For obvious reasons, our summer weekly residency in the Hamptons didn't get started until September this year. So I guess it's more of an autumn residency. But it's rocking so far, thanks to the continued cooperation of the weather gods. After all these summers of great seaside Sundays, we finally brought the mobile recording rig along. So here's "Big Ocean"...by the big ocean.
2020 keeps getting weirder. Our "summer" residency at John Scott's in The Hamptons didn't start until September 13th this year (we usually finish by Labor Day). And last night was one of the best audiences ever. I'm used to toweling off between songs in 90-degree heat at these shows, but in this case it was a great bunch of people freezing their asses off in hoodies and jackets and having a great time. Go figure...
Last night marked the resumption (finally!) of our weekly summer residency at (an establishment that shall remain unnamed, since NY State venues are not allowed to advertise live music events, but you all know where). The entire staff came out for the opening song and delivered a rousing ovation. That was really great, and made this whole disastrous summer a little more palatable. You guys are the best.
New York's own Grumpy Ol' Greek George, the world's un-hippest (and best) guitar tech, has been doing hardcore woodwork restoration on two of my vintage acoustics. He's done with the 1951 Gibson Southern Jumbo dreadnought and is now finishing up the 1958 Guild F-20 "parlor" guitar (built back when houses still had "parlors"). These are exclusively recording guitars that are way too valuable ever to see road use. When people say about products of mid-20th century American manufacturing, "They don't make 'em like THAT anymore" - they're RIGHT.
I want to tell you about last night’s gig. It was awesome. Not me, the gig. The people. The experience was awesome. It was a small-scale outdoor affair; maybe a couple of hundred people at the most, seated at tables having dinner. When people finished eating they just wouldn’t leave. They hung around, ordered drinks and just sat soaking in the music. And I want to stress that it had nothing to with me. It was suddenly so palpable to me how much people needed music - and each other. It was like they were so stunned by what’s happened to us all this year, they were like, “Holy shit – live music. Remember this? Can this be possible? We are ENJOYING OURSELVES. Let’s just sit here for a while and just catch our frigging breath.”
It made me realize two things; first (and selfishly), live music is NOT going away. Secondly, and on a larger scale, humanity itself is not going away. I daresay that I think we’re all going to be OK. So I'm placing my bets where I always have: on music and humanity. I've always shoved my chips to the middle of the table on those bets, and they haven't steered me wrong yet.
Back in the darkest days when we were all locked down tight and all my musical colleagues were doing these live-stream-from-home things, I refused to do them. Don’t get me wrong; I think it was good and healthy that others chose to do that in a time of unprecedented isolation. I watched them myself. But it just didn’t feel right for me to do it. I said, “Screw that. If you miss me, you’ll have to come to a show when this is all over. You’ll just have to…um, WAIT.” How un-21st Century an idea.
Perhaps this was because I am always paranoid about the devaluation of music as well as human interaction and humanity itself. That wolf always seems to be at the door these days; we keep refining these amazing feats of hand-held technology - which means retreating into them - further and further. I feared that everyone sitting at home looking at a screen, watching someone play their guitar on their couch would result in the paradigm of live performance being defined even further downwardly, and become a “new normal” (can we PLEASE get rid of that phrase?). I viewed this as another nail in our cultural coffin; we’d now be retreating further into those handheld devices, and further still from each other.
My dad was a professional musician and a combat veteran (wait, isn’t that redundant?!) Sometimes he was a great guy and a lot of fun, but he was often quite difficult and sometimes a regular pain in the ass, mainly because he got beaten down and allowed himself to become a pessimist. He would always find a way to anticipate and extrapolate the worst possible outcome in any situation. Children always rebel, and I had no idea what PTSD was, but I guess I found the ultimate rebellion; at some point I decided to be an optimist. “Oh yeah? Well fuck YOU - maybe everything IS going to be all right!” If I had been on the Titanic, I wouldn’t have been rearranging the deck chairs as the ship went down; I would have been ordering new ones.
On the way to last night’s gig I saw this cloud with sunbeams piercing it. To me it looked tenacious, almost rebellious, like great possibilities refusing to be restrained any longer. A light that would not be denied. I was driving, so I just spontaneously aimed my phone up at it without looking, and snapped a photo of it. I had completely forgotten about that until I saw it on my phone this morning. I got in from that gig a little after midnight last night, and I’m writing this at 6am. I awoke a while ago filled with so much optimism and hope, I just had to get out of bed and get this down, so I could share that optimism and hope with YOU. Call me an idiot, call me naïve, but I really do think everything is going to be all right. And I needed to tell you all that.
While 2020 has been a complete dumpster fire, 2021 is already shaping up to be the busiest live season I will have ever had in my life. All the spring 2020 European tour dates have now been completely re-booked for next April and May
Meanwhile, lots of studio work is coming this fall, so recording-only guitars going into the shop on Monday include: 1951 Gibson Southern Jumbo, 1959 Vega E-40D, 1939 Gibson L-7, 1958 Guild F-20.
I can't guarantee what 2021 will have in store for us, but it is going to SOUND fantastic