Sunday, November 05, 2006

PaniCast #26 Midwest Madness

Midwest midweek midlife crisis madness!

This week we feature highlights from the band's recent journey through the western upper midwest - Ames > Sioux Falls, SD > Omaha.

There is so much to bring to you this week that I am experimenting with a 2 hour cast - hopefully this works for everyone - we will see, thanks for your patience.

Here's what you will hear this week:

10/24/06 C.Y. Stephens Auditorium Ames, IA
Let's Get the Show on the Road
Walk On

10/25/06 Husby Performing Arts Center, Sioux Falls, SD
Greta >
Riders on the storm tease >
Nobody's Fault But Mine

10/26/06 Omaha Music Hall, Omaha, NE
Papa Legba >
Disco >
One Armed Steve >
Imitation Leather Shoes
Holden Oversoul
Time is Free
Vampire Blues >
Knocking Around the Zoo

I ended up driving by myself from the plains of Colorado through Nebraska to Des Moines. I left before dawn and had already been on the road for about two hours when the sun finally rose directly in front of the hood of my Honda, floating for a second like an interstellar hood ornament. The flats of Colorado and Nebraska gave way to the gentle river formed hills of western Iowa. I had the fortune of being able to stay with family in Des Moines which gave me the opportunity to take my nephew Nolan to the Ames show.
Nolan Strauss

We drove up a little early so we could eat some dinner at People's Bar and Grill. This notorious venue was visited by Widespread twice in the early ninties, including one stop in 1994 to play for 100 people or so. The food was okay - I had a burger that was decent barfare but the salad was limp and there was NO SOAP in the men's bathroom - inexcusable. I think People's may have seen better days unfortunately.

It was chilly outside, with a crisp breeze and overcast skies. Despite the chill the Iowa fans had set up a pretty decent shakedown in the lot, with food, beverages, shirts, stickers - I even saw some used books! After a celebratory Sammy Smith's Oatmeal stout, a tradition of mine that goes back fifteen years, I was ready to start the musical chapter of my tour.

This was a reserved show and I was able to secure a sixth row ticket that was nearly centered in this funky cement auditorium. There was something about this place that reminded me of an elegant post-modern silo. I ended up in the same row as Bobby Hanson... a guy that Lisa and I met at a Grateful Dead show in 1995 and then ran into at various random midwest jam band events. It was good to see him although I bone-headedly forgot who he was. Sorry Bobby.

Show time and the band worked out some standards like Can't Get High and Better Off. And man was it LOUD! I felt the playing for this set was a little tentative, but maybe that was just me. This being my first Jimmy show I was mainly paying attention to the interplay between the players. All in all the band was hanging together really well. However, with the exception of a a few small jams, they never really took flight during that first set. Fishwater opened the second set and gave me a very good glimpse of what occurs when the band turns Jimmy loose on a jam. He solos with an such an unrelenting brilliance it is sometimes hard to remember he's only been playing this band for a few weeks.

They turn the corner out of drums into Space Wrangler. The main 'theme' of the song came around and it was time for Jimmy to step up to play that recognizable melody. You could see him lock into the bassline and feel him counting off in his head - and a few of those times he almost missed his cue and would catch Dave staring at him. I am not sure if Dave was givin him googly eyes or what but Jimmy would crack a smile and giggle as he played that signature melody. Even when this guy is missing cues he is having fun and the music doesn't suffer.

The highlight of the second set was the Let's Get the Show on the Road, which was beautifully played and really forced the band to jam, listen, and decide on the fly where to jump back in around Jimmy's solos. The Walkin' featured the hard stop which brought a HUGE smile to my face...

And I kept smiling right through the encore. Expiration Day is one of my favorite Vic covers - there is something about JB belting out the line "I love my job" that once again reminds me that this band's working-man's ethic is something I've always identified with. Walk On was the final song of the show and the highlight for me. Lisa loves this tune and I found myself thinking of her as I boogied and shook. I think Nolan had a good time and I think I even caught him shaking it a couple of times!

We got back to the homestead around 11:30 and I updated the website with the setlist and chatted online with the folks at PanicStream... some dude who's handle is "threef" had obviously been there too and we traded tid bits about the show for the benefit of those in far-flung places who could not make the show.

The next morning I was picking up Whim Marsh in Omaha, so I got on the road early, around 8:30. I've written previously in this blog about my brother Daniel and his amazing ability to drive extremely long distances solo. Well Whim is this week's tour stud. I ran into him in the Verizon store in Longmont and convinced him that he should come with me to the Omaha and Sioux Falls shows. He took the Amtrak from Denver to meet me in downtown Omaha. I knew the plan was going to work when I got a voice mail from him; "Captain Panic, this is sergeant Widespread, reporting for duty, on the ground in Omaha!"

