Sunday, June 29, 2008

GEORGIA ON MY MIND

After spending the day trimming the interior of a couple windows I installed last summer, I was ready to party with the arrival of sunset! Saturday night, and with some hesitation I pulled a CD from Van Halen's 2004 reunion tour with Sammy Hagar. The reason I hesitate is because the shows on that tour were notoriously bad. Or at least they weren't that good when compared to the 1990's: 10 years later Sammy's singing didn't have the range and smoothness it did back in the day; Michael and Alex appeared to be going through the motions; and worst of all, Eddies playing was way off, probably the result of the fact he was back on the juice. Shows are described as "terrible". Eddie would apologize for his bad performance. Particular songs are identified as the worst example ever in their career. So with some reluctance I bypassed the great concerts of earlier years and picked one from 2004, not knowing what to expect.

Tonight's show was held at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, on September 17, 2004. Two hours long. It was A+ when it comes to sound quality because it was a soundboard recording. Audience cheering was minimal. Surprisingly, the quality of the bands playing was easily an B+ or A. Sammy was a little rough sounding, not surprising considering he was 57 years old at the time. Michael's bass was largely absent and Alex played well, but it was unremarkable. The recording really emphasized Sammy's and Eddie's playing. Eddie did really well, although it did not have the fire of earlier years. Some may say that he was playing sloppy or forgetting notes: what I think was really happening was that he was "experimenting", using a more free style form of playing in which he was intentionally changing things a bit. Who knows.

What was interesting about this concert was that Sammy let Mike and Eddie lead on vocals every now and then. This made it clear why Eddie is lead guitarist and only does backup vocals! The band was clearly enjoying themselves on stage. The quality of the recording was so good that you could hear Eddie's fingers sliding up and down the strings throughout the show. During his guitar solo, Eddie stops and almost jokingly says "I'm playin something you kinda know" after which he launches into his classic "Eruption", a guitar solo he'd been playing since the early days 30 years ago. This instrumentals phenomenal finger work is what made the music world realize his genius back in the 1970's club days, everyone wanting to imitate his style, leading to their recognition that he was one of the best guitarists out there ever.

It was a long show, having to nurse the tequila and cigar to make them last. The truck battery was drained, but I'm now accustomed to this happening on 2 CD sets, so I aim the vehicle downhill and its an easy matter getting it rolling to pop the clutch. A cool evening, a front having moved through last night bring clouds but no rain. Back home by midnight.

Youth has escaped them
Bodies struggle to perform
Time's taken its toll

Many years have gone by
Try to recapture the past
The sound eludes them

Two thousand and four
The music sounds so damn good!
The flask is empty

During a serious moment this evening I was reminded of several of my friends who are experiencing ill health, particularly with cancer. It was one of many things that run through my head, all of which emphasize how much time has passed and how so little remains before us. Sobering thoughts that evoke deep emotions that particular Van Halen songs can bring out in the form of tears.

Enemy within
Fights a battle we don't know
Feels so all alone

Saturday, June 28, 2008

EDDIE'S ONE IN A MILLION!!

It's amazing how many Van Halen bootleg recordings are out there being given away or traded. But it's not an endless supply. I stressed out this past week when I realized that all the easy downloads were found and turned into CDs for my weekend concerts. There are more out there, but they require access to registered sites that have specific rules on posting and downloading that I may not be able to easily satisfy. Mild desperation set in when I realized my stack of Van Halen CDs that I've listened to equals the stack I have waiting to listen to. I've reached peak "Van Halen", where the supply has equaled the demand and now I'm on the downhill slide towards "using up" the available supply. I spent a couple nights scrounging around for new downloads to keep the party going with no success. But then I carefully went through site archives, like looking for pennies in tall grass, and found a few bootlegs that eluded me on the first pass, surging my "to listen to" stack of CDs ahead of the other pile. My sense of desperation abated. The bootleg concert noted in this post came from my recent search through the weeds.

