Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Who Keeps Quoting 'Take The 'A' Train' in the Back of the Venue?

A much overdue, but no less heartfelt, recap of the Dave Matthews Band show of last week. As you'll soon read, if you didn't already live/swim through it, it poured throughout the whole concert and among the many consequences of being soaked to the bone, I was left with a cold which made writing, even about such a great occasion, unpleasant. Weekdays filled with illness and a weekend filled with adolescents in semi-formal wear and father appreciating has pushed this post to the here and now. Let's get to it.
Clearly, this show had some big shoes to fill when held up to the Randall's Island experience. For Rich the show was about redemption for a hat, and time, nearly soiled by ketchup and errant footsteps. For Jamie, it was about a first time chance to see DMB and making it a night to remember forever. For me, it was about secretly hoping that history repeated itself and that I was quick enough to outrun Rich should it come down to it. We drove separately for a reason, you know?

As mentioned above, the weather did not cooperate with the festive potential of being in the parking lot before the show. The tone in the lot was naturally pretty subdued. A pleasant subdued, but subdued. The usual crowding about cars with DMB favorites playing, a few tents, and a whole bunch of rain ponchos were present, of course. A few people were even venturing some drinking games, but largely everyone huddled in their cars or under their open trunks. I was pretty cool with the atmosphere because I'm actually not really a big believer in the traditional pre-concert buzz. With the notable exception of seeing 311 at the very same Jones Beach venue many years ago, I'm more of a couple-beers-tons-of-water-pregamer. The only real bummer is that usually you (at least I) try to mill around a bit and get to know your neighbors some, play some frisbee or some tunes etc. The rain didn't exactly make that impossible, but it made it much more desirable to kind of fall into apathy and wait for the gates to open.

Rich, Jamie, and I were, in a sense, saved from our own good time by one of Rich's co-workers at (your source for all things local and newsworthy where, contrary to what some may say, they attend every event on which they report) who was kind enough to invite the three of us over to their gathering a few spaces over. The spread they had there was one of a kind. Panninis (spelling?), sandwiches, and sushi all ordered from delis and restaurants in our area. They were more than willing to share anything and everything they had. I resisted the urge to weep openly and pig out and limited myself to a sandwich slice, some sushi (which is growing on me), and a Bluepoint IPA that I couldn't help but sip even though I had been fighting the very same cold that came back with a vengence the very next day.

In addition to being fed well, this was kind of my first occasion to spend a long period of time with an older generation of Dave fans. I admit I didn't pick their brains as much as I wish I had, but I didn't want to be the stranger who tried to dominate the conversation. With that said, I did talk to them a bit and it was great to hear about some of their experiences with the band both recently and "back in the day". One of the guys had a collection of a few live albums released about the same time as "Remember Two Things". I was pretty darn jealous, as you will not find these albums in your local FYE and you probably won't hear some of those older songs (Blue Water, for example) ever again. It was a real highlight for me just to look through those records. It was like opening up a scrapbook from a time you're too young to remember, but know all about it through secondhand stories.

With a full stomach and being out in the elements anyway, I ventured across the lot to meet with some friends from Miller Place, a couple of whom were experiencing their first Dave show. What an awesome feeling. As with a lot of bands (and I guess any) seeing them live is a whole new experience to hearing even a recording of a live show. I don't doubt they enjoyed the heck out of it and I hope they're as hooked as I am.

Anyway, the only real story to tell from the lot, other than unrivalled generosity, is an unfortunate situation that drew from me a rather piteous laugh. Rich's co-worker was beyond stoked that Fitz and the Tantrums (a name whose cleverness dawned on me later than I'd care to admit). I didn't listen in on the whole conversation, but apparently he was getting deep into those guys (a pretty interesting modern Hall and Oates sound, in my opinion) before he even knew they were opening the show he was attending. Fitz being there was kind of the whipped cream on the sundae for him and I'm not exaggerating by much when I say he was as excited to see them as Dave. Well, time goes by and... goes by and... you get the idea, and everyone is still in the parking lot. I lean over to Rich and mention that he's probably going to miss the opening act. Apparently, no one in his party was ready to leave the good time yet and he wound up missing out of the show he lucked out in getting the chance to see (for free, if you think about it). I wish I had a better follow up on his reaction, but I can only imagine he felt pretty bad, at least in hindsight. When I realized what happened to him, I took it harder than I probably should have. Poor guy.

