this was the first time they've ever played "unplugged" -- a misnomer, of course, since everything but the percussion was wired in. But the bass player had an acoustic bass guitar, and the two guitarists had acoustics. Their version of "Sugar Magnolia" was idiosyncratic, to put it kindly, and their comprehension of the lyrics to "Oh, the Wind and the Rain" left a little to be desired. But they were having fun, and so was the audience. I joined them for the encore, Bird Song-> The Other One-> Bird Song, which was very well-received. My set went very well, though I am having trouble with my throat. I don't know what it is if it isn't fatigue. I had a hard time hitting the strong high notes in "Thunder Road," for example, and there is no way to switch to head tones at that energy level. I had a few cracks and burrs at times throughout my 90-minute set, and some trouble hitting pitch in spots when I should have been right on the mark. I've got plenty of wind, but something isn't happening right. As I type this, I have a very slight sore throat and a small amount of thick, persistent phlegm. I'm not sick, dammit. There were 105 paid at the gig last night, and they were all over this large room -- a balcony to my right was nearly full, and people were spread out all over the main floor. The thing that works so well for me in more intimate venues is hard to manage on a large stage in a large room with bright lights shining on me. It's hard to connect with an audience that is mostly invisible to me in distant shadows. I had the continuity problem again. I think I need to develop a more self-sufficient sense of narrative for these settings, and I imagine that's going to be the way of things as my career develops and I find myself playing larger rooms more often. The process of losing touch has begun? I also have to be more careful about asking for requests in scenes where the population is overwhelmingly Deadhead. I could have just played the stuff I know and made them plenty happy without getting into dialogues about why I can't or won't play this or that. I did get a good laugh (for the second time in a few days) by saying that I've played "Monkey and the Engineer" twice on this tour and fucked it up both times, so until I have a chance to get it straight I'm not going to try it again. I sold quite a few t-shirts and CDs after the show, and I was warmly greeted by a lot of people who just wanted to shake my hand and say thanks. After the gig, I went up to the office to settle up with Tony, the owner. As he sat behind his desk talking on the phone, dealing with some stuff before he was ready to deal with me, three of his employees came in and kissed him sweetly on the check. When we got down to business he said, "I don't want you to think I have that kind of relationship with all my employees: they're my daughters." Nice man, businesslike but fair; clean, friendly club, excellent audience: what more could I ask? He wants me to play there again. Tom Donaldson's house was a pleasant flashback to bachelorhood, full of posters and tapes and Deadhead memorabilia. He has three cats, one of whom -- Ripple -- is so startlingly similar to my Hugo that it made me both homesick and very happy. Same age, same intense yellow eyes and longish nose -- a little less white on his front, though. Tom would shoot rubber bands across the room and Ripple would retrieve them! Some of Tom's friends came back to his house with us after the show, so I didn't get to bed until 2:00. Tom woke me up a little after 7 and got me on my way so I could be in Columbus, 190 miles away, in time for this 1:30 pm interview. Even after wandering around the area for half an hour looking for the station (my directions did not include the key fact that it's located in a decommissioned Army base), I got here an hour and a half early. I wish I could have that sleep back! I'll take a nap when I get to Shirley Siegel's house after the interview. 7:30 pm, backstage at Little Brother's in Columbus OH I made it to Columbus early enough that I wish I had taken an extra hour to sleep in Pittsburgh, but of course if I had gotten up at 8 instead of 7 this morning something would have happened to make me late for my interview on WCBE. The interview went well. The host, Maxx Faulkner, is also the station's music director. He was sort of brusque before we went on the air, but the engineer assured me it was nothing personal. Maxx worked with me to differentiate between my Famous Deadhead persona and my reason for my being in town, which was nice. I figured this was a chance to appeal to a different audience, so I sang "An American Family" to start with and closed with "The Minstrel," which I dedicated to the memory of Jerry Garcia as usual. Then I drove over to Shirley Siegel's house. Shirley is the mother of my friend Art Siegel; it was Art who suggested I stay with her and asked her if she'd have me. We have met once or twice before, but it was awfully kind of her to welcome a (nearly) perfect stranger into her home. "Any friend