July 30, 2007

fell down on my knees

there's a slim chance i can relay just how incredible the crossroads guitar festival was, but as bill murray said on saturday, it was without a doubt "the greatest day in the history of bridgeview"...with stellar performances by everyone on tap (although, i did miss john mayer's set, hanging around the concourse, enjoying some of the characters offstage (who were almost as entertaining as the ones on, by the way)), it's hard to narrow down the highlights...some personal peaks, however, included derek trucks' set with singer mike mattison taking on nina simone's "i wish i knew (how it would feel to be free)" & later trading lines with susan tedeschi on a wailing version of the dominos' "anyday"...robert cray's set, introduced by "willie dixon's wife", with jimmie vaughan, hubert sumlin & a truly larger than life b.b. king, left me feeling like i was really witnessing something special...albert lee's lightning fast picking absolutely blew me away during vince gill's set, which also included appearances by willie nelson & sheryl crow (who was actually not too bad)...& jeff beck's fusion fueled set had the whole crowd completely captivated, even while his remarkable 21-year-old bassist, tal wilkenfeld, made hilarious scowls over the big screen...still, it was clapton & steve winwood (on keys & guitar) who stole the show, tearing through classics by derek & the dominos, traffic, & blind faith...an unbelievable performance...it was also very cool that clapton had his biggest influence & chicago host, buddy guy, close the show, treating the 28,000 at toyota park like 400 at legends (& looking a lot like lovie smith, i might add), he traded licks with clapton before inviting a handful of the days players onstage for the inevitable closer, "sweet home chicago".

here's clapton's set (as i remember it):

tell the truth (derek & the dominos)
key to the highway (derek & the dominos)
got to get better in a little while (derek & the dominos)
isn't it a pity (george harrison)
little queen of spades (robert johnson)
why does love got to be so sad? (derek & the dominos)
who do you love (bo diddley)*
further on up the road*
pearly queen (traffic)**
presence of the lord (blind faith)**
can't find my way home (blind faith)**
it's not my cross to bear (the allman brothers)**
dear mr. fantasy (traffic)***
cocaine (j.j. cale)**
crossroads (robert johnson)**
* w/ robbie robertson
** w/ steve winwood
*** clapton offstage

