Round VII - My Continuing Adventures As A S.F. Rock (and Film Festival!) Journalist
The 24th Annual Mill Valley Film Festival!
Ray Davies "Storytellers" show at The Warfield, SF!
The San Francisco Jazz Festival at the Masonic Auditorium !
Greetings, readers: it's
a mad, mad, mad, mad, mad world - and getting madder every day, it appears.
Anthrax, terrorist threats, WWIII, Osama Bin laden, the mail , people succumbing
to fear, anxiety and stress unlike any time in history in this country - and
my most pressing concern at press time is: the how the hell am I going to get
my guitar on the plane this time??? Yes, boys and girls, yours truly is gonna
brave the unfriendly skies and fly back to Nashville, for the first time since
I moved back here to SF last October 28 to take care of my dear, now departed
dad. Even more terrifying: I'm going during Country Music Award week, (the "Grammys"
of Nashville) to record (*gasp*) pop music!! God knows I won't get to store
it in the cockpit this trip. People really seemed to get a kick out of my "NY
Travel Diary" last month. I'm sure I'll have a lot to tell y'all next month
after headin' back down South. So wish me luck and y'all come back now, y 'hear?!
The 24th Annual Mill Valley Film Festival
October 4 -14th, 2001
It's true, loyal readers, it's true - I have bridged the gap and crossed over from "rock chick music journalist for a local underground newsrag" to "Major Event Press Coverage" - for a local, underground newsrag!! "Why??" you may all be asking. Is it because I am finally being recognized and heralded for my vast contributions to the San Francisco Herald and to the city itself?? Has the SF Herald become a more important, respected newspaper, worthy of this kind of cultural examination?? Um, not exactly. Actually, it's simply because I just asked, boys and girls - and the wonderful publicist of the Mill Valley Film Festival, Pam Hamilton granted most of my wishes, after I e-mailed her my requests. Last month I instructed all of you frozen in front of 24/7 CNN/CNBC terrorland to go out there and "get busy and give the world the best stuff ya got" and I guess the universe made me take my own advice and show up! And show up and show up!And since this column about cutting edge film events, allow me to take this opportunity to remind you about a little seen gem that I forgot to mention last month, given Halloween was upon us. If you didn't catch it on the USA network at 2 AM, run, don't walk, to your local video store and rent ONCE BITTEN, Jim Carrey's first feature film, co-starring Lauren Hutton as a vampire! Why?? Because it's one of the worst movies ever made in history?? Well, that and the fact that there is a scene at the high school Halloween dance with an all girl pop band and guess who the bass player is??? With her natural hair color?? (Hint: it ain't Kathy Valentine!) Read the credits at the end and see for yourself, film buff and fans!Now join me among the beautiful people of beautiful Marin County as I cover five events of the Mill Valley Film Festival!.
October 4 - Opening Night Screening and party!
I attended opening night of the Mill Valley Film Festival at the behest of San Francisco Chronicle Film Critic and my friend Mick LaSalle, as his lovely wife and Pulitzer Prize Finalist playwright Amy Freed was not available and he was loathe to go alone. He was kind enough to extend the invitation to me, and kinder still to include my illustrious publisher Gene Mahoney, (and I was kind enough to tell him!) so off we all went across the Golden Gate Bridge together to screen and be screened There were three movies being screened at the Sequoia theater in Mill Valley that night: "Amelie" (France-Belgium) "The Mystic Masseur" (a new Merchant Ivory picture) and the one film festival founder Mark Fishkin and we saw, "Italian For Beginners" (Denmark), which was an absolutely delightful and charming comedy. Equal parts touching and funny, I highly recommend this offbeat character study of six quirky, lost, flawed souls with good hearts, whose lives intertwine around Italian lessons, death, and renewed hopes and dreams. Sort of like "Secrets and Lies" without the pathos. Mick LaSalle and Gene enjoyed it, as well! Before the film began, I spotted my old pal, Huey Lewis, (see the 1st "Almost Famous" at www.sfherald.com under the "columnists" link for the back-story) looking dapper as ever in a black suit, sitting in the "loge"seats.
