January 27, 2011

From shiverin' to Shakin' All Over

It's taken me several days to sit down and write about this.  I've talked about it so much elsewhere that I guess I forgot to babble about it over here, but some great video popped up on the intarwebs and reminded me that I needed to document the occasion.  So here goes...

It was appallingly cold last Friday when I headed up to NY to see Wanda Jackson, Jack White, and the Third Man House Band play at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn.  Take-your-breath-away cold.  And yet a bunch of us die-hard fans came from various places around the country to stand outside for hours waiting to get into this show just so that we could get prime spots up at the front of the stage.  I've written before about the addictive effect of music and there we were, proving what junkies we all are.  It was so very worth it, though, and not only for the fantastic show we finally experienced.  The camaraderie we shared as our feet became increasingly numb (the one part that couldn't be warmed by our group huddles) made the long wait in the cold bearable.   

Angelina Seha.  Photo by Megan Vitovic
One of my compatriots, apparently taken just as she arrived roughly an hour before I did.  Note the gleeful anticipation on that angelic face, it's such a perfect representation of what we were all feeling, and continued to feel despite the cold that seeped into the marrow of our bones as the minutes slowly ticked by.  (Did I mention it was cold...?)  

About halfway through the wait, we got a little pick-me-up--  A red van pulled up and I noticed Wanda Jackson sitting in the backseat.  No one else seemed to notice, so I nudged folks to get their attention as Wanda climbed out of the van and maneuvered through the snow and the crowd to head into the venue.  Everyone else went back to huddling for warmth, not seeming to realize that if Wanda had just arrived, the rest of the band had to be close behind.  Sure enough, within a few minutes, another van pulled up and, again, no one else seemed to notice.  So after more nudging, everyone turned around to watch the entire 11-person Third Man Band, plus attendants, pile out of the van as if it were an over-sized, rock'n'roll clown car.  And, of course, that meant...

Jack White.  Photo by Peter Burdi
 One of our bunch squealed and another practically hyper-ventilated.  More importantly, it made us forget the cold for at least a couple of minutes. 

But freezing to the point of numbness out front paid off inside, as we all ended up in various spots in the first or second row.  One element that's gotten little mention in reviews is that the opening act was the Dex Romweber Duo.  For our little group, the combination of Dex and Sara with Wanda and Jack was just too mind-blowing and we were as revved up for the openers as the headliners.  Dex let us know right away that they'd be playing only a 30 minute set and that was a shame, seeing as how he and Sara tore it up as usual.  Too many of their great tunes had to be left out, though they included favorites such as Mexicali Baby, People, Places, and Things, and the always fantastic show closer, Grey Skies.  As an added treat, they had a local friend join them on standup bass for a few tunes.  And, as it turned out, they probably could have played another 10-15 minutes.  

Because then the wait began.  The hours standing outside suddenly seemed like nothing compared to the 45 minutes we spent fidgeting to the surprisingly low-key, sleep-inducing music that was piped in between sets.  We were antsy, we'd come for raucous rockabilly.  Could Wanda and Jack rip us out of the comatose state we were quickly descending into?  Hah.  Silly question...    

It was obvious at a few points that Wanda and the Third Man Band have not had much time to gel, but in many ways that added to the charm of the show. As Jack always puts it, it created a scenario for interesting things to happen. From Wanda needing lyric sheets on a few songs (a trick she nicked from Elvis) to backup singers The Cupcakes looking at Jack blankly when he asked them for a D during the band introductions, things were a touch rocky. But he just keeps going and she's so disarming that it made the show fun rather than clumsy.  The overriding feeling was one of joyous energy, as Jack danced around the stage with a grin on his face and Wanda held the crowd in the palm of her hand.  

Bit of distortion in this video, keep the volume on the low side--

Much has been made in recent articles about Wanda's new Jack-produced album, The Party Ain't Over, of the fact that she opened the door back in the 50's for practically every female rock'n'roll singer after her.  Beginning as a country vocalist, she was one of the first to put on a risque dress instead of a cowboy hat, and to growl out tunes about mean, mean men and wild times in Nagasaki. But it's obvious watching her now that she never lost her dignity or her class along the way, a lesson that too many of the female artists she paved the way for unfortunately never learned.  With any luck, they'll pick up the new album and catch one of the shows on her current tour before it's too late.    

