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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sky Blue Sky

Happy Sunday, friends. It's been a while. The last couple of weeks have been filled with all kinds of little adventures.

It seems to me that any time there's either something you look back on fondly, there's a song or an album that will take you back to it. I'm not sure, but if I had to guess, it'd be the song What Light from Wilco's new album Sky Blue Sky.

"What Light"
If you feel like singing a song
And you want other people to sing along
Just sing what you feel
Don’t let anyone say it’s wrong

And if you’re trying to paint a picture
But you’re not sure which colors belong
Just paint what you see
Don’t let anyone say it’s wrong

And if you’re strung out like a kite
Or stung awake in the night
It’s alright to be frightened

When there’s a light (what light)
There’s a light (one light)
There’s a light (white light)
Inside of you

If you think you might need somebody
To pick you up when you drag
Don’t loose sight of yourself
Don’t let anyone change your bag

And if the whole world’s singing your songs
And all of your paintings have been hung
Just remember what was yours is everyone’s from now on

And that’s not wrong or right
But you can struggle with it all you like
You'll only get uptight

Because there’s a light (what light)
There’s a light (one light)
There’s a light (white light)
There’s a light (what light)
There’s a light (one light)
There’s a light (white light)
There’s a light (what light)

This is a good lesson for anybody, if you ask me. If you believe in something, don't be afraid to put it out there loudly for everyone to hear. It reminds me of one of my favorite Dylan lyrics, "I'll tell it & think it & speak it & breathe. I'll reflect from the mountains so all souls can see it. Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinking, & I'll know my song before I start singing." There's more on this song, later.

Anyway, on to the proceedings. I took a couple of days off for my birthday, & Christie went well out of her way to make it special. She's quite good at that. Other than getting me this fancy Ipod contraption, which is just the coolest thing since sliced bread, she also arranged for us & some of my best friends to go to the Tiger's game on July 3rd. Go here for pictures. We had incredible seats & it was a great game, even though the Tigers couldn't come through with a victory despite having the bases loaded & only one out in the tenth. It was exciting to see a game that meant something to go into extra innings. It was a great time, & it was great to see my friends from Detroit for the first time in a long time.

On the fourth we watched the obligatory fireworks in downtown Grand Haven with Jr & Debbie, then it was back to work for a few days. On Saturday my Ma & Pa came over for a visit. We went to church & hung out in downtown Grand Haven on Sunday before Christie's parents came over Sunday evening to meet my parents for the first time. The East West Summit, as it came to be known, went off without a hitch, with Christie's dad & my dad swapping stories. This was good because I didn't have to carry the conversation, something I'm not particularly good at.

It was back to work on Monday for a day before Christie & I headed north to Traverse City & Interlochen for the Bob Dylan concert & for some sight-seeing. It doesn't matter what the destination is, I love getting up early in the morning with a big cup of coffee & some music & hitting the road. It was a beautiful drive, you can see the difference in the countryside as soon as you get north of Muskegon. The first place I stopped once we got into Interlochen was the old cottage we used to stay at on Duck Lake. I'm guessing the last time I was there would've probably been 1993 or 1994 & I found it right away. We took some pictures, which I've stolen from Christie's camera that are at the top of the page. The cottage didn't look any different than when I was there as a kid. Maybe there's a different paint color or something, I'm not sure. Oh, & the cows aren't there anymore. When I got to the stairs to walk down to the water the number 37 popped into my head. Sure enough, there were 37 stairs.

We then went downtown Traverse City for some shopping & to go to the Cherry Festival before heading to the Dylan concert at the Interlochen Fine Arts Camp. I'll save my review of the concert for later, to save those of you who don't like reading about those types of things.

The next morning we went to Mabel's for breakfast & then took a walk along the beach on Grand Traverse Bay before heading to the edge of Michigan on Old Mission Peninsula. When I got to the edge of the peninsula I remembered that I'd been there before, but I certainly didn't remember the drive. It's incredible the views you can see from 37 between the two bays. It makes me ashamed that I don't go up there more often. We walked to the very end of the peninsula & hung out at the edge for a while. The water is so blue. It was a beautiful day, although a little chilly to swim. I did put my feet in the water on many occasions, however.