I trotted up there in my clingy, long, olive green dress and said, "Hi Huey, it's me, 'D.C.' !!" "D.C.!!" Huey exclaimed, obviously surprised to see me. "You remember my wife, Sidney", gesturing to the brunette woman in a conservative black dress beside him. (Remember Sidney? I was backstage at the Old Waldorf at a Greg Kihn concert when they were on their first date, back in 1980! '79? She was his then and now manager, Bob Brown's secretary!And she was wearing a conservative white dress!) "Sidney", he continued, "you remember D.C., y'know, J.B. ? (his Scottish road manager in 1979/80 who was chasing me) ". "Sure, of course I remember Sidney, how are you?" I smiled, trying to be polite. Sidney looked so thrilled. Huey said,"D.C., ya still singin', aren't ya?" still talking to me like I was the teenager he knew back then. "Huey", I said, "I'm living here again, I sent your management company a CD, and a copy of the paper I write for now, didn't you get it?" "No, I didn't know that, D.C." he said, smiling. And I didn't receive anything." (Either he was being polite and lying, or his management company had lied to me, either of which still irritates the hell out of me after all these years, but what can ya do??!) "Nice to see you both", I grinned and bore it as I trotted back down to the first row to watch the movie. Sigh.
After the film, we headed over to the Mill Valley Community Center for the Opening Night Gala, a festive affair under heated tents shielding us from the starry, starry sky. The bar was open, full and plentiful, the food, however, was surprisingly lame: cold pizza, some dried up ahi tuna surprise (the "surprise" was how awful it was), cheese and crackers and not much else. Senator Barbara Boxer (whose husband, Stuart, is on the MVFF board) and filmmaker and producer Ismail Merchant were some of the esteemed party-goers floating around. Oh, and Huey Lewis and his wife, Sidney, posing for photo ops and making what might have been a rare, very public appearance (hey, I'm new in my hometown again, remember?). Favorite surreal "Almost Famous" moment: strolling across the lawn and coming across Huey Lewis being interviewed by Mick LaSalle, while a photographer snapped away. I walked up to them for a moment and said, "Hi Huey, Mick is my date! I'll leave you two alone." They were deep in "journalist/star" interview mode, (don't break that "wall"!) so Gene and I sat down on a bench not ten feet away, and looked on under a 360 degree, full circle moon. Here I was, back where it all began twenty years ago, showing up as press, and as a guest of a respected member of the press (that would be Mick, no offense, Gene) and I still couldn't be farther away from any of it making any sense. My CD and copies of the SF Herald were burning a hole in my folder and it was completely inappropriate to do a damn thing about it. Huey even turned back to me after he finished his interview with Mick, his wife on his arm, and waved, as he walked away!! Gene waved back. "Now do you understand how RIDICULOUS my life is??" I whined to Gene. "Wow, that does suck!" he replied, as we went off in search of more red whine, I mean wine!
"They Write The Songs That Make The Movies Sing": A Tribute To Alan and Marilyn Bergman - Sunday, October 7
The afternoon of this event to honor two of the most successful and prolific lyricists in film music history started on a weird "note". The Emmy Awards, which had been postponed once already because of the attacks on September 11 and had been rescheduled for October 7, were postponed yet again because our President declared war on Afghanistan. Poor Ellen! Poor Joan Rivers! They should send her to track down Bin laden and his crew. Could you imagine her dissing their fashion sense?? "Oy, that turban! And that disgusting, smelly beard! Yeccch!" I wondered if perhaps if the MVFF would cancel its' events as well, but no, this show did, in fact, bravely go on, like Celine Dion's heart. Presented at the Rafael Theater in San Rafael and interviewed by their long time friend and special guest, Senator Barbara Boxer, this Academy and Emmy award winning husband and wife team of forty-two years shared collaboration stories and showed clips from films spanning a career almost as long and fruitful as their marriage. Their secret to success? "Trust, fidelity, and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite!!" All write! Hearing songs like "The Way We Were" (sung by their perennial muse, Barbra Steisand) from the film of the same name and "The Windmills of Your Mind" from both the original and re-make of "The Thomas Crown Affair" (Sting sung the new version) truly exemplified the power of great song placement in a great film and how that marriage can define the whole impact of the scene or even the film itself.