Being in Omaha afforded us the opportunity to check into our hotel before making the three hour drive to Sioux Falls. That's right, for reasons I am not going to go into here, we were going to spend the night in Omaha after the Sioux Falls show, which means we would have to drive the three hours south AFTER the show... In the end it all ends up being worth it though, trust me!

We drove directly north across the flat vast fields of extreme westen Iowa. Our conversation helped the road fly by and before we knew it we were standing outside the venue staring at the band's buses.

We both needed lunch so we wandered down the hill to an old section of town - we asked a meter maid where we could get a bite to eat and once the word "diner" came out of her mouth we knew where we were going.

I had a chocolate malt, corn chowder, salad, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and fried chicken fingers. I was READY for a show now!

Chocolate Shake for Whim

We hooked up with my old friend Garrie, who got us access to the venue to watch the soundcheck and drink a tallboy. There were other fans there for the soundcheck, leading me to believe there was some sort of local contest held through a local radio station. It was cool to see John Keane sing the vocals to Woodstock and the band played two tunes and left the stage - I think JB said "This is the first time we've had anyone dancing at a soundcheck," a statement I am sure is not true.

I found out later that the band wanted to soundcheck halloween songs without fans there. I don't blame them but part of me really regrets not trying HARDER to stick around.

Whim and I stop for a beer and finish our first one at about 5:50. Doors are at 6:00. Shall we stay for a beer or go and try for good seats? It is a GA show and so we opt for the seats. On entry to the venue we discover that the orchetra pit is going to be restricted to the first 30 or 40 people who get wrist bands. I am first in the pit and spy two seats in the front row in front of Dave. It is a sign. I'm not one who has spent alot of time in the front row - maybe one show in the past 14 years. This was going to be a treat. I look back into the theater just before show time... there's maybe 550 people there. The balcony is empty. I love small town shows!

Sioux Falls 10 minutes before show time

They open with Pigeons - always a favorite of mine in the opening spot. The boys are smoking the jam and turn the corner into Who Do You Belong To? Are you kidding? Is this a rhetorical question? The boys are on and we can feel it. Time Waits (Body and Soul) was a great treat for a slow song before JoJo kicks out a killer Greta and the band prepares for flight...

As they wail away Dave and JoJo hook up to change the tempo and a Riders on the Storm tease gives way to a Nobody's Fault but Mine! A huge treat in the first set, this song left me standing there realizing that this trip was worth it and we still had two hours of music and another venue to go!

Second set includes some great jamming out of Second Skin and Low Spark but Surprise Valley still needs work to be able to compete with this anthem's former glory. One funny moment was watching Dave wait impatiently for Sunny to finish an impromptu drum solo after Low Spark. And I think that gave him too much time to think because he ended up botching the reentry into Surprise... Oh well, once they got it going again all was forgiven. C. Brown was a surprise in the late second set and Radio Child brought us home, the band firing on all cylinders.

The band returned to the stage for the encore but JB was missing. JoJo starts noodling on the organ, preparing for Pieces, and JB finally shows. Dave grabs some flowers that a fan had given him from his stack and turns and presents them to JB. Laughs and fake awkward hugs motivates JoJo to make kissy sounds in the mic.

The show is done at 10:30 sharp! We make the drive back to Omaha arriving around 1:30 am with just one wrong turn, but without noteworthy incident. With the lyrics "...if I don't pray my soul'll be lost..." ringing in our ears we settle in for a well deseved sleep.

We wake around 9 and head out for breakfast - should we eat in the hotel or at "The Diner" up the way? Of course, The Diner wins. Great greasy diner food is exactly what I needed. We walked back to our room and took a nap. Around 3 pm we rousted ourselves, I took a shower and put on my lucky Houser shirt. We walked up the hill to see where the venue was. Our hopes to meet up with Garrie early are dashed as he informs me that they are going to soundcheck for halloween... oh, to be a fly on the wall to hear that Morning Dew getting practiced...

Waiting for the show with my lucky Houser t-shirt on

Back at the hotel we run into Adam Stern and his buddy John and we join forces for dinner. We find a brewpub in the old town district and eat a solid meal before show time. We talk about the break up of Polytoxic due to the departure of CR Gruver to join Outformation. Breaks my heart to hear that this amazing three piece band has broken up.

