SHARING THE SHOWS
Rush: Cinema Strangiato - Director's Cut - Regal Rockville Center - Rockville, MD - September 9, 2021
When I was doing my morning stretches on Labor Day, I checked my phone to see an ad for a screening of the new director’s cut of Rush: Cinema Strangiato. I decided it was important for me to give myself a fun thing to do, so there I went. I had seen it two years earlier with Maggie (8/21/19), but why not see it again? I didn’t see Rush enough when they toured. And it would give me an excuse to explore more of the DMV.
After a particularly trying day at work, I was psyched to hop the Metro up to Rockville, MD, where upon my exit from the train, I was met with Giuseppe’s Pizza Plus, who promoted an appealing special: two NY-style slices and a soda for $6. Sold! It wasn’t La Gondola or Tarantella, but it was the closest thing I’ve had to a good NY-style slice since I’ve been here. When I passed the theater’s concession stand, I tried to resist but was immediately drawn in by a box of Butterfinger Bites.
I was in the first one in the theater, but soon after, I was met by another male solo viewer (I tried to invite my new friends, Stephen and John, but alas, they’re not Rush fans!). And then a female. Both who seen Rush live thirty-two and thirty-five times, respectively. There were a couple of families, a few groups of friends, what appeared to be a couple, and a lot of solo viewers, which gave me a nice sense of community. There are many loners (myself included) among us Rush fans, and I’ve often felt like that kid in the “Subdivisions” video, even as an adult.
After what felt like about an hour of commercials (a line I wrote the last time I saw this; Homer Simpson’s cries of “Start the movie!” came to mind), we were finally greeted by that Jacob’s Ladder” soundcheck. Some new songs in this version included “Animate” (the first Rush song I ever heard after I purchased Counterparts), “One Little Victory” and “Red Barchetta.”
As I’ve read through my post from the last viewing of this, it’s mostly the same film, so I won’t highlight everything, but it felt like I got zapped with one of those ray guns from Men in Black and was seeing it for the first time. I stayed until the end credits, which consisted of what appeared to be a motorcycle ride from Neal Peart’s POV (may he Rest in Peace). The last shot was a graphic that read “See You Next Year!”
You’d better not be teasing us! We can’t just “roll the bones” on that one.
So after JRAD, I decided it was essential for my well-being to get tickets for the Allman Others Band/Better Off Dead show. And after the first week of classes, followed by a day of navigating DMV traffic to shop for myself and Chester, I was even more psyched to get down!
The Metro stop by me was closed due to the Tunnel Ventilation Project, so I got to take a free shuttle down to Dupont Circle (I’m trying to use the phrase “get to” instead of “have to” in order to practice gratitude for the things I have, in this case, the gift of living in a city with awesome public transportation).
In an effort to get more riders onto Metro, it only costs $2 to go anywhere on weekends, which makes me happy, as opposed to that ridiculous $45 parking fee at the Waterfront’s garage. Another gift is the interesting things I see and experience. Tonight, an older black gentleman complimented my T-shirt and expressed regret that he missed out on seeing the Dead back in ’89. He and I talked about how a lot of kids wear band T-shirts (i.e,; Metallica, Pink Floyd) for fashion without actually knowing the bands. When I taught at Hampton, I saw a lot of that, but hey, fashion is fashion, and who knows? Maybe wearing the shirts will one day turn the kids onto that music.
I did my preshow chow at Kirwan’s on the Wharf. I tried haddock chowder, which tasted like the New England kind, but it was just as awesome. I talked with Maggie on the phone as I enjoyed and gave her some tips on her upcoming trip to New York City. I wish I were in her shoes just so I could experience it through the eyes of a tourist for the first time. The main course was a chicken pot pie with mixed greens. The former had some nice chunks of chicken, celery, and carrots, so I felt like I actually ate healthily.
