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A Rustie's Tale, Part I: Fools and Children
(Well, I don't know about children, but...)

by Jeffrey Robert Connelly a.k.a.Hip Drag Queen
posted to Rust on March 26, 1996

I apologize for taking so long to post this. I've been lacking in both time and energy lately...I also notice now that I switch from present to past tense for no apparent reason. Hopefully it's coherent otherwise.

Tuesday had not been going well.

Kim and I were bickering, in the manner than you only really find between people who've been together for six years. I realized that the best thing I could do would be to get out of her way, and vice versa, so I went into the bedroom and sat down at my computer. My brother and his girlfriend were supposed to be in town on Wednesday so I should have been helping her clean the apartment, but naturally instead I decided to check my mail.

Dial, busy. Redial, busy. Redial, busy. This went on for a while as it always does. Finally, I sneak on. Full mailbox from Rust and smattering of personal messages, one of which whose subject line is: URGENT.

A Rustie Who Shall Remain Nameless was informing me of an offical rumor concerning Neil and the Horse playing the Princeton Landing Bar in Half Moon Bay under then name of the Echoes--and imploring that I keep it under my hat. I call Kim into the room and point to the screen, saying nothing. She absorbs it. The mood between us improves greatly.

After profusely thanking the aforementioned anonmymous Rustie, I hang up, dial information and ask for the Princeton Landing Bar in Half Moon Bay. No problem. (It wouldn't last.)

The line rings maybe five or six times; I can hear feedback and applause in the background as the phone is finally answered. Shouting, I find out that, yes, they will be playing again Wednesday and Thursday, and tickets go on sale 11AM each morning for that night's show. I neglect to ask for an address or directions, largely out of pity for the guy having to try to hear me.

The plan is set into motion: we'll get up at 8AM, get gas, stop at AAA to get a map, and try to be out there by 10.

Given our sleeping habits, we barely manage to leave by 9; no matter, as we're in Half Moon Bay by 10. We stop at a pay phone and check the phone book; no Princeton Landing. Hmmm. Okay. Fine. I called information the night before with no problem, so I'd just call again for the address.

Except they had no listing. The person checked everything they could think but simply could not find any listing for a Princeton Landing. Curiouser and curiouser. I had the number on me, but there was no answer. Of course.

We drive through the parts of a town that we're familiar with--i.e., the stuff you can see from Highway 1. Requiring a nature break, we stop at Lucky's, then ask the surrounding establishments for directions. The guy at a coffeehouse finally was able to help us, saying that it was actually four miles back the way we came, in Princeton. He asked if I was a musician; I said no, not really, but there's a band playing there we're interested in. He nodded and smiled knowlingly. Jesus, I thought, the whole town knows.

Lo and behold, we arrive at 10:45. The line is about forty or so people deep; parking is surprisingly easy, and we get into line quickly. For the rest of the time, no more than five people get into line behind us. Never a good sign.

Everyone is quite friendly, though I notice that the words "Neil Young" are almost never spoken, as though it would jinx us. Not wanting to take any chances, I keep mum about it as well.

Once the ticket-selling actually takes place, the line moves much slower than you might have thought. They sell out about 11:45; we were about five or six people away from the front. As tempting as it is to stick around for a little while longer, my brother was already expecting us back in town, so we split.

I had class at 2pm, then work from 5-11. I rationalize that it's just as well we didn't get tix, 'cuz if we did I would've had to call in sick, and the supervisor that night is a deadhead who also digs Neil, and if he'd ever found out there would have been hell to pay. (He's a deadhead that was a nazi in a past life.)

So. I get home from work at 11:30PM, put the finishing touches on a paper due on Thursday, and get to bed at 1:30AM. We get up at 4:30 and leave by 5:15. Between getting gas (which we didn't do the previous day) and trying to find a decent bagel place which opened before 6:30, we reached the OPL at 7am.

We were the fifth to arrive. Again, everyone was extremely cool; we kept a list of who arrived in what order so that we'd be able to actually move around and interact a little better. Interestingly, there was a sign posted which said, "There is no 'sign-up' sheet for tickets--meaning you MAY NOT arrive early, sign a list, and come back at 11am to pick them up. Purchaser must be physically waiting in line to buy tickets. First come first served." None of us were planning on going anywhere; our list was purely for our purposes. (I kept both the list and the flyer as mementos; the flyer says "Additional Echos' Ticket Information," so to me that's kinda neat.)

We also noticed that a fence had been erected along the edge of the OPL's property. Someone was serious about cutting the line short.

Before long the rumors started to fly. The tickets were sold out the night before; there'd been a list started last night, and everyone on it was going to return at 11 to actually buy their tickets; the guest list was growing and now only 10 tickets were going to be sold; you get the idea.