We decided to save the wine tasting for another trip & instead headed down to Frankfort for shopping & lunch. Call me crazy, but Grand Haven has nothing on Frankfort other than more tourists & more condos. In Grand Haven, the water has become so territorial, with developers striving to build on any square inch of land that can even see the water from a distance. It's not that way in Frankfurt, where you can easily see the water from many vantage points. I hope it stays that way.

On the way back south from Frankfurt, I decided to stay on m-22 rather than getting back to the quicker route of taking 31 back to Grand Haven. Little did I know that this is the most beautiful stretch of drive I've ever seen & it goes from Frankfort to Manistee, going past Onekama & Arcadia. Around many corners came the most beautiful views of Lake Michigan & other small lakes.

From there, it was back home & back to real life. I suppose you could call it a vacation, although it was only two days. I could've stayed up there much longer.

Anyway, on to the show...

It was pretty incredible to see Bob Dylan in such a small town, & the Interlochen Fine Arts Camp was a perfect venue for a show. It wasn't overcrowded, the parking was free, it was easy to get in & out & the staff was very friendly. You could hear a jazz band practicing in one of the cabins on the walk towards the auditorium. The students still wear the blue uniforms that they did when I saw them 15 years ago. It's a wonderful little wooded campus, with many small wooden cabins & unobtrusive buildings that don't take away from the wooded landscape.

This was the first time I've dragged Christie to see Bob in concert, & it was interesting to hear her perspective.

Before heading in to find our seats, I saw Denny Freeman, lead guitarist for Dylan's band, casually chatting with a fan. I fought the urge to talk to him about the tour & what it's like to play with Bob, although maybe I regret it. Oh well.

Our seats were towards the back, but there weren't any bad seats in the house. Jimmy Vaughan opened with his band. He's an excellent guitar player with a competent band, but his slick blues sound doesn't do much for me. As a performer, he's the opposite of Bob, talking to the audience quite a bit, & making gestures on stage that go along with the songs he's singing. The rains started pouring down during his set & the people who were on the right side of the stage got drenched as the wind blew in & the water came in off the roof. It was the student section, however, & they loved every minute of it, dancing along to the songs. Jimmy then played his late brother Stevie Ray's song, Texas Flood, which was recieved well from the audience.

The rain let up after Jimmy Vaughan's set, & the stage was set for Bob, complete with black drapes over the side of the stage so you couldn't see Bob & his band walking from their bus to the stage, which backed right up to Green Lake. You could see the lake & the stage at the same time.

The band came on & started playing Cat's in a Well, with Bob on electric guitar. It was a good start to the show, & it was great to see Bob on guitar again after five years. Don't Think Twice (It's Alright) is one of the songs that got me interested in Bob's concerts a long time ago, the way his voice would drop as he sang "it's alllllllllll-right". This one, however, wasn't very good. Bob flubbed the first few lines, & again later in the song. His guitar seemed to be behind the band.

Things got better with Watching the River Flow. Bob sang it very strongly, I was struck especially by the line "I wish I was back in the city, instead of this ol' bank of sand, with the sun beatin' down off the chimney top & my true love so close at hand". About this time, you could see canoe's & pontoon boats anchored on Green Lake, enjoying the show. Not a bad place to sit & listen to a show, if you ask me. Next came a masterful version of It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding). I was looking forward to hearing this with the new arrangement which really brought this song back to life. Bob sped through each line in order that he could really stretch out the last word of each line. It worked to great effect.

