My husband, Tony and I had flown to San Francisco to play tourist for a few days before the Sacramento and Shoreline shows. I don't think I've spent so many days in a row damaging my body ... everything from hiking up and down the huge hills of San Francisco to sitting immobilized for hours in the center plane seat to standing in the cold rain at Saturday's Bridge Benefit show (which was excellent, by the way).
The drive to Sacramento wasn't half bad (thanks to a friend driving ... hi, Andy!) but the drive on to Marysville was really out there. We passed by Arco Arena, where PJ played in 98, and it was still quite a long time before we reached our destination. Marysville has a strange vibe for sure.
So we head to the venue after checking into a tiny motel in Marysville, get turned around on the way and end up with no time to go back to the room before the show. It is cold and I'm ill-prepared, without all of my layers, boots and hat. I wish I wish I wish for fast songs to keep us moving and warm.
We have an encounter with an extremely hyper parking person who is bent on handing out free passes for lawn access to a 2001 show (yeah, right - we'll need those!). The venue is one of the smallest amphitheaters that PJ has played this tour and we hear that it is far from sold out. Security works to close the wet lawn section down, relocating everyone into seats and this seems to work successfully. This amphitheater is completely open (only the stage is covered) and there are trees to either side of the stage. Looking up on this clear night out in the middle of nowhere, all you see are thousands of stars. Very beautiful but crisply cold.
At the close of Supergrass' set, we spy Mahlon, Diane and Jay a few rows ahead of us. We learn that it was into Mahlon's hands that Ed surfed at the San Bernardino show. Ha ha! ;)
We chat, I run to buy a poster and it is show time!
At precisely 8:45, the orchestral Baba begins, PJ take the stage and odd head gear are immediately noticeable. Mike is wearing a black Afro, Ed is wearing the fuzzy hat that he's wearing when he punches the time clock at the start of Single Video Theory and Stone is wearing a funky looking Beatle wig that I initially think is his real hair but realize his hair is pretty short now. This is bizarre!
In a rather unusual move, Ed immediately addresses us: "Good evening! Cold enough for ya?" and he steps back and they launch into a punchy Whipping! Stone is sawing at the guitar. We dance, we sing, we jump up and down! Following on it's heels with Insignificance (which I missed much of due to a guy climbing into my seat and saying it was his … ugh), Animal, Last Exit (surprise! - during which Mike and Ed's headwear is removed; Jeff is jumping a lot and Stone is doing the duck walk, forward and backward; "three days, not another fuckin' second longer"), State of Love and Trust (!) and GTF (played too fast). The songs are played in rapid succession - hardly a break between each. PJ is tight and the whole band is on the move, as we are, to keep warm.
Ed takes a break to "see the people in the back" and talks of how it should be a little warmer with all of the warm breath "coming this way" and how some of the breath smells like marijuana, seeming pleased. He urges us to check out Stone's haircut, quipping about how "Matt Cameron offered to cut it for him but he wanted to do it himself, so there you go." He says the next song is for "all the folks with bad hair", leading to a lovely Elderly Woman and the momentum slows. His voice sounds strong and I'm not noticing any signs of the illness that has been evidenced for the last few shows.
I'm pleased to hear Tremor Christ, another song that has improved over the years. At the end, Ed says, "There's a line in that song: 'Believe in lies, to get by, it's divine ...'. Makes me think of the upcoming elections. It's funny ..." He continues talking about how the song was written back when George Bush was in office, how it seemed like a long time ago that he was outta there and that was exciting, but it is amazing to even think that "an offspring of that evil motherfucker has a chance to be in ... at least it keeps the songs relevant," leading to (another too fast version of) Even Flow. During Mike's solo, I see Ed backing toward Stone's side of the stage, arms reached out behind him. I'm thinking he is going for a heater to warm his hands, but he is reaching out for a light for his cigarette. Ed and Jeff do a very nice tandem jump.
I'm on my tip toes as Ed echoes "the shades go down" at the end of Daughter, anticipating what might be tagged. The lyrics are hauntingly sad:
I've been gone so long
and I went down so low
and I couldn't wait to go home
when I got there
when I finally got there
you were ...
goooneeeee, you were gone
gone, gone, gone ...
and I'm gone
and I'm glad that you're gone
and how I wish ...
I take a rest and try to stretch my aching back during Better Man (which sports one instrumental verse from SIFL). Jeremy has a strange lead-in about how it used to be, "'Hey, Mom, I need some lunch money I need to buy chocolate milk and a bean and cheese burrito', and now it's, 'Hey, Mom I need some money. I'm out of ammo." At the conclusion, a drum beat quickly takes them into Light Years and I'm soaring, looking skyward as the stars are just mindblowing. Stone gets a different guitar after the start and there are problems keeping guitars in tune tonight because of the cold. Stone's solo is lovely and Ed is very into the playing on this one, so much so that he nearly doesn't come back into singing the last chorus, and he sings high and loud, accentuating the "disappear" part. He walks over and plays facing Stone while Mike and Jeff face off. Ed's string is broken and he knocks over the mic stand, yet flips it back up effortlessly with his foot.