Cling to mountain peaks
Gray against the orange sky
Clouds in evenings haze

Birds greet the twilight
Songs drift across the grasslands
Eddie interrupts

Gathering darkness
Touched by the evenings cool breeze
Start the loud music

Friday night's concert was once again held out on the open grasslands across Hilltop Road. The sun set, leaving behind a very pleasant evening to stand outside and listen to Van Halen's concert "One In A Million". Live in Rotterdam on April 13, 1993, a time when the band was still riding a wave of popularity. Eddie and Alex were both born in Amsterdam, Holland so every visit to that country is like a homecoming, and the audience knows it and expresses their appreciation in a very, very loud way. This show was the 10th show in the Right Here, Right Now tour and Sammy lets the Rotterdam crowd know that they are the most energetic and loudest so far on the tour, making the band feel at home. There were times when the crowd chanted for Eddie and broke out in song as though it were a soccer game. Good quality recording and good set list, even though portions of the concert appear to have been edited out to keep it under 80 minutes and on one CD. There were times during the evening when I thought someone was sneaking up behind me in the darkness, only to realize it was people close to the guy taping the concert back then in '93.

Another blast from the past!


Enters the bloodstream
Interrupts the flow of time
Music turns it back

The mind is relaxed
Music provides the focus
Lost in the moment

Performs the ritual
Booze, cigar, Van Halen
High priests of music

His outdoor concerts
Looks at cathedral's ceiling
A sky lit with stars

Smiling on the stage
The thousands chant for Eddie
His guitar rewards

Really needs to score
Searches for the next download
A junkies craving

He's flying so high
Stereo speakers are cranked
Whole truck vibrates

Sunday, June 22, 2008

"W" FOLLOWS "V"

A very nice evening, the sun setting followed by a cool breeze out there on the prairie. This concert venue I've been visiting is a subdivision that has yet to be built, with only a single home under construction (model home?). Normally the homes would be popping up like mushrooms. I guess the good thing about the housing construction slowdown is that nothing is being built in this subdivision. I'll be disappointed when the property where I've been parking is built on, with its wide open views of the mountainous western skyline and sparkling lights of Denver.

This nights concert was an early soundboard recording of Van Halen playing in Ipswich, England on May 28, 1978. A great quality recording! On this evening Van Halen was the warm-up band, the headliner being Black Sabbath. The band spent about 50 minutes playing their rocking tunes, almost all of them coming off their first album that was released only a couple months ago. D.O.A was the last song played after the encore, announced as one that would be coming out on their next album. Dave made a point of reminding the audience several times who they were because they were still new to the music scene, particularly to Europeans. Black Sabbath soon realized that Van Halen was a force of its own and was blowing them out of the water in some venues. By 1979, with the release of Van Halen II, they were touring as the headliner, if not the only act to take the stage. They had finally become a recognized act of their own, making the slow climb towards stardom over the next several years.

An eternal dance
Witness to Earth's history
Orange moon rises

Since this was a short concert and I was fully pumped up by the time it ended, I popped Weezer's new CD in the truck stereo and listened to it from beginning to end . I really like their music and was happy to see them come out with new music after several quiet years. My experience is that the music only gets better each time I listen to it. My expectation is that they'll go on tour to promote the album, in which case I will be there. Unlike the last Weezer concert, my alcohol consumption will be a little more controlled. I spent the night at a detox center the last time I saw them, almost 4 years ago, being released only after I blew "zeros". Not a fun experience.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

MINE ALL MINE!

Before going to Home Depot this morning, I stopped in to pick up Weezer's latest release the "red" album. I also picked up a cheap remastered edition of "Van Halen I", their very first release. I listened to it on the way home and was impressed with what a great album it is, featuring some of their most memorable classics, many of which were old standards played at virtually all their concerts. Runnin' With The Devil. Eruption. You Really Got me. Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love. Jamies Cryin'. Atomic Punk. Feel Your Love Tonight. Little Dreamer. Ice Cream Man. With the release of this album Van Halen came screaming onto the music scene (February 10, 1978) with a knock-out punch! It was this album that I heard being played in Randall, Washington, my introduction to the band.

