August 21st, 2020

Just things, Music, Uncategorized

My first taste of Scotch was in the early 1980s when I was a stagehand at the Uptown Theatre in Kansas City.

The Uptown was (and still is as far as I know) a beautiful old theatre. It was built in the 1920s and opened in 1928. It is adorned with balconies, columns, and a black ceiling with “stars” (lights) to emulate an outdoor nighttime setting. It was a movie house in the grand tradition and had a proscenium stage with big maroon velvet curtains. It was like many other theaters back then; some, like the many Fox Theatre venues still left in the country, were owned by the studios. It is a special place and holds a spot in my heart.

Back in those days the Uptown was a very busy place and was staging several shows a week. I had started there without any experience after losing my job in 1980 (given a job out of compassion by a big burly guy named Jimbo). I had earned my place as a regular on the crew through hard work and perseverance and worked many shows through both of my stints there (second run was in the late 80s in charge of the lighting rig and as house electrician).

The shows ran the spectrum – Toots and the Maytals, Johnny Rivers, Men at Work, A Flock of Seagulls, Nick Lowe, Steppenwolf, Jean Luc Ponty…and so many, many more. It was also the place I met and hung out briefly with Robin Williams. It was a great, intimate venue for a show.

One show in particular in the early 80s I got to have a conversation with a guy in one of the bands that came through. He was one of the nicest people I ever met when I was doing stage work. Between the years that have passed and, well, it WAS the 80s, I cannot remember the date or the two or maybe three acts that night; I narrowed it down to these bands: it could have been Dokken, Streets (Steve Walsh’s band after he left the band Kansas), or Strange Daze (a great Doors tribute band who I was asked to tour with in Europe but the tour unfortunately fell through), but I am thinking that it was Dio on his first solo tour after leaving Black Sabbath. Thinking back a little more in depth I think the other bands I mentioned were all together on another show there.

At sound check, the drummer for the opening act came up to me as I was standing off stage left near the monitor console and we started talking. Not like rock star talking, but as two guys just talking about topics now long forgotten (again, the 80s). I know from being around this type of work for several years and being on the road it’s nice to just have a conversation without the star struck condescension, and that’s what this was. Human interaction.

As a stagehand you pretty much know to be a wallflower. It’s unprofessional to be star struck; your job is to make the show happen and stay in the shadows. You would get a “how’s it going?” or an unsaid “thanks” sometimes via a nod or smile, but you don’t approach people. To have someone come up to you and strike up a conversation was very out of the norm. If you think about it they are surrounded by fame, drugs and people kissing their asses constantly – all leeches and posers. I would think just having a normal conversation with someone was not very common and something longed for those in the entertainment lifestyle.

He went onstage to do his sound check and came back by. We chatted a bit more and he asked me if I liked Chivas Regal. I said I don’t even know what that is. He said to me “It’s Scotch and when I come back for the show I’ll bring a bottle and we’ll have a toast!”. I said “Okay”, thinking it was “rock star talk”.

The doors open for the show and we are all putting on the final touches dressing the stage. I get back in position by the monitor console again, ready to run onstage during the concert to fix something if need be (as I had to do about 90 minutes later in the middle of the Dio show and during other shows).

The guy I was talking with earlier walks up to me, and sure as hell he had an unopened bottle of Chivas in hand. He cracks the seal and hands it to me. I give him a toast and a nod and take a big hit off of it. I hand it back to him. He gives me a toast and a nod and takes a big hit off of it, we smile and shake hands and he hits the stage with that bottle. They were on fire that night and had the crowd in their palms. They left and we passed each other, nodded and smiled and I told him “Great show!”. Since I was getting the stage ready for Dio I did not have time to talk.

The band was Quiet Riot. The guy’s name was Frankie Banali.

I write this story because Frankie lost his battle with pancreatic cancer yesterday. I had read articles lately about him being sick and it made me think about that special moment all those years ago.

I have read many tributes to him and everyone says he was such a nice guy. He really was a nice guy that night to some lowly stagehand.

Rest peacefully, Frankie, and thanks for the Chivas and the memory.

