The road trip I previewed three months ago went down this past weekend, and I suppose I ought to sum up the highlights.
– After seeing the Chris Robinson Brotherhood perform for the first time, I’m definitely on their bus. Can’t find the right words for why … but I like their songs and the spirit in which they perform them. That’s a good start.
I suppose I’d also forgotten, during those hours I spent listening to old Grateful Dead recordings, that jam bands (and most bands) best work their magic in person.
On my favorite CRB live recording, lead guitarist Neal Casal seemed too technical, hitting all the right notes but never quite catching fire. He didn’t really play any differently in Geneva — personal style is personal style — and yet it seemed to make more sense and generate more energy, even coming from a bespectacled, professorial guy who looked like he might have wandered over from Hobart and William Smith to check out the show.
Keyboardist Adam MacDougall also is a pleasure to watch, grimacing and pulling faces to accompany the curious squiggles he draws from his vintage keyboards. Beneath its complement of hair, his face has a certain boyish bemused quality, and the fun lies in watching it return from grimace or lopsided grin to its default wide-eyed who-me? setting.
(As for CR, he largely confines himself to singing, playing guitar and making his own gently dyspeptic jam-faces. He is, however, in superb voice; and if he has left the swaggering of the arena-rock frontman behind, he has found an altogether more charming and approachable new performance style.)
It also helped that the Smith Opera House is a charming rococo old barn — the perfect place to see a psychedelic band — and that I got to watch the entire thing standing in the orchestra pit, between five and 10 feet from the stage.
So, I hope the future will include both more CRB shows and more trips to the Smith … and if the two coincide, so much the better.
– Also got out on a whim and watched some high school football on Saturday, basically to get out in the sun and take some pictures.
The Dundee High Scotsmen took on the Red Jacket Indians. The PC movement has perhaps been slow in coming to central New York, but when your school is named for a Native American chief, maybe the “Indians” nickname is easier to defend.
Dundee couldn’t stop the run; Red Jacket had trouble with the pass; and a game that was 19-14 at the half ended 41-38. It could have been even higher-scoring — Dundee was inside the Red Jacket 15 with a minute left — but the Indians finally figured out pass defense and intercepted a tipped pass to seal their win.
The weather was lovely and clear, and the setting couldn’t have been nicer.
The only bringdown was a guy next to me who suggested that a shaken-up player “don’t be a pussy” as the kid staggered off the field, followed by the comment that the kid had injured his ladyparts. This wasn’t visiting-fan trash-talk, either; this was a Dundee fan talking salty about a Dundee player.
I hoped for several minutes that the fan would someday encounter a comeuppance that would very publicly and humiliatingly cut his masculinity out from underneath him.
Then I realized he probably already had. When he was 16 years old, back in 1986 or whenever, some red-necked ex-letterman townie probably yelled the same thing at him as he limped off a football field. And now he was passing it on — maybe because he felt tradition had legitimized it, or maybe to assuage an inner anger that still burned.
What I really hope, then, is that the kid with the wind knocked out of him didn’t hear his critic (which is possible) … and that when his time comes to watch teenagers play football, he sets aside the cliches of hypermasculinity and attains a greater equilibrium of poise, intelligence and respect than his forefathers taught him.
One can hope.