Jefferson Starship: Fri 28 Aug

It's official, you can welcome two brand new Starship fans into the Jefferson Airplane Family: Aaron (10) and Tyler (7). On the drive home, Tyler burst out with unsolicited praise, "The Jefferson Starship were great! That was fun!"

Fri 28 Aug

When we arrived at the shuttle parking lot, a good half-hour after the official starting time of the celebration, we found it largely, surprisingly, unpopulated. We picked a shady slot, gathered our gear, and climbed aboard the shuttle which then departed in short order. It was a relaxing and pleasant 5-10 minute ride, and the shuttle deposited us right at the gate.

Lindsay paid the measly $12 for the entire family of four to enter, and we proceeded directly to the north end of the park to inspect the main stage. At the base of an extremely gentle slope there was a plyboard dance floor surrounded by a ring of sawdust. A low barrier between the floor and stage was formed of hay bales stacked two-high, brick-style. The gentle rise of the grassy hill was dotted with a smattering of festival-goers staking out their territory early-on with lawn chairs and picnic blankets. There was ample green grass on all sides, especially closer to the dance floor, not to mention the floor itself was at least as spacious as the stage.

The official program stated, "Seating on the festival grounds is limited, especially around the Main Stage area. You may wish to bring a blanket or your own lawn chairs." Limited? Well I guess SO, as in *Zero... I felt misled and betrayed by this simple seemingly innocuous statement. " limited" - bah! What seating? Lindsay briefly toyed with the idea of leaving to get some chairs. He started in on a stand-up shtick, "Hello, K-Mart?" (I smiled) "Hello, is this Chairs-R-Us? Do you deliver?" (more smiles, chuckles) "Yes, we'd like four folding chairs delivered to the Festival, please..." He paused while I overflowed with giggles, then added menacingly, "and if they're cold when they get here we're NOT paying for them!"

We wandered about the front of the dance floor while we watched a handful of folks set up a waste-high screen delineating an area in front of the sound booth specifically for taping. While hanging out near the booth I caught the full-blooded scent of the evening's one and only whiff of something verrry sweet, but I couldn't tell from which direction it wafted so enticingly. Smelled like some damn fine stuff is all I can say. I called out, pleasantly joking, to the unseen lucky one(s), "Hey, no fair not to share!"

"The Brainwashers" - surf band - were scheduled to play from 6p-7p. Having seen their photo in the promotional write-up on the festival's activities in the local paper's weekly entertainment guide, I recognized the guitarist sitting cross-legged on the stage floor with his guitar in his lap, tuning up etc. Aaron was leaning on the hay bales taking it all in with rapt attention. Without any indication he thought the guitarist could or would hear or notice him, Aaron observed importantly (to no one in particular) "That looks like a Fender Stratocaster!" The guitarist gazed on him complacently and quietly responded, "It is." I laughed at the irony of this spontaneous little encounter, and chimed in softly, "not only that, but it's PINK..." (not a screaming hot-pink mind you, but a more restrained, bubble-gum shade of powdery, pastel pink...)

This guy was a true original, with his guitar's unique color, his nose holding up a pair of thick, black, nerdy-looking eyeglasses, a slight pot-belly, and straggly black hair more OUT of the ponytail in back than in. I mumbled quietly to myself, "it takes a heck of a guy to play a pink guitar." I'm not sure if he heard me (I hope not!) but I didn't mean to sound derogatory or scornful, because truthfully I admired this display of his blatantly personal choices. It takes a heck of an individual to WANT to play a pink guitar, not to mention choosing a retro-sound like surf music. I was totally digging it and they hadn't even started to play.

With the performance imminent, we sprawled on the grass - without benefit of blanket or chairs - between the empty taping area and the back edge of the dance floor. The Brainwashers did not disappoint. Surf music is easy to love, and this local trio definitely showed a command of the form. I didn't recognize the style of bass guitar - four strings, fancy modern shape to the body, staggered pickups (Lindsay called these "hi-tech"). The bass player had a long sandy- brown ponytail, bit of a beard, and wore dark wire-rimmed sunglasses, black T-shirt and jeans. The drummer was a normal-looking, clean- shaven chap in a red baseball cap who took turns with the guitarist in providing verbal segues.

This aspect of their performance provided some low-key comedy. The drummer attributed one tune as being written by "that guy over there" (the guitarist) to which the guitarist calmly replied, "No, it's not..." Later the guitarist leaned in to the mic and remarked matter-of-factly, "We're an instrumental band. We're not supposed to talk." Lindsay and I chortled heartily at this bald and yet bashful statement.

They hit the obvious surf high spots (theme from Hawaii Five-O, and "Pipeline" - a personal favorite of mine), threw in a Beatles cover ("She's a Woman"), and played a handful of original tunes.