After walking my meal off down the Waterfront, I showed my vaccination card to the bouncers and got inside at promptly 6:30, which is when the Allman Others Band started (as an introvert, I LOVE when shows start and end on time). There were three other people in the room, and of course, that made me ecstatic to have an abundance of dance space. The group was in the opening chords of “Don’t Want You No More” which melded into “It’s Not My Cross To Bear.” “Done Someday Wrong”, “Kind Hearted Woman,” “Dreams, and “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” (which the singer described as a protest song) followed. As I danced, I made a few stray observations: a mother brought her two kids, one of whom had his head in his heads the entire time and couldn’t have looked more bored, and the other who was just walking around in circles. Well…I give her points for trying to turn them onto the tunes; maybe when they become teenagers? Another older gentleman walked around with a cane that looked like a shillelagh, like I used to take hiking. More Brothers’s classics followed (“Blue Sky,” “Trouble No More,” “Stand Back,” “Jessica”, “Revival,” and “Midnight Rider”, the latter being two favs of mine). The guitarist then teased Led Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker” before launching into “One Way Out.” After the crowd’s demand of one more song, they encored with “Soulshine.” During setbreak, we got to hear 70s staples like “We Want the Funk” and “Bounce, Rock, Skate,” and Roll.”
My buddy John showed up just as Better Off Dead busted out a “Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad” opener. The next song “Man Smart Woman Smarter” is one of my favorites because it’s based on science. The singer then commented “It’s been toasty, right?” I’m part of a FB group called I Hate Summer, because, well, I just don’t like this heat at all. Fall and spring are my jams, and I can tolerate winter because it gives me an excuse to read, write, and binge of Netflix. And I’ll brave the cold to go to shows.
The band slowed the tempo with “Loser.” Outside the bathroom, I talked to a guy about last weekend JRAD’s shows and I mentioned having just moved to DC. Another man said, “Oh, so you’re here post-Gypsy Sally’s?” Yep. I would have LOVED to have seen a show there. But hey, plenty of other cool venues, so I move on…
“Jack Straw” and “Stagger Lee,” two more favs, followed. While the latter played, a guy came up to me and said, “I’m afraid to touch people now because of all of these damn masks.” I wore mine, while he didn’t, which is where I now go into my opinion.
DC’s recently placed an indoor mask mandate, which I support due to this new Delta variant. Most of the crowd ignored the mandate (there were maybe about ten of us wearing them out of fifty). The venue wasn’t enforcing it, because I’m guessing the bartenders don’t want to get into it with drunk concertgoers and they figured the vaccine requirement was enough, so I could’ve gotten away with not wearing one. That being said, this variant is affecting vaccinated people, and bands are already cancelling shows because of it (String Cheese Incident and Limp Bizkit, for example). I love being able to go to shows again, and I want to continue to do so, so I wear my mask to protect others. I wish others would do the same, but I’m only one person. I do think the bands could help by wearing them and encouraging their fans to do the same, but I guess that’s wishful thinking.
Anyway, “Peggy-O” slowed things down, but we were perked back up by “Beat It On Down the Line” “Jack-a-Roe” and a “Hard to Handle” closer. During the setbreak, John and I talked about the shows and the possibility of jamming. I played a lot of guitar during the lockdown, but haven’t played as much recently, so playing with another person could be a great thing. At around 10:30, my energy was faded, and the Metro’s last trains were heading home, so I made my way back.
Whenever I’m out, I need at least an hour or two of alone time vegging before I actually head to sleep. So I turned on an episode of this new Netflix miniseries called Clickbait while I munched out on potato chips and chocolate, thus cancelling out my “healthy” dinner. This morning, I’m definitely feeling the burn, but it’s worth it.
Shows are essential to my well-being; that’s what I’ve been missing during the pandemic. Mark came up to me at around 4 p.m., and we took off. The last big show I was at ended with me totaling my last car, so I was apprehensive about driving up to Baltimore, but I decided to face my demons, and conversation with Mark helped.