The show itself was simply great. The set list, on paper, is kind of out of a dream. For the audience's part, the venue doesn't have a lawn setting, so there were only pockets of people standing up in true DMB show fashion. That's always a struggle in that venue. I remember being, quite possibly, the only two people standing at the Who show I went to see the Beard, but I also remember everyone seeming to be on their feet for Phish at the same venue years later. Anyway, the sit down venue made the crowd energy scattered, but definitely present. However, the venue coupled with the constant drenching did make the energy tough to keep up. The band, Jamie, Rich, and I did our part, though, and the band played high energy numbers while the three of us kept moving in the nosebleeds.

The band kind of has a whole new sound. I mean, the sound always seems to be tweaked with every new tour, especially as new faces enter (Tim, Jeff, Rashawn) and old ones leave (Butch and sadly, Roi), but this is the first incarnation of the band that I would almost say is a whole new band covering Dave songs.

The elements of improvisation are definitely still there. Jeff and Rashawn traded fours on Grey Street, Jeff killed You Never Know, and Boyd and Tim were, as always, ever present while Carter smiled above them like some omnipotent bus driver with a recently emptied bathroom, but the songs were almost condensed for the most part. For example, #41 was played without a single horn solo, and there was no reference from Dave or crowd alike to #36 during Everyday. That alone signals a change in philosophy, in my mind. The band has really taken to heart the idea of a horn "section" as they were present in nearly every song and the band kind of has a sound that's easier to define at this point. It's kind of a rock band with horns and a violin that can jam out when they want. This feels like a natural evolution that you had to expect at some point (Phish kind of does the same thing right now), but this band has become a beast that has a whole new sound and as a result, genuinely sounds tighter than ever. My notes are not meant to be a negative, and the difference between DMB of 2011 and DMB of 2012 is not night and day by any means, but the band has clearly underwent some changes in mentality, I'd like to think for the better, but no Jeff on #41 (as incredible as Tim was) was as close to a disappointment that this band has given me live.

I mean, musically, I feel like I could scribe a whole new post. This section may bore some, so I'll be brief and if you want to hear more, you can definitely ask.

1. Seven into Minarets into Grey Street to START. Good Lord, you knew that band was going to try to make up for the nasty weather and keep them engaged in a big way. I was shocked to hear Minarets live; a first for me to witness and even hear. I only have the studio cut and an acoustic version on my pod. With those three songs, I considered my ticket worth the price. Grey Street, Sweet, and the never played Trouble With You were the only songs I was dying for. Thrilled I got one out of the deal. Real edge to the sound.

2. Mercy was the only track from the anticipated album they played and a great cool down after Cornbread. This is one song I'm glad they didn't cut short and the band riffed enough to stretch it to about the 6 minute mark. A lot of layers to the song that I feel I dug more in the rain. Dave pulled a Neil Young going from guitar to piano mid-song. Really tight unified sound. Gives you a sense where the band is heading, and I like it.

3. Don't Drink the Water mid-show, not unheard of, but a first for me. Cool.

4. Everyday- pretty straight-forward. Boyd definitely did his thing, don't get me wrong, but Dave was kind of full speed ahead and I didn't hear the crowd engaging in any "Honey, honey". Likely the most underwhelming, but solid versions of the song I've heard. Last time they played this song in the New York area, Vusi Mahlasela came out and sang some. Maybe I got my hopes up and that's influencing my opinion. I should note that this is the first song where I really started picking up on the new condensed sound I was talking about.

5. Stay or Leave-Another perfectly timed mellow song. Hit the spot. I love when they give you a song you didn't even know you craved so bad.