Immortality is a strikingly nice surprise and beautifully performed with Matt's commanding drumming, Mike's bluesy solo and a sweet jam at the end. Ed is still playing the black Schecter with the broken string, which is looking pretty rough and worn. (Has he played any other electric guitars lately?)
Always great, Do The Evolution is particularly cool as I see someone in the front row handing something up to Ed. It is a large blue cloth that Ed rubs his face on, wraps himself in for a bit, later unfolding it and examining it and I see that it is the AUSTRALIAN FLAG and I know that it must have been delivered to him by Cameron and Joe, Australian fans who I'd just met at the motel before the show! (They had decorated the flag, including the verbiage, "14,000 km and all we got were some priceless memories," "Onya Fellas," "Thanks Mates," "No Worries".) Ed drapes the flag over the monitors in front of Matt's drumkit where it remains on display for the rest of the show. He appropriately modifies the later part of the DTE lyrics to, "Those ignorant aborigines, they got nothin' on me" and then "I am the first man to take (or make?) your flag." Rock out!!! And for a moment, he starts to remove one of the wristbands and I'm sure he is going to hand it down to them but then he stops. Maybe it was just too cold and he needed every scrap he could layer.
Brain of J is another standout, although played so quickly that Ed can hardly spit the words out fast enough. Ed balances the mic stand on one hand and crashes it down at the end. RVM, always one of my favorites, is firey hot again tonight, like it has been on this whole tour. Again, Ed seems more into the guitarwork than the singing. No problem, I can sing this one! He sits on the edge of the stage during the trancy jam part, legs hanging down, playing with the ebow - directly in front of Cameron and Joe. What a marvelous moment for my Australian friends! He is being spotlighted and he waves the light off of him so that the whole stage is backlit and the entire band is silhouetted against the colored backdrop. Stunning. At the end when the strobes are blasting, Stone is standing toward Matt's drums, shaking his head with the hair from the wig flying out around his head ... a cool effect. Ed finishes with his back to the crowd, doing big windmills and finishing with a huge jump. I could never, never tire of this song.
The break is quick and Matt is the first one jumping back on stage (10:10pm) … he's only wearing a short-sleeved shirt, clearly not suffering from the cold. Ed returns now wearing an orange-red stocking cap (I'm thinking this might be the same one Stone was wearing at the Letterman appearance). Ed likens the crowd to the California State Troopers for "hanging in there." He promises that next time the show will be in early July. (Of course, it would be hotter than hell here in July!)
They rip through Breakerfall, leading directly into Corduroy ("I'm already cut off and fuckin' dead!," Ed screams) and I'm feeling like this is an opening setlist, rather than an encore. Damn! Ed puts the bright stocking cap on Stone (over the Beatle wig), which creates a really strange look ... however, Stone is like the only person that could really get away with this sort of a "look."
The pace is slowed with Last Kiss (I'll omit what Tony said to me at this point), but the crowd is loving it, singing along and swaying.
Then Ed says they are going to try to play a song for his cousins, who are really great, great guys (the coolest four kids in California that he knows) ... a song they've never played together as a band before. My mind is quickly shuttling through songs but I'm coming up blank. And then, unbelievably, they go into The Kids Are Alright! Wow! Now I know that this was what I'd heard a snippet from at the soundcheck earlier. I knew it was a Who song and I forced myself to stop thinking about it and I walked away from where I could hear. I'm SO glad because this is a BIG surprise. Introduced as a song "about desperation," they quickly move onto Go (there were a LOT of fast songs!) and they're off again. At the close, Ed puts the fuzzy hat back on and starts tearing all the petals out of a bouquet, tossing them into the air. A bunch of picks sail out into the crowd and they all leave.
When they return next (10:30pm), Ed accepts a huge, beautiful bouquet from someone in the crowd and does a little bow, rather like a skater. He asks if there is a place called the Cattle Club in Sacramento and he comments that it was ten years ago that they played there. The house lights come up and we get Yellow Ledbetter and we know that's it. We are on the back row of our section and we start walking back toward the exit, toward Mike's side. This gives us a nice position to watch him solo and he segues into a nice bit of Little Wing and it seems for a moment that they are going to totally go in that direction but then he rotates back to YL as Ed is putting on a pair of gray gloves and wrapping more clothing around his waist. Stone's sweatshirt hood is now pulled up over the Beatle wig and the stocking cap and Jeff is bundling up as well. This image, while different, reminds me of the photos I'd seen of the Alpine Valley show, although it wasn't nearly as cold.
It was a short, fast show (110 minutes) and a pretty nice setlist - rather light on the Binaural tunes. Good energy from the band and a nice crowd ... I mean, you had to really want to be there (it seemed to be "date night" - lots of couples) and it was sweet.
Grievance, Crazy Mary, Parting Ways and Sonic Reducer were on the written setlist but not played. Oh, well. I was happy and secretly hoping they were "saving themselves" for tomorrow's Halloween show at Shoreline.
Whenever I think back to this show, I will remember Joe and Cameron, that this was their first journey outside of Australia, that they were at the front and that they brought the flag and Ed accepted it -- the smile on their faces and the look in their eyes. What a wonderful night, especially for these two special friemds!