Of course, this I know because I live to get my songs in film (I have a couple in some "B" movies - see "Almost Famous II") and Marilyn Bergman is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors for ASCAP, my writing affiliate and I have had the pleasure of hearing this tough, talented lady speak in Nashville!) One must point out that having had the opportunity to collaborate with famed, award winning composers like Michel Legrand and Quincy Jones over and over again certainly has contributed to the Bergmans' longevity and sterling reputation. They closed with film clips and songs from another Barbra Streisand tour de force,"Yentl" accompanied by the stories of how they were written and how the songs worked in each scene, an incredible experience for this audience of mostly non-songwriters, who were given the opportunity to ask questions afterward!The reception was held at "Da Silva Island", in Mill Valley: a rather bizarre "Fantasy Island/Universal Studios" tour experience where you had to have your car valet parked, give this "tour guide" your ticket, and get on a bus, which took groups of people up to the top of this hill, while the cheery "tour guide" chatted about the property and offered guided tours of the condos.
Apparently, Da Silva Island, a brand new ga-zillion dollar community, worked out a deal with the MVFF board to offer the use of their poolside terrace and clubhouse for events receptions in exchange for an opportunity to sell their condos to the big money people of Marin County. Ahhh, very clever. Wonder if anyone took a peek?! Festival participants were treated to a full bar, poolside, and offered an array of oysters, cheese, crackers, and assorted hors d'oeuvres, served by a catering staff on trays. The Bergmans were seated in a VIP section along with Senator Boxer and romance novelist, Danielle Steel, (??) in a pink scarf, who instructed the event staff to keep all press and various "riff raff" away from her. Who needs ya, Danni? Who do you think you are, Gore Vidal??
I was much happier to have a few words with the large and in charge Marilyn Bergman, who said wished she could stay for the whole wonderful festival, instead of leaving that night, and was happy to hear I was an ASCAP member. I asked her other half, the gentle-spirited Alan Bergman, if they ever contributed to the music in their songwriting. "I used to write music, " he said, "until I found people that did it so much better than me." He did admit it was "a collaborative effort" and told me, "If a composer refuses to change a note, don't write with him!" Tell 'em, Al! I was fortunate to connect with the lovely Juliet, assistant to Dave Tureaud, head of Tureaud Events and Productions, who produced all of the receptions for the festival (415-235-1545). Both were extremely ingratiating and helpful, and made my job covering these events much more enjoyable In conversation, I discovered Dave's dad had passed away the day before mine this past March.
Maybe they're hangin' out together watching over us! Another kindred soul, freelance photographer Olin Hyde (www.olinhyde.com), a fledging filmmaker and actor when he's not networking like crazy ,(this guy is good!) led me around and introduced me to everyone, including outgoing festival executive director, Mark Fishkin, who told me not to hesitate to ask if he could be of service. When asked about the Emmys being cancelled and if that affected the MVFF events for this evening, Zoe Elton, (Mark Fishkin's charming British co-hort) replied, "Absolutely not. Like I read in an article in the NY Times, art is the one thing that truly brings people together and I think we need it more than ever before." Best character : character actor/musician David Hess, a very talkative NY transplant who claims to have played the lead in Wes Craven's "Last House On The Left" and "Swamp Thing" and even better, claims to have come up with the title and concept for the Otis Blackwell penned Elvis Presley ditty, "All Shook Up" and that he was the first artist to record it and sold 125, 000 copies!! Check out www.davidhess.com to see for yourself!
