TVZ Tribute in LA-a long winded review w/responses

As posted to the about-townes mail list

          about-townes: TVZ Tribute in LA-a long winded review
          Sun, 16 Mar 1997 22:11:59 -0500 (EST)



It was a wide open sky slammed against the edge of the country as we drove
down the Pacific Coast Highway towards the city of fallen angels.  Itís the
kind of drive that no matter how much time you are trying to make up, the
beauty of it becomes overwhelming.  You can no longer view it from inside an
automobile at high speeds.  You have to get out and listen to the gutteral
wailing of the seals, the crashing of the surf, observe the serenity of the
violent crashing of the edge of the continent.  All the way down we listened
to Townes, Terry Allen, and various other Texas artists that we had recently
left behind when we moved to California.  Since moving here, I had repeatedly
been playing in my head two Woodie Guthrie songs.  "This Land is Your Land"
and "Do-Re-Mi."  Not that I didnít find California so hot, but I was missing
home and I was having to readjust to the high cost of living amid the redwood

I got the news on January 4.  I lost my father a little over a year ago (he
was 59) and I thought I had adjusted to that loss pretty well.  I donít know
why the news of Townes shook me so.  Maybe it brought up some old feelings,
who knows.  My wife and I, being big fans and somewhat friends of Townes,
found ourselves in an area where there wasnít anyone really to commiserate
with.  We couldnít afford to fly to Austin to see Townesí tribute at the
Cactus, where we had worked for so many years and had come to know Townes as
a person.  Friends sent us news articles and we checked the websites of Marq
and Len.  And I tried desperately to reach our old buddy JT who recently
picked up and moved to the Gulf Coast.  Once I finally located him, JT
invited us to the New York tribute, but we couldnít afford that for sure.
 Since January 4, the two Woodie songs have been replaced by countless tales
of heartache, joy and redemption that is the music of Townes Van Zandt.
 These songs, which I have loved for a good portion of my life, have since
unfolded and enveloped me.  Helping me to cry.  Helping me to laugh.

Back to the road.  We were overjoyed when we heard of the concert in Santa
Monica.  We pulled into Los Angeles at about 9PM and found a hotel about 20
minutes from the club.  While waiting in line, we tried to figure out who was
all playing.  We both were quite anxious to see JT and some old friends.
 Butch Hancock walked up and we spoke with him very briefly, just catching
up.  "you moved to San Fran?  You know Iím playing there in a few days.
 Well, I just moved out to TerlinguaÖ"  He looked a little distant, a little
shaken.  Perhaps it was the gravity of putting together this tribute in
memorial to an old friend.  Perhaps he just couldnít find the artistís door
into the club.  Anyway, we got great seats (about two rows back) and settled
in for a long concert.

I didnít keep track of the whoís and the which songs, but there are quite a
few things which stick out in my memory.  First of all, the artists did not
just play Townesí songs, which surprised me.  A couple of local acts didnít
play a single Townes song.  Weird.  I have to admit, I thought it was a
little self-serving, but this was L.A.  Some artists played their own music,
but it related or was one of Townes favorites.  Think what you will, but I
thought it was strange.  Highlights for me included Peter Case, who weíve
been fans of for years doing a great version of "Nothiní" and doing a
tear-the -house down version of "I Ainít Leaviní Your Love" -which he says
heís been singing to his daughter to put her to sleep.  He must not rock it
up for that occasion.  Kris McKay sang a heart wrenching version of "For the
Sake of The Song" prefacing it with, "If I ever wonder what Iím doing and why
Iím doing it, I listen to this song and it reminds me that this is what itís
all about."  Michael Hall and Walter Salas-Humara joined together for several
songs, the most memorable being an adrenaline fueled version of "Rexís
Blues."  Michael Fracasso (if you have yet to hear him, look for him, you
wonít be disappointed) did an unbelievably stirring rendition of "Marie," and
followed up with "Loretta" with Beaver Nelson singing incredibly high
harmonies with him.  Beaver sat motionless (perhaps locked in meditation with
the words) as he sang "Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold" and "Snake Song."  It seems as
though "Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold" has become the last rite of passage to manhhod
for the singer songwriter.  Beaver passed with flying colors.  There was a
beautifully feminine rendition of "At My Window" by Carla Olson and Mare
Winningham as soprano and alto laced and interwove through those magical
lyrics.  About midway through the show (none of this is chronological, by the
way)  Jeanene got up and read her dream to the audience.  Very touching and
caused a few people to stir nervously in their seats due to the open and
exposing subject matter.