After every number the band thanked the faithful few who comprised the pitifully small audience. We clapped and hooted enthusiastically, but there were so few of us we simply could not generate the amount of appreciative noise these guys deserved, despite their amusing lack of verbal finesse. They played for the full hour as scheduled, and I spent the entire time with my toes and knees and thighs tapping in time, swaying from the waist and doing little bits of shoulder-dancing from my sitting position on the grass. With the notable exception of the adjacent couple who seemed to equally enjoy this music, the rest of what audience there was, as near as I could tell, desperately needed artificial respiration or defibrillation. My opinion only.

[[...on the drive home I observed, "Surf music is easy to love because it's accessible - the form is quickly and readily grasped" to which Tyler responded in thoughtful agreement, each word evenly measured and spoken with calm authority, "Yup. It's not ...too, and it's not ...too ...slow." That's my Tyler: he doesn't miss a trick. Goldilocks would be proud...]]

When I laboriously got back to my feet at the conclusion of the surf set, I discovered my hips were very stiff and unhappy from sitting on the ground, so I determined to stand for the remainder of the evening. Lindsay pointed out if we stood to the side and near the back of the sound booth, no one could reasonably complain we were blocking their view. Since we're both tall (6'4" and 5'10") this seemed a wise choice (smart man, that's why I married him). Therefore I planted my feet in a wide, secure stance exactly where he suggested. From here we witnessed the ribbon-cutting ceremony held by the city to initiate the new bike path that passed through the length of the park and crossed the river into downtown.

Lindsay and the boys departed in search of food. As the sunlight began to fade, the crowd gradually grew to something approaching a respectable size. The dance floor was put to use by a half-dozen adults and a dozen or more small children. I longed to be up there dancing with them but felt self-conscious of my weight, and knew I'd look ridiculous dancing with a duffle bag hanging from my fanny-pack's belt (containing the jackets in case it got cold.) Gentle twilight blanketed the mellow crowd.

The next scheduled artist - Marc Alan, reportedly a local fave in the folk/jazz acoustic guitar vein - was billed as reminiscent of James Taylor and Jackson Browne. His music was laid-back and pleasant. I stood by the soundboard scaffolding, hungry and thirsty and experiencing the first signs of the evening's fatigue. I swayed to the soft rhythms, clapping perfunctorily after every song, inwardly experiencing a quiet enjoyment of these beautiful and yet average, simple, and more or less unremarkable sounds. Perhaps I'd gotten my fill of singer-songwriters back in the 70's - Jim Croce, John Denver, Dan Fogelberg, etc - I can't fault his music in any way - this type of music is completely normal and thoroughly acceptable, but maybe it suffers from overexposure?

Then again I was not in an optimum state to judge objectively. I'm certain I would have been able to pay greater attention and experience and demonstrate a much keener appreciation of this music had I not hit the physical wall of low blood sugar and stiff muscles. The tuna sandwiches I'd fixed for the family immediately prior to our departure were wearing mighty thin as the set wore on... I kept scanning the increasing throng behind me for signs of my tall thin husband in his dark-blue tie-dye...

Eventually he arrived, bringing a basket of what Aaron called "tater twirls". Lindsay apologized that they were now thoroughly cold, explaining he'd met up with a chum from his work, so he'd stopped to chat. This mound of oily thin curling strips of fried potatoes would have been completely unappetizing had I not been extremely hungry, and I devoured them gratefully.

While I stuffed my pathetic starving face, Lindsay took the boys to visit the porta-potties. When they returned, we sent Aaron up to the dance floor so he could run around with the other kids. Tyler elected to stay with me. Lindsay took the empty tater twirls basket and went in search of a trash can. I waited there by the sound board with increasing unease... The dance floor was looking more and more crowded, and I feared the kids would not be able to see and enjoy the concert if I didn't get up there and stake out some front-row territory... Every so often I did a visual check for Aaron in the mass of squidlets running around on the dance floor. When I couldn't locate him I took Tyler by the hand and we marched forward.

The hay bales were covered their entire length with kids. What constituted the "front row" was rapidly being filled with many adults taking up residence in this prime concert real estate. I planted myself firmly in second-row position so my kids could stand close to the hay bales and have a good view of the stage. Both had ear protection firmly installed since the surf set. I scanned the crowd in every direction but could not locate Aaron... I had no choice at that point but to stay put. I knew Lindsay would be able to find us, but losing track of Aaron...

Here's an old joke/riddle some reader's might recall, "Where is it possible to be, but impossible to be?" Answer: beside yourself. That's *Exactly where I was: Beside Myself. The start of the show is a complete blur in my memory, buried under mounds and mounds of parental angst. "I should never have sent him up there on his own, should have monitored him more closely, if anything happens to him I'm in big trouble, this is my fault, I was careless and selfish..." etc.

