***Begun on 4/20/12 – I’m not superstitious, and I don’t follow the crowd, so all this hocus-pocus over the years about celebrities dying in threes has always been a curious notion, but a bit of malarkey, if you ask me. However, there have been a few strong coincidences that I find intriguing. The one that’s prompting this writing is the most current – Dick Clark (4/18,) Levon Helm (4/19) and now possibly, Robin Gibb. These are three heavies in the world of music, two of who died a day apart, so of course, the superstitious voodoo children are going to have a field day with it if Robin also passes. Sure, similar celelbrity death patterns have happened in the past – most notably Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper, who all died in a plane crash in 1959, after leaving an Iowa concert. Another biggie was the loss of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison back in 1971. The craziest thing about that one was that they were all 27 years old! But, that is a story for another day…
In reality, people die every day, and over the span of decades, there are an enormous number of celebrities that get thrown into the pot, so to speak. So, when one dies, we dig deep for two more so we can satisfy (and ‘prove’) our theory. But, the truth of the matter is, there may be four or five that die in a short span, but we quit counting at three. If we can only find two, we scrounge around for a known name and clump them into the celebrity category in desperation. Basically, we do whatever it takes to make the ‘three theory’ work.
Why are we so focused on the number three? Seems we always have been. There are ‘three peas in a pod,’ ‘three strikes, you’re out,’ ‘Three Wise Men,’ the ‘Holy Trinitiy,’ ‘Three Muskateers,’ ‘The Three Bears,’ three primary colors, three phases of the moon, and on and on. There are even three phases in life – birth, life and death – so it seems an obvious idea to place ‘the rule of three’ on our fascination with the deaths of famous people. Why don’t we play the same game with births? Celebrities are popping out babies like there’s not tomorrow. I guess it’s not as significant as when people die.
Now, back to the reason I began this writing – the deaths of Dick, and Levon, and a gravely ill Robin – three well-known and significant contributors to music over the last many decades. Granted, due to illness and/or age, they have been very quiet lately, but there is always a sadness when someone who has been a major, and positive musical inspiration, passes from this world forever. I think it has to do with thanks and gratitude for the gift they gave us while here on earth. It is for me, at least. Music is memories for me. Songs make me think of certain times in my life, the experiences I went through at various stages, ages, etc. Dick Clark is my childhood (American Bandstand; Times Square New Year’s Eve countdown; New Year’s Rockin Eve,) and the man who was known as ‘America’s perpetual teenager.’ He was a huge representative of music, and though not a musician nor singer, he changed the world of rock and roll…and for this I am forever thankful to Mr. Dick Clark.
Levon Helm, though not as obvious a recognizable celebrity to me, has left us music lovers a huge inheritance. As the singer and drummer of the popular ‘60s –‘70s band, The Band, his gift to the music world are his songs, ‘Up On Cripple Creek,’ ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,’ ‘The Weight,’ and Don’t Do It,’ for starters. The Band’s sound was that of meshing and entangling the earthy infectous sound of gospel, blues, folk, and country with the raucous, raunch of rock and roll to come up with a unique style of their own, somewhere in the middle. Thanks to Mr. Helm for his memorable contribution to the world of music.
As for Robin Gibb, I can’t imagine that there is a single soul on the planet that survived the Disco era, who doesn’t remember the Bee Gees! They were famous before, but the soundtrack to the 1977 hit movie, ‘Saturday Night Fever,’ catapulted them into super stardom. ‘Stayin Alive,’ Night Fever,’ ‘More Than a Woman,’ etc, was played at every nightclub, disco, and on every radio station around the world back in the Polyester ‘70s.’ My generation came of age with the sound of the Bee Gees.
These three Music Men have been quiet for some years now, due to their health conditions. However, they will leave a lasting imprint in the hearts of those who loved and appreciated their musical contribution to the world. The wonderful thing is, while they may be gone, their music, and memory, lives on!!