of Art's is a friend of mine," she said. We kvelled about Art's wedding to my old friend Carol Gould, which is one of the occasions when we met before, and of course she offered me food. "I realize I've run smack into a Jewish mother here, but I really don't need anything to eat right now," I apologized. She took it in stride, and put some water on the stove for a cup of tea for me. I sank into a nice hot bath for probably an hour, then checked my email and it was time to leave for the gig. The directions were excellent, but one of the streets was closed due to construction so I wandered around for a while without finding the place. I went into a convenience store and was told I was two blocks from High Street; a quick right and up two blocks, and here I am. My name is not on the marquee. The headliner is the Mullins Band, fronted by John Mullins, formerly of ekoostic Hookah. They're sound checking now, and I like what I'm hearing. They brought an extra electric and amp for me! We talked a bit about what covers to do, and I was surprised to learn that Mullins is into some of the same kind of '70s wimp-rock that I love so much: Jonathan Edwards, Steve Goodman, and of course "A Beatle song is always good." We had a preliminary discussion about what to play together, and we'll finish it before showtime. They're awfully loud; I'm a little nervous about that. We compared "acoustic" guitars. Mullins has a very interesting-looking instrument with a three slits instead of a soundhole, a sunburst finish, a body shape reminiscent of a Les Paul, and lovely wooden knobs. The monogram on the peghead is "AP," but I don't remember what that stands for. It was one of ten prototypes made for a NAMM show ('93?). Nice instrument. He liked my Turner, too. My throat isn't sore, but I still feel some raspiness in my voice and I am worried about another night in a very smoky bar. Time to go sound check.
Saturday, April 17, 1999, 11:00 am The gig was very well-attended, and the audience was great to me and to the Mullins band. The stage is very high, which contributed to yet another occasion of difficult communication with the audience. There were a lot of people -- upwards of a hundred -- in the place when I started, and the crowd grew as my set progressed. They were almost eerily polite, attentive and responsive, but I wasn't able to interact as I'm used to doing. Again, I think the lesson here is that I can't do it a la Heartland in the larger rooms. This means I have to develop a structure for my sets -- not a firm list, but a general format -- so I don't wind up standing there between songs listening for input that I'm not gonna get. I found myself talking a lot less between songs in these situations, again because I can't tell who I'm talking to and how they're reacting. I don't really want to develop pat routines, but I may wind up doing something along those lines. This crowd was largely GD Hour listeners, with quite a few GDH-list members as well. But they didn't go overboard in response to the Dead songs, so I didn't feel compelled to favor that material; last night's set had originals in most of the power spots, and they were very well-received. The Mullins Band guys urged me to play my own stuff, and I took that encouragement onstage with me. I didn't risk "Thunder Road," but I did perform some other vocally challenging stuff and my pipes held up okay despite thick tobacco smoke all over the place. After the set I was approached by a lot of people with very kind words about my performance, thanks for the GD Hour, etc. I also sold six HBMs and four Monicas, which ain't a bad haul. Collected two full pages of mailing-list signups, too. The Mullins Band impressed me quite a bit. John's songs are strong and his delivery is passionate, and his players are pretty good together. Some of the stuff has a slight tendency toward cliche, but I heard enough engaging music to make me glad I was there with them. We talked about all kinds of stuff to do together, and after their fourth song (a languid reading of Willie Nelson's "Night Life") they invited me up. We did John Prine's "Paradise" with Mullins singing lead; "Lyin' Eyes," the two of us alternating verses; "Helplessly Hoping," just me and John on vocals and me fingerpicking; and a really hot "Almost Cut My Hair," which I have never played nor sung before (I sang the second verse). Great fun! When they asked me up for the encore we did "The Last Time." People approached me with very enthusiastic comments when I was out on the floor. So many people had so many nice things to say! And it seemed that more than a few people were there to hear me and were seeing the Mullins Band for the first time; that's a win-win for everybody. And lots of people demanded that I come back soon! When all was said and done, we beat the minimum by a little over $300, which we split 50-50. That made the evening a roaring success in both artistic and commercial terms, and I think it went a long way toward guaranteeing that this tour finishes in the black.