After negotiating the traffic that characterizes I-495, parts of I-95, and downtown Baltimore, we were able to find a parking space directly across the street from MECU Pavilion. Had we had more time, I would have loved for us to go to Fells Point for some real crab cakes, but we had a little less than an hour till showtime, so we walked to a nearby Chipotle and chowed down on some of their trademark burritos.
From there, we made it to the venue, which overlooks the Inner Harbor. The set started at 7:13, only thirteen minutes after the scheduled start time. The “Alligator” opener got me moving, as did the “St. Stephen” (of which I sent a video to Maggie) and “The Wheel” that followed. Things slowed down with “Row Jimmy,” and that’s when I started yawning. I started work this week, and this is the first time I’ve met with most of my colleagues in person. I also made a presentation on my work to colleagues who I’ve never met, and while it went well, it stressed me out. Combined with the trepidation of this drive to Baltimore, it was a recipe for exhaustion.
Fortunately, the Diet Pepsi I got during setbreak helped perk me back up for Set Two. I was rocking for “The Music Never Stopped” and “Help on the Way,” which went into “Slipknot.” One of the unique things about JRAD, which Mark pointed out, is that they always surprise the audience. They had teases of the Allman Brothers’s “Mountain Jam” and “Jessica”, and I’m sure I heard one of Phish’s “End of Session” (playing a Phish song at a Dead show is sacrilege, habnabit!). In this tease, rather than going into “Franklin’s Tower,” they launched into “Feel Like a Stranger.” They alleviated the tempo with “Peggy-O” and brought the expected “Franklin’s Tower.” “Touch of Grey” closed the set. During this song, an older gentlemen pointed to Mark and said, “That dude’s a maniac!” I said, “I would love to be able to keep up with his energy.” “Impossible,” he said. After the set, I told him to tell Mark what he told me. While that happened, his daughter asked me if I was taking notes, and I informed her about the blog. When she asked for the name, I gave it to her on a piece of paper, and I made a note to myself: carry your new business cards so you can write it on the back whilst getting your business’ name out there.
The encore was new to me, but Mark’s research indicated it was a Bob Dylan cover entitled “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You.” Mark pointed out it was funny because he would be staying at my place with me that night. And then we both laughed for ten minutes. True story.
I was still a little out of it, so Mark helped me out by driving back to DC. We encountered three street racers and an accident on 495 involving two SUVs. Ahhh, the fun of DMV traffic (why I’ve been opting for bicycling and public transportation more and more). We took some munchies back to my place and popped on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on Netflix. So many quotables in that movie (“Bueller…Bueller”), although that scene where Principal Rooney eyes Ferris and Sloane making out has not aged well.
Sunday morning was spent with me getting to know one of Mark’s mountain bikes and now wishing to move beyond Bikesharing (I’ve fallen in love with bicycling since moving to DC) into owning my own bike so I can trail ride (it’s awesome not having to look my shoulder every five seconds for cars). It also included me getting a ticket to a performance of Better Off Dead and the Allman Others Band next Saturday. I’m learning these shows are quite beneficial for my well-being, particularly in a time of transition. Especially when I can take Metro.
Having Mark come over was awesome too, a nice break from the pandemic. The second person to stay at my place (the first being Maggie for Born Cross-Eyed), we caught up on lost times and joked, laughed, and bonded. Those good times rolled.
NOTE: This post is cross-listed with one on my other blog, The Happy Bachelor.
In the spirit of living my best solo life, I decided to take a two-day trip to Baltimore since I have the time “off” during the summer. Friday was spent walking the city, enjoying its crab cakes, and being dazzled by the unconventional artwork at the American Visionary Art Museum. But the real reason for the trip was meeting fellow CoSPer Heather for the Acrocats show, that event where cats do cool tricks like jumping through hoops, walking on balance beams, and even playing instruments!
