October 2007

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In June of this year, my dad and I went to see Porter Wagoner and Marty Stuart when they performed at Safari Sam's. I knew my dad would love Marty Stuart (I'm a little obsessed with him myself - one of the greatest moments of my life was getting to touch his hair), and at 80 years old, I knew this might be one of the last opportunities I'd have to see him perform.

Turns out, it was.

On Sunday night, Porter, who'd earlier been admitted Alive Hospice in Nashville after being diagnosed with lung cancer, passed away.

Porter had released his final CD, Wagonmaster, earlier this year. It was produced by Marty Stuart.

Porter was definitely showing signs of aging at June's show; he couldn't remember the words to several of his classic songs, and had trouble seeing the lyrics before him. Nonetheless, Marty and Kenny Vaughan, and the audience gentley helped him through. Especially touching was his rendition of "Green, Green Grass of Home," during which Porter was accompanied by the entire audience.

And now, Porter really is home.


The older I get, the more surreal things become. I like it.
Twenty-five (?!) years ago, I saw the English Beat (a.k.a. The Beat) open for The Clash at the Hollywood Palladium. It never occurred to me that a quarter century later I would be seeing the same band (sort of) at a free, family oriented pep rally for a professional sports team.
For those of you who don’t know or don’t care, The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim didn’t make it past the American League Division Series this year, but they sure put together a nice little show to mark the end of the regular season. It was called "Rally Monday, " but I think "Rally Monkey Monday" sounds better.
The English Beat (a.k.a. Dave Wakeling and bunch of other guys) began the festivities promptly at 6:30 with “Tears of a Clown.” They could hardly be heard over the sound of 20,000 inflatable noisemaker doo-dads that were given out to the crowd. Those thunder-sticks, bam-bams, or whatever you want to call them make a jolly good racket. They are also great, as every kid soon discovers, for thwacking people on the head without causing permanent damage. From our seats in the upper view level, the band on the stage near second base might as well have been The Beatles at Shea Stadium but no one seemed to mind. Most of the crowd, including myself and my family, was having too much fun thwacking and being thwacked with inflatable noisemaker doo-dads.

What the musical performance lacked in audibility or visibility, it more than made up for in fantastic production values. During the English Beat’s second song, a cover of The Staple Singers “I’ll Take You There,” the entire baseball field was invaded by army paratroopers. Yes, you read correctly – paratroopers. They jumped out of a plane over the stadium and landed on the field while the band played.
I believe that Van Halen attempted something similar when they played the stadium in the late 70’s, but they didn’t quite pull it off.
Audience interest seemed to wane after the paratroopers landed and packed up their chutes, but The Beat went on. They played a few more songs, including their hits “Mirror in the Bathroom” and “Save It For Later.” They left the stage to the thunderous roar of thousands of kids being thwacked on the head with inflatable noisemaker doo-dads.
Next on the bill was the UCLA Marching Band, who did their hit “Tusk” and the usual Rose Parade style marching band stuff. After that was a bunch of sports guys talking.
The show ended with the only thing that could possibly end a show like that – FIREWORKS!
When I was a kid, I believe there was a law requiring every fireworks show to be accompanied by the music of John Philip Sousa. For the sake of today’s children, I’m glad that law has been repealed. The soundtrack for tonight’s fireworks show included such stadium pleasing numbers as “We Will Rock You,” “ Rock and Roll Part II,” and, most surrealistically, The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop.” It was beautiful.

I’m going to get all Rod Serling on you now and say that there is a place where irony and sincerity can co-exist. That place is middle age.
After the sincerity of childhood becomes the irony of youth, it mutates into the cynicism of adulthood. With middle age comes the wisdom and patience to stop and consider the next step. One can either follow the much-trodden path from the cynicism of adulthood to the bitterness of old age, or hang a quick u-turn back into irony. Irony, of course, will naturally lead you back to sincerity.
I suppose one could skip going through irony again and go directly back to sincerity, but think of all the fun you would miss.
And keep in mind that yesterday's rebellion is today's muzak.
I had a great time and especially enjoyed the fireworks show.
Photos by Julie