The surprise, and one of the most emotional moments for me, came when no one
was on the stage at all.  There was the bouquet of flowers, there was Townesí
gorgeous blonde guitar, and then a video screen scrolled down from the
ceiling.  The minor chords being strummed on an acoustic guitar came in as
the video for "A Song For" came on.  Poignant, Reflective wonderful shots of
Townes in various locations, primarily in the backseat of a car -at times
singing the song from a stage.  As the song ended with "too late to wish Iíd
been stronger", you could hear a pin drop.  The entire crowd was trying to
force that lump in their throat back down.  Then flashes of color hit the
screen as that electric slide guitar riff slid that lump back down the throat
and hit everyone in the chest pinning them to their seats.  AH HA HA HA HA
HA! It was Blazeís Blue lightening up the mood.  Images of Townes laughing,
cavorting with friends.

I should mention in here somewhere the name of Greg Liesz.  He never sang,
but played a mean pedal steel for several of the performers.  Youíll find his
name buried in the credits of many albums. 

Dan Bern, who is apparently waiting in line behind Loudon WainwrightIII Steve
Forbert and countless others for the "New Bob Dylan" crown, did a great
rendition of  "White Freighliner Blues" and "Waiting Around To Die."  The
mood had gotten heavy and exhaustive when David Olney took the stage.  He was
a tremendous performer, great picker.  When he started in on "Dollar Bill
Blues," I knew he was gonna command some attention.  I couldnít help it.  His
performance was too intense.  I didnít care if it was L.A., I was a Texan and
he had gotten to me.  "WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOEEE!" I hollered out.  Other hoots
began to follow.  I repeated, "WHOOOOOOOOEEEEE!"  The crowd began to join in.
 Then from in the back I heard JT, "HYAAAAAAAAAH!"  We had to unearth that
rabble-rousing side, ya know?

JT took the stage and said he wanted to lighten the mood, because thatís what
Townes wouldíve wanted.  To do so, he played the "Shrimp Song" because he
used to make his dad play it when he was itty bitty sitting out in the
audience.  He was also trying to tie in to the fact that the club was on the
pier.  Lighten the mood it did, but it also was gripping since the song is
about a child striking out on his own in the cruel world, leaving his
parents.  "Iíd play some of my own songs, but I havenít written any" he said
afterwards with a big old sh*t eating grin on his face.  Definitely a chip
off the old block.  JT was telling a joke, poking fun at some of the
performers whoíd come to play their own material and didnít really know TVZís
stuff, while making the crowd incredibly uneasy by facing head on the
question of his songwriting legacy.  A genius like his dad, Iíd have to say.
 The crowd did get the joke finally as soon as they heard Jeanene laugh out
loud.  He rounded it out with "Highway Kind" and "Flying Shoes"

Not enough has been said about Kimmie Rhodes, but I donít think I can
adequately add to the praise sheís received.  She told some great Townes
stories and jokes -"you can throw a hillbilly in jail, but you canít keep his
face from breaking out" Susannah Clark throwing herself on the floor between
Kimmie and Townes as they recorded because she wanted "to be a part of the
magic."  "If I Needed You" was the song of the night, done best by Kimmie and
her son.

Butch took the stage, and I think I was right.  I think his head and heart
were heavy, reminiscing about Townes.  He said he had a dream of his own
about Townes.  That Townes went to heaven, but St. Peter was no longer the
gate keeper, but the barkeeper.  Well Townes wanted to talk to St. Peter, so
he went on over to the bar.  He asks St. Peter for a shot of the best whisky
he has.  St. Peter looks over his shoulder, and the bottles stretch toward
the horizon as far as the eye could see.  St. Peter flies down a few hundred
yards and pulls out a dusty old bottle of 300 year old and comes back with
it.  He pours Townes a shot and Townes holds it up to the light, swishing it
and examining it through the heavenly light.  St. Peter then sets the bottle
on the counter and asks him, "So, why the long face?"  Then Butch woke up.
 Hilarious stuff.  He played "Tecumseh Valley," "Blue Wind Blew" and had
everyone join with him for "Pancho and Lefty."  Then a show-closing "White
Freightliner Blues."