***Added 4/24/12 – So, now that I’ve written all about the mystery of three, it didn’t happen after all. Although Robin is still in a coma, he is alive. Which brings up the next question: How much time needs to elapse between the deaths in order to clump them into a trio? In other words, if and when Robin leaves, will his death be considered part of the three. According to me, no. It’s been too long, and if the media tries to include him into the trio, then it’s simply for hype and brainwash…to fuel the frenzy for a good story. Bah! They won’t fool me into believing this myth, though it is always interesting to follow the possiblitlty of truth behind the mystique.
***Fast forward to today – Sadly, but expectedy, Robin Gibb did pass on on May 20th. However, once again proving this theory wrong, not only wasn’t he the third of the Dick Clark/Levon Helm trio (of which there was no trio,) before Mr. Gibb left us, there was the surprisingly unexpected death of Donna Summer on 5/17/12. This now brings us to that familiar looming question: Who will be the third? And, will there be a third? Since Robin Gibb hung on for another month, he wasn’t in a trio with Dick and Levon. But, now that he and Donna left this world so soon after one another, if a third celebrity calls it quits, then maybe we have something….lots of fuss in the media, no doubt! Otherwise, the ‘Death-in-Threes Hypesters’ will, once again, lay low and not make mention of the flaw in their theory.
***Relaxing in my $12.99 canvas folding chair from CVS Pharmacy, enjoying the warm, Southern sun, sipping on a cold, refreshing beer, and completely squished amongst thousands of other music fans, I was ready for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers!! I wasn’t necessarily dying to see them, since I’ve seen them a million times before, but I certainly wasn’t disappointed that they were here! Had I chosen the headliners for the occasion, I probably wouldn’t have picked any of the ones that were scheduled this weekend, as I would rather have experienced some newer bands. But, it wasn’t up to me and the choices were pretty darned cool, historically speaking and nostalgic as they come!
Upon taking the stage, I was pleasantly surprised by how sylish the men looked. Tom sported a blue suit, tie, and cool sunglasses; Benmont Tench and Scott Thurston (keyboards, harmonica, guitar) were decked out in sports jackets; Steve Ferrone (drums) buttoned up in a collared shirt. Mike Campbell (lead guitar) stayed pretty true to form with rolled up shirt sleeves and a black leather vest. Oh, and it looked like Tom had recently been to the salon, with his nicely styled (and dyed?) hair and well groomed beard. (Thank you JumboTron for allowing me to see these ever important details!) I was also happy to see pretty much the same lineup from the historic 20 show run at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium back in March of 1999. I caught three of those smaller, more intimate shows and was so mesmerized that the experience hasn’t left me, yet.
Tom & the guys started off with a bang, playing crowd favorites ‘Listen to Her Heart,’ ‘U Wreck Me,’ and ‘Won’t Back Down,’ before spinning off into a mixed bag of everything. For over two hours (longer than planned) they pleased their audience (which was massive, by the way) with a variety of original hits, a number of covers, lesser known songs, Traveling Wilburys tunes, acoustics, as well as throwing in some new songs. I was very impressed with the sharpness of the band, along with the quality vocals. After seeing so many bands from the 1970s and ‘80s, then and now, I have been disappointed with the downfall of the singers’ voices. Not here. These guys hit the notes, sang with strength, and delivered a terrific live performance. “We’re so excited to be here. We’ve been trying to come to Jazz Fest for many years!” Petty announced happily to the cheering crowd who was thrilled to have them. http://www.tompetty.com/news/title/watch-the-band-take-the-stage-at-jazzfest
Ever since seeing Tom & the Heartbreakers at the Fillmore, and watching them up close and in detail, I have been a big fan of Mike Campbell. He is such a quiet, unassuming guitarist, but drives his sound deep into my bones to where I have ended up with goosebumps. And, even from way far back in the Jazz Fest crowd, his guitar playing permeated through my skin. There’s just something about this man’s style that sends me into a trance every time!