"I'll shoot your dog if you don't give me this role!" A Tribute To FARGO's William H. Macy, interviewed by Ben Fong-Torres -Tuesday, October 9
Humor, respect for his craft, humility and true star power were dished out with equal measure at the Rafael Theater Tuesday night when William H. (stands for "Hall") Macy took the stage. The wryly witty, well- informed and "so-dry-he-comes-with-an-olive" Ben Fong-Torres, former senior editor of Rolling Stone Magazine was a perfect counterpart to Mr. Macy's gung-ho enthusiasm and refreshing lack of pretense.
A sold-out audience of movie fans was treated to dozens of movie clips and the stories behind the scenes. Macy has perfected the "imploding Everyman", both comedically and tragically in over 60 films, 50 plays and dozens of TV roles, such as the role of distressed car salesman, Jerry Lundegaard, which put him on the map in FARGO Macy claimed to have threatened to kill the Coen Brothers' dog if they didn't cast him, and has not had to audition for a role since. When asked why he always plays "losers", Macy said he refuses to refer to his characters as such. "It's the kiss of death to 'characterize the character'. You always find a 'noble point of view', and base it on your own, personal reasons of what you would do. He credits his work with writer/director David Mamet with defining and honing his understated, deadpan style and is proud to be a member of "Mamet's Mafia", along with other acclaimed actors such as Dennis Franz and Joe Mantegna. Macy played two of his most tragic figures to nuanced perfection in BOOGIE NIGHTS and MAGNOLIA, and is so proud and honored to be among the gourmet shopping list of actors director/writer Paul Thomas Anderson is "sold" on using in every project. Macy chirped, "If he's selling, I'm buying!" When asked how he felt watching his clips from these films, Macy said humbly, "God, what great writers!"
He pooh-poohs acting preparation and technique - what he refers to as "externals", and says, "It's on the page. If it's not on the page, don't put it in the movie. Just be on time and learn your lines. You'd be amazed how many big actors don't!" After the interview, audience members were given the opportunity to ask questions. What was his favorite movie? His favorite line? HAPPY, TEXAS is the movie he loves the best and a line from that movie, in response to how he wants his steak, "Rare and I mean rare! Just send it out here live with the horns on it!" (Or something like that.) Loving the stage for the "immediacy", loving the screen for "the tiny, skilled moments", William H. Macy just "really, really likes acting." And his legions of fans and admirers are really, really glad he does!
After the stand-out tribute, we headed back to Mill Valley for a lovely reception at a wonderful Italian restaurant called FRANTOIO (415) 289-5770) www.frantoio.com. Owned by the charismatic Roberto Zecca, whom I am told is a world renown expert at making olive oil, the large crowd of festival party folks were treated to an expansive and delicious buffet of several types of salads and bread, in addition to a separate hot buffet table of various intricately presented pastas, seafood, meats and vegetables, all of which you could wash down with your choice of wines and champagne. Oh my, and a dessert buffet to boot! It was almost too good to be true, which was why I hit Roberto Zecca up for an opportunity to do our "Most corrupt food critics" feature on his establishment and it will hopefully be in our next issue.
Ben Fong-Torres was going around from table to table meeting and greeting and stopped off at our table to say hello to the charming couple I was with, my new friend, film music composer, songwriter and all around cool guy Mark Governor, and his lovely and stylish girlfriend, Susie, who has known Ben for eight years. (They had introduced me to Ben right after the tribute as a writer for the SF Herald, and when I told him my column was called "Almost Famous", he told me (jokingly, I hope!) that he'd be calling Cameron Crowe's lawyers in the morning, to which I replied, "I think you should!") We were raving about the food and Ben made a joke about us being mistaken and it being the "wrong food" (?) to which I quipped "If loving this food is wrong, I don't wanna be right"! Ben said, "I LOVE that song!"