After hopping the #56 bus to Highlandtown (which seems like the cultural hub of Baltimore), enjoying an Italian sub at DiPasquale’s, I walked over to High Grounds Coffee Roasters, where I did another thing I intended: distributed a few flyers for my coaching business. I had a nice conversation with an older gentleman named Wiley, who asked if I helped with things like ancient writing. I gave him my pitch wherein I tell people I coach the individual writer and what that writer needs, and he revealed he was a student of ancient writing. Very cool.
After reading my newest literary acquisition, Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime, and writing in my journal for a bit, I met up with Heather and her friend Missy at the venue, where we look at the cool merch. I acquired an Acrocats bumper sticker for my amplifier, as well as some treats that can help with my cat/son Chester’s hairballs. Missy and I did what all cat owners do when they meet each other in this digital age: show off our cat pics. She also referred to the event as a “catcert,” which I found delightful.
The cat puns continued as the event’s emcee started with an “ameowncement” greeting “Baltimeow.” The soundtrack consisted of cat-related songs like The Cure’s “The Love Cats,” Tom Jones’s “What’s New Pussycat?” and Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever.” I would have also loved “Eye of the Tiger” and “China Cat Sunflower,” but I guess you can’t have everything.
When mice were brought out, my first thought was, “They’d better not have the cats chase them around!” And they didn’t; they just walked the balance beams. We were also treated to some antics from a rooster named Cluck Norris.
The emcee gave some explanation on how the trainers get the cats to do their bidding via the use of clickers. That, and a lot of patience. In fact, her line “nothing teaches you humility like trying to train a cat in front of a live audience” stuck with me.
Tricks that stuck out included the following (I was writing too quickly to remember most of the names):
My favorite was when a white cat named Tuna walked into the audience and eventually headbutted me. Of course, I kept saying “Hellwoooo Chester” under my breath because, again, I associate all cute things with little Chester. Plus I just like to act weird.
The highlight, of course, was the Rock Cats, their band. “Tuna, more cowbell!” was a common request from the trainers. I’m pretty sure I heard “Bad Romance” on sax from Oz, and “Careless Whisker” appeared as well. Bowie rocked out on drums, Nue took us to the 1980s with the synthesizer, Sookie played those chimes like a champ, Buggles emerged from her high perch to play some trumpet.
One line of note. The emcee revealed that she fosters most of these cats. She said, “I won’t say how many cats I have but I am single and probably always will be.” I felt some subdued, awkward laughter from a few members, but mostly silence. I’m not sure how I feel about that self-deprecating humor, which really plays into the stereotype, but then again, I do try to subvert it though my “crazy single cat male” persona, so there you go.
At any rate, it was a fun time, and thanks to Heather’s astute observational skills, I found a place to put more flyers for my business. Of course, I was missing Chester, and was ecstatic to come home and do my thing where I pick him and give him endless kisses. And, of course, some Netflix and chill.
When I heard about the band Better Off Dead, my first thought was, “Where’s my two dollars?” But I still dug the band name, and I was happy to finally get out to see my first Dead cover band in over a year, and on the eve of Jerry’s birthday!
Since I’m new to the city and not familiar with the DC show scene, I chose on my Weather Report T-shirt, which is always a good conversation starter, on the theory it would make connecting with others easier. And I was right. Quite a few people asked me where I got the T-shirt, and telling the story of its acquisition (the lot at Dead & Company in Bristow back in 2017) helped me get comfortable with the scene.
I naively thought people would be wearing masks given the new DC mandate to do so, but I was one of a handful to people to do so indoors. Not my place to say anything, but after a “Dancing in the Street” opener that brought the Cornell 1977 show to mind, I went outside, where I felt freer to let loose, and I felt connected with my musical spirit in a way I hadn’t been since before the pandemic. I also liked the fact that there seemed to be quite a few people who had gone solo; one thing I’ve loved about DC so far is that I won’t be an anomaly if I go to places by myself, one of my favorite introvert activities, when done in moderation.
“Halfstep” followed, then “Greatest Story Ever Told,” “Tennessee Jed,” “Let it Grow,” a slow version of “Friend of the Devil” and “Box of Rain.” They followed with what appeared to be a JGB song that nobody around me had ever heard of, and closed the first set with “I Know You Rider,” sans “China Cat Sunflower.”
