A fine chapter in the book titled "Misadventures of zman and TR" involves going to see the Allman Brothers at the Beacon Theater in 1998 or 1999. They put on a good show with a protracted jam that included several Allman staples as well as "Franklin's Tower," "Help Is On They Way" and "St. Stephen's". Time spent listening to "One From the Vault," the only Dead album I can stomach, served me well as I was able to identify the start of this Dead run before anyone else, including the guy in front of us whom TR nicknamed "The King of All Weed". TKoAW was a chubby disheveled 40-something dude with an amorphous mass of wiry dandruffy dry hair, a nose like a bell pepper, chunky glasses, a pushbroom mustache, a steal your face tshirt that might have been white at one point but was now dishwater grey (and likely orange in the armpits), sweatpants, and a fannypack. He had a younger woman with him who was cute in a hippie/Earthy manner and they went out of their way to say hello to everyone around them as they sat down. Once the show started TKoAW pulled a joint from his fanny pack, lit it, hit it a few times, and gave it to the guy on his left with a "take two and pass it on" hand motion. Or at least that's what I'm told that hand motion meant. TKoAW continued in this manner throughout the show, distributing joints in all radial directions and thereby clubbing our section into a cannaboid haze with what I'm told was cataclysmically powerful pot. The show ended on a predictable and thus somewhat unfortunate (from a storytelling perspective) note when the Allmans performed "Whipping Post" as their encore.
I returned to the Beacon this Saturday for the first time in over decade, along with FsOG:TB Squeaky and Juan Carlos, and FOz&S J-P, to see The National. This post is not an offical Gheorghe-mas entry but if you're looking for a good Christmas (or Gheorghe-mas) gift, give (or ask for) two tickets to see The National the next time they're in town. They kick some serious tail.
This show was quite unlike my previous trip to the Beacon. TKoAW wasn't there, nor was there anyone remotely like him. The crowd was mostly date-night couples and people about my age with a healthy smattering of 20-somethings and groups of attractive young women. Everyone bought their clothes at J Crew or Banana Republic. J-P commented that it was much unlike the Parts and Labor show he saw the previous night, which he described as a sausage fest. Unsurprising, if you ask me. Also in the crowd was a man in a tux with a woman in a wedding dress, which prompted the following exchange:
zman: "What the fuck? Who gets married then goes to a show in those getups?"
J-P: "They probably met at some bar where the bartender was playing a National album and now it's their band."
zman: "I bet he picked her up with a National pickup line."
J-P: "Fuck you talkin bout?"
zman: "Like we went up to her and said 'I'd eat your brains.'"
J-P: "It would be cooler if she offered to put his brains in her mouth. Maybe he just walked up and said 'Karen'?"
zman: "How about 'I was carried here by a swarm of beers'?"
J-P: "Your lines suck. If he had game he woulda said 'I won't fuck us over I'm Mr. November.'"
That settled it for us so we went with that explanation.
The National played for about 2 hours including almost all of High Violet and a bunch of old stuff from Alligator and some new stuff that they apparently debuted a week earlier. Their Bjorn Borg clone of a drummer (Bryan Devendorf) is insanely good with a style reminiscent of Muhammad Ali's -- his hands appear to float and skim around the drum kit while the sticks barely seem to touch the drums, but he produces a punishing cacophony of sound that cannot possibly come from only one percussionist. I know this because they project his image while playing on a massive screen behind him using a camera angle mounted directly above and slightly behind him. Just watching him play Bloodbuzz Ohio alone is a spectacle worthy of the price of admission (I never properly appreciated the complexity of the drums on that song). They also have a trumpeter, two trombonists, a four piece string section, and three keyboardists. Lots of folks on stage.
They put on a damn good show, concluding with lead singer Matt Berninger drunkenly staggering into the crowd and chair-walking Roberto Benigni style during Terrible Love, much to the chagrin of the guy in charge of his mic cord. They eventually corralled him back onto the stage where he called everyone out from behind the scenes to thank them for all their work on the tour (this was the last show). And then this happened.
After everyone finished and settled down, I turned to Squeaky and we looked at each other for a second, then he proclaimed "That was awesome."
The National turned Squeaky into a lover of singalongs. Go see The National. It will change your life. Squeaky is living proof! And you might get to see an encore that is the complete opposite of the Allman's "Whipping Post".