The Concert Tour: Day Nine
Oct. 24th, 1991
The big day: the gig on Austin City Limits. This promises to be a long one; we have marching orders to be in the lobby ready to check out by 9am. Bass player John Previti (my roommate) and I make it on time, but we're the only ones. Seems there has been a change of plans, the early meeting is no longer necessary. A tragic loss of sleep! One of us was on the phone when the notifying phone call was made, the lack of follow through a fairly typical circumstance of the road. The morning isn't a total waste however, as the ornate Driskill lobby and surrounding streets have been overrun by a television crew filming an episode of the western mini-series "Ned BlessingThe Story of My Life & Times." Costumed actors and extras float about the period setting; crew members with clipboards ever present to tell lurkers as ourselves to be quiet, or please don't stand there. We watch the interesting, laborious process until the others arrive. If you don't remember seeing "Ned Blessing" (that is, if you blinked and missed it), it ran two years hence, in August and September 1993.
We gather our things, checkout, and head over to the KLRU-TV studios, on the campus of the University of Texas. We meet our contacts on time. The atmosphere is professional and cordial, the security tight, especially for so early in the day. We're drilled on the routine and given today's dated backstage pass (laminated variety) and a variety of paper info. The printed agenda includes the usual items (sound check) and a few TV-specific ones (8pm9pm makeup session: "Our makeup artist has a long list of national production credits. Please be prompt." ).
Regardless of my backstage pass being labeled "ARTIST," this is the day I step from behind the drum kit and make the transition from performing band member to, well, "drum tech" (i.e. drummer's roadie) for Shannon, who is flying in and meeting us at the studio. Shannon is in fact on time (Damn! My covert hopes of filling-in at the last minute dashed! ), greetings all-around are enthusiastic. Questions regarding his Hee Haw gig are answered; 'many beautiful women' is the most prominently reported fact. (As a matter of fact, Shannon is destined to meet his future wife on this gig, Alice Ripley, who is performing as a "Hee Haw Honey.")
| The Gatton Band goes through the rehearsal/soundcheck with flying colors. We now have a few spare hours while the evening's other act engages in their technical preparation. Opening the show is bluegrass phenom Alison Krauss. Austin City Limits has a tradition of pairing dissimilar artists on the same bill, so as to avoid musical monotony, to "mix things up." Alison Krauss is indeed a first-rate talent, and the choice of a lighter, softer bluegrass artist seems innocuous enough. (More on that later
Aside from helping set-up the drum kit, I have very little real work. Probably my most valuable duty is water boy, scrambling for glasses of water for Shannon. Not performing gives me more mobility to wander around and enjoy the scene. The show occupies a rather small soundstage, and has more the feel of theatre in the round than a musical showcase. That is, excluding the ubiquitous TV gear, cameras, booms and motorized winches which smoothly roll back and forth, up and down predetermined aisles.
Outside, though it is still a few hours before the 7pm doors-open for the 8pm show, there is a hefty line snaking around the building. Seating is assigned, but locals tell me it is always like this. As the ticket points out, having a ticket doesn't necessarily guarantee one's admission: the shows are oversold to guarantee a full house. So, people arrive early. In fact, it's possible the early line is to take advantage of the FREE BEER, which is available to of-age guests before the show and during intermission. Even the tickets specify: "Refreshments are provided by Budweiser."
Looking around this party-like mass of ticket-holders (the free tickets are distributed weeks in advance), I spot a good friend, accomplished jazz singer Maryann Price. Having called her in advance, her presence is expected and we arrange to sit together.
Dinner is, at Shannon's recommendation, the Old Iron Works, a serious Texas Bar-B-Q joint situated in an old iron plant. Folks, this is heavy-duty-intense Bar-B-Q. Highly recommended.
Then, a chance to check into the new hotel for a shower and nap before the gig. As Shannon is John's usual road-roommate, Billy asks, rather, tells me EDDIE is my new roommate for this short time. "That's OK, right?"
This is astonishing insensitivity. Publicly, the answer is "sure," but quietly, I ask John and Shannon if they wouldn't mind my hanging with them for these two hours. Eddie has been going out of his way to be nice, but the thought of sharing the small space, even for a couple hours is uncomfortable. (Note: the entire cost of these hotel rooms is borne by KLRU for the sake of this important two-hour rest. We'll be leaving after the gig tonight.)
The gig: As it turns out, having Alison Krauss on the bill manifests an interesting dynamic. She is a voice-from-heaven bluegrass sweetie pie; the music is soft and lovely. It's unlikely any of it exceeds a light-handed 65 decibels. The crowd loves her. However, those who have seen Danny know, he is approximately twice as loud, three times more raucous and ten time faster-paced than this sort of thing. Fasten your seat belts
After the break/set-change, Danny is introduced. He comes on to an appropriately reverent ovation. As with the previous night, there are a ton of musicians in the audience. Danny is playing great. Aggressively, with typical vigor and overwhelming flash, but also with the profound sensitivity and delicate forays that characterize his best work. I soon realize however, that the crowd has been terminally sensitized by Alison Krauss. Danny's music is loud, fast and more akin to a jackhammer than a feather duster. After about 20 minutes there is a palpable sense of "Geez - enough already."
Thus, the downfall of extreme diversity on the bill in such a setting. Though this no doubt works great sometimes, tonight is an example when it does not. Interestingly, we learn that despite the purposeful mismatches at tapings, when broadcast, shows consist of well-matched musical guests.
Afterward, we review the tape of the show. It is apparent that despite a few technical mishaps (one tune suffers from a false start and must be attempted again) the music stands-up just fine. There's more than enough great stuff for the edited broadcast version. Danny seems pleased, but a little nervous and seeking reassurance that the end product will make the grade. All agreesuccess.
In fact, this is the last bit of music played on the tour. A copy of the videotape and a passel of Austin City Limits T-shirts packed away, we hit the road at 2am, beginning the long trip home with, what else? an all night drive.
Next: The Last Hurrah: Days Ten & Eleven
Day One || Day Two || Day Three, pt. 1 || Day Three, pt. 2
Day Four || Day Five || Day Six || Day Seven
Day Eight || Day Nine || Days 10-11
Epilogue || Feedback
© 1991, 1996 by Brian S. Alpert. All rights reserved.