Saturday, May 31, 2008

THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW!


In preparation for traveling to Chicago the next morning, I fired up the truck stereo and dropped in an bootleg recording of the very earliest days of Van Halen, a combination of studio and live performances from the mid 1970's, a few years before they made it big. Raw sounding in their formative stages. It was a short gig because I needed to get to sleep early in anticipation of having to get up early and stay up late the next day.

Up at 5, on the plane by 7:30 and in Chicago by 11:30 AM. My sister joined me on this one. Took the train into Chicago and spent a couple hours roaming the Art Institute looking at their varied exhibits. I was really tired at that point, especially since my aching shoulder prevented my getting a good nights sleep. Walked down to Lake Michigan where we rested on the grass overlooking the yacht club, enjoying the suns warmth and watching the joggers run by (the women in this city all seem to be well endowed!). We then walked over to the nearby polished stainless steel objet d'art located in the city's millennium park, the 'Kapoor sculpture', the mirror-like surface reflected a drunken looking city skyline. Definitely a focal point for visitors in the area!

Took the train out to Rosemont after picking up a bottle of tequila at a downtown liquor shop. From that train station we took the bus to the motel where we ditched our stuff and went immediately to dinner. The people in the booth behind us were having the Dave vs. Sammy debate. We prepared by filling the flask with .5 liter of tequila, downing the rest of the 750 ml bottle in the motel room. The motel shuttle brought us to Allstate Arena early so that we could enjoy the last rays of the sun and watch the people pouring in. A cigar in hand, watching limos pass before us and low flying airplanes landing at nearby O'Hare Airport roar above us. Days of expectation were over, it was right here, right now!

Time to head inside and join the party! Police were crawling all over the place. Walk through the door, they scan the ticket and the security guard wearing blue gloves asks for me to come over for a pat down. Shit! With a half liter of tequila stashed in my pants I thought that was it for me! As he pats me down I fidget so that he doesn't go for that one sweet spot that would give it all away. He missed! Hallelujah, I'm in! Grabbed a soda, loaded it up with the juice and onto the show! Ryan Shaw was in progress when we found our seats on the deck just above the floor, Eddies side. These were the best seats I had during the 07/08 tour in that we were close to the stage and looked out over the sea of heads in between. We watched the crowd stream in, the drunks having difficulty negotiating the stairs.

Intermission ends, the lights go out, the roadies whip off the curtains and Van Halen rips into "You Really Got Me", sending the crowd to its feet where they stayed for the remaining two hours! This is what its all about, proving once again why the time, money and effort is worth it!


It was really loud! The crowd was crazy the whole concert and Dave was lovin' it all night long, that goofy grin on his face proving it. Eddie was enjoying it too. You can see the pride and and joy he had for his son Wolfie in how the two of them interacted.


I was getting worried that the tequila was having little effect on me this evening after having drank nearly half of it early in the show. Yeah, my sister was sipping some of it too. But then it kicked in and I was flying for the rest of the concert! I don't know if was the juice or what, but it got so damn loud that I could not make out what was being said if spoken to. I was lovin' it!


I danced and sang to everyone of their songs. The only time I stood still was to snap off the occasional picture with the camera. Even that was hard to do considering the many that came out blurry. Camera men were patrolling the aisles video taping the wild and crazy fans in the audience! I'm hoping they come out with an official DVD of one of their shows following this tour.


The two hours evaporate and they're playing their encore, "Jump"! I savour the moment knowing its over. The lights come back on and the crowd begins to make its way to the exits. I was happy because with the juice gone, I was still conscious and aware of what was happening. Not so for my sister who made the mistake of following someone who she was talking to and left the arena without me. Security was tight and prevented me from getting onto the floor to grab a handful of confetti from off the stage. I find sis at the designated meet point, bummed at having left her jacket inside, which I promptly retrieved. Upon exiting the arena, I complemented the foxy Chicago police women on how good they looked in uniform. We watched the limos roll by, picking up their groups of concert goers. I had fun messing with peoples minds, eliciting a variety of responses. Why did that one guy object to my drawing the VH logo in the dust on the polished hood of his vehicle? The limo riders were asked to replenish my flask from their private bar. When turned down I told them to enjoy their ride home, which was nothing more than an $80 taxi ride.