Sunday, April 18, 1999, 1:30 am Ensconced on the third floor of the lovely turn-of-the-century wood-frame Cincinnati home of Pete and Melanie Delgado. Pete is one of three rotating hosts of my show (and the two-hour "The Golden Road" that follows) on WNKU Saturday nights. I fell in love with the whole family - his wife, Melanie; two beautiful children; 4-year-old James and the amazingly verbal 19-month- old Marissa; and a fat fluffy green-eyed long-haired white cat named Kitty -- at first sight. They put me up on the third floor, with a splendid view of their tree-lined hillside neighborhood, which reminds me a little of the Oakland/Piedmont area. I drove in from Columbus this afternoon under a dripping gray quilt of cloud that stretched handsomely from horizon to horizon above the farms and rivers of Ohio. I am enjoying being out here in these Americas I've never seen before. Southern Michigan is all smokestacks and transmission towers.; the French place names bespeak a different history from the West, where I have lived my entire life. I passed by Xenia, Ohio, a name I remember as the scene of a devastating tornado some years ago. I've crossed many rivers, great and small, names I've heard all my life in literature, song and journalism: the Monongahela, the Cuyahoga, the Beaver, the Flint, the Sandusky, and Allegheny, the Ohio, the Great Miami. I saw a billboard that said "Christ is #1 in Open-Heart Surgery!" It's a hospital, of course, but given some of the fundamentalist billboards I've seen in my travels -- in which the proxies of a sentient Jesus wield his judgment in ways that would make the real guy puke -- it took me a second. Driving from Flint to Cleveland the other day, I saw signs for US 41, a high- way I know from Dickey Betts' "Ramblin' Man" and which I have driven at the Florida end. I-80 is the Bay Bridge to me, and occasionally the road to Lake Tahoe. But if I kept on driving East some time I would wind up in Ohio, where I was this week and where I-80 is a toll road. It goes all the way to New York City. US 50, whose Western reach we savored on our way home from Utah a couple of years ago, crossed my path this evening on my way across the river to Kentucky. It's fun to think about that highway as a continuous ribbon, a path all they way from there to here and if I wanted to I could just make that turn and start driving and be across the country in a couple of days without ever making a hard right turn except to get gas. Someone told me I was actually performing in Oakland the other night -- the name of a neighborhood, not a wormhole to home. These rivers and roads could, with some adjustments to the laws of physics, be a big ol' game of Chutes and Ladders, and I could commute to some of these gigs. I'm listening to the tape of last night's show. My voice isn't as bad as I thought it was, though there seems to be a lack of resonance, somehow. Nice jams. Must sleep now. Sunday, April 18, 1999, 5:45 pm Spring is well under way here in southern Ohio. Pete drove me up from Cincinnati to play a set at St. Alphonso's Pancake Breakfast, the 21st annual, held at Grandpa's Party Barn in Oxford, home of Miami University. We got off the Interstate after a few miles and proceeded over two-lane roads past small family farms and tiny little towns with ancient farm machinery in front yards. The hillsides are lush and green. As it's been since last Wednesday, the sky is stuffed with clouds and the rain falls in mostly gentle but persistent spells throughout the day and night. Trees are in various stages of rebirth; among the bare and re-leafing taller trees are some smaller trees entirely covered with bright purple blossoms that almost glow in the subdued light of the overcast sky. Cercis, aka Redbud, says Melanie. St. Alphonso's Pancake Breakfast is named for a Frank Zappa song. I'm not clear on the origins of the bash, but it started out small 21 years ago and has become a beloved tradition in the area. A couple of guys seem to be responsible for it, but a lot of people contribute. Everything is free -- admission, the pancakes, the hot dogs, the beer, the shuttle buses from over near the University. The bands all donate their time, too -- but they paid me because they knew I was on tour and trying to make it pay. When we got there the place was pretty crowded and the line was long for pancakes. The bus kept arriving with more people, and the rain made repeated appearances to replenish the rivers of mud. The Swagger Boys were playing when we arrived -- horns, mostly cover tunes, lots of fun. Given the insanity of this scene, I wasn't expecting to reach a whole lot of people with my little acoustic performance, but I was very pleasantly surprised: My set went very well. Although my voice cracked rather spectacularly once in the early going, I felt stronger than I have in the last few days -- strong enough to attempt "Thunder Road" and pull it off. I led up to it with "Black Peter"; I had no trouble at all hitting any of my notes. There were several hundred people attending this party; the stage was inside the barn, and there were quite a few people gathered around -- but there were also lots of people just coming in out of the rain with free beer in their hands. I was not expecting the level of attention and response I got in this situation; lots of people really got into my performance, and many of them came up to me afterward with very kind words. Came back to Pete's to change strings, do laundry and rest up for tonight.