Lindsay indeed found the two of us, I informed him of Aaron's absence, and so he went off in search of Aaron. Again, I was powerless to do anything except stand there and guard our family's turf while terror gnawed at my gut, ceaselessly scanning the crowd for my ten year old's face. This evening had progressed from light humor at the seating arrangements onward to the unpleasantness of stiff hips and hunger, and had now officially deteriorated into a disaster. I had visions of standing there in the second row for the entire concert - WITHOUT AARON - my stomach churning, my conscience burning - and being unable to enjoy even one minute of it...

Then amazingly there he was, eyes wide and searching, walking full- stride between the stage and the hay bales. Fortune smiled - the band was between songs? I called to him, motioning to him to join us, and miraculously he heard me and came right over towards us. He was looking for a clear spot to cross the hay bales when Security moved in and escorted him (with stern gestures) over onto the dance floor. I drew him in close with incalculable relief.

"I was lost!" he admitted. Other parents can send their child to a defined area and trust they'll have the good sense to stay there, but our child wanders off and goes exploring down by the river...

"Yes, well you're here now." (Whew!)

Finally Lindsay showed up and I was able to display both boys. While he'd been gone he had alerted the blue shirts doing Security - now he gave the good word to the same blue shirt who had helped Aaron across the hay bales. How many songs had the Jefferson Starship played? At what point did the show begin? I have NO IDEA...

With all present and accounted-for I gradually relaxed and finally began to enjoy the show. I nudged Aaron and Tyler up to the front and kept my eye on them. Tyler stood like a stone statue right behind the hay bales with his jaw hanging open... It was a comical and memorable sight.

We had a rough idea of the set list, from an east coast review forwarded from a faithful member of the 2400 Fulton list [[&&&]] As the band played I focused mainly on Kantnor, mostly because he was directly in front of that section of the dance floor. Next to him was the lovely barefoot and tanned Diana, with her long unbound hair and spaghetti-strap crushed velvet dress hanging far enough above her knees to be sexy but still long enough to be modest and flare out and swing as she moved to the music.

When they slammed into "Somebody to Love" the crowd went NUTS. The moment was super-charged electric power mania madness. I jumped up and down with passion raging too deep for physical expression. This would turn out to be a high-point of the show for me - a moment I'll never forget.

Every so often I'd notice Casady having a good time, jumping around having way too much fun. I should have kept my eyes on him more, I think. If there's ever a "next time" I hope I can choose a spot near the right half of the stage and give him my full attention. He's a show all by himself. I love seeing *any performer *enjoy their job as much as he obviously does. Kantnor and Diane were having a great time as well, but they didn't cover the same amount of territory on the stage as Casady commanded.

It was inevitable: I grew weary-worn and tired. Though the evening was pleasantly cool, with an occasional whiff of a breeze off the river, the crush of bodies in close proximity generated that typical crowd- heat. I was drenched in sweat and eventually suffered from true thirst. The children have less physical reserves and Lindsay had to leave (twice?) to get water for Tyler.

The two gals in front of us kept cigarettes burning at least 50% of the time. As the show stretched-out I began to feel decidedly ill from the smoke. (...*Not used to it, folks!) Tyler reached the limits of his endurance, so Lindsay and I took turns holding him. Finally I couldn't hold him up any longer than a minute at a time, and he had to lean against my legs. At one point Lindsay - a native of Northern California - remarked, "Hey, when *I was in first grade, my parents never took ME to see the Jefferson Airplane... I was robbed!" Technically, he would been more like Aaron's age back in, say (for example), 1968...

Yes, Lindsay, you were robbed.

The band played loud and long, concluding with that screaming stomper "Volunteers". We sprinted for higher ground while the crowd called forth the obligatory encore. We found ample space on the grass next to the sound board. Lindsay was sent to fetch more water. Marty Balin slung on his acoustic and sang his relaxed lovesong "Comin' Back to Me" - a welcome break from the non-stop adrenaline that fueled the entire concert. I spread out on the cool grass, Tyler curled up between my legs using my thigh for a pillow, while Aaron stretched out completely flat. We listened and grooved to this beautiful song - the perfect lullaby for the two boys (and me) within that moment.

The sound was naturally much better back here than up front. I removed my ear plugs and let the "true" mix inform my experience. "It's No Secret", then "The Other Side of This Life" which included a bass solo by Jack, a drum solo, and a ripping keyboard solo. The final crescendo and chords were very satisfying. The concert looked and sounded a success. As the final chord echoed and the crowd roared in appreciation of this fine show, we walked as swiftly as our tired legs could take us to the exit. We passed the mayor on our way out, and I gave him some citizen feedback, "What a great party! Fun time."

Climbing aboard the waiting shuttle was a dream - so easy - service and comfort - what could be better? In what seemed like no time at all we were back in our car and headed home to bed. As we rolled through the quiet sleepy cool summer's night, the pay-off came out of nowhere when Tyler spontaneously erupted with joy from the backseat with his sudden exclamation, "The Jefferson Starship were great!" I couldn't have been more tired, but in that moment it was all worthwhile.

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