Riverfest in Review

A long three days had I, working at Riverfest. Every year this thing keeps getting bigger and more complex. My friend Randall was serving his first year as captain of the Triple S stage, and I was his chief henchman. Friday we didn’t do much. The acts were self-contained – no catering requirements or transportation issues. First up was Nik and Sam, the twin girl bluegrass duo who I saw briefly last year. They were really good. They’re like the Olsen Twins meet the Dixie Chicks. Then came the Governor’s band, Capitol Offense. They’re a classic rock cover band. They played “Freebird.” Because that’s what the universe demanded. Hannah Blaylock & Eden’s Edge followed, with more sweet-voiced female-led bluegrass. Our headliner was the legendary Del McCoury Band. These guys are the best at what they do; I’m a little sad I didn’t have the opportunity to offer them snacks or beverages.

Instead Mike and I were called over to the Acxiom/Miller Lite stage, better known as the Riverfront Amphitheatre, to provide an extra van to transport Kool, the Gang, and their apparently massive posse to the Peabody hotel. Kool and the Gang did provide one of the rockingest sets of the entire weekend for me. They’re really a funky soul band, the kind of group you just don’t see around very often, and the crowd was the single most diverse group of people I’ve ever seen at a concert – old and young, black and white. It was magical, really. Add to that the fact that the amphitheatre is an open stage with no walls, so I got my first taste of rock stardom, staring at the faces of thousands of very happy people.

Saturday started off right: with breakfast and strawberry mimosas on Heather’s porch. The weather was hot but very breezy, which was nice for the crowd but caused problems for The Rockin Guys, who had a shorter than expected setup due to a last-minute opening act addition. The beleaguered Guys (featuring Hendrix profs Danny Grace and Mark Schantz) soldiered through it, though, and came out the other side with a set of pure rock and roll insanity. They offered something of a contrast to Crisis![1] who didn’t play “Freebird” but did play several tunes from the Capitol Offense repertoire. Brothers with Different Mothers followed, but I couldn’t catch them as I had to run errands to pick up deli trays for the Neville Brothers. I made it back in time for Ted Ludwig, Little Rock’s newest jazz guitar hero. A recent transplant from New Orleans, Ted is now my hero, and hopefully soon also my guitar teacher. Backing him up was Little Rock’s finest jazz rhythm section: Joe Vick on bass and Brian Brown on drums. I beat Brian at Scrabble once, but that’s all I’m ever going to have on those cats.

Just before that the news came down that the Neville Brothers’ flight had been cancelled, so they were renting some wheels in Memphis. Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk was supposed to go on earlier than the Brothers; but luckily they all got in pretty close to their load-in time. However, we soon discovered that for whatever reason, we had their old rider. So certain necessities needed procuring: Evian, Fuze green tea, and four 9-volt batteries. I made a mad dash to Harvest Foods over on Main and picked it all up just in time for the Dumpstaphunk sound check, but some bastard stole my parking spot, so I had to walk several blocks to get back.

Mike had this in-depth interview with Ivan regarding the name Dumpsaphunk:

Mike: So, “Dumpstaphunk.”

Ivan: Yeah.

Mike: How…?

Ivan. …Stanky.

That pretty much says it all. Ivan was a little demanding, but the guys really delivered, and his group are a fun bunch. I drove them to the hotel later, and took them to the airport the next morning. One of them commented on the sculpture in front of Robinson Auditorium, and its resemblance to a certain part of the female anatomy. I’ll leave that to your imagination. Needless to say I’ll never look at Robinson quite the same way again.

During Dumpstaphunk’s set, Heather, her friend Kriqui, and I had to jet[2] across the river to catch my boys Spiraling over at the Bud Stage. I took quite a few pictures there from the side of the stage. Again the weird excitement of standing on a Big Rock Stage set in, and double this time because I realized I am mostly responsible for Spiraling’s presence at the festival. I got their promo CD to the booking people at Riverfest, who were then excited enough about them to give them a prime slot between Switchfoot and Live. Hopefully Spiraling made some new friends in the crowd. Because they’re still an unsigned, on-a-budget band, they crashed at my house again. I gave them a map and a key in case I wasn’t back by the time they got there.

After their set, Heather and Kriqui went over to see Dwight Yoakum, and I walked back to Triple S with my friend Jennifer. We caught the latter half of the Neville Brothers’ set, which brought the largest crowd the Triple S stage has ever seen. Good times.