Show time is looming and again Whim and I are faced with a dilemna; stay and have another drink or go to the venue for doors to see if we can secure a spot up close. Wisely we choose doors and for the second night in a row are on the rail in front of Dave. We help Garrie celebrate his birthday with a tequila margarita - emphasis on tequila! Garrie is such a great guy. He's always been so accommodating and happy to make conversation. On this night he is celebrating and in high spirits. Back out front to hold down our spots where I discover we are standing next to Fritz, Tom Coe, and a woman whose name escapes me wearing an "Iowa Women Rock" t-shirt, so the company is good. Show time and Sunny starts everything off with a plea to the crowd to sing Happy Birthday for Garrie, a request they oblige happily and with gusto. Sunny breaks out the diggerido and we are rocking in Papa Legba. The first half of the first set kicks some serious ass. I see Garrie, possibly during Disco, flashing googly eyes, a tongue and goofy ears at Jimmy - which sends Jimmy into hysterics. Each song is tight, not quite perfect but verging so close I forget where I am for a little while. The music is moving my body now and my mind is just a passenger. I find myself sweating and extremely thirsty as the band starts playing Papa Johnny Road, so I decide to get a beer for Whim and I. Bad decision. Not only does it take 15 minutes to get the damn beer the band plays a good 1/2 of Arlene before I can get back to my spot. Oh well - some times you've got to take one for the team!

The Arlene is epic. I've listened to it multiple times since the trip and it is definitely recommended listening. I set my beer on the stage in front of me and write another song down on my setlist. The security comes over and tells me to get it off the stage, I respect his demand, but return it there once the next song gets going. It's a game we'll play all night. Christmas Katie calls us 'Dancers' and insured that the good times would last all night. Jack was next and made me miss my little boy back home - and as they raged another monster jam I could feel the Chilly Water coming... I could see JoJo smiling ear to ear, then Dave turning to face Jimmy, JB saunters over close to Jimmy bobbing his head in appreciation, Todd was ripping through snare drums and Sunny is just getting down. Tom Coe and I trade using each other's shoulder to jump with glee into the air. Big crescendo, Candace's lights paint backgrounds while Jimmy's leaning back in mid-solo, smiling.

Setbreak I hook up with Garrie again to give him a final thank you. Another tallboy and I am ready for the second round. As Dave comes out on stage I am probably a little too tipsy but have decided the time has come... "Dark Star!" I scream. "Dark Star!" again, just for good measure. He's only eight feet away and I'm screaming like he's across the room - that darn tequila really highlights my idiot tendencies!

Rock gets us off to a great start but I wasn't really feeling it during the Stop Breaking Down and Time Zones. You Got Yours was one that I'd wanted to hear since it's return and here it was in all it's glory. Keane does such a great job with the leads on this, plus they nailed the tempo changes.

I hear JB steering the jam, harmonics and a couple strums and Driving Song. Are you kidding me? In the end I drove 1900 miles for these three shows, so in my own head this was my anthem. Into a nice, rollicking, Holden Oversoul. Giant Jam. Mellow Jam. Dark Star Jam! Another jam after that... into another underappreciated drums. Out of drums into, TIME IS FREE. This song is one of my favorites. It is so minimal, it feels like the tension built during a primal scream. The insistent bass line. The eerie lyrics; "Do you recall the day we all stopped to ask the question 'why?'" About half way though this song, JoJo starts playing the Chorus of the Bells, the band turns a corner and they are flying. Huge souring leads by Dave and Jimmy send this thing into overdrive. Dave and Jimmy were trading licks and looks, and my trip had just paid off in spades. Give ended with a bang while I crushed my hands clapping.

Vampire Blues got me thinking about all the damn gas I consumed on this trip but Knockin' Around the Zoo kept us rocking right out the back door. Amazing. Blown away. Speechless, I joined a crew of guys for some after show shenanigans.

I woke the next morning wishing I could sleep for another three hours, fortunately Whim got us on the road and pointed west. That afternoon, as we watched the sun set behind Long's Peak, looking like an interstellar hood ornament, Whim and I joked about keeping the car pointed west. Just keep driving and we'd be in Vegas. We both belly laugh at the idea, each secretly nodding to the reality we were about to return to. We were getting one of those sunsets that keeps getting more intense, changing it's colors and our lighting. I've done enough musical road trips to know that there is a diminishing return at some point; the fact that the journey is so enjoyable has as much to do with the departure from reality it represents as the 'events' being attended. Damn, why do I need to be so experienced and responsible? Just keep driving, chasing that star dancing on the horizon.

I am a 37 year old husband and father and who do I belong to?
Depends on who I'm with.

Let me know what you think about the Cast by clicking 'Comment' below!
THANKS for listening!

Get the cast here:
Everyday Companion Podcast #26

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