Saturday, April 19, 2014

Dallas- a fan story

Some times, you don't really know what it is you want.

Right? For years I have said I was not interested in meeting Neil Young. It is far and away enough just to listen to his records and go to his shows. And.... I have been to enough shows to be able to say that. One Hundred One. 101. Yes, a little obsessed? LOL.... yes, but I think 'obsession' is one of those definitive descriptors of my life in many ways. And, I like it that way.

My other Neil Young obsessed friends and I have thought that I could certainly decide WHERE my 100th show would be. Exciting destinations like Iceland, Israel, Europe were some of my available choices.... After all, he will be with Crazy Horse, my favorite 'version' of Neil, in all those places this summer.

Then, I received a proposal from my friend Terri, to meet her in Dallas, share a room, and see Neil solo acoustic.

Hmmmmmm....... Dallas. Never really had a great desire to go to Texas. (But I can say now, what lovely folks live in Texas!!!) I probably will be borrowing against my vacation time to make the trip. AND, I am trying to pay down some of my bills, amassed during last summers trip to Europe to see Neil (lol).

Terri just laid it out, no pressure. Almost impulsively, I said yes, and then, of course, I HAD to carry thru to not disappointment my friend.

Terri was at the hotel when I arrived Wednesday evening. We went for a long walk, to the fest site (where our other Neil Young fan friends, or RUSTIES, as we call ourselves, would meet before the show), around to the venue, and all the way to the Historic District, where we had a beer and looked at the memorabilia on the walls of the Dallas version of the Hard Rock Cafe before heading back to the hotel, playing some guitar together and retiring for the night.

We were a bit slow getting ourselves together Thursday morning, and did not get to the JFK stuff as planned. We did, however, spend some time in a park, playing NY songs to sculptures and big black birds (which could have been starlings or could have been grackles, but they were EVERYWHERE!) while waiting for Terri's sister Donna to arrive,

What the birds sounded like.

 First order of business were greasy burgers for lunch, but then we had to go back to the hotel and get ready. After all, this was going to be my ONE HUNDREDTH Neil Young show. A milestone. I had no real plans except to see the show, but I was in the minority, LOL.

Donna, a first grade teacher in some past life, had printed out the words "Celebrating Marilyn's 100th Neil Young Concert" and some doves and peace signs. She also provided scissors, tape and artistic direction for Terri and I as we cut and taped words and paper to create a LARGE sign...... Plan being for me to display the sign, maybe during the show, maybe outside Neil's bus, maybe at any other time I can maybe attract his attention.

WHAT!?!?!?!? Nope, I don't want to meet Neil, what would i say, i will die of embarrassment, he will think i am a crazy wacko fan.

YES!!!!! Oh! one of my dreams has been to meet Neil and tell him how much his music has meant in my life, let him know about the friends that i have met that are his fans, and thank him for the so many wonderful things i have done following him around for those 100 shows, and then, there is the music that i make that all started with learning a few NY songs.....

But NO, I can't.

Yes, I should.



I think you must get the idea.

And Terri and Donna, being who they are, just are so cool about the whole thing. 'Only if you want', they said. 'Only what you are comfortable with.' And I guess, like the drug dealer that takes you from the soft stuff to the harder stuff, I, with much trepidation AND excitement, followed forward, step by step.....

We stood and waiting for the bus outside the venue, for what seemed like an amazingly long time. There were other people there..... some fans, some autograph hounds, and one guy we couldn't really figure out. He was carrying Neil's book, Waging Heavy Peace, but he didn't know who Elliot was, by sight or name, although Elliot has been Neil's manager for the vast majority of his time as an artist.... Ah, well, to each his own. WE are fans, we know or have heard of most of the behind the scene folks, and we are going to treasure everything, including the wave Neil gives us as he exits the bus. Yes, the wave, but also the obvious slowing of step to read my sign, and the smile.  Yes, he slowed his walk to read the sign, smiled and waved!

OK, says I, he saw it, it is time for the rustfest, lets go.

No, says my friends, not if you want him to autograph your sign. But we will go if you want. Up to you.


So we wait. I post to the party event on Facebook that I am delayed. We wait. Sound check is forever. I figure, he has to play every instrument that may be used, sing into every mic, check everything he is going to use. But it takes SO LONG. There are people waiting,  back at the rustfest, I am sure, and I am the 'host'. I feel guilty, but I stay.

And finally the door opens and he walks out with his entourage and someone says, Neil, sign for us please? And he stops and we rush, his assistant demanding.... SLOW DOWN! ONE ITEM ONLY! NO PICTURES!!!! ....and other such directions, sorta making you feel like a jerk, a child maybe, instead of a reasonable adult, which I believe I am.

Or not. I can't find my fricken sharpie that Donna provided!!! Every pocket! LOOK.... Fast! I am a jerk!! A child!!! WHERE is my sharpie!! Frantic looking. When my turn comes, he has one in his hand, and applies it to the paper.