I made it home at the same time Spiraling arrived. We listened to records (Magma, Eberhard Weber), which was great because the guys listen to a lot of the same stuff I do: Marty is into the Jellyfish pop stuff, Paul into ECM jazz, Tom into obscure prog, and Bob shares my guilty pleasure of 80’s shred guitar excess[3]. We jammed until 3AM. What started out as a jazz thing morphed into Yes tunes, “Love Rollercoaster,” and as Tom and Bob flew off into space, I gave up and picked up my Speak and Spell and used its tones for fills, while spelling out whatever I could think of in basic letters[4].

I got up at 7AM while the guys slept in; they left around 1PM. I had to get down to the stage at 8AM to help take care of Pat Green and his people who arrived overnight from Fayetteville, as well as make three trips to the airport with the Nevilles. I was super tired and the weather was so hot, I spent a lot of time staying cool in the trailer, so I missed the opening acts. I was back to normal in time for The Boondogs, who played a great set. I can’t recommend more their last CD, Fever Dreams; I would venture to say it’s my favorite CD to come out of Little Rock ever, with Ho-Hum’s Landau Zeal a close second. After them came another bright spot on Little Rock’s horizon, Chris Denny[5]. At that point I had to pick up Pat Green from the Pleasant Valley country club and later take some of his guys to get some food. And I ran back to my house to let my dog in because I heard thunder and knew that she might freak out, jump the fence and run.

When I returned to the Triple S, I had to go back out again to provide an extra van for The Doobie Brothers at the Peabody. I wasn’t even necessary, as each passenger van can hold 12 people, but oh well. I followed the other van over to the Bud Stage across the river and stayed there for the show. It was nice to relax; I wasn’t from that stage so nobody needed me to do anything. I took off my shoes and walked in the grass by the river, and had cookies and beer[6]. I met up with Jennifer again and we watched the Doobie Brothers with all the attendant insanity (crowd surfing, young girls flashing people? at a Doobies show?) and fireworks.

The Doobies only needed one van to get back to the hotel, so we made our way[1] back to the Triple S. Traffic was absolutely bonkers; we saw several Doobies hop out of their van to walk over the bridge to the Peabody rather than wait the hour-long drive. Over the weekend, between the golf cart and the vans, I completely wore out my right foot because the pedals are so different from my car. My foot was nearly numb by this point.

We cleaned everything up backstage and dropped the vans off at the rental place and went home absolutely pooped. I’m glad this thing only happens once a year.

1.) I’m not ending the sentence there; the exclamation point is part of the name. Because that’s just how exciting they are – the excitement is built into the name.

2.) And by “jet,” I mean take a long walk, tracing a route so circuitous as to rival one of those Family Circus Sunday panels where one of the kids takes the longest route between two points.

3.) Bob’s a better guitar player than I am, and he’s the bass player! These guys are all such incredible musicians, it’s silly.

4.) IOU, FU, ICU…we couldn’t stop giggling.

5.) His myspace page already has a picture from the show yesterday. That’s the speed of technology.

6.) The head of the Bud Stage is Mahlon Maris, son of my family doctor in Harrison. He knows where to get the cookies, that’s how in command he is.

7.) Again, with a route so convoluted as to make Bil Keane jealous.

Bird Fort and a New Plog

Finally some new pictures, after a two month dry spell. Among them, a minor adventure I had yesterday in the field in front of the School for the Deaf and Blind. I came up on this bird:


I wasn’t sure if she was wounded or what, because she would not fly away. She just chirped at me and flapped her wings, in a feeble attempt to appear malicious. That’s when I noticed the well-camouflaged eggs right behind her (look close, they’re speckled). I’m not sure why she chose to lay her eggs in the middle of a field; perhaps her nest was destroyed or perhaps she’s just not a smart bird. In any event, I didn’t want any people or dogs to step on the eggs, so I built her a small fort.

They’re Getting Smarter

Phishers are getting smarter every day. I’ve had two messages to my hotmail recently that were really clever. One was supposedly an ABC News item, and was actually a news story copied from ABC News, but the unsubscribe link went to some dodgy web address. Although you had to mouse over the link and see the actual address of the link. Today I got a message that purported to be some legal settlement information about Google AdWords.