By this point, I had developed my first permagrin in two years. Maybe it was the contact buzz, maybe it was my reunion with the showgoer part of my identity, maybe a combination of both. But over the past year and a half, I’ve felt a bit like Bart Simpson in “Bart Sells His Soul,” the Simpsons episode in which he, well, sells his soul to his best friend Milhouse for $5 and experiences a crisis where he’s really lost his soul. This evening, I felt like I got it back.
I had a brief conversation with a woman named Amii and a longer conversation with a man named John, and although they ended by the beginning of the second set, I felt like I was part of the scene. I can only hope the shows will go on, even with this new Delta variant. But one day at a time.
Set Two opened with the missing “China Cat” and followed with another JGB song I didn’t know. “Playin’ in the Band” meshed into “Crazy Fingers” and back into “Playin’.” At that point, my social battery was drained, which time perfectly with the last Metros of the night.
Parking is insane by the Waterfront (see JRAD on 9/28/19 for my adventure with Maggie as we tried to find parking for that show, and the insane $45 price). Additionally, since I’ve moved to DC, driving in this general region has brought out the worst aspects of my personality, while riding public transportation has brought out my best. So if a show is accessible by Metro, I’ll jump on it ($8 round trip, as opposed to the aforementioned parking price). Pearl Street Warehouse doesn’t allow backpacks (understandable, as it’s a small venue), so I couldn’t bring a book for the trip, but it allows for some great people-watching. Tonight’s entertainment came from a group of drunken 20something baseball fans who were riding home from the Nationals-Cubs game. One of them looked at my shirt and said, “Weather Report! Chili today, hot tamale?” I told him it was a Grateful Dead thing and he said, “Cool man.” Their general raucousness on the ride back seemed to annoy some people, one of whom moved to the other side of the Metro car, but I was entertained.
When I got home, I gorged out on some leftover pizza from Rome Pizza and Sub (they didn’t’ pay for any advertising) and a small package of Chuckles I bought from True Treats Candy in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia after my section hike on the AT. They were my late father’s favorite candy; I couldn’t resist.
I’ve been going through some turmoil related to the pandemic, but tonight’s show, while not a cure, gave me some perspective on it (and I feel I got part of my soul back). Here’s hoping for more (though probably outside for the time being)!
Like most people, I adjusted my way of living to accommodate being in lockdown. I tried cooking new recipes and I took up playing my guitar again. But I felt I lost a good chunk of my identity, which consisted of being a live music attendee. I just wasn’t comfortable going to shows before getting my vaccine, as most other showgoers weren’t abiding by the mask/distancing thing, and, well, I’d rather miss out on a show than be on a ventilator.
It’s also the one-year anniversary of the day I moved into my Washington, DC apartment. Moving during the pandemic was also a huge challenge. While I vibe well with DC, it’s been a bummer not being able to really take part in the social activities I’ve enjoyed, like going to concerts. So when my friend Greg told me about his band’s upcoming performance at Rhizome, I decided that since I’m vaccinated, I was going to go.
As I wrote in my last post, I love riding subways. I finished up a book, Professor in the Cage: Why Men Fight and Why We Like to Watch, a story about an English professor’s foray into competitive MMA fighting. It also delves into the biological reasons behind masculine and feminine traits, which I think is a cause for toxic masculinity, but that’s for my other blog.
Anyway, I rode the Metro out to Takoma, which is a pretty chill neighborhood, one I may have to return to. I walked five minutes to Rhizome and was met by a mellow-looking crowd outside the building, accompanied by the aroma of what I think was lemon ginger tea. I got a chair from a friendly, pony-tailed dude and said a quick hello to Greg before taking my spot.