In the end my sister and I were the only ones waiting for a ride, the promised motel shuttle never arriving. So we walked the mile back to our room, the cool night air reviving us and the exercise helping burn off the alcohol. Into the room, guzzle some OJ and then drop in bed.

Sis was not feeling well and so I had breakfast alone. By 11 AM we were retracing our footsteps back to Denver, landing in the mile high city around 5 PM. Back to the pickup and in the door of the house just in time for dinner. It was all over, with no opportunity to do it again considering the 2007/2008 tour would come to an end in Grand rapids MI this coming Monday. Van Halen as a band would then go silent.


Concert arena
Landing planes roar outside
Spirits soar inside

Police frisk him down
Tequila goes unnoticed
Gets him all fired up!

Thunderous applause
Speakers volume turned up high
Ringing in his head

Play their formula
The bands chemistry ignites
Crowds loud reaction

Deafening applause
Big screen shows sweat glistening
Smiles on their faces

Light beam swept darkness
All converge on center stage
Eddie is divine

A spotlit halo
He's got the miracle fingers
Takes our hearts and souls

The grand finale
Band makes the audience "JUMP!"
And then they are gone

Feelin like Jamie
Departure leaves us cryin
Ends the one night stand

Sleep deprived nights
Tequila fueled rock concert
Leaves him exhausted




Tuesday, May 27, 2008

WHAT ABOUT MY TEMPER?

There have been numerous times when I've considered changing the name of this blog to be more representative of the content - my virtual reality Van Halen concerts and associated haiku poetry. The question must come up often about the title "What A Temper" and here's the answer. My original intent was to use the blog as a vehicle by which I could vent about the current state of political affairs, as expressed through haiku, infuriated by the stupidity of the leaders and policies of our great nation. Some examples of this politically inspired poetry include:

Through clouded vision
Their self-congratulation
Amidst smoking ruins

Wartime shopping spree
Bush buys gifts for all his friends
Our kids get the bill

Corpse wrapped in plastic
Muscle and flesh holding bones
Stench fills roadside air

Movement on the roof
Tense soldiers raise their weapons
Six year old throws stones

Lords of the ghetto
The most fearsome militia
Our US Army

An urban desert
Sea of half-destroyed buildings
World sees our promise

No celebrations
Anniversary passes
Five years of war crimes

Laser guided bomb
Stands before corpse strewn rubble
Not cool anymore

Bush commands the surge
Troops fan out across Baghdad
They guard the gas pumps

They burst in firing
Gray clad troops dole out their gift
Freedom of the grave

Humvees in pursuit
Driver chases masked gunmen
Scooter eludes them

Lament what we've done
Cruelty towards our brethren
Then do it again

Joint forces raid home
Door riddled with bullet holes
Like people inside

Changing strategies
A rich mans sporting event
The chess pieces bleed

Like a slow dripping
Death greets soldiers one by one
Resigned acceptance

Low attention span
Public forgets the carnage
Denial is high

The pre-dawn darkness
Low pitched thump of the choppers
Drum beats Deaths approach

Dawn commando raid
The men, women and children flee
Count the dead terrorists

Mirage-like image
Peace wavers in deserts sun
Heat from tanks exhaust

Fear of the shadows
Battle the apparitions
A war without end

Holy rollers preach
Claim a direct line to God
Their phone is unplugged

Street sweeper pauses
Hears the volley of bullets
Blood soaks the gray dust

Caught in the crossfire
The girl has no place to hide
Sixteen short years end

Corpse on the stretcher
Watch the battered soul depart
Buzzing cloud of flies

Looks across the land
Bush says the future looks bright
Nero's Rome burning

Lies lull us to sleep
Their fables become our dreams
Sleep walk with eyes closed

Gun ships roam above
Bring rain in a cloudless sky
Bullets pelt the ground

It all tastes so wrong
Lofty words grind on our teeth
We swallow the lies

What happened back there?
Crimson horror kept silent
Locked it in his head

Red mist fills his eyes
Mind begins to disconnect
Rampage of the beast

Tanned skin unbroken
Witness to the slaughter
Red scars lie within

No Child Left Behind
Except for Bush who tells kids
The "childrens do learn"

Hands bound, on their knees
Our guns pointed at their backs
Their hearts filled with rage

Wrong place, the wrong time
His raised hands are no defense
Shots fired in the night