December 8th, 2017

Adventure, food, Just things, Travel, Uncategorized

Today the skies were clear and blue with lots of sunshine so Meghan, Addy, and I went for a stroll in the local downtown after a trip to the doctor. There are a ton of shops to browse through and many restaurants that I would love to come back and try to hit a few of each visit.

It’s been a good visit with a lot of excitement, but it is time to go home and take care of a few things. Addy was a week early and I missed my last day of work so when I get back they might have a few more hours of work for me.

It will give Meghan, Loran, and Addy a chance to get into their routine, too. Loran started the new job that he has been working so hard to get so it has been a great week for the family.

I’ll be taking my time on the way back. If I see something interesting I will have time to stop. There is no need to be in a hurry (other than just getting home). I’m not real sure what the highways are like yet and I could run into some weather. Another thing is these short winter days sure cuts down on driving in the daylight and with the animals out crossing the highway I want to avoid an insurance claim. Or worse.

One of the places we went into was a real old-school record store. It is just like the ones we used to visit in Kansas City when we were growing up – stores like Exile Records, Kief’s, 7th Heaven, and Caper’s Corners. Good times until major retailers ran most of the mom-and-pop indie record stores out of business and completely effed-up the music industry.

Caper’s had a ton of memories for me. They sold vinyl and cassettes as well as incense, posters, assorted “tobacco smoking accessories”, and concert tickets. We spent many nights in the 70’s camped out in line pulling an all-nighter to get the best concert tickets available when the stores would open the next morning. This is before all the ticket “brokers” (actually legal scalpers and called “brokers” because you would be broker than you should be after buying tickets for illegal prices). It really was a great time being out there with the rest of the collective tribe. We’d show up around closing time and party and stay awake all night to get our outrageous-priced major act tickets for the princely sum of $10!

But the times change and so did buying tickets. Just as I was getting into concert work (and no longer had to buy tickets!), Ticketbastards really started screwing the concertgoers and the brokers started gaining popularity plying their ill-gotten gain legally somehow. Hell, I remember seeing more than one of the “scalpers” at the shows getting busted by undercover cops for scalping, yet the brokers are somehow legit “businesses”.

I do miss the feel of those record stores even though I no longer have a turntable. It was always a treat to get to KC to visit those places when young, and then after I got my license to drive I went quite often. The last truly great record store I went in was in Lakewood, CO but it closed in the late 90s. There was another one in Denver on Pearl St. that was pretty good as well, but Caper’s was the one I remember the fondest.

Buying a new album was always a big event for my friends and I and one shared with great enthusiasm amongst us. We’d get together and comb over every minute detail on the cover while listening to that crystal clear new vinyl. Those gatefold sleeves were even more incredible to open and look at, sometimes with even the lyrics printed inside or even a triple fold-out. A few had really cool now-collectible inserts – the Cheech and Chong “Big Bambu” album with the giant rolling paper, Alice Cooper’s “Billion Dollar Babies” that was a giant wallet with a billion dollar bill and “School’s Out” that folded out into a desk. The paper sleeves would have new releases on the same label, and Warner Brothers record sleeves had their “Loss Leaders” which were double albums with various artists for $2!

CDs are such a packaging letdown and the younger generations really missed out. CDs took the music industry by storm in the 80s, but even though the music was there the artwork was not. With the advent of digital downloads even more is being missed out on. I embrace the technology of it, though, and love the convenience. Even though I no longer collect vinyl or CDs I do look back fondly on those vinyl days and all the things and memories that came with it.

 

 

A Few Movies – August 23rd, 2017

Adventure, Just things, Music, Uncategorized

I have gotten some movies from the library I have not seen before and thought I would share my impressions. I tend to gravitate towards more of the independent films since they are not as boring as Big Hollywood and tend to take rewarding chances with ideas.

“Road, Movie”, a film from India, was pretty good. No big climactic scene, but one to see once.

The Johnny Depp movie “Black Mass” was pretty intense and dark and he played the character  of James “Whitey” Bulger like I have never seen him act before.