The evening ended with the guys playing “Refugee” – well almost, because of course, the boys came back for an encore, which featured two of their ‘biggies!’ I, as usual, tried predicting what they’d be. One was totally obvious, as I knew from the get-go that they always save it for their encore, and that would be “American Girl.” But first was “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” which got everyone fired up, as did them playing two encores when their allotted time had already run out. Thanks, guys! And, thanks Jazz Fest!!
***(April 28) Never having been to a Jazz Fest before, I wasn’t prepared for what transpired over the weekend. Friday’s attendance, crowd, etc, was a manageable size. Little did I realize that, come the weekend, the numbers would increase tenfold and we would be packed in like sardines! All day long people poured into the stadium…and there was no stopping them! No cap on the number of attendees, no closing of the gates at a certain time, no consideration of handling emergencies, and in reality, not much security at all! Thank goodness everything ran smoothly or there would have been hell to pay. I kid you not, it was bumper to bumper people, jammed in there so tight you could hardly move or breathe! And, even though we got there fairly early in the day on Saturday, our seats were way back on the lawn with pretty terrible stage viewing. Thank goodness for big JumboTrons! As I sat there soaking up the sun and the sounds, I suddenly flashed back to my teenage years of Days on the Green, a series of outdoor concerts held from 1973 until 1991 and put on by the infamous Bill Graham of San Francisco. These were huge, daylong concerts at the Oakland Colisseum that, usually featured four bands. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Days_on_the_Green) Anyway, as I looked around the Jazz Fest arena, and noticed all the different flags put up to mark peoples’ spots, it reminded me of those days. The crowds at the Days on the Green were so enormous, that if you left to get some food, or hit the restroom, the chances of finding your way back to your friends was slim to none. That is, unless your marked your spot with a tall flag.
Well, this is exactly what people did on the grounds of Jazz Fest…and it drove me nuts that I couldn’t see the JumboTron because of the massive flag blockage. Thank goodness for the strong breeze, which blew them around often enough to get a clear view of both stage and tron.
Before the evening’s headliner, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, I had hours to venture around in the pursuit of cool, new music…and food! So, off I went. First order of the day was to find the Crawfish Monica, which I had heard was a classic Jazz Fest dish I must try. It was a delicious pasta dish with a creamy wine cayenne sauce and peeled crawfish mixed in…and another successful discovery on my part. See: CMRecipe After this tasty tidbit, it was time to cruise over to the Gentilly Stage for Amanda Shaw and the Cute Boys. I mentioned her in my post on Day 1, but today was when I actually saw her in action. This young gal was on fire, and when she took a minute to talk to the audience, the first thing she said was, “A lot has happened since last year’s Jazz Fest. I turned 21 and wrote my first drinking song!” She then performed ‘Red Plastic Cup,’ which I found intriguing since there is another song out right now (by Toby Keith) also praising the ‘Red Solo Cup.’ Her fans were familiar with it, and prepared for it, as many of them held up red plastic beer cups in honor of her song. This girl is a pistol! She shreds on the fiddle while bouncing all over the stage with the energy of a kangaroo! See her in action at the 2010 Jazz Fest here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iOYtEAds9E Thoroughly entertained by this young woman, we stayed for her whole show. She is a native of New Orleans, has been touring since age 8, she sings, she plays, she fronts a band, she is 21. She is Amanda Shaw!!