Sunglassed militias
Roam our concrete walled ghettos
Dole out their justice

New al-Anbar peace
Sunni sheiks pledge loyalty
To the dollar bill

Wear pearly white ropes
Hides the blackness of their hearts
Sheep contently graze

The great sucking sound
Swirling down the toilet bowl
Fifty billion gone

Nation in ruins
No need for Democracy
Back in the Stone Age

Battle over oil
Militias vie for control
Exchange red for black

Mothers, sons, daughters
Lie dead in the battles wake
"All are al-Quida"

Horror and disgust
Barbarous acts leave us numb
The TV sedates

Thousands swell the ranks
They occupy the trenches
Army of the dead

Lies piled upon lies
Propaganda convinces
Believe it themselves

Preach from the Bible
Christian soldiers sent to war
Search for the Profits

Business is booming
Four, five funerals a day
Their death toll meter

The crew assembles
Commence work at dawns first light
Harvest the bodies

No water to drink
Bush responds by sending pumps
To remove their oil

Topsy turvey world
Turn our plowshares into swords
We arm the Reaper

Marine collapses
Bullet pierced the hardened man
Kills the boy inside

Venting this poisonous brew no longer appeals to me and I find writing about all things Van Halen is a lot more fun, and that's what is and will be when it comes to this blog.

Enough of this seriousness. Here are two video clips that merge the two things I enjoy that this blog was/is meant to be: music with a strong beat and irreverent political commentary. Enjoy!

Ministry with "Lies Lies Lies"

video

John Jackson (aka "Fabolous") and his "Where Brooklyn At"

video

Sunday, May 25, 2008

HOME ALONE WITH THE GUYS

The rest of the family drove up to Wyoming early in the day to spend the Memorial Day weekend with the in-laws, leaving me behind to prep and stain the interior trim and wood framed windows installed last year. Having gotten to bed late the night before and waking early with the preparation of their departure left me with little sleep, especially since the shoulder bugged me all night. I bounced back over the course of the day and was ready to party by the time sunset arrived.

That large open field down the road is turning out to be a favorite party area because of the wide open views of the sky, mountains, the lights of Denver and no one around to disturb. Thoughts of my severely ill coworker intruded on the positive vibes these concerts bring. Couldn't help but think about the shitty deal fate has handed her.

Mountain silhouette
Orange, apple green and blue
Black clouds hang above

One day at a time
Trapped by fates chance circumstance
Sees no tomorrow

Tonight's concert, "Martial Law", was recorded at the Spectrum in Philadelphia on July 21, 1981 during their Fair Warning Tour. Its a great audience recording, the cheering alone capable of blowing out the speakers. You can almost listen in on the conversations going on nearby. There were a few times I caught myself looking around me wondering whether someone snuck up on me out in the darkness of the open field, only turning out to be chatter from the audience on this bootleg. The band is hot and contrasts dramatically from the 2004 recording the previous night. I went back to the DLR era of Van Halen in anticipation of seeing the guys six nights from from now, with no opportunity to have one of these virtual concerts between now and then. That event is coming up real fast.
With regard to the Fair Warning Tour, the Van Halen Encyclopedia says:
"The "Bounty System" was yet another creative backstage pass idea concocted by Roth. For every show, each roadie was given a number of passes with his initials marked on them. The overall concept was quite simple: every female fan who spent "time" with the vocalist that evening wearing a pass with initials on it, earned the appropriate roadie a monetary reward, normally in the amount of $25 per pass."

I ended the evening by coming home and watching a short DVD of Van Halen's August 1995 show at the Molson Ampitheater in Toronto, with Sammy as lead vocalist. Who knows what time it was when I dropped into bed.

Rock-n-roll party
Work the crowd from their lit stage
Drinking on the job

Youths raw energy
Only get better with time
Best is yet to come

Saturday, May 24, 2008

REUNION 2004


Friday night and Van Halen's scheduled to play Madison Square Garden in New York! In exactly one week I'll be dancing to their music in Chicago! There was no doubt in my mind that I needed to celebrate with a CD bootleg concert of my out on the prairie just down the road from the house where I have no fear of disturbing the neighbors when I crank it up! The concert began shortly after sunset with the sky aglow above the mountainous skyline to the west.