I really like the Sammy era song "Mine All Mine", the first song they recorded for the OU812 album. It's a really rockin' tune that gets me pumped and hits an emotional nerve. You listen and judge for yourself. The Van Halen Encyclopedia says its an antidrug song , about fulfilling your future without letting drugs get in the way. But Sammy puts it this way in last nights A.F.U. show: "It's about yourself. You can't trust friends sometimes, you can't trust government officials, but you can trust yourself. You can trust yourself, trust your family."

In terms of lyrics, the Sammy era tunes are absolutely wordy and with substance when compared to the writing of David Lee Roth. Sammy was very thoughtful, while Dave was more interested in how it sounded in the end, and if there was a theme to his lyrics, it generally revolved around women. That's one of the big differences between the two lead vocalists.

Mine All Mine

Ow! Forgive me father, for I have sinned
I've been through hell and back again
I shook hands with the devil
Looked 'im in the eye
Looked like a long lost friend

Ow-ah, anything you want, any dirty deeds
He's got everything 'cept what I really need
Keepin' me temporarily satisfied
But not one thing I've tried
Filled me up inside or felt like mine
Mine all mine

Yeah, the search goes on
The more I look, my world keeps gettin' smaller
Staring at the sun, searchin' for the light
Almost ended up blind
Some only see what they wanna see
Claiming victory, oh but that's not me
Gimme truth, gimme somethin' real
I just wanna feel like it's mine all mine

(Ooh-ooo-ooh)
Ooh-oo-ooh, really mine
(Mine all mine)
Come on, 'n gimme somethin'
(Ooh-oo-ooh)
Somethin', that's mine all mine all mine

(Guitar Solo)

Mine all mine

All the words on the wall look the same in the mirror
Every riddle and every clue
Ow, you've got Allah in the east
You've got Jesus in the west
Christ, what's a man to do?

They'll find a cure for anything
Just kill the pain or numb my brain
We see a man speakin' the word of God
Provin' to be a fraud, his own church applauds
Stop lookin' out, start lookin' in
Be your own best friend
Stand up and say "Hey! This is mine!"

(Ooh-oo-ooh)
Ooh, all mine
(Mine all mine)
Yeah'N baby you've got somethin'
(Ooh-oo-ooh)
Uh! An', and I got somethin'
(Mine all mine)
Hey, and it's mine all mine all mine

Uh!
(Mine all mine)
Ooooh!
(Mine all mine)
Yes, I'm searchin'
(Mine all mine)
Uh-I got to have it
(Mine all mine)
Oooh ow!
(Mine all mine)
Well
(Mine all mine)
Got ta, got ta, got to
(Mine all mine)
Got to have it. Ow!
(Mine all mine)
Uh! Uh! Uh!
(Mine all mine)
You got! You got! You got! You got!
Mine all mine

video

FRIDAY NIGHT AND A.F.U.!!

A week has gone by and Friday night has arrived, the highlight being a trip out to the fields north of the house for a ripping Van Halen concert! This nights show was recorded in Osaka, Japan on January 25, 1989 with Sammy as lead vocal. Although the recording was at best "B" quality, it was still a good show to listen to. Distant thunder storms flashed all around, at least one tornado reported far east of me. Sammy raps with the Japanese audience in English, hoping they understand, and if not, letting the music do the talking for them. Seems to have working because the crowd was pretty loud.

Back home by midnight and off to bed. My arm appears to be getting better, sleeping a bit easier and not having to constantly pop Advils. But its got a long way to go to get to normal. The physical therapist I saw earlier in the week seems to believe I should be OK by the next ski season. She's leaving it up to the doctor I see in July as to whether I can resume the house residing project.

I've experienced a bit of a panic these last several days. I appear to have found and downloaded pretty much all the easy to get Van Halen bootleg recordings. I spent a good part of Thursday night trying to line up another set of downloads but found none. The thought of running out of new boots to listen to is frightening! This means I will be forced to access trading sites where there are rules and expectations on what members do to keep the music available for others. My fear is that I will have nothing to contribute to what they already have or it won't meet their quality standards. We shall see as I delve deeper into the Van Halen bootleg world.