“Everything is Illuminated” is a quirky, interesting film. It is kind of dark and brooding, but not so much to make it unwatchable. Elijah Wood is really good in it, but his character has this weirdness…

“The Highest Pass” is another movie set in India. It’s about a motorcycle ride with a modern guru in India and the group takes a journey across the highest drivable pass in the world on 250cc Royal Enfield motorcycles.

I have a few more indie movies yet to watch along with some concert movies. I already watched Quadrophenia Live – a concert by The Who where they do what is one of their best albums (in my opinion) live in its entirety. It was a really good show and watching Roger Daltrey (one of the greatest voices in rock) react to footage of Keith Moon and John Entwistle was touching. Also on hand to watch are George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh and a Nirvana show called Live at the Paramount.

No, I don’t have a particular affinity for movies made in India. I just like the indies, and when they seem like something interesting I watch them no matter where they are made.

 

I Had a Few Interesting Things Happen Lately

Adventure, Just things, Music, Outdoors, Uncategorized

For one, I was talking to some visitors – a mom and four kids aged from around eighteen  to about nine. They were really nice people and asked a lot of questions about a lot of things. I was showing them some local plants and I waded into the growth and all of a sudden SMACK! Something hit me across the ass!

I turned around and I see the three oldest and the mom with eyes wide open and their hands across their mouths. I look down, and the nine-year-old is standing behind me. The mom said “OH MY GOD!!! YOU JUST SMACKED HIM ACROSS THE ASS!!!”!

Needless to say I was stunned and wasn’t sure how to respond to that. She responded to her mom saying she was trying to kill a horsefly that was going to bite my ass. I started laughing and then they all did too. I reassured the girl, little Olive with long pigtails, that I wasn’t mad and I appreciated her help.

I was at an outdoor concert with some friends and was standing there, in the grass, minding my own business and enjoying some live music. A female voice suddenly says to me “Here…hold these.”.

Instinctively I hold my hands out and a beer lands in each of them. Why I just put my hands out I am not sure, but it might have been the beers I already had myself that were affecting my judgement. I look at the beers and then turn and look to see who it was and I notice that all of my friends are sitting down. This woman was a complete stranger and had ventured into the wrong group.

I guess thee things happening to me gives me something to blog about so it’s not all bad!

Live Music

Just things

Took a date last night to see a performance by a folk artist named Cosy Sheridan. It was a fun night at a fun show with a really fun person. The show was upstairs at the Dungeness Schoolhouse, an old – you guessed it – schoolhouse, reminiscent of the middle school I went to all those years ago.

The artist, Cosy, is a talented songwriter, storyteller, and performer. She does a lot of narration between songs, and is very funny as well as a fine guitar player in the fingerpicking tradition of someone like Leo Kottke. She has video of performances of some songs on YouTube, such as “Multiply Pierced”, “The Botox Tango”, and “Love the Life You Made”. Look her up on there and have a listen! We really enjoyed the show, and I am actually going to a songwriting workshop with her tonight to see if I can learn some new things about putting songs together.

Live music has gotten to be out of control where the bigger acts are concerned. I used to love to go to concerts when I was younger. The whole experience is so all-encompassing of the senses but the people are the problem. Used to be, back in the day, it was a tribal-type communal thing – it was pretty cool. People would be there, sharing things (!), flying Frisbees around, and respecting the space of others while waiting for the lights to go out. The last big show I paid to see was Ozzy and Metallica (with Cliff) in the 80s. We had front row seats and had to fight to keep people behind us.

It is so different now, though. First is the price of tickets. I will not pay that much money. Also, the artists I like now are usually playing the clubs so it is usually cheaper and the people are not assholes. Working all of the concerts I did when I did stage work kinda got me burnt out on the whole crowd scene as well.

These small shows with the incredible artists are really something cool to attend. The intimacy of an artist in a small place with 50 people is so much nicer than being one of 20,000. These artists are the people who are out there working their asses off to put on a great show for a lot less money than what they should probably be getting. For them, though, it is not about the money. It is about entertaining people. Go support them!