Twilight's orange glow
Gives way to the nights dark blue
Stars slowly appear

Prairie winds still blow
Criss-crossed by asphalt ribbons
Horizon of light

Last weeks post involved a concert that marked the beginning of the Sammy Hagar era of Van Halen, while this nights concert is the resurrection of that era after it came to an end in June of 1996. Van Halen appeared in Greensboro North Carolina on June 11, 2004, the first concert of the 2004 reunion tour and 8 years since their last appearance together. A decent audience recording on which Sammy comments that he never thought this day would happen and that the band was glad to be making music once again. Although the boys were sounding a little ragged in spots and it lacked the energy and spontaneity of the band back in the late 80's and early 90's, it was plenty good enough to dance to and get lost in their music as they played all the old classics.

I couldn't help but think how different the music scene was when these songs were originally played and what was popular then in 2004. Old rock versus modern rock. I was recently given a couple of cassette tapes of Sammy Hagar music that was originally released in 1984 and 1987 and they distinctly had a dated feel to them. The same could be said for the Greensboro concert, but the music was still easy to groove on.

I have a bunch of these 2004 tour bootlegs that I've been reluctant to listen to because of their "reunion" feel to them (i.e., not associated with the release of new music) and the fact that Eddie was notoriously bad many nights because his resurgent alcoholism meant he was intoxicated much of the tour. That fact will be much more evident in some of the later shows which I hope to play some other nights.

New millennium
Dinosaurs become extinct
Eddie lumbers on

Music scene evolves
Hard rock's time has been eclipsed
Age of irony

Saturday, May 17, 2008

TEARS OF JOY AND SORROW

Blabbermouth.net says "According to the latest issue of Game Informer, VAN HALEN, THE EAGLES, LINKIN PARK and SUBLIME have been confirmed for the fourth installment of the Guitar Hero video game, with developer Neversoft confirming master tracks shall be used for all available songs." Well three out of four ain't bad, take the Eagles out and you've got the music I can really groove to!

Air guitar heros
Try to mimic a legend
Are GameBoy lame boys

He knows his limits
Will not imitate Eddie
Rejects playing god
This Friday night's concert was tinged with sadness knowing that one of my coworkers was fighting for her life in a hospital bed following surgery to remove a cancerous brain tumor that suddenly made itself known when she suffered a stroke Wednesday night. She was young, hard working, very bright and fun to be with, her life now suddenly changed in an instant. The news was devastating. So the tears on my face this evening came from the sorrow of what she's going through and the joy of Eddies legendary guitar playing on this 5150 tour bootleg.

Since I was in a mood to really crank up the truck stereo, I drove to a nearby subdivision that has yet to have any homes built, consisting of paved roads running across grassy rolling hills. Uninterrupted views of the night sky, clouds drifting across a nearly full moon, the bigger and darker ones dropping scattered rain drops. No one nearby to disturb with my loud music.

This Van Halen concert took place at the Montreal Forum in Quebec on August 20, 1986 during their 5150 tour. The quality of the bootleg was not the best, Sammy's rapping with the audience being almost impossible to understand. But the music was what it was, my familiarity with it boosted by the tequila made for a rocking evening. Hits off the 5150 album mixed up with some of Van Halen's DLR era classics. I was flying by the time this 2 CD set came to an end, sometime after midnight.

The stereo shut down just as the last song was playing, indicating the battery was drained. By rocking the truck I was able to get it rolling down a gentle incline and I popped the clutch and got the engine going. Stopped and then played the last song even louder than before. When I tried starting the truck again, it refused to turn over, so I popped the clutch a second time and made my way back home. I had drained the entire flask this evening and felt it the following morning, especially since my right arm kept me awake and refused to let me sleep beyond 6:30 AM. Breakfast and a strong cup of coffee helped clear the cobwebs.

The night skies patchwork
Clouds drift across the moons face
Mark the march of time