The one and only disappointment of the night (and an incredibly minor one, at that) was that Jack had some serious equipment issues. He started out with with his Gretsch Roundup, but something happened a couple of tunes in that required them switching out not only the guitar but also one of his amps in the middle of a song. Wanda didn't skip a beat with all of that going on behind her, and it didn't seem to affect Jack at all 'cause he was all smiles even though the song was brought to a premature end. And when the audience shouted for them to finish it, Wanda & co. complied by launching into the final verse. But, aside from a couple of tunes on Claudette (one of his acoustic ladies), he ended up playing the rest of the set on his black Billy Bo which has an aunchy, hard rock tone that, to my ears, didn't provide the sweet rockabilly twang that most of the songs that night required.  This is a minor nit-pick, though, because Jack will leave your jaw dropped to the floor no matter what he plays...

Priceless moments:  First was when they began Fujiyama Mama and Wanda stopped Jack to make him count it down again more slowly. The second was watching him singing along to that song as he played. Totally made me forget my frostbitten toes.  It's unfortunate that no one seems to have captured that on video.   

Another was the clatter, bash, boom accompanying each chorus of Busted (again, careful of the sound distortion)...

And their cover of Heartbreak Hotel proves that the Queen of Rock'n'Roll could compete with the King any day of the week...

And, finally, the show ain't complete till Jack breaks a string... 

Such a way to end the night. With our ears ringing and our cheeks aching from grinning, we piled out of the venue and into the Cuban bar next door to re-live the details of the night and cement them in our memories.  Frostbite or no, I think we'd all do it again in a heartbeat.  Until next time, y'all!

Many, many thanks to the people who recorded this show and posted videos to help sustain these wonderful memories. And for anyone who's interested, there are also some excellent photos here and here.


January 4, 2011

Vandals chop down famous Nevada shoe tree

Read about this in the news today: 

U.S. Highway 50, billed as the “Loneliest Road in America,” lost one of its landmarks last week because of vandals.

The 70-foot cottonwood tree known as the “Shoe Tree” one mile east of Middlegate was cut down sometime late Thursday night or early Friday morning.

I passed the Shoe Tree during my cross-country road trip several years ago.  It was by far one of the coolest things I saw on that trip.  Such a shame that someone apparently didn't feel the same way and chose to destroy it rather than let it be.  

January 2, 2011

Just don't know what to do with myself...

A buddy recently mentioned that she misses my blog.  While that was gratifying to hear, I couldn't help but cringe a bit.  I haven't written much lately because it feels that my focus has narrowed to the point that only two things revolve through my head anymore and I feel like the blog is full of them.  One of those things gives me quite a high, providing excitement and joy in equal measure.  The other has been dragging me down, somehow making me both restless and lethargic at the same time.  Lately, though, the restlessness has been increasing and there is where hope lies. 

In casting about for solutions, I've been looking carefully at the lives of friends and acquaintances.  What I see is inspiring, though at the same time occasionally incites a frustrated envy--

One friend who's worked from home for the last several years recently had a change of position that required her to begin the daily slog into an office downtown.  Rather than finding this to be a drudge, though, she's become re-energized by re-entry into the world and the change has radiated through her to affect other aspects of her life.  

Another friend who not too long ago shared my lethargy expressed that state beautifully...

Where did it go?
Can someone help me find my motivation?
I left it here somewhere.
My ambition, my desire, my inclination?
I just had it in my hand,
And put it down here,
It's not where I stand,
It's not next to my beer.
I want to complete a project I start,
I want to complete a thought,
I want to do these things with all my heart,
But cannot.
Where oh where can my motivation be,
Oh where oh where can it be?
I can't see or know, or remember where I last saw it.
I can't dream or imagine or think where I hauled it.
If you see my drive, my thirst, my appetite,
Please send it right back over!
Tell it I miss it,
Tell it I'll be better,
Tell it I'm nothing with out it!
-- Tisha Christenson-Dillon

Last summer, she began forcing herself off the 'net and outside into her garden.  More recently, she found a job putting to use a natural talent and seems not only motivated but wonderfully happy.  Other friends have moved to new states, even new countries, to begin new chapters of their lives and the energy involved in such moves leaves me staggered.  Where do they find it?  Mine's apparently hiding with my motivation.