...finally, choosing a song to accompany this post was difficult, so instead of picking from the unheralded group of performers, i decided on the most played song of the day, shuggie otis's fantastic "inspiration information"...although the set breaks were short (only about 10-15 minutes), the house music was consistant...this track was probably played seven or eight times throughout the day, always followed by fiona apple's version of "across the universe" & preceded by steely dan's "pretzel logic"...so i guess if someone forgets to change the mixtape, it helps that the songs are good.
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biondi's take: here, with a much more engaging account of saturday's events, is someone i hope will become a regular fixture here at the leather canary, mr. michael biondi...
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Part I
I would like to dedicate this to all of the people who didn’t want to attend what was definitely the greatest concert in Chicago (land) this year. Without you, we may have not gotten tickets.
The following is a brief account of what transpired at the Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Festival this past Saturday. All of this happened, but maybe not as I saw it…
After leaving an hour later than we had planned, our rag-tag group of rock and rollers and blues junkies(not really) arrived at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL to find an inordinate amount of parking attendants guiding not so many cars into the abundant spaces surrounding the stadium. The parking attendants in our immediate vicinity (all 10 of them) guided us to spot not 100 yards from the entrance to which we would venture into the stadium grounds.
I don’t know what to make of the stadium itself. It has the look of a European soccer stadium, but I have a feeling it is only about half the size of it’s cousins on the other side of the pond. Was this done to create the illusion that a lot of people are attending Chicago Fire games?
This day, however, this stadium was not about soccer and the pitch was covered with a strange network of metal sheeting meant to protect the field from cigarette butts, roaches, vomit and whatever else a blues crowd expels onto the ground on which it stands. The view from the mezzanine level provided a good vantage point for which we realized we should have left at the time we had originally planned. The blankets and pillows -- people actually had brought their pillows —stretched from the barricades fronting the stage, well past the soundboard. This gave the “field” the look of an incomplete puzzle and I knew I wasn’t going to like whatever it was we were standing on.
Our gracious webmaster, audiophile and preachy nudist, Dan Cohen led two other Dans to stake out a spot for our group. The Daniels Three (D3 or DA, DB &DC or better-yet DABC) found just the spot; in the front row of all places. This wasn’t actually the front row, but the front row of the General Admission section. There was a space in front of the stage that was for the first 800 people and was blanket free. This was the dancing section -- and man -- have I ever seen 800 people look so not-thrilled to have the best seats in the house. So, we were in the fake front row, but there was no one in front of us except a she-devil of a security guard, her nice-but-intimidated-by-her minions and the other attendees scurrying between the entrance to the “dance” section and their designated pen itself. Directly in front of us was the television screen to the right of the stage. Regardless, some cool older guys moved their shit over a little bit so we could squeeze in (Good looking out Rick, Steve-O and Squirrelly-Dave).
Our view of the stage was somewhat limited. Most of what I saw on the stage was actually viewed through the television, but the sound was spectacular. The stage is permanently built into the southern end of the stadium. I assume this is to allow for concert revenue to bail out whoever paid for a soccer stadium to be built in the suburbs of Chicago. The lazy Susan of a stage allowed for an almost-seamless transition from act to act, while limiting the amount of house music that was played. Even with the short breaks between music, we somehow heard Fiona Apple’s “Across the Universe” at least 10 times, along with the two other tunes chosen to drown out the sound of 28,000 music fans.
The emcee for the day was Bill Murray of Saturday Night Live and Ghostbusters 2 fame. He declared Bridgeview to be the new home of the blues and it surely was on the 28th of July, 2007. After making the half-filled stadium giggle through his take on Van Morrison’s Gloria, Murray was joined on stage by a madras shorts-wearing Eric Clapton (God wears madras). Clapton helped Murray finish Gloria and then talked for a few moments about why he loves events like this and it may not be his last. In all honesty, I wasn’t listening, so I have no idea what he said.
I know that Eric introduced Sonny Landreth as a good friend and thank God (Clapton) that they are friends, because Sonny laid down some Louisiana swamp rock that could have choked out a gator. He ripped through a few instrumental tunes and really started the day off right. The sun was hot and the air was sticky and somehow, this Southern – Guitar -- Man transported us all to the bayou. After Clapton joined Landreth on stage for a rousing take on Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Hell at Home”; quickly and intensely as Landreth’s set began, it ended. There were no ups and downs to his show, it was straight-adrenaline and I think I drank six beers in the 30 minutes he was on stage… thanks Sonny!
After the lazy-Susan of a stage spun around and Fiona Apple’s “Across the Universe” was faded out, John McLaughlin took the stage with his band mates. It was at this very moment that DC yelled out “Matisyahu!!!!!” to quickly turn to me and ask “Did I just yell ‘Matisyahu’? I can't believe I just screamed ‘Matisyahu.’” (bill murray introduced mclaughlin as the guitarist from "the mahi mahi orchestra", & in my excitement, i yelled out "matisyahu" when i clearly intended to yell out "mahavishnu", i immediatly corrected myself & biondi would have never noticed had i not confided in him my embarrassment...mclaughlin's set was amzing, by the way -dc)
These guys provided a psychedelic journey that would not be repeated in this show. Their jazzy instrumentals floated through the crowd and I think there were about 50 people in the stadium that enjoyed this set.
We witnessed some truly strange things at this show. The average age of the fans was at least 40 and that is probably on the conservative side -- We have the pictures of crop-topped sexagenarians to prove it!! – Yet no one seemed to know any of the songs. I’m not talking about the earlier acts, because everyone seemed to love the rock and roll classics, such as Sheryl Crowe’s “Strong Enough” and John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change”. I thought this concert would draw fellow weirdoes that get hard-ons over fact that there are dozens of hours of unreleased Derek and the Dominos studio tapes, not a bunch of 50-somethings looking to be “cool” by knowing John Mayer. I was wrong, but it didn’t matter. Notice that I did not say “it didn’t bother me”, but I was going to enjoy myself and rock-out regardless.
Allison Krause and Union Station followed the ethereal licks of Johnny Mc and provided the only real “rockless” set of the entire day. I enjoy bluegrass music, but I’m not sure there was really a need for this set. There was some fine slide guitar playing by Jerry Douglas and that was that. I think I spent most of this set in the area behind the stage where the crappers and concessions (CC) were. I was thirsty and there was only about 3 hours until 5:00 Margaritas. The next few sets are kind of a blur and I have no idea how many beers I consumed during this time, but I think I was behind of the stage for most of Allison Krause and the following set by Doyle Bramhall II. This guy can flat-out play some guitar, but he was better suited backing up Clapton and Derek Trucks.
I made my way back to our section for Derek Trucks’ set and as always he put on a clinic. He and Susan Tedeschi(his wife) really tore through some classic blues tunes, but the highlight of their set was, when joined by Johnny Winter – who looks like a tattooed-albino Yoda – they played the best version of Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61” that these ears have ever heard. He plays one of those funny guitars that just kind of stops at the neck and it is perfect for him.
Once again, during Robert Randolph’s standard set, I found myself eating a $5 hot dog, smoking cigarettes and drinking beers behind the stage. The sound back there was actually very good and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. Instead of gravel, someone decided that crushed – see recycled – asphalt was a good idea to fill the area. This crap got stuck to everyone’s shoes/sandals/footsies and was a major source of angst every time I traveled back to the CC area. The people-watching in the CC and the mezzanine areas was first-rate. I bought a hotdog from a man with 3 or 4 teeth, bummed a light from a shirtless man wearing black jean shorts and got my picture taken with the prettiest girl at show. In a sea of rotten teeth and bad mustaches – oh the mustaches --, I found an angel, and it was documented, so that made me happy.
This may have been when DC and I went on a journey to find better food than what was being sold in the CC. Much to our surprise, we ran into DG, but this wasn’t just DG, it looked like he ate his former self and put on a good 100 lbs. I took a picture of DC and DG and I believe you may be able to see that picture on this very site. This too, made us smile. (this didn't happen till much later in the afternoon - dc)
By the time we made it back down to the floor, Robert Cray and his band had taken the stage. They tore into blues classics and his current catalog and provided a glimpse of things to come. Cray is truly one of the best guitar players alive and this was never more evident than when he shared the stage with Hubert Sumlin and Jimmy Vaughan. You would have thought these guys were all in their 20’s, but that was between 30 and 60 years ago, yet they still primed the place up for the King.
BB walked (see: waddled) out on the stage and spoke to Lucille for a few moments. He then smoothly released a few of his classic tunes before toasting Clapton and the crowd. He was clearly emotional when he spoke of Clapton and walked off the stage with hugs all around.
John Mayer was next and that meant 5:00 margaritas!!! The CC was dying down, but the line for food was never longer. The cute-little tiki bar was tended by two cute girls who couldn’t have been older than 21. I tried talking to them, but I had the feeling they were trying to trick me into buying more $12 margaritas – or vodka lemonades rather --, so I tried to steer clear of those temptresses. It was during this break in the action that I tried dancing with an usher, DC and I were ushered out of an area that was apparently not for dancing (even though we were actually walking while we danced) and Sheryl Crowe took the stage. She played some of her standard crap, but man can she sing. You can’t really appreciate it on the radio because they over produce stuff like that, but she’s got some pipes on her and is better looking in person (from a weird angle and 50 yards away, but still).
Good Old Willie Nelson followed Crowe and his guitar “Trigger” looks like it is has been set on fire, broken to pieces and glued back together. Someone told me that when he filed for bankruptcy, his house was seized and he paid someone to break into the house to get Trigger. (that was me, but he didn't have to pay anyone, it was one of his friends -dc) I’m not sure what the moral of that story is, but I think that guitar may actually belong to the IRS.
…Los Lobos…more beer and I don’t remember any of their set, except they sang in Spanish, they didn’t play “La Bamba” and they look like they could have been extras in Colors.
At 7:45, Jeff Beck took the stage and the next 3 hours and 15 minutes should be recognized as 3 of the greatest hours of rock and roll history, I shit you not…we’re talking serious jams, a 21-year-old Australian and rock and roll boners all around…stay tuned.
If I wasn’t writing this on the clock, I would continue, but you’ll just have to wait for Part II. Please post your comments and let these guys know if you want me to be a regular contributor to this site. I promise to keep things brief in the future. -Mike Biondi
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update: Cohen "editing" my previous posting really turned me off of the whole idea of posting on another's site (it's not really editing, but this is the kind of thing i believe he's talking about -dc) -- hence no part two. -Mike Biondi