Moons glow shines brightly
Framed by clouds pearly halo
Drift silently by

Download the music
Silver disc reflects moons light
Echos from the past

Night skies soft shower
Clouds shadow hides the warm tears
Raindrops on his face

Monday, May 12, 2008

AND THE BEAT GOES ON


Refuses to stop
His beautiful obsession
Hears voices calling


Sunday, May 11, 2008

NIGHTLY GIG

11 PM found me standing outside in the cold with the truck stereo cranked, listening to Van Halen's "secret gig" on January 27, 1995 in Arnhem , Holland. This apparently was an impromptu show they were asked to do while promoting their newly released Balance album a few days earlier, shortly before their formal world tour. Although the song list was limited (a perfect length for a cigar!), the quality of the sound on this bootleg is excellent! Eddie's guitar work was unsurpassed!
The second half of the show began inside the house at midnight when I popped in a DVD and watched the boys play in Pensacola, Florida on March 11, 1995, the first "gig" on their world tour and a little over a month after the "secret gig" in Holland. The Van Halen Encyclopedia (VHE) says "Edward performs stone-cold sober as a recovering alcoholic for the first time in his career." And it showed with his inspirational guitar work. He was the star of this show, out performing everyone else on stage. What was different about this show was that he was largely stationary on stage, probably the result of the hip pain he was experiencing at the time. VHE says "All the years of jumping on stage had deteriorated his hips and the alcohol had only helped to cover up the pain." I could relate, considering my injured shoulder was aching throughout the show this evening. Quite was restored in the house around 1 AM when I went to bed with my arm still throbbing.

Performs flawlessly
Spotlit master's guitar plays
The strings to my heart

Saturday, May 10, 2008

FRIDAY SAKE IN OSAKA

It turns out the only problem with the truck stereo was that I needed to press the reset button on the face of the control panel. Done and its now working fine. We're back in action again!

Friday night finds me on the 1998 Van Halen III tour in Japan. The bootleg was an edited collection of some of the "popular" tunes from that tour, consisting largely of Roth and Hagar era songs sprinkled with a few of the new ones from the III album. Too bad because there are a few Cherone songs that I like that were excluded from this compilation. It became clear this evening what it is that separates Gary Cherone from DLR and Sammy: there's something about his voice that sounds kinda "flat", as though his vocal range is limited. Not surprising considering that their appearance in Japan was at the end of the tour and the associated wear and tear on his voice from having to sing every few nights for months. Earlier in the tour the strain became too much and he lost his voice 15 minutes into the concert, the band asking the audience to return the following night. Even after having made this observation, I was still rocking to the sound.

It was well after 11 PM before this 2 CD set was nearing the end, by which time I was feeling exhausted. I suspect it's the lack of sleep resulting from my aching right shoulder. I wake up, find it throbbing with pain, can't find a comfortable position and consequently sound sleep is difficult. The cumulative effect is dragging me down. I'm so looking forward to a physical therapy session scheduled for this coming week. That shoulder dislocation on Durango Mountain really messed me up.

Only 10 more shows before Van Halen's reunion tour comes to an end.

The songs start to fade
Fears the long lonely silence
Listens one last time

Sunday, May 4, 2008

FRIDAY'S CONCERT POSTPONED

A couple of problems caused the cancellation of Friday nights Van Halen concert here in Parker. The first was when the CD player in the truck ceased operating, leaving the disc jammed inside. Then the failing DVD player inside the house refused to play any of the three new Van Halen concert videos I had recently acquired. The result of all this was that I finally decided to buy a new DVD player on Saturday, while Monday morning will find me hauling the truck into Quality Auto Sound to have the stereo repaired. An expensive bummer.

I used the stereo in our other vehicle to play Saturday night's concert warm-up act, listening to the excellent quality "Civic Disobedience" bootleg, recorded live at the Pasadena Convention Center on May 29, 1976. This was a time when Van Halen was a popular southern California band, but almost two years before they had released their first album, Van Halen I (February 10, 1978). Dave was chatty, the band unloading their fresh, hard rocking sound onto the California crowd. This A+ recording catches the band just before they exploded onto the national scene. Just imagine going surfing in the Pacific earlier that day, then attending their concert that evening!
Part two of tonight's show took place inside the house, popping the classic Van Halen show from the May 29, 1983 US Festival into the new DVD player. Van Halen was paid a record setting 1.5 million dollars to play before a crowd of over 300,000 people at this concert, located in Glen Helen Regional Park in San Bernardino, CA. The heavy drinking that went on backstage before their appearance was apparent in the show, so it wasn't one of their best performances at the time, although it's a great example that illustrates what rock-n-roll is all about. But the music was hot and their on-stage performance entertaining. I just love to watch Eddie's fingers make his guitar sing! It's fun to watch the concert knowing that they were at their prime, to reach new heights during next years 1984 tour, all of which was to come to an abrupt end with the departure of Dave in early 1985. Both this recording and the 1976 show above are a must have for any serious Van Halen fan!


Turns on the music
Tunes into Van Halen's past
Drops out of the world

video