6. After #41 I was literally wondering if Jeff was under the weather or something. You Never Know quashed that theory and Jeff totally went nuts. A real old fashioned jam session. The crowd was never more involved, in my opinion. To an unbiased listener, probably the best track of the night overall. My favorite was Grey Street and Minarets followed by this track, but I'm far from unbiased.

7. Crush-Awesome sound and always great to hear Fonz open that up on the bass. Again, more of a horn section with Boyd taking the lead, for better or worse. A song that showed how much you can take Carter's brilliance on the skins for granted. Awesome, though. Proof that "condensed" is not synonymous with "bad".

8. Rapunzel-Might be my favorite live track of theirs of all time. Love how the wheels fall off the jam for that darker section only to come back and party hard in the end. This is one song where there are never any words for. Hear it. Love it. Get more of it.

9. Great encore with Granny to lead off. Always have a soft spot for this song since the first time I heard it on Listener Supported. Band cut right to the chase. Great song and great rendition. Watchtower (which some fans who take themselves too seriously said was the saving grace of the show) really was a great way to cap the night. Fonz quoted Tool's Schism in his intro solo... enough said. The energy is always high for that. Love having Tim there to really be that bridge between Hendrix did and what Dave does with it. Dylan wrote a hell of a song.

On a non-musical note, I have started putting pen to pad on the sequel to Horseplay. Really excited about it and I think the first three of the series are going to come pretty naturally and hopefully quickly. The four others I have outlined, we'll see, but bottom line, it's great to be working with these characters again and this may well be the first anticipated release of my writing career.

Song of the Day: She Love Me So-Anthony Green
Jazz Song of the Day: The Power of Water-Orchestre National de Jazz

Monday, June 11, 2012

Still Waiting on Eric

What follows is the blog post before the blog. While I've been writing my whole life, I must say that this is the first life event that I've ever experienced and felt the urge to chronicle using the written word to ensure that each memory was trapped in amber for eternety. This monumental event was my second Dave Matthews Band show ever and as I prepare to embark on my eighth show on Tuesday, I felt it appropriate to share this initial account on Yesternow to show where it all just about began. I'll be attending the show tomorrow with Rich, who was with me at this show and had a tough day, all the more reason to share this with you now.

My only note of warning is that tenth-grade Poli wrote this. Tenth-grade Poli's word choice in some spots are borderline embarrassing in some spots. No, I didn't fancy myself half as big of a hippie as this piece suggests, I guess I just kind of got caught up in the moment and I'd like to believe I've since found a happy medium between "far out" and "good day, sir". The conventions of writing, I think, were also quite lost on me then, not that they're all that found now.  With that said, it'd be a crime to toil with the writing and I hope you enjoy this time capsle. As always, this is dedicated to Rich and Grebe, who made this day very special.

My smile grows even wider as we stroll towards Randall’s Island. We vibe with some ladies from New Jersey while haggard looking dudes sell cheap looking water for a dollar. Each shout has a rhythm and ring to it. As though they hear the music that we can’t hear yet. We slide inside and see the stage. The fire dancer has started the party without our trio as we find a shady spot to settle and wait for the magic. We take in the scene, a whole lot of food vendors are charging five shells for water, and even be and I explain to Rich the finer points of the jam band flow. Meantime Grebe and I do battle over Phish and Dave Matthews Band for jam band supremacy. Rich feels uncomfortable in his Yankee ensemble when surrounded by a sea of unkempt hair, hemp, sandals and tie dye. He does not stray far from me as Tea Leaf Green hits the stage and slams our senses with a far out blend of Phish like riffs with a country twang. The rumble of the crowd’s roar pales in comparison to the rumble of our stomachs as we cave in and buy some ten dollar gyros and cop a squat on our blanket. Some jerk glides over to a muscular Guido looking guy and asks to purchase some “gardening supplements”. When the man refuses, the jerk’s crew literally throw stones at the man’s girlfriend. I kid you not. The man erupted and a verbal and shoving fight ensues inches away from our awe struck faces. Security is lost in the haze of the music that plays. My eyes stray from the ensuing brawl to catch a glimpse of Grebe, eyes wide, twitching nervously as he hovered over his gyro as though he were an eagle protecting its young. I laughed at this marvel, and even harder as the fools were escorted from the concert area. We saw two friends playing catch with a football. I have to be honest; one friend was not too great at the sport. He would stand straight armed and tense as the ball floated down towards him. He stood rapt with the gaze of a dog waiting for food to be dropped from the dinner table. However, often times the ball would bounce off his hands as though they were bricks. We shared a chuckle at his expense, not something I’m proud of. However, then we saw a blue moon as the 19 year old managed to snag the ball out of the air and proceed to do a corny dance the likes of which even I had never seen before. After he stopped seizing he threw the ball back flimsily to his friend and repeated the process each time Lady Luck smiled upon him. We didn’t feel bad about laughing at him anymore.