Monday, April 19, 1999, 1:15 pm -- Turfway Road, Florence KY The rain stopped last night. Today's sky is partially covered with some thin white clouds that pose no threat, so it's a fine day to schlep back and forth on the Interstate -- which is what I've been doing. I got 30 miles away from the Delgados' house before I realized I'd forgotten my jacket. Back I went, screwing the pooch on an afternoon date with Melinda Belleville to visit the thoroughbreds in Lexington KY. This minor fiasco resonates with the frustrations of last night's gig. When we got to the Barrelhouse, I noticed that my show wasn't listed on the chalkboard, which included the last couple of nights and the next few. The sound guy wasn't there, and in fact the bartender wasn't sure which sound guy was scheduled. These are not good signs. There was a nice preview piece in one of the weeklies, but immediately below it was an ad announcing that "David Nelson, host of the Greatful [sic] Dead Hour," was appearing. On the plus side, the ad was almost too small to be noticed. Memo to self and Metzger: no more gigs where I play for the door with no guarantee. Without an investment in the success of the show, the club has no incentive to do anything. They've expanded the stage since my last visit. It's wider, deeper and higher up now. Steep, scary little staircase, too: if I were a drinker, I'd have been at risk. The bartenders and waitress were very nice, and apologetic about the state of things. Pete and Melanie and I ordered dinner while someone tried to figure out whether there was a sound guy on the way. While we were dining, in walked Amy Ross, Chuck Garvey's girlfriend, with her 17-year-old sister Molly. They joined us, and we had a nice dinner together. Jim the sound guy showed up in plenty of time to get things together for the show. There weren't a lot of people on hand at 9, so I waited a few minutes to begin. Jack Jackson came down from Troy with his girlfriend and another guy, demonstrating his personal commitment to increasing my audience in Ohio. He's a mixed bag, that guy, but he shows up and I damn well appreciate it. He and his party stayed the whole night, paid attention and responded enthusiastically, too. Jack had a long list of requests, some of which I was able to honor. There were some people there when I started, and some more arrived as the set progressed. But the total paid attendance was 25, a disappointing number. The sound on stage was very good, and I knew the audience was on my side even though I didn't feel too well connected, so I led off with several requests before diving into an A minor jam that turned into a pretty impressive "Hyperactive." I had a lot going on musically, but I kept reaching for the third phrase of the theme and not finding it so I'm a little leery of listening to the tape. But I will work that theme again. A couple of major surprises in the second set: I opened with "For a Dancer," just 'cause I didn't know what to start with and I saw it on the list and launched it without even thinking. It was sweet, and well-received. I could see people singing along. I also did "Terrapin," which I was thinking abut a couple of days ago; I guess the moment was right. It felt good, and people went nuts. I wonder if I'll do it again. I stopped writing when my breakfast arrived, and now I'm finishing this entry at midnight. My attitude about the show was somewhat depressed as I drove into Kentucky, but as I think back on it now I realize that my problems were not with the performance, but with the circumstances. Pete told me this morning that he had spoken with one of the cub owners last night, and that guy complained about my appearance last fall -- I had asked people to reduce their smoking and I had also asked that the TV sets above the bar be turned off. Pete says he asked him why they bothered booking me, then. Pete also said that Sunday is not a good night in Cincinnati -- "I'd rather go out on a Tuesday or Wednesday," he said, and for a lot of people, "Sundays are for recovering from the weekend." I think Amy echoed his sentiment when we were talking about it back at the house. Pete knows a promoter who books a room that is intended for listening to music, and he's gonna see if that guy will take an interest. I won't go back to the Barrelhouse, in any case. Not without a guarantee. I am getting really, really enthusiastic feedback all along the tour, and I know it's deserved. I am in a good place: determined to be heard, goddammit. I may not be able to draw flies in the Bay Area, but that's not a reflection of the quality of my work. Metzger and I have to refine our approach to the clubs, be more selective about where we work and under what circumstances, and put considerable energy into capitalizing on our successes. Walsh is doing a great job on the publicity side. I've gotten some excellent preview pieces. Next goal: getting reviewed.
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