'Thank you for 100 great shows, Neil'
'Your kidding'
'Nope, I am not, tonight is my hundredth show'
'Well, thank you'
'No, thank YOU'
..... as he signs his name, prints in large letters, THANKS and pauses....
'What is your name?'
I laugh as I say 'Marilyn', but it is right in front of you, so you can even spell it right'
And he laughed.

And right there, my night was made. I gave my hero a chuckle and a smile.

And then I heard Donna....'Neil, can I shake your hand?' (The hand that makes those wonderful sounds on those wonderful instruments,  you know). And he does it.  Then, 'Neil, please shake Marilyn's hand?'..... and he does!....still smiling...

Then he was gone. Gone.

And i realized, i had hardly looked up into his face. Just glanced to see the smile. Afraid of his eyes, those very piercing eyes that seem to look right into you, even in pictures. But I got to touch THE HAND. If you are a crazy fanatical fan of an artist,  you will understand....

The show, as you can read elsewhere on the internet, was an absolutely amazing, riveting performance, and I was privileged to see it from 4th row center, likely closer than my front row Carnegie seat. The stage is low, and the seats start right at the edge of the stage. And he played like he meant every word, every note. Told stories. Wandered about the stage like he is wont to do when performing solo. Touching his instruments tenderly as if to say thank you, after finishing the song and before going to the next one. Telling how he loves this venue. How he appreciates that we came to listen. Smiling. Owning the stage, and all of us.....Heaven, you know......

I was gifted a backstage pass during intermission. I worried the whole second half of the show about going back there, what would I say? What if...... and I hoped my friends would also get gifted. They were not. I had to go alone. I said, no take it, and Terri looked me in the face and said, GO. And so I did. I was stopped, but I decided to 'act as if' I knew what I was doing, and the stage crew starting greeting me if I ran into them more than once.

But Neil was gone. On the bus. I wandered around, everyone was gone except the folks packing up the guitars, and I wandered away, surprisingly disappointed.

We went back to hotel, had a drink before the bar closed at the  ridiculously (for this New Yorker) early hour of Midnight. Exhausted, we went to sleep. But not before Terri got this video of our new friend, William....

Day two!!! We get up and eat and out to see the JFK thing.... not the museum, the line was too long, but we wandered the ground and one of the independent tour guides, one that told the 'other side' to the official story, talked to us and discussed the issues.... I have to say, that was cool. We tipped him well.

I said, 'Are we going to meet the bus again?' Guess I changed from the night before (do you see why I earlier compared this to drugs??). Terri and Donna were game. The day before, I had moaned about the long wait, and wishing I had a guitar to pass the time with. We did not make that mistake this time.

I brought my tiny Little Jane guitar, that I had bought for my trip to Europe. It fits under the plane seat or in even the tiny bins above the seats. No amplification, but I did not anticipate needing that. Just a guitar to strum with other rusties. This guitar, though, means a lot to me. It was my friend all through Europe and was played by many many rusties, as well as both the guitar players in Los Lobos (read my blog entry about that trip for the story). So Jane has been pretty meaningful to me, but rarely brought out to play, since last summer. I brought it along, to see if it could meet Neil.

When we got there, no one,  including police, crew, autograph hounds or fans were there. Hmmmmmm..... We waited anyway.  Then they started coming. One guy made a point of telling us how to get Neil to stop,  because we are women, you know. Yeah. Right.

Donna had made me another sign, quickly, that said merely '101'. I held it while Neil drove up. When he exited the bus, he looked over, appeared to pause a split second, brief wave, no smile and entered the building, to return after that looooong wait.

This time, to our dismay, as soon as he reappeared,  without asking, the group starting rushing him. Donna calls out,  please Neil!  Can you sign for us? He paused and Eric,  the assistant, started barking out his orders. Neil looks up at a guy at the back of the group, and says VERY firmly 'Take my picture and I leave'.  The guy says,  'No pics?'  'Try to take my picture and i am gone.'  I think it was either Terri or Donna who begged, 'Don't make him leave!'

He was very obviously not happy today, having a sour look about him, and less than a welcoming manner.... like he was just all business (during the show he mentioned having problems sleeping.... so no, it is not all only about US! ) He did sign everything presented to him, and most folks just walked off after he did what they wanted. I was toward the end, but this time I had my sharpie in I just watched him, as present in the moment as I could be.  He took my pen, and I said, 'Neil, tonight is 101' as he signed the belly of my little guitar. He looked me in the face as he handed me back the pen, and I said, 'Thank you so much for last night's show, it was wonderful! I really enjoyed it a LOT'.....

He gave me a BIG smile,  and a very sincere 'Thank you' that struck me in my heart, and a couple more scribbles on a few things for folks, and he was gone. Again.