            The Yonder Mountain String Band was a pleasant surprise. I had never heard of them but their quick honky tonk instrumentals including a distorted upright bass was a new spin on a style of music I was still relatively new to. The closest thing to describe them would be sounds likened to a fuller Grateful Dead, with no horns or vocals. Regrettably, I caught a few Zs as Slightly Stoopid performed. But before my snooze I lent my ears to their first song. It was fly no doubt, but the loud screaming and frequent use of swear words seemed to almost interfere with the laidback atmosphere of the concert. Their enthusiasm for their music was to be admired though and I considered it to be a positive experience. I was roused by the roar of the crowd as Government Mule blazed the stage. I’ve always been so so on Warren Hayes, digging his riffs but not so much on his vocals. His live show was no different as each song sounded the same to me. The monotony was interrupted however, by quite simply a drunken middle aged man chasing after a beach ball as if it were his true love and he could not understand why she was bouncing away from him. Then the real magic began as Bela Fleck and the Flecktones sent a wave of relaxation to the audience with amazingly chill tones that featured the bass styling’s of Mr. Victor Lamonte Wooten. Best bassist ever. Enough said. There was a teen next to us who partied a little too hard a little too soon. He spilled his heart, soul, and a little bit of hot dog on the lawn. The crowd in the vicinity then fell silent. (It was eerie, a wonder I’ve never witnessed until that day, and have not experienced since) as a portly woman unknowingly wandered into the pink puddle. At the point of contact the crowd said OOOO! In unison, ourselves included, almost as though it were instinct. The woman scampered off, with a look of horror on her face. My soul sways to the strum of the banjo and thump of the bassline until I hear another thump next to me. This one makes a squishy noise. Rich jerks his body as though he were in shock and shaking loose the cobwebs. My eyes are drawn to Rich’s brand new white hat purchased the day before. A hat which he had gone to great lengths to protect for the day. A hat which now had a large red glob on it. We had been ketchup bombed. Rich grew angry to say the least as his face changed its color to a hue more like that of his hat’s new stain. Another bomb flew to our left and Rich put his hat down on the blanket to keep it safe. Within moments his plan backfired as the hat was stepped upon by a long haired lanky penguin looking teen who muttered a half hearted apology as he marched forwards towards the stage. I froze in the shock of what has just occurred. Rich is now enraged and spikes his hat in frustration while uttering words under his breath I dare not repeat on this page. I couldn’t understand or hear half of them anyway as I was cackling mercilessly at the fact that Rich’s hat went from brand new to completely ruined in a matter of thirty seconds. Grebe chuckled as well as he tried to calm and console the angry beast. Rich’s temper was cooled as DMB hit the stage and pleased us with melodies and rhythms the likes of which cannot be justly explained. I sent my sober eyes to the skies to see the smoke rise and the stage in a haze. But sight didn’t matter, only the music that formed itself into one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.

As a side note, we actually got pretty lost on the way home. It's a amazing how back then I kind of left that out, but if this happened today I'd probably talk mostly about the drive home with the concert being a footnote. Once again, see you Wednesday.