If I could deliver one message to every Net user it would be this: never trust anything not written personally by someone you know. Be suspicious; avoid clicking any external link from an untrusted message. Verify the address before you click (the lower left of your browser will reveal the address of the link before you click it). To any site requiring a login, type the address yourself – especially Ebay, Paypal, your bank, or any place you store sensitive information. Even places that don’t store sensitive info – myspace, google, etc. I’m beginning to wonder if the major industry of former Eastern Bloc nations isn’t Internet scams. That seems to be where a lot of this stuff originates.

Chateaubriand Brainstorming

Katherine pointed out to me today that spam poetry is getting more complex. She sent me some fine selections and I noticed that whatever program is generating the words is also generating hyphenated words, such as “sulphureo-aerial,” which I Googled (with quotation marks) and came up with only 3 sites: a blog, a word list, and this.

It appears to be pages upon pages of randomly generated AND structured text. It has the appearance of a web page – paragraphs of theoretically coherent syntax, bullet points, headers, and links. Even email links. With lots of words generally found only in technical/scientiic parlance. And apparently these pages go on for miles.

The Internet just got weirder.

Note to Self

If you’re eating a moisture-rich pizza (from Damgoode Pies, let’s say), and you bite down on something that’s not hard, but will not yield to your teeth, don’t pass it off as tough bread or cheese and keep chewing. It’s cardboard. It’s the thin top layer of the corrugated cardboard box you’ve been eating off. Just remember that next time.

The Restorative Powers of John McVie

My parents’ musical tastes have always been a big influence on me, and one album stands out as having a particularly unique taste and texture, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours.

This is an album every household in America should own, and probably does. There are a lot of good lessons in love on it. Specifically, Dreams (right click to save as…) has always had a power all its own in times of turmoil. And as I am this weekend experiencing the death of yet another small dream, I was led back to it by Cameron Crowe, in an article in the 1,000th issue of Rolling Stone[1]. I found myself admiring John McVie’s bassline, which takes only a few minutes to learn but a lifetime to master. The lesson that this two-note bassline teaches is that throughout all the dynamics, the “thunder” and lightning of the chorus, it remains almost completely unchanged. Life’s rhythm goes on. With those two notes, the entire song is anchored, and only during a brief guitar interlude does it alter its path. I couldn’t stop playing along with it this morning. It’s such a magical song; it reminds me of why I got into this music thing and it helps me to remember that women, they will come and they will go.

1.) Yes I’m a subscriber again, but only because it was a free gift.

Acting! Get to Know Me!

I’ve been selected to perform in a couple of plays at Hendrix’s Playwrights Theatre this September 15. These are “reader’s theatre” performances, meaning we’ll just be reading a play that is still in the working stages. The purpose being that it helps the playwright hear the dialogue and get an idea of how everything flows. At Hendrix for several years now they’ve been staging these as public performances. I did one a couple of years ago, too. It’s great fun – it’s almost like doing a play but without the tedious memorizing or makeup. Plus they’re going to pay me, so I can once again say I’m a professional actor.

Luddite or Just Lazy?

For whatever reason I’ve just never gotten around to recording music on the computer. I finally got around to it this week. After waiting on some other software packages to materialize from a friend, I gave up and dug up an old copy of CoolEditPro that Chris gave me back in 2000 or so. A one-track evaluation version apparently. The simpler the better for me, I guess. Plus I have a loop machine to work things out on beforehand. So I threw together some random bits and bobs, and then put them on a myspace music page. Because well, why the hell not?

This is me playing music on the internets!

Cue The Strauss And Monkeys

Once in a generation an invention comes along that truly changes your life for the better. Every day new inventions come and go, promising that slice of pure joy that only Real Ingenuity brings, but so few ever deliver. Today I discovered a technological breakthrough that will forever reshape my very existence. It is simple and elegant, a fusion of two concepts so elementary I am amazed that it has not come to pass sooner. It removes one more layer of suffering from my life, and of how many technological advancements can we truly say that?

Ladies and gentlemen…I give you…Glad Trashbags with Odor Shield®

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Seriously. It has forever altered the catbox-changing experience. What was once a despicable, nigh unbearable task has become a significanly less unpleasant experience. For all the useless crap that corporate America puts on the shelves, sometimes – not often but sometimes – they do something right.