A fellow blogger over at The Gardener's Cottage wrote yesterday about her New Year's resolution to have more fun.  Considering what she's shared with me about the challenges she's faced the last few years, it sounds like the best prescription any doctor could give to her.  But it made me realize that my own problem has possibly been too much fun--  My single lifestyle allows me the freedom to spend my time off as I please, but have I been making productive use of that time?  The things I do for fun are beginning to feel stale and suddenly seem to have a narcotizing effect rather than an energizing one.  

The one activity that still seems to do me some good is getting out into the woods.  This winter's been abundantly cold and grey and that's apparently kept a lot of people off the trails.  Solitude on its own can be as much a trap as a pleasure, but throw in a good endorphin rush and it clears the mind while recharging the spirit.  And Nature provides its own examples of motivation--  Yesterday's hike through a nearby conservation park brought me to a well-maintained beaver dam.  The destruction wreaked on trees in the area indicated that the dam's builders haven't yet settled down into a hibernatory state and have been living up to the cliché of "busy as a beaver".  

On top of all this, I recently decided I'd had enough of the Comcast monopoly and gave up cable television.  I had no idea this would be such a challenge.  I didn't think that I watched much television, but apparently I had grown used to having it on in the background and being able to sit down and watch for a few minutes in between other activities.  It was filler.  Without it, I find I don't know what to do with myself.  I'm almost in a panic, trying to think of things I can occupy myself with at those moments when the intarwebs have run dry and I feel like being still.  Sure, I could read a book, but I find I need something that engages me visually as well as mentally.  

To that end, I'm in search of a new hobby or project, even two or three.  Thing is, there are potentially too many options.  I've begun making lists to consider the myriad options, but can't seem to settle on anything--

-  I could take up something like knitting that would engage both hands and eyes, but what the heck would I do with the product of my labors?  I can only wear so many sweaters, and my family's moved to Florida so I could hardly send them scarves.

-  Several years ago I got into making walking sticks.  Started out one day by picking up an interestingly shaped branch, taking it home and sanding it down, varnishing it, and wrapping it with colored thread to create a handhold.  Ended up making several for myself and people I knew who appreciated such things, adding such decorative elements as feathers and beads.  One for a friend was even personalized with a small pouch of totem items.  But I ran out of people to give them to and, as with knitting, I can't just end up with an apartment full of these things.  If I began again, perhaps I could figure out some way to sell them...?

  -  Photography's been a hobby for a long time, but I've never really gotten serious about it.  Should this be the year that I sink money into a decent SLR instead of just running around with my little point'n'shoot?  Should I learn Photoshop and actually try do something with my photos?  Sell 'em, enter 'em in contests...? 

-  Writing, like photography, is something I've long considered trying to do more with.  But the (in)frequency of posts here at the blog shows just how disciplined I've been about that.  Would it be worth making the effort to become more focused, find things to write about, do it more frequently?  Perhaps, but part of the impetus behind this whole idea is to get out from behind the computer monitor and away from the desk.   

-  Music's been one of my drugs of choice for as long as I can remember, but the closest I come to practicing it myself is bellowing along with the stereo in the car.  Perhaps it's time to find out whether I've actually got any musical sensibilities of my own.  I've considered a few times the idea of taking voice lessons, but have lately been wondering how difficult it might be to learn to play guitar.  

-  And there are, of course, dozens of classes I could take for personal enrichment:  Psychology, literature, philosophy... Hell, maybe I could even find a physics class for the mathematics-challenged.  Again, though, the number of choices has me paralyzed. 

I need help, folks.  Give me some input, ideas, advice, a kick in the ass.  I'm on the verge of a crisis, in a muddle and will take any help I can get to climb out of it.  Don't leave me in this state.

As for that other thing that gives me such a joyous high, it also provides many apropos accompaniments to my babblings...