Song of the Day: Grey Street-Dave Matthews Band
Jazz Song of the Day: Zona Mona-Flecktones (Not jazz, don't whine)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Too High to Want to Come Down, Too Old to Want to be Young Again

My goal with this blog was really to let it cool for a while and kind of reset with writing about current events. I found that too often of late I was writing things far too past tense for my liking. While, indeed, everything I write on here is past tense, otherwise this would be an equally inconsequential psychic blog, there's a difference between saying "last weekend this happened" and "this happened about a month ago. Incidentally, I was planning to start up the blog again after I attended 7th or 8th (really should've saved the ticket stubs) DMB show on Tuesday, giving me something both current and classic (in the sense that I've listened to those guys forever) to write about, but I've received a very rare Yesternow request, all of which I try to honor, to write about my play being performed. I have less to say about that at this point than maybe I should, but this is a chance to complete a perhaps overdue miscellaneous post prior to Tuesday's show.

Again, this took place well over a month ago, so excuse my skimming, it's not exactly all a blur, but obviously it's not as fresh as it once was. I can't speak about the play without mentioning the week before when Steve Murillo blew into PA on a train in which we have many a memory. It was great to see him again for the first time in months, which is pretty significant considering we grew up in the same town and by genuine accident, wound up going to the same college (I decided first, for the record) and out of convenience and not wanting to risk the crap chute that is the freshman roommate pool, lived together for what turned out to be four years. It's amazing what kind of a bond is between us now that I'm sure to which a great many people can relate. Living with someone for any extended period of time is going to have its ups and downs and Steve and I were certainly no exception to that rule, but I look back on that time now and realize there's no one I'd rather have made the journey with and it's genuinely amazing how much deeper and stronger our friendship is as a result.

Over the years, like with most friends, Steve and I have developed a sort of shorthand communication with each other that centers around inside jokes, and at this point, kind of just body language and different grunts, which is a little scary. I only bring up the previous paragraphs to give Steve a bit of a nod, but also to provide some perspective on how long it had been since we'd seen each other. Anyway, what I've taken three paragraphs to say is that I recall three separate instances during our time with our friends in York where the room kind of stopped what it was doing and just kind of stared at Steve's and my semi-alcohol fueled gibberish and, I can only imagine, wondered what else was in the can we were sipping. Our only response was, "its been awhile." I certainly look forward to catching up with him again, even at the expense of some more quizzical looks.

Fast forward to the following weekend and it was showtime. Friends and family from all over the area came into York for the premiere, if you will, including some friends from my then workplace, Lord Baltimore and Lauren, Jamin and Brit, Sharnell and Jess, the illustrious Gloves, my parents, and too many others to name that were still on campus. Also, a bunch of cats out of the area called to wish me well. It meant a lot that they took the time to share the experience with me.

The show itself was phenomenal, to see something you wrote with (obviously) your own vision come to life and notice those subtle differences where cast and director make the play their own is immensely intriguing. I think the most rewarding feeling was the fact that people seemed to like it. I realize that I'm kind of on an island with a lot of my humor. Rich Arleo said it best the other day when he said, the little obscure things that people chuckle at tear you up." I was a little concerned that my wordplay and reference centered humor wouldn't translate well to a stage accustomed to plays centered around swear words, Twilight, and York references. Turns out people dug the show just fine and to hear them laugh as hard as I did/was was a real confidence boost.

Now, I've been fortunate enough to do my fair share of performing with music and acting throughout my years and the praise I've gotten from that has been humbling and (let's be honest) feels awesome, I'm only human. With that said, to have people pull me aside to compliment my writing in various fashions and ways probably one of the best feelings of my life. To have my writing acknowledged by circles outside of my friends and writing was absolutely unreal and kind of a dream come true. I won't be getting into specifics, but I will mention one instance where someone was talking about the show with Doug Forrester and saying how much they liked it and it was uniquely funny etc. and Doug said something to the effect of "Yeah, Poli's a pretty... pretty funny guy. I can only imagine the kind of humor that's in that... in that play" in a tone that was neither derogatory or complimentary. That was one of those "obscure" humor moments that tore me up.

