Monday, February 25, 2008

Does It Get Any Better? (Dallas, 2/22)

First appeared here-

As the storm clouds began building over the Rocky Mountains in my rear view mirror, I coulnt help but smile. Warm sun, clear skies, and Dylan and Co. lay ahead of me, and these poor saps were going to freeze. Little did I know. 7 hours (and one run-in w/ Johnny Law) later, I found myself in Texas… an ice storm. Fog so thick you cant even spy anything 3 feet ahead of you, windows and mirrors covered in blurry crystals, road signs and speed limits barely legible through the drift frozen to their faces, and small herds of TX vehicles cautiously skating up the road. I had laughed earlier that day, at the thought of driving in TX w/ stud tires, now I couldnt have been happier to have them on. 

At 5 am, I was watching the Dallas skyline drawing closer, the sky getting just the slightest bit lighter all the while. I had finally made it! That wasn’t so bad at all. I have heard horror stories about driving in Texas, and Dallas, all my life, but that was no different then anywhere else. 

Three seconds after exiting the highway, it becomes painfully clear that you have just entered the 6th circle of hell. One way streets run both East/West and North/South, intersecting w/ themselves, and if you stay on one too long, you may just end up in Bolivia. I’m pretty sure the nexus of the universe is somewhere in downtown Dallas. I had to have broken, at least 15 traffic laws, but I eventually found the venue and a place to park. It was 5.30 and there was no attendant, but I made a mental note to go back after dawn and make sure it hadn’t been towed.

I made my way to the small, bundled line of 7 that had already formed (we were even mistaken for the homeless shelter and on point). Forget the winds in Chicago, because the winds in Dallas are 15 times worse, frigid and biting, tearing through my 30 year old sleeping bag w/ ease. I searched in vain through my trunk for any warm clothing, and all I could come up w/ was a crusty sweatshirt. I’d left all my warm clothing back in CO. My complements to the clouds though, they did a great job of keeping the sun away all day :? 

It wasn’t too bad of a wait though, everyone else in line had gone to Thursday’s, and all reposts were that it was a consistently excellent show, great setlist, and that we would be in for another treat tonight. It also drew tales of a troubling (and soon to be repeated) venue policy. 

For some inexplicable reason, that Dallas HOB “does not do lines”. What does that mean, you ask. Well, this place has a holding pen, aptly titled “Voodoo Garden”, where, after wanding you three hours before gates, you are forced to wait. It’s a gigantic concrete slab, in the shade of the building (the sun had finally managed to fight of the clouds, minutes before we were herded in). There are to be NO lines in Voodoo Garden, no matter how much the soon to be audience begs, pleads, wants it……NO! (One woman was even told something along the lines of “this generation doesn’t want lines”) They want, and breed, a stampede (they even sell alcohol to the Voodoo cattle . The front of the line, now the front of this mob, tries, for the next three hours, to keep those in the back from shoving forward, but even they are inched forward. 

Now, when they do decide to open the doors, they do not pre-scan the first x-number of people, no, they merely pull the doors open. The crowd is propelled forward to the top of a flight of about 20 or so stairs, (going down), where there are 2 women scanning. Since there are no lines, these women are hit w/ the full force of this chaotic rush. I truly feel bad for them, they stare death in the face every night. They do their best, but there is no way they can scan everyone, and the force from the back squeezes us down the gigantic flight of stairs. Mark my words, someone will be seriously injured one of these days, its only a matter of time. This time, when we get to the bottom of the stairs, there were security guards that wouldn’t let us pass (worked for me, I was able to catch up); they had not let the handicapped man in yet, so had we gone bursting through the second set of doors that they were blocking, the serious injuries would have happened that night. He got in (whether or not he was in a safe position seemed to be irrelevant to the HOB folks) and the second set of doors, set at a 90 degree angle on the left side, were swung open (outwards, of course) and the crowd surged forward. I caught the corner of the door in the chest, and I was stuck between the door pushing outwards, and the crowd pushing in. I was able to twist around the door, and ran like hell to the rails. 

I ended up in the best spot of my life; directly in front of T and Denny on the rails! Some were not so lucky though. When looking around, you could see the injustice. Folks who’d been there when I got there were standingbehind local folks who weren’t even there when Voodoo Holding Cell had been opened. We griped and moaned and complained, and vowed to come up w/ something tomorrow to somehow take better control of this, since clearly the guys who are paid to do so weren’t going to. 