This time I was exhausted after he left.  The day before I was ecstatic. What was wrong? FOOD. I went to the fest, and ate and realized,  my hero was just so close.  My hero. And he left me a guitar with his signature that was special and now is just priceless....

First song after signing.... Helpless. Then William played it, and he did wonderful solos on Down by the River and Over and Over.

The venue,  Jorges, had let us play music the day before, but tonight the piped in music WAS LOUD.  Finally,  though,  Randy got them to turn it off and William and I played a couple Neil tunes. Dave came up to me in between songs.

You are Marilyn?
Happy one hundred shows!
.....  and he hands me a cd.
I read the paper that covers it... it is a copy of last night's show!  THANK YOU DAVE!
Rusties are the best, most generous, thoughtful, people in the world.
This is a stranger?..... nope,  just a friend I never seen. Lol.

Then off  to the venue where Neil again played a wonderful,  special, amazing show. And again,  I was gifted another pass backstage just to get back there to find an empty room. Oh well..... I got already far more than I had hoped...or knew I wanted.... recognition from Neil about my triple digit shows, a signed guitar, time with great friends...... I am an extremely fortunate woman. Very blessed.

Tired but unwilling to end the evening,  we gathered up our newly decorated stuff (Terri and Donna have their own stories!) and head to the hotel bar. Lots of people.  Loud. Two different groups of people ask me to play the guitar,  to give them a song ('Do you know any Neil Young?'  Lol).  So I do.  I play.  I sing.... The busking thing I do, you know....Seems like everyone in sight is enjoying what I do, they are singing along, smiling.  I am the only player, and I mix a little non Neil in, too, such as a loud singalong version of 'California Dreaming' (the crowd sang it wonderfully!!!)  And then the waitress approaches.... 'We are getting complaints,  you will have to stop now. '  I was about to stop anyway, I told her.

But gesh. I  thought I was entertaining folks, at least everyone I saw around me. Oh, well. And then, I get approached a bit later by a couple of women who were willing to get security called if I wasn't allowed to play them a request (No, please, lets not cause trouble),  and then a young man who would not take 'no, you can NOT play my guitar', as an answer!

 SO.....Time for me to say goodnight! ... and *I* disappeared.

What a wonderful time! Thank you more than I can express to Terri, for the invite to Dallas with her, because it was all just so perfect.... To Donna for her artistic and strategical direction..... And both of them for their wonderful friendship! Thanks to all rusties for celebrating my 100th show, both on and off line.

And thanks most especially to Neil Young,  for all the wonderful music,  for still creating after all these years, for doing shows that never, ever get boring, and are ALWAYS inspiring.... THANK YOU. What did he say during the second night in Dallas about music? I am sure someone taped it, so maybe I will hear it and come back here and quote it. But the man loves music.  He has taught me the importance of music. And he lives it.  Thank you for that, too, Neil..... Thank you for it all!

Terri and I at Thursdays fest ..... Over and Over  :)


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Saturday Night at the Pub

What a LOAD of fun!!

The Peint o Grwr in Chatham, NY is a local pub that has a variety of musical offerings throughout any given year. One of the longest running and most community oriented nights is their Open Mic, run by Pat. As each musician comes in, they are greeted heartily by the others. It is a celebratory mood, and we celebrate making music and seeing each other. It sort of feels like a homecoming. And then, there are the regular listeners, all happy to be there, chatting to each other, but always noticing when the song ends,  to encourage the performer with some appreciative noise. And, there is a house band, a talented group of folks who can hold down the sound with tasty bass lines and spice up the music with wonderful fills and great solos....

This Open Mic has it all..... friendship, networking, house band that makes it all sound GREAT!!! Wonderful to play at, and wonderful to listen to....

Foregoing my own songwriting, I decided to choose easy to play (less challenging for the house band), well known (less challenging for the audience) songs, so I did Dead Flowers, Wagon Wheel and Rocking in the Free World..... and ROCKED OUT!!! Wendy helped out with some fantastic harmonies, Pat gave me really delicious guitar solos, and the bass player (sorry! his name escapes me at the moment, it sure is tough getting old!!) held us all together with his excellent lines!!! What a wonderful, fulfilling, FUN performance!!! Thank you all.....

And the audience! So appreciative of the music, they make it a pure pleasure to play for them....

Finally, the other musicians!!! Again, my ability to remember names is not one of my strong points. There was a young woman who has her first NYC gig very soon, who has a great sound and interesting songs. Aaron, who I think grew up at this open mic, wowed us with his fantastic blues guitar and songs. Connie, who appears everywhere and is one of the pillars of the local musical community. Amy, who came with band and played us some wonderful sounds. Oh, and so very many more, the evening was chock full of music and laughter and good times.

Thank you Chatham, for hosting this monthly musical wonder......