Turns out Ben is a closet karaoke fanatic and Susie met him at Yet Wah restaurant in Diamond Heights, where he does a mean Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan every other Tuesday night! I'm so there, man! Before he left, I handed him a few copies of the SF Herald, and a CD and said, "Listen, read my column, and if you like it, may I hit you up for an interview??" He said, "Sure, and even if I don't, you gotta come to karaoke night at Yet Wah!!" That Ben! Shortly after this, I finally met my fairy godmother, the spirited, attractive and ingratiating MVFF publicist Pam Hamilton, who gave me a big hug and said she was so glad to meet me, and that Mick LaSalle had spoken highly of me! (Thanks, Mick!) She told me she became aware of Ben Fong-Torres doing the "k-thing" 13 years ago at her e-husband's 40th birthday party, where she had hired a DJ. This was before karaoke was a "thing" and she said Ben broke the ice with an Elvis impersonation that brought the house down for her guests of radio and entertainment personalities! She's shown up to cheer him on at Yet Wah in Diamond Heights, and the Sweetwater in Mill Valley numerous times since. Who knew??!!! Meanwhile, the star and guest of honor, William H. Macy, had finished his dinner at the VIP table and was holding court in the back of the restaurant for whomever was fortunate enough to still be in attendance.
Glass of chardonnay in hand, he happily and graciously answered questions and talked about his future projects, one of which is a movie he has written called "Door To Door", scheduled to be released first on TNT, and then to theaters, like they have done on Showtime. He even posed for pictures and signed memorabilia, thrilling several members of the "general public" who had purchased tickets for this reception just for the chance to have a moment exactly like this with "their man". Granting their wishes right up until the last second when Pam Hamilton escorted him out to his limo, William H. Macy took his leave, and left us basking in the afterglow of his brand of "Pleasantville"!
"Fear Of Flying In The Bedroom" - a tribute to Sissy Spacek (sort of) and a screening of her new film "In The Bedroom" written and directed by Todd Field- Saturday, October 13
Sissy Spacek, while one of the most talented and critically acclaimed actresses of the last century, is a sissy. No offense. But if a high profile film festival goes to the trouble of honoring you with a tribute to your body of work, and hundreds of other actors, directors, producers, etc., many with families of their own, can brave the potentially unfriendly skies to attend their auspicious events, so can you! Yeah, I'm dissing Sissy. But only because I'm such an admirer of her work for many years, and I was very disappointed she chose to let the events of September 11 prevent her from giving us the opportunity to bask in her glory face to face. Bad Sissy! What we did get at the Rafael theater Saturday evening was a very brief, filmed message to us from her, where she really didn't say much of anything, and an assortment of film clips from her brilliant career, including CARRIE, BADLANDS, and MISSING. She is one of those actresses that is incapable of giving a less than Academy Award deserving performance. Somebody cast this woman in a film with Kevin Spacey! Then we were introduced briefly to Todd Field, the director and writer of "In The Bedroom", Ms. Spacek's newest film. I was seated next to the personable and popular Richard Habib, proprietor, founder and owner of the highly esteemed Alexander's Decorative Rugs (415-383-3908 @ Marin showroom 415-626-8430 @ SF Design Center www.alexandersrugs.com) and a patron of the MVFF who I had become acquainted with over the course of my coverage.
He was very encouraging, telling everyone within earshot that I wrote for the SF Herald and went out of his way to make me feel welcome, going so far as to offer me an extra ticket to the closing night party, which was the only event I requested that super-publicist Ms. Hamilton was not able to accommodate. "In The Bedroom" is actor Todd Field's (RUBY IN PARADISE, EYES WIDE SHUT , TV's ONCE AND AGAIN) feature film directorial and screenwriting debut and it is an admirable and noble effort. He adapted it from a short story, "Killings" and it is a gripping and involving character study of a small town East Coast family unraveling, after their only son makes some choices involving a love interest (played by the always captivating Marisa Tomei) that irrevocably alter the lives of every person in that town forever. Spacek's performance as the judgmental mother and wife who must come to terms with her own need to forgive and be forgiven, was stellar, as was British actor Tom Wilkinson's (THE FULL MONTY) as the quietly devastated husband and father.