His band, Teething Veils, took the stage. The violinist’s use of pizzicato brought DMB to mind for me, and there’s something about a violin that adds an undercurrent of melancholy to any song. This, combined with Greg’s soothing voice and the general peacefulness of the crowd, had me feeling pensive.
I’ve always loved riding public transportation. When I was in my 20s, my favorite thing to do in New York was to take the subway to concerts, sporting events, museums, restaurants. In fact, it’s still my favorite thing to do there (even though I haven’t been in over a year). So one of the things I was looking forward to the most about DC was being able to take Metro to post places, and I’ve been dreaming of the day I can ride the Metro to shows instead of having to deal with post-show traffic.
And this is what made this event special. My first live music experience (as a spectator) in almost eight months took place on the wonderful Wharf. After an afternoon spent hiking, writing, researching, and course planning (a summer day in the life of a professor), I had a nice quiet dinner at home before taking the Red and Green lines to get to the Wharf. I followed a music, and saw the band, La Unica, featured on Wednesdays at the Wharf, a series of free concerts (thereby combining two of my favorite words).
This band did a pretty nifty combination of Celtic and Latin beats. I walked in during their cover of the Dubliners’s drinking song, “Whiskey in the Jar,” which brought me back to my trip to Ireland in July 2015, particularly this pub I went to on during a tour of the Cliffs of Moher, where I enjoyed some Irish potato soup and a steak sandwich while an Irish band played in the corner.
Other selections include Santana’s “Oye Como Va,” Led Zeppelin’s “Fool in the Rain,” and U2’s “With or Without You” (the Nationals jersey-sporting vocalist even included the Spanish phrase“contigo” (which means “with you”), as well as Harry Belaftone’s “Jump in the Line,” which I’ll always associate with the end of Beetlejuice.
Some stray observations: a bespectacled adolescent girl reading a book while grooving (that’s my spirit animal), and the family next to me who tried in vain to get their little daughter to stay near them, but she just kept running around. I felt some empathy, but also relief that I can enjoy something like things without having to be charge of a little one (Chester doesn’t do concerts). One person offered the helpful hint, “She’ll behave for M&Ms.”
As the night went one and the alcohol flow continued, more and more people got up from their benches and danced. Me, I was happy to just sit observe and write in my journal. I’m that bespectacled girl’s future (with a gender switch, of course).
The ride home was pretty peaceful, and I basked in the fact that I wouldn’t have to contend with post-concert traffic. DC, I am home.
“Drumming is not a spectator sport.”
That was the claim put forth by Arthur Lopez, the facilitator of this drum circle. I’m not quite at the place where I’m ready to be in a crowd at a concert yet, but a distanced drum circle seems reasonable. Besides, why merely attend a performance when I can be a part of it?
I hadn’t been to a drum circle in nearly twenty years since my time in New York, but when Maggie brought it up, I thought, drumming on the beach? Why the hell not?
After a couple of hours at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens (a place I hadn’t been to at all during the time I lived in Newport News), Maggie and I parked near 68th Street and set up our gear on the beach. Soon after that, we met Reese, Bill, and Lodi and engaged in small talk. I helped Reese with her djembe and got to play it. “Bill the Beat Man” hooked me up with a drum, and as more people arrived, we got some drumming going, and I just got back into it. For a while, I was holding a beat with my right hand, but soon after, I experimented by adding a beat to it with my left. I started thinking of Tony Vacca, a percussionist who played at a festival in SUNY New Paltz when I was doing my Master’s, and I’m listening to “Tama Doctor” as I type.
People-watching is my favorite thing to do during a time I wait for concerts to start, so I did just that and recorded a few observations:
When the drumming started, I began by looking at others for what to do, and then realized I just needed to hear and feel the rhythm, which was when I got comfortable. And the end of our comfort zone is when growth starts. I’m usually not a person who “yells” or “screams” when facilitators of these types of events tell us to do so, but I felt compelled. Arthur also went through the circle and called on people to solo. I typically hate being put on the spot, but after a few people just seemed to go with the flow, I felt comfortable. Of course, when it was my turn, I put everything I had into that solo, even though it felt like I was “on stage” forever. Some other cool observations included Maggie dancing with her tambourine/drum combo, a few people with maracas, and a young lady with a triangle. There was also the group of dancers that got in the middle of the circle, as well as a woman named Sara, who was celebrating her 21st birthday: pretty awesome way to celebrate.
