Friday, February 25, 2011

It's no hanging matter, it's no capital crime

It's almost offensive. Not almost. It is. To even post to this blog now is brash. It's like Axl Rose reappearing after  10 ten years of dormancy and expecting people to take him seriously. I strongly considered closing this site down. People that read blogs like pictures. Pictures and stories. I've had neither for months. Important events have occurred. But nothing that warrants sitting down and writing a descriptive story. I'm not making excuses. It is what is it is. In the end, I decided that my story-telling days aren't over yet. I've just to go out and create some new stories. They'll come. With no thrilling stories to tell, or snazzy pictures to accompany them, you're left with only my spry commentary. You lucky so and so.

I didn't make it to the Big Day Out Festival in Auckland. It was on a Friday and we were way too busy at work that week to try to take the days off I would need to get up there. I didn't miss it much either. But I did buy my East Coast Blues and Roots festival ticket. I've also got my plane ticket and lodging teed up too. This is the little 5 day festival in Byron Bay, Australia that I wrote about a while back. I put my "Blues fest wish list" down in a previous post. Well the lineup has been released and it is nothing short of spectacular. Only three variations of acts from my fantasy lineup made it: Robert Randolph, Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi Band (I had Derek Trucks Band) and the Funky Meters (I had Porter Batiste Stolz). But the quality of the lineup more than makes up for the lack of my wishes being granted.

There's a really nice blend of ingredients bubbling up in this gumbo. First, you've got a nice handful of bonified guitar slingers in BB King, Billy Gibbons, Robert Randolph, Derek Trucks, Rodrigo Sanchez and Charlie Sexton (Dylan's band). There's more "living legends" parading this festival than any other I've ever attended: Bob Dylan, Leon Russell, George Clinton, Aaron and Art Neville, George Porter Jr., Elvis Costello, Toots Hibbert, Peter Rowan and Tony Joe White. Of course, no outdoor music festival would be complete without a solid representation of New Orleans acts: the Funky Meters, Trombone Shorty, Irma Thomas and Mavis Staples. While most of the big names on this lineup enjoyed their mainstream success in previous decades, this is no senior citizens show. New "hip" acts like Wolfmother, Fistful of Mercy, Australian indie hero Xavier Rudd, John Legend (not a fan), Imogen Heap and Eli "Paperboy" Reed make the festival fresh and important. But where this lineup's true value lies is in the old-but-not-forgotten category. Most festivals back home would have filled out the rest of bill with electronic or dance driven acts, and maybe even a few full blown pop singers. Bluesfest opted out of this to bring in bands like Jethro Tull, Los Lobos, The Indigo Girls, Little Feat and the Blind Boys of Alabama. You won't hear any tunes from these guys on Casey's Top 40, but that doesn't mean their shows won't be incredible. I really hope Jethro Tull sounds as good live as they do on record. And then of course you've got Ben Harper and the blah blah blah and Michael Franti and whatever who play so many damn festivals you're actually bored my seeing their name in print. Of course I'm being cynical as I've seen both of these guys rock crowds of 50,000 plus, but to me they are way overexposed. I read something great about Franti on an ACL message board a few years back. The quote went something like this: A Michael Franti show is an anomaly, there are some songs that will make you want to booty dance with the drunk cougar on your left, and others that will make you want to punch the lip syncing 12 year old on your right in the face in between his twitter posts....." I know how you feel brother.

The real question mark about this festival for me is Mr. Zimmerman himself. Bob Dylan. The Bob Dylan. Besides the Beatles, there is no one else who carries a bigger persona Dylan. Not Sinatra, not Elvis, not the Stones, not Cash, not even Ray "everybodys a fan now that Jamie Foxx made the lousy biopic" Charles.

I'm a Bob Dylan fan. I like his music.....ALOT. But I don't love Bob Dylan. I'm not obsessed with him, the way his fanatics are. I respect the importance of his accomplishments. But I'm not 100% convinced he deserves ALL of the mythical-epic proportions of credit he gets. He probably does. But the bigger question is: Should he be the headlining act of a major six day music festival? No, that's not the question. If he's on the lineup and the Stones or Eric Clapton are not, he should be headlining. The question is: should he be playing at all?

Dylan headlined ACL a few years ago. When The White Stripes cancelled a few weeks before the festival because Meg White had developed "acute anxiety" (whatever the F that is, how anxious can you get banging on a drum kit), Dylan stepped up to the plate and added a sideshow on the Sat. night the stripes were meant to play, at the world famous Stubb's BBQ. I didn't make either show, but the feedback I got from friends was atrocious. Everyone knows Bob's never had a particularly beautiful singing voice. And I don't think even the most hard core dylandylaners. They are his apostles, his true believers. I've never heard a casual Dylan fan tell me that he can still rock and that I definitely shouldn't miss it. One thing that really excites me about the Dylan show is the potential for collaborations. Yet another great gift of the outdoor music festival is the guest appearances. You know everyone will be keeping their fingers crossed for Leon to join in on "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall". Or maybe Aaron Neville could help him with his singing duties on "I Shall Be Released." Or maybe it's Susan Tedeschi on "Don't Think Twice". Or maybe it's BB King on "It Takes Alot to Laugh, It takes a Train to Cry", and then I could just go on and die happy..........

Maybe the possibilities are endless. Maybe Dylan sounds the way he looks and forever scars my perception of, the way Van Morrison did at ACL in 2006. Maybe he rocks the house and cements himself as the legend he purports to be. Maybe it rains grand pianos. Who knows. But it's pretty much all I think about these days. And I can't wait to find out.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Christchurch Earthquake

Thanks for the emails and messages of concern. I have not felt any effects from yesterday's earthquake in Christchurch.