I did, however, find the pacing of the film laborious, and some of the business defining the characters stagy. Field took what felt like an eternity setting the stage for the tragic (and predictable, but he was sticking to an already written story) events to come, and yet we still knew little about the relationships between the main characters. If you are going to take that much time to set us up, let us get to know and care about who these folks are! Then when you use interesting editing, quirky traits and references to the past to make your points, we don't feel so manipulated. Be that as it may, I did enjoy the film, particularly when Field used Peter Frampton's "Baby I Love Your Way" as the only lyric driven song in the movie, coming out of a car radio in a romantic scene. Given the fact that I had just reviewed Frampton's concert in the September issue of the Herald (and just happened to have a copy with me) and have had pleasant dealings with his publicist, Scott Stems, I couldn't wait to ask Todd Field what made him choose that particular song.
There was a question and answer session after the film, but I chose to pose mine at the reception back up at Fantasy, I mean Da Silva Island. Field, a soft spoken, humble, very earnest and sincere guy (the antithesis of the arrogant characters I've seen him play, which is a credit his acting ability ) perked right up when asked about the song. He took delight in explaining that he had listened to "millions of songs" on AM radio speakers and taped them, to put up against picture in that particular scene and "Baby I Love Your Way" was the only one that worked for him. He was sure that it would be impossible to license, but that Peter Frampton's record and management company couldn't have been more agreeable. Field had similar stories for how he was able to attract both Academy award winning actresses Sissy Spacek and Marisa Tomei to his project and still seemed genuinely in awe that they actually were, in fact, actually in the movie!
It was an endearing quality that I hope too many more years in this business will not squash. I told him that I, too had made the jump from "fledging actress" to "musician/songwriter" to "journalist" and I understood and admired the difficulty and the necessity to express one's creativity and art in whatever ways we are compelled to. Field genuinely seemed to appreciate this sentiment -we had a moment. And I absolutely adored the fact that he walked around for the rest of the reception clutching his copy of the SF Herald I gave him with the Frampton review. Ya gotta love that. I wish him all the best!Most embarrassing "blond" moment: standing around chatting with Paula Herman, the charming and friendly events coordinator of Corte Madera bookstore, Book Passage (www.bookpassage.com 415-927-0960), and her husband and friends, after "bonding" with Todd Field, when they were engaged in conversation with the world's busiest working actor (in not one but two, MVFF films, "The Bank" and "Lantana") Australian born, but NYand LA bred Anthony LaPaglia, whose extensive work in TV and film I have always enjoyed.
After introducing myself, handing him a copy of the Herald (with the half-naked picture of Terri Nunn on the cover , which he began to flip through) and asking him a few intelligent questions, like what acting techniques has he employed ("Method" with famed teacher and actress Kim Stanley), I then proceeded to praise his recent work on HBO's SEX & THE CITY. "I've never done that show", he replied, suddenly stone-faced and annoyed. I must have looked at him like a deer in the headlights, because I was utterly confused and certain it was him I had seen! My new friend Paula finally said, "Um, I think it was FRAZIER." Oh my God - it was "Frazier"!!! With the same storyline as the one on "Sex & The City" : Anthony LaPaglia played Daphne's obnoxious English cousin who comes on to Roz at Daphne's wedding to Niles on FRAZIER, and some other actor played Trey's obnoxious Scottish cousin who comes onto Samantha at his wedding to Charlotte on SEX & THE CITY!!! Ooops. Hey, it was an easy mistake. Coulda happened to anybody, right? All I know Anthony LaPaglia didn't clutch his copy of the Herald (I found it crumpled up on the one of the food tables) and he ignored me the rest of the evening and at the closing night party, too. Oh well, ce' la vie - I can't be dazzling and brilliant all the time - I'd be too predictable! Sorry, Tony. Nice work in "He Said/She Said", which was on cable the next day and many days since, just to remind me of my "blondness"!