5 comments:

Dan said...

You guys forgot to mention the highlight of the show...the dude we saw walking 2 dogs IN the concert! We were joking that they were Clapton's dogs. Then the guy went backstage with them, only to be seen sitting next to God on the side of the stage later. They were Clapton's dogs.

TeddyDunski said...

So, its official...I had always expected that Biondini had moonlighted as a Staff Reporter for Flyer News, in between calls to The Deli, inquiring about their ever dwindling supply of "Tube Sausages".

God Bless Stevie Nicks.

While you guys were at this legendary show in "Chicago", we were being local, checking out the Headhunters at Double Door. They were fun, although the opener, "The New Mastersounds," put the Headhunters to shame. Check those guys out.

Patrick said...

yes it is unfortunate tickets were offered a week before. alas I also had a relaxing weekend at a lake and clapton day was missed. no JJ accounts so I feel a little better. glad it was jammin! sometimes I wonder why there aren't more hippy music blogs. . .

Timothy said...

mike, have you ever heard of "less is more"... douche bag.

Ali said...

I am sitting here thinking to myself, OK, so I don't have any money....but I could have charged $60 for this! I can't believe I missed such a grand opportunity. I love Doyle Bramhall II and Sonny Landreth - I would have paid $60 for just those 2! Can't wait for part II. `Ali