Move in from the west
Storm clouds flash with lightening
Light up the night sky

Storm clouds flash with light
Illuminates their white hearts
Bright stars shine above

Clouds pass overhead
Distant lightning to the east
Moons light floods prairie



Drum and bass solo
Followed by Eddies guitar
Save the best for last


DRIVE HOME, AND THEN ON TO DETROIT

The final leg of the vacation was the return trip to Parker via the snow covered San Juan mountains. Said our farewells to Cedar Mesa and had breakfast in Bluff, after which we cruised across open country through Cortez, Durango, Silverton, eventually dropping into Ouray right around dinner time. I looked fondly up at the extensive snowfields on the tall peaks adjoining the highway, imagining the lines that could be drawn on the sun warmed snow with the tele skies.

Darkness had arrived by the time we left the pool. The trick was finding a secluded location to set up camp for the evening. I managed to find a decent road leading up to the Uncompahgre Plateau that had a turn off into the pinyon pine forest that proved to be a good campsite far away from anyone, except for the occasional vehicle that drove by. By the time we set up the tents, everyone, including myself, was ready to go to sleep. Must have been that relaxing hot spring soak.

We made it all the way back to Parker the following Saturday. Just a few miles from home on C-470 a Jefferson County Sheriff pulled me over for speeding. I argued with him, giving him a little flak because that was the only pleasure I'd get out of the experience. How ironic considering that I'd been speeding throughout the whole trip, only to get snagged on my doorstep.

Arrived home and unpacked. Since I missed last night’s concert, I decided we'd have one this Saturday night. After sunset I drove out alone to my open prairie location on the other side of Hilltop Road and cranked up the tunes, listening to the boys play at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit MI on May 19, 1998. It was a good recording and the band was hot that night. The audience felt close by, as though I was standing behind a bunch of fans that were really enjoying the show. I especially love Eddies solo throughout the '98 tour, a classic piece of Van Halen guitar work. Thus marks the end of summer’s vacation.

Falls to the peaked west
Leaves orange trail in its wake
Feels evenings cool breeze


Revolves around one
The undisputed master
They chant for Eddie

A star on his own
In a shining constellation
Dimmed by their brightness

Across the mountains
Lead guitarist rips the air
Peak among his peers

Like a six stringed harp
Makes music that elevates
Angels stop to listen

Friday, June 20, 2008

BEERS IN BLUFF, A MOLSON IN TORONTO

On Thursday morning we woke up to blue skies and a cool breeze. A quick breakfast and one final peek over the edge down onto a rippled Colorado River glinting sunlight. Then it was back on the road, our destination located on the Navajo Indian reservation. The goal was "Poncho House", a very large and well preserved cliff dwelling alongside the Chinle River, a place I had visited on two other occasions. I figured it'd be an easy hike to a high value target.

The first problem to finding Poncho House was navigating a myriad of dirt roads using nothing more than a road map. That hit or miss technique resulted in putting us on top of it, far above the river. But further efforts failed to find the path down, cliffs visibly blocking what appeared to be routes I had taken in the past. I was really puzzled because things seem to have changed considerably. With time running out, I called it off, simply satisfied with a view of the ruins from above.
Had lunch in Bluff, Utah. Got our first cold beers since getting out of the canyon. Once again we stuffed ourselves, happy to be eating something other than the usual camping meals.


We drove to the southern tip of Cedar Mesa, to a favorite camping spot of mine that I've been visiting for many years. The spot overlooks a canyon that opens up towards the Valley of the Gods, a collections of spires and erosional remnants that stand out above the flat plain, like lone figures facing the sky. Set up camp and them attempted to hike to a small cliff dwelling on the opposite canyon wall, but once again we reached a point where we were cliffed out, too dangerous to proceed without ropes. Maybe next time!

We had dinner while enjoying the setting sun, shadows lengthening and then night was upon us. Others retire to their tents after dark, I head straight for car where I open the door and turn up the stereo. But not before pulling out a cigar and the bottle of tequila.