Moseying back through the bumper-to-bumper crowd, I ventured past Fais Do Do and got a glance at the Pine Leaf Boys, but didn’t dare to fight the body traffic in order to experience them. I was a bit braver when mooing towards the Congo Stage to try and catch a bit of Cee Lo Green’s show, but oh hell no way! The crowd was ridiculous!! It was like a can of sardines and worms mushed together! By the time I managed to squeeze my way into a semi spot, I was so far back I could barely make out Cee Lo. And, the sound system was so weak, I could hardly hear him either. Not to mention, the heat of the sun was beating right on that stage and, decked out in something that resembled a suit, the guy must’ve been sweltering. Needless to say, I didn’t stay for more than five minutes – there was no reason. Couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, couldn’t breathe = misery. So, it was off to the Acura stage again to chill (haha, yeah right!) before TP & the Heartbreakers began.
Trying to survive the heat from the Louisiana sun, it is a must to drink constantly. I continuosly loaded up on Ice cold waters, beers, and finally got my hands on a Strawberry Lemonade when I got lucky and happened to be walking by the booth at a time there was no line! Eureka!! Success at last!! And, it truly hit the spot. There’s just something so peacefully satisfying about sitting with a cold, quenching drink under a crisp, clear blue sky, basking in the warmth of the sun, while listening to live music. Mmmm mmmm! As far as I’m concerned, there’s no beating it!
Next up: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers!!
***And then came time for the Beach Boys. http://www.thebeachboys.com/ I have always liked the Beach Boys, being that we’re all from California, that their music was the soundtrack of my childhood, with images of teenagers at beach parties, surfing, and having hot fun in the summertime. Sadly, they are now old men, but happily, they are still together, and bringing us their beloved music. Jazz Fest was the kickoff for their 50thAnniversary tour, which includes band mates Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks, and Bruce Johnston (Brian’s brothers and original founders of the group, Carl and Dennis are both deceased) along with a crew of backup singers and musicians. Hearing their songs performed live was nostalgic, historic and just plain cool, however, the lack of energy and enthusiasm was disappointing. Brian Wilson’s psychological troubles have been known for years, and in all honesty, I was amazed that he was even game to go on tour. I felt a sense of uneasiness with the rest of the band fearing the possibility that Brian may get up from his white grand piano and just walk off stage at any given time. He was so bland and expressionless that he seemed pretty checked out (medicated, no doubt.) He could barely remember the words to his songs (in fact, he was reading them from a prompter) and it was surprising that he could play the piano at all anymore. However, he is still the ever-respected talent behind the BBs and the audience worshipped him. And, if you know his story – a strict and controlling father – then it is not up to us to judge, just respect.
The Beach Boys’ repertoire of songs is vast and they played many of their best – California Girls, Good Vibrations, Fun, Fun, Fun, Surfin’ USA, Help Me, Rhonda, Little Deuce Coupe, Be True to Your School, I Get Around, Kokomo, Barbara Ann, as well as some lesser knowns and new songs off their forthcoming album.
An interesting guest, John Stamos (of Full House fame) joined the gang for a few songs, and has done so off and on for years. He started off on the drums, then later joined in with a guitar, and finally ending up on congas. He added charm and charisma to the show, and besides being just a pretty face, he proved he had talent.
To sum it up, I was very happy to see a little part of history in action. This band will be remembered by a generation of 1960s teenagers, as well as by numerous fans that have heard their music through the decades. I noticed quite a number of young people who were singing along and clearly knew almost every word to all their songs. The Beach Boys will go down in history as the band that brought the sun, the sand, and the sea through their music and distributed to the world…and for that I will be forever thankful!
***Jazz Fest Begins: The Sheraton Hotel on Canal Street was the hub of ticketing and transportation for getting oneself over to the Race Track, location of Jazz Fest 2012. Welcome to Line #1…and it was a LONG one! But, with all the happy, talkative people in wait, it went by pretty quickly. Next, it was on to the shuttle which was right outside the door, and over to the Fest for Line #2. Oh, and not only are there lines everywhere, there is also miles and miles of walking to do!
