The early bird gets the girl

Just got an email from a flower shop where I’ve purchased blooms before — for a birthday, for Valentine’s Day, for Christmas, for no special reason. The email is an ad for Valentine’s Day bouquets. It advises (or warns) that “The Early Bird Gets the Girl” and suggests I order red roses right away. The featured bouquets: “Forever Beloved,” “P.S. I Love You” and “Be My Love.” No, I won’t be ordering those — and not “Hugs and Kisses,” “Heart and Soul” and “Love’s Divine” either. Maybe the “Always on My Mind” arrangement? No, best to send a song…the great Steve Earle’s not sending flowers…he’s singing that he’s never been “Lonelier Than This”….

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A party for Pete

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Yes, I’m talkin’ Pete Seeger. No, I’m not talkin’ about the Communist Party or the Wobblies or any of those sorts of parties and movements. I’m talking about how there will be a movement of about 19,000 people into Madison Square Garden on Sunday, May 3, when dozens of great musicians will gather to celebrate the amazing Mr. Seeger’s 90th birthday!

Some of the performers who will be on hand to honor Pete:
Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews, Eddie Vedder, John Mellencamp, Ani DiFranco, Bela Fleck, Ben Harper, Billy Bragg, Bruce Cockburn, Emmylou Harris, Joan Baez, Kris Kristofferson, Ramblin’ Jack, Richie Havens, Steve Earle, Taj Mahal, Dar Williams, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Tom Paxton, Toshi Reagon, Pete’s grandson Tao Rodriguez-Seeger…and, of course, Arlo Guthrie.

Limited ticket sales began today (March 23) and general ticket sales begin next Monday, March 30. Tickets are pricey — the good seats are hundreds of dollars and even the cheap seats are $90 each (for Pete’s 90th birthday). But proceeds from the show will benefit a great cause — the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, which set sail more than three decades ago — stewarded by Pete Seeger — to protect and restore Pete’s beloved Hudson River and other waterways.

Here’s a video of Arlo singing Pete’s great song “Golden River:”

The Clearwater movement’s close to my heart since I grew up on the New York side of the Hudson River. As for Pete, one of the highlights of my life was meeting Pete years ago and having the honor of hosting him as he performed two benefit shows — about 10 years ago, when he was a young buck of about 80 years old — to raise money for a charity I’d started called the Delaware Valley Holiday Fund. Pete, grandson Tao and Pete’s beautiful wife Toshi drove all the down from Beacon, N.Y., to western New Jersey, put on a show in a packed high-school auditorium, then drove right back home to Beacon, and the only compensation they received was a basket full of sandwiches and fruit and cakes to sustain them for that long drive back to their home up on the Hudson. A year later, Pete and Toshi were back, doing another benefit show for our charity, this time outdoors, once again free-of-charge, at a park in Pennsylvania along the Delaware River.

This is what Pete Seeger’s been doing for 90 years. Helping people, fighting for justice, singing songs of peace, dispelling hate and spreading love. Happy birthday, Pete!

Who was that man in the white-striped pants and the black Zorro hat?

Here’s the set list from Bob Dylan’s performance on Sunday, Aug. 17, at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center:

  1. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
  2. It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue
  3. Rollin’ And Tumblin’
  4. Desolation Row
  5. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
  6. Million Miles
  7. Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)
  8. Highway 61 Revisited
  9. I Believe In You
  10. It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)
  11. When the Deal Goes Down
  12. Thunder On The Mountain
  13. Ballad Of A Thin Man
  14. Like A Rolling Stone
  15. Blowin’ In The Wind

My son and I pretty much agreed on our reaction to Dylan’s show — this after seeing him perform twice in Philadelphia in recent years: He’s still great, he’s still Bob Dylan…but probably one-third of his performances were fair-to-poor, in part because he’s singing songs he just can’t and shouldn’t sing anymore, in part because someone needs to figure out how to tweak arena sound systems to tone down and smooth out Dylan’s vocals, and in part because the black pants with the white stripes on the side and black Zorro hat are starting to lose their charm…

Anyway, “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat,”  “Million Miles,” “I Believe in You,” “When the Deal Goes Down,” “Thunder on the Mountain” and “Ballad of a Thin Man” were pretty good. All of the other songs were either pretty much just OK or pretty much really sucked (“It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” was especially hard to endure).

An old friend, as it happens, went to see Mr. Dylan perform a few days earlier, at the Foxwoods casino in Connecticut. The set list for that show sounds a little more inspiring and intriguing:

  1. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
  2. The Times They Are A-Changin’
  3. Things Have Changed
  4. I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight
  5. Can’t Wait
  6. Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)
  7. High Water (for Charlie Patton)
  8. Chimes Of Freedom
  9. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
  10. I Believe In You
  11. Honest With Me
  12. Just Like A Woman
  13. ‘Til I Fell In Love With You
  14. Nettie Moore
  15. Thunder On The Mountain
  16. Like A Rolling Stone
  17. All Along The Watchtower

In any event, she describes her experience with a little more charity: Nice concert. He still can sing, but not a lot of interaction with the audience. It was hard to hear the words. Could have been how loud the music was or because we were in front of massive speakers. It was a spur of the moment tickets, but an enjoyable evening.

Another thing working against Dylan at Saratoga Springs: He walked out on stage eight hours into a festival that had already featured good performances by Steve Earle, Raul Malo and Gillian Welch, very impressive and very memorable performances by Conor Oberst and his Mystic Valley Band and Glen Hansard and The Swell Season, and an absolutely transcendent performance by Levon Helm and his band.

In the interest of fairness, though, here are links to mostly complimentary reviews that appeared next day in a couple of local newspapers:

http://www.dailygazette.com/news/2008/aug/18/bands-keep-songs-coming-fast-spac-music-festival/ 

and

http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080818/ENT04/80818006
 

A final note: The reporter for the Poughkeepsie Journal writes very entertainingly about how the performers all hung out near the stage and interacted with the audience. Very true and very accurate: Gillian Welch was right out there in a side aisle after her show, chatting with fans, and so was Glen Hansard. And Conor Oberst and friends were indeed hanging out right near where we were sitting for most of the performances by Helm and Dylan, clearly enthralled. AND I did indeed see Dylan’s tour bus pull up and thought I spotted the man himself — but not a clear and confirmed sighting (right down to the sidestripes on the pants!) like the one reported by John W. Barry.