Blow across the mesa
Early summer desert wind
Pinyon pines whisper

Cross the red green plain
Reach for monuments of stone
Shadows lengthening

Lonely cliff dwelling
The builders long forgotten
Fingers imprint mud walls

Valley of the Gods
Tall stone towers dot the plain
Even they must fall

Centuries old ruins
Children peer down upon them
Theirs are long gone

They lived with silence
Their canyon now filled with sound
Eddie rocks the night!

Tonight's show was held in mid August of 1995, towards the end of their Balance Tour. What's amazing is that they played about 132 concerts between March and November of that year! The recording sounded great and the band was tight, playing all the best songs from the Sammy Hagar era. I was rockin for a long time listening to this 2 CD set, crawling into the tent close to midnight, if not beyond. The moon burned overhead while a stiff wind blew much of the night, silt coming through the netting of the tent walls and depositing a fine grit on the sleeping bags.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

DAWN AT SUNSET

After several days in the canyon, the time had come to pack up and head back to civilization. The hiking we had done was essentially a loop, closed off with the 3 or 4 miles remaining between us and the Egypt Trailhead. In an effort to beat the heat, we got up at dawn, packed up , had a quick snack and hit the trail. We followed a path through the canyon but once we hit slickrock country on the plateau above, we were pretty much feeling our way to the trailhead, located on the even higher ground to the west. By 10:30 am we were back at the trailhead where I ditched everyone under the shade of a pinyon pine tree and trudged the remaining 3 miles to the parked vehicle at the trail leading to Harris Canyon, where it all began. The kids were overjoyed to see me drive up, after which they jumped in and began with the GameBoys.

A sun baked landscape
Barren rock cracked with canyons
The hidden beauty

A rocky landscape
The wind forever blowing
Whispers in my ears


From there we went straight to the town of Escalante where we had a big lunch. Then we backtracked through Boulder to Hanksville, south to Lake Powell, just beyond which I took a little used dirt road that lead me to an isolated campsite on a sandstone plateau overlooking the Colorado River way below. A quick dinner, sunset and most everyone else retired to the tents where they hung out to play or read. It was the long awaited concert time for me!!

Lowered grain by grain
Eons sculpt the stone landscape
My snapshot in time

High desert plateau
Dark, distant mesas rise
Stars the only lights

Nights darkness below
The stars shine dimly above
Moon casts faint shadows

This night's concert was "The Dawn Of 5150", a collection of high quality recordings consisting of demos, soundtracks, radio jams and early concerts (like the 1985 Farm Aid concert, the 1st public appearance of Sam & Ed together). A really fun listen to rock to! I had the stereo cranked (but not all the way because of the nearby occupied tents) late into the night, smokin my cigar and taking stiff swigs of tequila. A great feeling listening to good music, being in a beautiful location and knowing that we had successfully completed the trip through canyon. For me, the trip was essentially over at that point.


Craves the loud music
While wandering the desert
Hears only silence

A perfect union
Dawn of fifty one fifty
Their rise to greatness

David's departed
Many see it as their end
Just getting started

Sunday, June 15, 2008

ON THE ROAD AGAIN!

Summer vacation has arrived and I load up the family into the car and head west as far as we can go before exhaustion sets in. We make a 2 hour stop in Glenwood Springs to soak in the hot spring pool. Sometime well after midnight we made it to Sego Canyon just east of Green River, Utah where we found a campsite, set up tents and went immediately to bed. No concert this evening due to the late hour.

Band of milky white
Universe glows in nights sky
Canyons cool wind blows

Look out nights window
Distant neighborhood revealed
Milky Way's stars shine

Figures drawn on rock
Stare out over centuries
Their eyes meet ours

The next morning, after examining the many Fremont/Barrier Canyon era petroglyphs on the walls of the canyon, we drove into Green River to have breakfast and stock up with some additional supplies. At the super market I noticed that the June 12th edition of the Rolling Stone magazine had Eddie on the cover, one of the all time best guitarists. Their songs Eruption (#6) and Panama (#47) made it onto the top 100 greatest guitar songs list. The Kinks "You Really Got Me", a standard cover tune played by Van Halen at every concert, also made it on the list (#4).
Main street Utah town
On the cover of Rolling Stone
Eddies number one!