To Ramona is a song where I love the lyrics but hate the melody, the lilting up & down kind of gives it a circus feeling. It was a good surprise, though, as I've never seen him play this live & it was quite good. The thing that makes Bob Dylan concerts such a thrill for me is the fact that he's got this huge catalog of songs which works as a tapestry to play & sing these songs with vastly different arrangements & vocal mannerisms. You never hear a song sung the same way, he always changes up the pace of each line & the emphasis of each word so that its always on the edge. This version was a great example of this. Rollin' & Tumblin' was the first song played from Modern Times, & he was back on the organ. It's probably the worst song off the album, & it didn't interest me too much, but the crowd was into it. He flubbed up the funniest lyric from the song, "some young lazy slut has charmed away my brain". Another song from Modern Times was next, When the Deal Goes Down. The song bores me on the album, but hearing it live is another story. It's a slow, sleepy song whose melody reminds me of one of those Country Time Lemonade commercials, but the lyrics are something else entirely. I think this song is about the connections & promises people make to each other, in the face of trials & hardships, & knowing how difficult & rewarding those promises will be. This song got the best reception from the crowd. A slow, sleepy song for a slow, sleepy town.

Honest With Me was performed very well, as always, although it's not one of my favorites. It works better to be played only once in awhile rather than at every show. Bob's a funny guy. As soon as the sun was out & the rain had stopped, he played a majestic version of A Hard Rain's a Gonna Fall another first for me. I still have goosebumps from the last verse, which he always puts careful emphasis & energy into. Consequently, this was the first song that Christie recognized. This was definitely the highlight of the evening for me. The energy kept going with Tangled Up in Blue, however, once again Bob flubbed up a couple lines in this song, & is often the case, did his best to make up for it with a great harp solo to end it. Unfortunately, it was a train wreck. Highway 61 Revisited was next, & since I hear it at every show, I suppose it sounded okay from the can.

I was hoping to hear Bob play Ain't Talkin', but instead he played one of the best versions of Nettie Moore I've ever heard. It's incredible how much care he puts into the lyrics of this song. This is probably rude of me to say, but during the song, somebody came riding in one of those rascal thing past us up the hill to exit the theater, & just as he passed us Bob sang the lyric, "I'm riding with you to the top of the hill". It was merely a coincidence, & I think I'm the only person who found it funny, but so it goes. The next song was Summer Days, which is usually a crowd pleaser but it doesn't do much for me. All Along the Watchtower was next, which he plays at every show, but the crowd loved it, & it sounded better than usual.

The encores began with an awful version of Thunder on the Mountain. Something went seriously wrong, here. The rythmn guitar player didn't play at all, & one of the instrumental breaks lasted for several minutes & Bob just stood in front of his organ pacing back & forth. Later, he mentioned something to Donnie Herron, the steel guitar player, & finally one of the techs came out & did something to his organ so it worked again. The last song of the evening was a carnival version of Blowin' in the Wind, which I haven't heard in years. He kicked it off with a great harp solo. When he started singing "the answer my friend..." his voice was so high that it sounded like every bad impression of Bob Dylan I've ever heard with that high pitched wheeze. It was quite comical, & somehow it worked. The band stood in front of the crowd's applause & then they were off.

Christie had a slightly different view of the concert. She found it odd that people didn't stand through the show, or singalong or that Bob never talked to the audience other than to introduce the band. Bob Dylan concerts are very strange events, & they never get old for me.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Hate it Here-Wilco, Sky Blue Sky

What Light-Wilco, Sky Blue Sky

Either Way-Wilco, Sky Blue Sky

Canadee-i-o-John Wesley Harding, Trad Arr Jones

Half an Acre-HEM

The perfect song for a trip up north.

If you read this far, thanks for reading, friends...



Heidi said...

Thanks for the recap! I'm glad you had a good time. I'm sure Mom told you that she and Joyce have rented the old place for a big reunion next summer. Should be fun!!!

Mary said...

I love Franfort. It is my favorite spot up north. We have rented the condos there many times. Sounds as though Bob Dylan was quite good. He came to the Toledo Zoo and the write up in the paper was quite good although no where as discriptive as yours.

Joyce said...

I read and enjoyced every word, now I'm going to go back and read it again. I must be one of very few people that reread good blogs like people replay good songs.

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Grand Haven, Michigan
the sun shines on a dog's ass every now & then...