The circle capped with Arthur telling us to wish for something we want for ourselves or for a loved one and to drum around it. My last concert experience ended in a pretty horrible traffic accident, and since then, I’ve been tepid about driving (even though I drove from DC to Southeast Virginia, as well as to the circle). As I drummed, I came to the epiphany: one trip at a time. One mile at a time. One tenth-mile at a time. Seems pretty simple.
Afterwards, I mentioned that I may have to find a drum circle in DC (of which I’m sure there are plenty). A woman who had just moved down from DC informed me of one in Malcolm X Park near Adams Morgan (a neighborhood I bike to regularly). Upon looking it up, I saw quite the vibrant, multicultural-looking scene, with crowds of people of different ethnicities playing their instruments. And it happens every Sunday at 3 p.m. (see a future blog post).
After the circle, Dan, Sandy, and I went to Ynot, an Italian restaurant not far from the VA Beach waterfront, and I seriously could have devoured the entire menu, but I settled on chicken parm. We talked all kinds of interesting topics, like bad urban drivers, politics, and travel.
As an introvert, when they said “Stay home” at the beginning of the pandemic, I responded, “What’s the catch?” And I’ve done quite well staying at home, but it’s been nice being able to catch up with old friends this trip and explore new things. And I’ll be looking to purchase a drum when I return to DC. Again, why just watch music when I can make it?
It’s a good thing I’m not a professional movie critic who was assigned to write about The Music Never Stopped; I knew I was going to like it based on the trailer (which essentially gave away the Grateful Dead-driven plot). That’s the halo effect for you. At any rate, though, I don’t see too many concerts in the near future (damn ‘demic!), so I’ll post a music-themed movie review instead.
Based on Oliver Sacks’s essay, “The Last Hippie,” this movie presents J.K. Simmons in an emotional performance as Henry, an uptight father who became estranged from his son, Gabriel, due to a conflict they had twenty years ago due to music and teenage rebellion. At the beginning of the film, Henry and his wife Helen receive a phone call from the hospital, informing them Gabriel has a brain tumor that has inhibited his ability to form new short-term memories. In Gabriel’s mind, it’s still 1970.
Initially catatonic, Gabriel’s therapist, Diane, discovers that Gabriel comes alive when she plays the music that he loved: Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and especially, the Grateful Dead. Henry couldn’t stand these artists, which eventually led to his estrangement from Gabriel. Now he has to become a Deadhead to communicate with his son.
While I agree with critic Phillip Martin that the movie does have the feel and look of a disease-of-the-week Lifetime movie special, I didn’t care. The scenes of Henry getting into Gabriel’s world pack an emotional punch, and the music rocks (of course). Simmons plays it gently in his portrayal of a devoted but rigid husband and father who gradually learns he has to accept Gabriel on Gabriel’s terms if he wants to have a relationship with him. As the film progresses, Simmons’s acting becomes more non-verbal, as he begins to really listen to Gabriel. It’s a much gentler performance than his Vern Schillinger (Oz) or Terrence Fletcher (Whiplash). Likewise, Pucci conveys youthful innocence as a flower child, both in present-day and in flashbacks to the 60s.
The supporting performances are first-rate as well. Cara Seymour’s Helen has a nice arc where she starts out as an obedient wife, but is forced to liberate herself due to the circumstances of her family, and Julia Ormond is a delight as the therapist who remains professional in the midst of rock concert-like sessions with Gabriel. There’s also a nice touch from Mia Maestro as a hospital cafeteria worker Gabriel crushes on. The movie wisely doesn’t force a romantic subplot on them (it just wouldn’t be practical), but her life is changed for the better as a result of their friendship, even if it has to end.