We spent the day driving to the Boulder/Escalante area in Utah were we met with pastel artist Scotty Mitchel (dropping a few $$ to pick up another really nice painting). Her artwork captures the essence of canyon country in Utah with often dramatic skies drawn above the colorful rocky landscape (http://www.scottymitchell.com/). We also did a short hike to a swimming hole along Calf Creek. I would have jumped off the adjoining 12 foot high cliff into the water but I was fearful of really screwing up my right arm so I backed off and we moved to a smaller pool immediately above Upper Calf Creek Falls.

That evening we set up camp at the Egypt trailhead. This site is at the end of a 26 mile long dirt road and overlooks a vast desert landscape of slickrock and canyons. We set up camp and made dinner, during which time we were grooving on the lengthening shadows and heightened colors of the approaching sunset. After dark, my family and sister retired to their tents while the fun only started for me with the planned evening concert starring...Van Halen!
This nights concert was from the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit Michigan, May 9, 1986, one of the early concerts now featuring Sammy Hagar. The great sound quality coupled with being in a fantastic location made for a really rocking time. Since the others in our group were trying to get to sleep in the nearby tents, I was unable to really crank it up to the volume their concerts deserve, but it was a fun time anyway. Went to bed sometime around midnight, falling into a disturbed sleep when my right shoulder became inflamed over night.

Moment so fleeting
Sandstone awash in crimson
Grows cold when sun sets

Canyons of red rock
Silent in nights darkness
While Van Halen rocks

Dark line drawn above
Steady march across nights sky
Clouds eclipse the moon

Music legend plays
A guitar technique so fine
Eddie steals the show

Bright moon descends
Toward midnights black horizon
Ends another day

The next day we hiked several miles across the slickrock to enter Harris Canyon, thereby marking the beginning of our canyoneering adventure. Three nights and four days of trekking along the canyon floor, using the creek and river as our primary path of travel. We camped beneath towering cliffs on a sandy beach in a meander bend, on an open point bar and in a cottonwood grove. The days were spent wading through the water as we moved down the canyon, looking for Indian relics/cliff dwellings/petroglyphs (found a nice arrowhead on the hike in) and finding/exploring the Golden Cathedral, an immense overhanging pouroff in Neon Canyon. We also swatted many biting flies and were scratched by the thick vegetation we had to occasionally push through to make out way downriver. Warm to hot days followed by chilly nights (we forgot to bring one of the sleeping bags!). Everyone had a fantastic time. Our packs were lightened a bit at the very end of the trip when a pair of squirrels raided one of our packs and hauled off some of the non essential food we had brought along. They feasted well that night!
Footsteps in red sand
Want to leave impressions that last
Gone with the next rain

Torturous terrain
Lost in dawns blue shadowed light
Still feel nights cool breeze

Hardened landscape
Not immune to times passage
Rock slowly crumbles

Narrow swath of sky
Framed by tall black walls of rock
Bright stars shine above

Their shadows drift by
Bits of foam on creeks surface
Star shaped points of light

Creek's slow moving pool
Long legged bugs skate its surface
Their small sunlit world

Evenings twilight glow
First quarter moon hangs above
A pair of bats feeding

Sandstone canyon walls
The ancient landscape entombed
River makes it new

Buried for eons
Freed from the eroding cliff face
Sand beneath bare feet

Late night excursion
Wade across the warm river
Skin dries in the breeze

Nights moon casts its light
Black trees reach for starry sky
Shadowed canyon walls
Overhanging cliff
Streaked with ribbons of black
Canyon walls echo

Overlook the valley
Figures drawn on sandstone walls
Their stories forgotten


Waters reflection
Shimmer on the canyon wall
Moving ripples of light

Skylight through the rock
Bored by countless desert storms
Warm red light shines through

Wind rustles the leaves
Cottonwoods whisper through the night
Creeks lone frog calling

Stars circle the sky
Eclipsed by the canyon wall
Warm dry wind blowing

Long legged spiders
Climb sandstone walls in darkness
Search for each other
Rippled stream bottom
Change with the passage of time
Shift with each footstep

Flows for centuries
Follow the river for days
Here, and then we're gone