"In My City By The Bay" - Closing Night Gala on the Hornblower Yacht in Sausalito Sunday, October 14
Thanks again to my friend, Richard Habib, for allowing me to end my MVFF adventure with a lovely cruise around the SF Bay. He even left the ticket waiting for me with the Event Staff, who now recognized me as the writer for the SF Herald and I felt like a bona fide, bigtime journalist! There was a line of over a hundred people around the harbor, waiting to board, and we were greeted by the Captain and crew as we embarked onto the double decker yacht! The mood was very festive and it was quite the grand finale. The lovely Tuscan buffet spread was provided by Pasta Pomodoro, and the wine and champagne were flowing once again, with a full bar if you so chose to indulge. I had an engaging conversation with Cannes award winning director Rob Nilsson, whose new film "Scheme C6" was featured in the MVFF. The "Clint Eastwood-esque" Nilsson's background is utterly fascinating: his real life story of his homeless brother inspiring him to found the Tenderloin Action Group, now known as Tenderloin Y Group,and the ground breaking work he has achieved through it, is better than most movies I've read about or seen in a long time. Check it all out at www.robnilsson.com . I chatted briefly with the humorous and outgoing John Sanborn, of Comedy Central, after he asked me what perfume I was wearing while we were in line for the bar.("Tabu", as always!) He is now the marketing director of interactive games and you can check his stuff out at www.comedycentral.com.
Held court at Richard Habib's table, who just made me feel like a million bucks and bonded with his lovely friend, photographer Mary Bartnikowski (650-326-9567 www.sacredspace.com). Roberto Zecca of Frantoio was also in attendance and assured me "his people would be in touch with my people." I mean, me. Many party goers hung out on the deck to gaze upon the absolutely breathtaking view of San Francisco as the yacht cruised around the bay. What a wonderful, romantic treat this was! But I had a job to do, by George, and I had no time for such idle pleasures! Speaking of George, I made it a point to chat up the hard working and very talented musicians, the Vernon Bush Quartet, who were very pleased someone took the time to pay attention to them personally, as only hired musicians at a private function can understand, myself having been one of them at many times in my life! They were fortunate to have opened recently for one of my all time favorite singers, Gladys Knight, at the Mountain Winery, deservedly so, I must add, and all of the members play around the San Francisco Bay Area with various groups. Check out their action at www.vernonbush.com.
Too soon, it was time for our love boat to pull back into the harbor, to say farewell to my new MVFF friends and for this adventure to sadly come to an end. Kind of like summer camp. See ya next year!
"He's Not Like Everybody Else": Ray Davies' "Storytellers" show - live at The Warfield, SF, Tuesday, October 16
You know that "Storytellers" series on VHI, which has become all the rage, where stars tell the stories behind their songs and play an acoustic set to an intimate audience? For the uneducated among you music fans, I am here to inform you that Ray Davies, founder (along with his brother Dave) of one of the greatest rock bands of all time, The Kinks, is the guy who started the whole thing. This show, which Ray has been taking around the world for several years now, is what gave those VHI guys the idea in the first place! And nobody can command a stage or delight an audience like the playfully charming, so very British and at fifty-something, still rockin' Ray Davies. I had the pleasure of seeing this same show back in 1998, in Knoxville, TN, when I was working for Entertainment Travel in Nashville (the same agency that did Peter Frampton's and many other itineraries to the stars). It is the type of one-of-a-kind entertainment that should be seen more than once, to truly appreciate what an absolutely brilliant songwriter this guy is, and the undeniable magic that he shared with his brother, Dave.