For one night, the beloved city we left came and visited us (OK, so it was 6
hours away from us).  Death has a strange way of bringing people together.
 Happiness through sorrow.  Townes dark and dreary voice and stories coming
out of that body wearing a jubilant and brightly colored shirt.

The screen then came down for Townes singing on the Texas Connection.  He was
coming out for an encore and played "No Deal."  Townes once joked at a
concert that he could tell when he reached middle age because his friends
would be divided down the middle,  half alive and half dead.  Hereís to one
giant leap closer to middle age, Townes.  Play my dad a blue and wailing

Sorry for all of my rambling, folks.  I was deeply touched by the man and I
hoped to share that with you all.   I promise I will never post anything this
long again.  

John the misplaced Austinite

          Re: about-townes: TVZ Tribute in LA-a long winded review
          Mon, 17 Mar 1997 01:20:24 -0500 (EST)




It was Sharon Ely, NOT Susannah Clark that threw herself on the floor to be
"part of the magic" between Kimmie Rhodes and TVZ.  My wife told me I had the
wrong wife. (and she didn't mean her)

Happily married,
John the misplaced Austinite

          Re: about-townes: TVZ Tribute in LA-a long winded review
          Mon, 17 Mar 1997 22:27:02 -0500 (EST)



Kevin Byrt wrote:

<< "Threw herself on the floor to be part of the magic"!!??. Is it just me
 or are things starting to get a little out of focus with this here
 tribute stuff. I mean the man was great but let's maintain a little
 perspective here. One of the special things about Townes was despite his
 legendary exploits his songs were firmly entrenched in reality. Anyone
 logging on to this mailing list in the last few days would think they'd
 accidently called up Tiny Tim.One planet at a time people, for God's

After all of the words I wrote, I guess I still didn't communicate very
clearly.  Perhaps you didn't get the original "long-winded" post I wrote that
I was referring to.  I was relating a story that Kimmie Rhodes told from the
stage about when she was recording her duet with Townes.  She said that it
felt magical to her and that she was not the only one that felt it.  Sharon
Ely (wife of Joe Ely and NOT Susannah Clark, wife of Guy) couldn't stand
being outside of the recording booth, that she had to "be a part of the
magic" and so, she threw herself on the floor of the recording booth to be in
the middle of it and a part of it.   I'm sorry if I was unclear or "out of
focus."  Now, if you understand what I was writing about, I hope you agree
that it has everything to do with this list.  Townes writing was well
intrenched in reality, but to me, the beauty was that he addressed that
reality (the downtrodden & the poor) and elevated them to almost heroic and
mythic proportions.  To have that gift, I believe, may be described as
"magical."  I may have been wordy with it, but I felt I was pertinent.

Tiny Tim may have been a weird cat, but he was one hell of a folksinger in
his own right (able to mimic numerous American styles), but that's another

Sorry (once again) for the ramble,
John the misplaced Austinite -who could chat your ear off about AOL!

          Re: about-townes: TVZ Tribute in LA-a long winded review
          Tue, 18 Mar 1997 21:33:07 -0500 (EST)



Jeff at Hawkfilms writes:
<< Still, I have to admit that when I firstread the message, I felt that John
was attacking people who put Townes' music on a pedestal.  It felt like he
was saying that Townes was simply down to earth and his music shouldn't be
treated as anything higher than that.  It seems Kevin felt that was what was
said, also, and he lashed out.  John, if we misunderstood you, then by all
means clarify. >>

The only thing I have to clarify is that you have our names backwards.  I was
the one who was throwing around the "magic" word in reference to Townes,
because I definitely understand why Sharon Ely would flop herself on the
floor to be a part of that magic.  It was my understanding that Kevin (Byrt)
lashed out because, well, I'm still waiting to hear the "because" for that
one.  When I listen to Townes, I get something new out of his music
everytime.  One of the main reasons I joined this list was because I want to
hear what everyone else gets out of them.  And that includes people who
apparently feel I need a reality check.

Writing to you from the same planet where birds talk all at once, cards
engage in war and prayer, and where swimming holes fill with rum and the Gulf
of Mexico is populated by penguins,
John the misplaced Austinite