Soon the new intro music is playing, and our anger (anger is an understatement) at the venue quickly morphs into excitement. The stage is tiny, and everyone is set up so far downstage (that means they were close). They open w/ Cats (my favorite opener) and it quickly becomes clear that this is to be no ordinary show, these guys areON. The sound in the venue is absolutely mindblowing, even on the rails. Dylan is on guitar for the first couple, as always, so Denny steps back and lets him take most of the leads, which, especially on I’ll Be Your Baby, sound really good. The intro for It Aint Me went on long enough that it almost felt like they were going to medley into something else. 
Dylan moved onto the keys for Blind Willie, which, at that point of the night, was the highlight. Earlier I said that I the only two I really want to hear from this band that I hadn’t were Blind Willie and Cold Irons. Got to check one off the list, and man, was it incredible, best I’d ever heard. Denny absolutely NAILED it, I mean, everybody did, but Denny just went above and beyond. I actually thought of Josepi, because absolutely no one, not even jokingly, can say it sucked. Rollin and Tumblin (ironically appropriate, for I’m sure it was what more then a few did down the stairs getting in) was just, off the charts, again, best version of the song I’ve ever heard. Every single song just belonged to Denny, he owned the whole night! 

Workingman’s was also in top form, but what’s even better (for me anyway) is that I think I learned it. Like I said, T was right in front of me the entire night, but usually he’ll turn his back to the audience from time to time and play to George, or Stu and Donnie, or whatever, so I’ll catch bits and pieces for songs, but never the whole thing. This time, he was just so close, and I had a perfect view of both hands for the whole song, so I think I got it! I left my pen in my car, and no one else had anything to write w/, so I wasn’t able to concentrate on learning any others that night (a real kick in the nuts when they played Mississippi), but hey, I’m not complaining. 

Visions is never one I look to hear at shows, I usually see it as filler in shows, but, man, this one was so beautiful. Donnie was on banjo (which is never a bad thing haha), and, just, it was ineffable. The layering, the fullness of the sound, everything. One of those that seems to go on forever, and you never want it to end. Honest W/ Me, again, Denny took his solo farther w/ then that band has ever been w/ that song. Never seen a bad version, but this was just insane. Mississippi was a trip to see, as was this Summer Days, very reminiscent of the Larry and Charlie days, for those constant complainers. Predictable encore setlist, and I know I’ve used this phrase to death, but Thunder was…….this was the ultimate version, this is how that song was meant to be seen/heard/played/etc. Absolutely nothing like it. 

This was, unequivocally, the best show I have ever seen in my life, to say nothing of the guitar work. I don’t know that that will change for a long time, possibly ever. Dylan’s voice was great, as great as you can hope for w/ him, the musicians were mindblowing, the sound was unbelievable, and both the band and the crowd really seemed to be feeding off each other in very positive ways. I have got to say, if you ever get a chance to stand by Milkcow at a concert, do. I mean, if I were taping, I would have had to kill her, literally, but she has fun haha. I had the best seat in the house, I was right in front of T and Denny, so I looked over at Bob maybe 10 times that night, but every time I looked over, he was always starring right back, not at me, but the dancing gals on both sides of me, really digging that they were digging him. He seemed happy too, any time I saw him he was bouncing around, twisting and pointing and whatnot, and when they came back out for encores, he went around right in front of us in the dark and “shot” the dancing gals on my right and left. You really do get two shows for the price of one; both factions of dancers (one on my right, the other on my left) were incredibly entertaining. They were cracking me up all night and I could only see them peripherally, I can only imagine the perspective from those on stage. Denny actually recognized me right off the bat (I wasn’t going to take it personal if someone I met 5 months ago wasn’t able to pick me out of a dark crowd he didn’t even know I’d be in :roll: ) and so we were sort of acknowledging, nodding or pointing or thumbs up or whatever to each other all night, so that was pretty damn awesome. I mean, I could have walked away happy just because of that, but the show was just so completely out of this world, the whole night was more then worth the HOB holding cell/stampede bullshit. After the show, I (almost literally) bumped into him coming around the corner. I don’t think he wanted to be recognized, and looked like he had more important places he wanted to be and I didn’t want to keep him, so we just exchanged a couple of quick words, but it was the icing on the cake to possibly the best show I ever will see. 

Because I know Roll will ask- They were wearing the black suits, Dylan had on a black jacket w/ some sort of thing hanging from it, like where one might hang a Purple Heart or something. Uh, I think he has his white hat on, I honestly don’t remember haha. Maybe someone who actually looked at him might be able to help me out here haha. Donnie of course looks different then any other time I’ve ever seen him, and T has lost a TON of weight, either that, or traded in his suit for one that’s 4 times too big. 

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