SPOILER ALERT: If I do have one nit to pick, it’s in the portrayal of the Grateful Dead concert Henry and Gabriel attend toward the end of the film, which is supposed to cement the relationship. Henry, who’s recently had a heart attack, essentially railroads Gabriel’s doctor into allowing them to attend the show. The doc rightfully protests against a cardio present escorting an amnesiac going to a Dead show , which, while fun, wouldn’t be known for being predictable. However, they have to go for the purposes of the screenplay.
Additionally, while I haven’t seen any depictions of Dead shows on film, this one is pretty awful. First off, by the 1980s, the Dead weren’t playing smaller venues like the Hammerstein. They were packing the likes of Madison Square Garden. There were probably some practical concerns with respect to where they could film, but still…
Those quibbles aside, I enjoyed the film. It tells a touching story, and the symbolism of “Touch of Grey” as an indication that Gabriel may be able to start forming new memories is not unlike the role of that song starting a new era introducing Generation Xers to the Dead (this one included).
“Grateful Dead Setlists: 1987.” Web. 31 October 2020.
Martin, Philip. “Movie Review: The Music Never Stopped.” Arkansas Democrat Gazette. 6 May
2011. Web. 21 October 2020.
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This past Saturday I co-organized the first ever Singles Studies Conference with my friend and colleague Ketaki, and while I derived a great deal of intellectual pleasure from it, to say I was ready to see some live music would be an understatement. Plus, this will more than likely be my last concert until spring.
I drove into Loudon County, Virginia, uncharted territory for me. The rain didn’t add to the trip, and Route 267 doesn’t have much in the way of scenery, but once I pulled onto Route 7, I was mystified by the rural landscape, including a sign that said “Mama’s Apple Pies” and another one for “Fresh Crabs.”
I devoured a personal BBQ chicken pizza before Angela and Paul came in. We had a bit of a puzzle in setting up Angela’s rain shelter, but we made it! Angela and I know each other virtually through the Community of Single People (COSP), but as it turns out, she’s a friend of my friend Paul. Small world!
The rain came down during the show, but Angela and I hung toward the front (away from the clusters of people), and I got to know her in person a little bit. The band had been playing since before we arrived, but as we got to the front, they announced a rain-themed sequence, including “Don’t The Rain Still Fall on the Way Back Home” and Blind Melon’s classic “No Rain.” At the lyric “They see banjos and look into the heaven,” Angela said, “I’m gonna pick up my banjo!” I encouraged her. I don’t know YSMB’s catalog by heart the way I do Phish or WSP (speaking of which, I broke in the “Bear’s Gone Fishin’” shirt Mark/Brodysseus got me), but I did pick up on “Boots.” They also sang Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” which got me thinking of this lovely pandemic-inspired parody.
Apparently, the band had some behind-the-scenes issues with their monitors, but they still managed to pull it off. Another good dialogue exchange between me and Angela, inspired the band singing, “You Only Had One Corona.”
Angela: Great lyrics!
Me: Not as good as “Boy, man, God, shit.”
A really profound line though: “I wish I knew I what know now when I was younger; I wish I knew what I know now when I as stronger”
Couldn’t be more true, but I find it’s best to just embrace the past for what it was and the present for what it is.
After the show ended, we broke down Angela’s rain shelter and discussed the possibility of some hikes in this area. Angela’s mention of a book about great hikes within 60 miles of DC got me thinking I want to explore this part of town.
I wish I could end this blog post with “the ride home was peaceful,” but I can’t. I had a collision with a pick-up truck on the way home. I’d rather not go into the details of it, and I was very keyed up at the time, but after having had some time to process my feelings on the incident (writing about it helped), I’ll say I’m grateful for these things:
1)Neither of us were hurt. Better to be the car than us.
2)I made it home safely.
3)I have good friends that helped talked me through my emotions (Maggie, Paul, and Angela, you rock).
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.