Back to the present, upon my arrival home, I was pretty fortunate to land a job as a waiter at a local restaurant. As relieved as I was to have work, it turns out that most of the business they received was at the bar rather than at tables. I had days where I went into work and had no tables, which meant that I was essentially working all day (about a collective hour of which, I admit, I spent standing around) for about 20 bucks. I have next to nothing bad to say about the experience and my bosses, and if life were all loyalty, I'd have stayed there to help them out as a thank you for the opportunity, but the bottom line is that I'm no longer 16 and have bills to pay. Unfortunately, I had to leave the job upon getting another one at the local Stop and Shop (where the money is at least consistent). Until two months ago, I'd never left a job until the seasonal work was done, or the place was out of business and suddenly I've left two jobs in as many months. It was a strange feeling to have to leave the restaurant out of necessity. We did, of course, cut ties on good terms, but nonetheless, I've never left a job where they physically kind of needed me there and I couldn't reciprocate that feeling. I feel terrible about the situation. It was kind of one of the few decisions I've had to make to kind of be selfish and look out for myself. As much as I feel bad, there was no other decision to be made.

So, I've moved on to Stop and Shop, where you see the best, worst and strangest in people. To be honest, the job is a little tedious, but the time flies and in my opinion, it's kind of everything you could want in a job that's not going to become your career. With the exception of screwing up one of the three checks I've been given at the register and taking a day and a half to ring up a balloon because the customer was gripping it by the proper bar code. (One of those moments where I gave her a heck of a look that said "C'mon lady, I know that's on me, but you could have met me halfway on that one.") the job is going well, and at the risk of sounding complacent, I'm kind of content with riding out this job and my camp gig until September before hopefully moving to round 2 with the real world college degree job. As I mentioned, I see some spectacles in there that I'm sure will inspire many a post in the future.

It's a great gig where you get to vibe with people a bit, I had a great conversation with the black guy who popped in and we somehow we got caught up in a running joke about making sure the bags stayed kosher and we both laughed near to tears leaving these two high school girls (and this guy's wife) to look at us like we were nuts. Then there was one kid who was a little old to be sitting in the shopping cart and when it comes time to pack the cart with the groceries, his mother tells me to "pack around him" so I'm literally stacking various perishable foods around and eventually on this kid while he's indifferently playing his game boy. Strange.

Then there was nearly a fight on my line when this one woman kept asking me questions while not helping me bag the groceries I'd been scanning. The woman to here right suddenly legit shouts "Jesus Christ, let's go!" For a brief moment, I thought she was yelling at me and Lord knows what I would have done as I'm fielding this woman's rather inane questions. It turns out she was pissed at the questioner for not helping me bag was seeing red because this woman was leaving me to do all the work (not that it's hard) and on top of that kept interrupting me. Fortunately, the other woman (out of fear, I'm positive) ignored the situation and went about her day eventually, but I almost got caught up spectating as these women came to blows. The woman after the questioner wished me luck as she helped me bag and was a lot more ticked by the lack of help than I was. Nonetheless, I appreciate the support.

Finally, on what turned out to be my last day of training, I'm paired with this woman who seems nice enough, but really didn't say much. Partially, I think, because while not really the fastest yet, I largely knew what I was doing at the register, and partially for lack of social caring. Anyway I'm checking away and out of the corner of my eye, I notice this woman getting whiter and whiter. It was like the opposite of tanning. I keep glancing over intermittently and, lo and behold, after a couple of minutes I hear the wretch and splash that can only mean one thing. This woman has hurled. This has, embarrassingly enough, happened in front of everyone, including my superiors, so I don't feel the need to report that this has taken place. I just kind stare at the scene for a couple seconds and then resume checking the items. I resist every impulse I've ever had and DON'T call out "clean up on aisle five!" A true test of self-control, by the way. (I figure I'll wait until I'm in the union to make those jokes) and carry on as usual. About 20 minutes later, a manager comes by and seems shocked that I'm working by myself and she says she had no idea no one had stepped in for the fallen soldier and as a result, I no longer had to train.  You know the old adage, one woman's misfortune is another man's ticket to his own register password.

Special edition post tomorrow. Other than that, see you Wednesday.

Song of the Day: Don't Forget-Brett Dennen
Jazz Song of the Day: Turning Into Blue-Gretchen Parlato