It is common knowledge that he and Dave supposedly do not get along and haven't spoken much in years (although I read that they were spotted having dinner together recently ). This is a travesty and curiosity, considering the obvious love and admiration Ray still has for Dave, evident throughout the stories he tells with such reverence and humor , about growing up in England with six sisters in a working class family. His deep connection to his brother Dave is the thread that weaves it all together so seamlessly. They need Doctor Phil! Call Oprah now! Playing an array of Ovation acoustic guitars, with longtime mate, the talented Pete Mathison on an assortment of lead electic guitars, Davies greeted the full house of wildly applauding, standing 30/50- something's like a true monarch of rock 'n roll. Still dressed in a blazer and sneakers, with longish hair and that sheepish "caught with his hand in the cookie jar" grin, he seemed ageless.
He "read" from the "storybook of his life", clowning and preaching his way through each charming tale, painting pictures of so many colorful characters, and then diving into classic songs like "Victoria" (Gene Mahoney's street in da hood he just moved away from!) , "Come Dancing", "Don't Keep Me Waiting ", "Where Have All The Good Times Gone", "Set Me Free", "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" "Stop Your Sobbing'" and of course, their signature song that put them on the map, "You Really Got Me". Jesus, when you hear all the songs in this context, you can't help but be in awe of the truly incomparable songwriters these guys were!! And what a showman Davies' is, completely at home on that stage. The whole audience was singing along, and the guy in front of me was playing all the drum parts on the table to perfection. I had to ask him, yep, he was a drummer! For his first encore, he did the beautiful "Waterloo Sunset" and of course, had to come back out to serenade us with the gender bending, "Lola", which brought the rockin' house down. No wartime stories for this crowd, only memories of a simpler time when all that mattered was that "little green amp"!
(Spotted before the show began: director of "Scheme C6" Rob Nilsson, from the Mill Valley Film Festival!!)
Fun Fact/ "Almost Famous" anecdote: Back in '98, when I saw this show for the first time, I met Ray Davies' guitarist Pete Mathison after the show. An amiable fellow, he gave me his address in London to send him a tape of my songs, and said he'd play with me if I ever came to town. At the time, I was, like, "Yeah, like I'll ever go to London". Well, I did go to London during the summer of '99, and true to his word, my mate, Pete, did learn a few of my songs and we played not once, but twice while I was there, at two different pubs!! Pete rehearsed with Ray during the day, played with Kimberlye Gold at night, y'know, all the big stars! What a cool bloke, that Pete! This time around, we didn't get to play music, but we did hang out at the Owl Tree bar with his sound guy, Tristan and guitar tech, Tim, who told me some great road stories (about a star from a particular band) that he made me promise not to print!.
Odds 'n Ends
Attempted to review the John Hiatt/John Eddy show at Slim's, Wednesday, October 17, but it was cancelled, due to John Hiatt being rushed to the hospital with food poisoning! No word on his condition, poor thing. And no word at all from John Eddy, who has now had two Slim's shows cancelled (the last one was on September 11!) and who's CD I gave such a glowing review last issue. John chatted me up, big time, when he was in town last, and said he really liked my CD, took a bunch of copies of the Herald, and said he'd definitely be in touch. I'm definitely not holding my breath!Went to the opening night of the SF Jazz Festival at the Masonic Auditorium, Wednesday, October 24, courtesy of the pleasant and talented Jim Harrington, my music critic friend from the Oakland Tribune. Hosted by Channel 4 newscaster Pam Moore, it was a tribute to the late John Coltrane, who would have been 75 this year, with three sets from musicians who played with him during various phases of his brief, but acclaimed career, piano players Tommy Flannigan and his trio, McCoy Tyner (solo), and saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and his combo. While I can certainly appreciate the immense talent of all involved, and the packed house of jazz affecianados' excitement was evident throughout the three sets, this type of jazz still sounds to me like 3 or 4 musicians playing 3 or 4 different songs, with no relation to one another! I play guitar, I am a musician, and I like a lot of different types of music. Hey, I KNOW I am outnumbered, but I am just not a hip, jaaazzzz purist cat, man. So sue me! Give me the Isley Brothers, baby, or something where I can feel the groove, and hum the melody, know what I'm sayin'? But it was cool, I feel "culturally enhanced" and I can dig it. Peace out, my brothers and sisters!