Following my plan upon arrival to the festival , I trekked over to the main stage – sponsored by Acura – and parked my chair (which was a necessary purchase for this event) in order to stake out a small piece of real estate for the big show of the evening. The Beach Boys’ 50th Anniversary tour was headlining and I wanted a decent vantage point. Once that was accomplished, along with hooking up with friends who also came to experience Jazz Fest, it was time to scour the grounds and get a layout of the land. There were four stages – each focusing on a certain style of music – as well as two huge tents – the Gospel Tent and the Blues Tent – which featured music and bands accordingly.
Having a fairly new fascination with Zydeco, Cajun, Creole, and the South in general, I boogied to the stage called ‘Fais Do Do’ meaning “Cajun Dance Party,” which filled the air with the upbeat, happy sound of this great music. Of course, being in the culturally, and historically rich state of Louisiana, it seemed a no-brainer to me to get a good dose of the local vibe. And, I was glad I did! The first group I caught was ‘Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band’ (http://www.chubbycarrier.com/)
whose namesake hails from three generations of zydeco artists including famous relatives who are presently considered legends in zydeco history. The authenticity of these French/Cajun singing bands brings them to a higher level for me. Being raised Cajun, in Louisiana, speaking the Cajun French that they do, playing instruments (and songs) probably handed down for generations – the banjo, fiddle, accordian, washboard – totally infatutes this born-and-bred Californian! It is so far from the free-spirited, San Francisco rock scene I was brought up in….but, I love the ‘differentness’ of it!
The Gentilly Stage, located at the exact opposite end of the track, was host to larger, but newer acts such as Bon Iver, Feist, and Janelle Monae. It was also the place I discovered a young, spunky local talent named Amanda Shaw(http://www.amandashaw.com/fr_home.cfm) on Day 2, who rocked her fiddle with the energy of Category 5 Hurricane. She was backed by ‘the Cute Guys’ and to see this 21 year old confidently leading her band of men was very impressive indeed! This young lady was featured on the cover of the April ’12 Where magazine, which is where I was introduced to her and proves how proud this city is of their up-and-coming jewel. Amanda’s first appearance playing at Jazz Fest was at the young age of 8 years old! And I tell ya, thirteen years later she is going strong and hard!
You couldn’t miss the entire Congo section called ‘Congo Square’ that consisted of an African Marketplace, Congo Food, and stage, featuring mainly African and African-American bands of all sorts, Cee-Lo Green, and Al Green being two of them. Besides the many T-shirt booths, this area was where most of the shopping took place, from clothing, to art work, novelty gifts, to food…all with African themes.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Jazz Fest, or a true New Orleans experience, if you don’t sample the food! Holy Moly! Talk about venturing from the ‘safe’ foods that most of us tend to stick with out of habit! Suddenly, I was faced with booth after booth of the strangest stuff I’d ever seen. Po’ Boys of every kind (shrimp, oyster, chicken, soft-shelled crab, etc,) Crawfish everything (sacks, beignets, boiled, bread, strudel, Monica, etc,) alligator, catfish, gumbo, jambalaya, muffelettas, pecans, pralines, puddings, pies, strawberry lemonade, iced-teas, and a million different kinds of desserts! So much food, so little time! Same thing goes for the music! However, I managed to decide upon a killer sample plate consisting of Crawfish Sacks, Oyster Patties and Crawfish Beignets, which was simply devine! The sacks were made of flaky dough stuffed with a tasty crawfish concoction and tied like a miniature sack of potatoes. The oyster patty was an usual looking dough formed coiled pot (with lid) and filled with an oyster soup that melts in your mouth; and the crawfish beignets were a fried crawfish and flour bite that resembled tater tots, but tasted scrumptious! For recipes, check out: http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Crawfish-Beignets-with-Cajun-Dipping-Sauce, http://www.nomenu.com/joomla1/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1484:creole-oyster-patties&catid=149:oysters-mussels-clams&Itemid=138, and http://www.grouprecipes.com/83612/fried-crawfish-sacks-with-pepper-vinegar-and-andouille-green-beans-and-tomatoes.html.