There was a sign in the window, felt pen scrawled on a cardboard reading "Show Sold Out." Problem was, it didn't have a date or anything, and a couple people commented that it had been in the window the night before. Another sign, written on the back of the aforementioned ticket information flyer, said "Sold Out Forever!" We decided to take our chances.

The hours flew by pretty fast, really. Being Neil fans, a joint was shared around 9am; under normal circumstances, it would have seemed a little early to me, but circumstances were not normal. Ah, I thought to myself, this is the rock and roll lifestyle I've heard so much about but never experienced. A nice place to visit...typically when I'm stoned I'm hyperaware of how much of a nimrod I sound like, so I clam up. (When someone made a passing reference to David Gilmour's second solo album, I blurted out how much the bass solo from the song Murder sounds like White City Fighting, which Gilmour cowrote, from Pete Townshend's White City. After hearing myself say that, and getting absolutely no reaction from anyone else, I didn't say anything else for a while.)

People started coming and going from the bar at about 10:30; they didn't say a word to us, though. A name did begin to surface, though: Bob Lacey. He was spoken of in reverential tones, and for good reason, as he was the bearer of tickets. More specifically, the wristbands which functioned as tickets.

The first person in line--the one who'd arrived at 2am--was this groovy older lady, probably in her sixties, whom I suspected was a teacher. She spoke at some length about how we should deal with the bar people, and I agreed completely: respectfully, kindly, and overall to be very positive. She ended up leaving before 11, to be replaced by her daughter with whom she left the same instructions.

Her daugher never got the chance, unfortunately. By about 11:30 the owner of the bar finally spoke to us, confirming that the tickets had in fact all been sold the night before after the show. As we suspected, there had been problems with the police and they didn't want anybody camping out. While it went against their policy, under the circumstances (which, again, were not normal) it made sense.

Before any of us who'd been waiting for hours had a chance to use respect, kindness or positivity, a guy who'd only been there about ten minutes started yelling at her. "That's not right! I called yesterday and you said the tickets would be sold at 11!"

It was all over. Saying she had better things to do, the owner turned around and walked away--and the motherfucker followed after her, still yelling and acting generally unpleasant. We knew right then that even if there were any more tickets left, we wouldn't have any chance at them thanks to this shitheel.

Although inertia hung on for a while, by 12:30 most everyone had left, deciding to come back tonight and least hang out in front and listen. I was kind of itching to go myself--I had class at 3, and if we left now I still might be able to catch maybe an hour or two of sleep--but we were talking to an interesting fellow named Eddie.

Like a lot of people, he'd already been to a couple of the shows that week. (If you're jealous of me, just remember that I only got into one--it seems like everyone else was in every night.) Though he had a regular job, his real profession was apparently camping out for shows, and he had an impressive track record. We talked for probably a good hour or so, long after everyone else who'd been there that morning had left.

At one point we went inside the bar and looked at the stage; everything was covered with a tarp, but it was wonderful even being in the presence. (I considered reaching down and taking a strip of masking tape which was labeled "Piano Stool--Echos" as a souvenir but decided against it. Being a vandal just wouldn't be right.)

Bob Lacey's name came up again; over the last few days Eddie and Bob had actually become friends and he confirmed that Bob was the man to speak to; the owner of the bar really had no say as to who got in.

Fine, fine, I thought to myself, we'll keep an eye out for him, but for now I just want to leave. I kept trying to drop hints that we should be going, but Kim was having none of it; she was utterly enthralled by Eddie's stories.

For that I'll be eternally grateful to her, because just as we were getting into the car, Bob arrived. Eddie said that NOW would be a very good time to meet him, and introduced us. "Now, I don't know them very well," he said, "But they're really nice and have been waiting here all morning long, so if there's anything you can do for them, I'd really appreciate it."

Bob shook our hands and said, "Well, the show's sold out, but come back out tonight and I'll see what I can do for you--you come highly recommended. Even if you don't get in, you can sit out front and listen, it's actually pretty nice." We thanked him for his time and he was gone.

We figured then we'd done as much as we could under the circumstances, so we said goodbye to Eddie and left.

Not surprisingly, I slept in class.

We returned at about 7:30. A fair number of people had congregated outside again; the bar wasn't checking wristbands just yet, so people were milling in and out. Bob wasn't around, so we went inside and hung out. (FWIW, they make a swell Fuzzy Navel, particularly for $3.50.)

Before too long Bob arrived and sat down at the cafe next door. It was now or never. He hadn't ordered anything yet; that was good, we wouldn't be interrupting him quite as much. Just before we went inside, I was struck by a panicky thought: here I was, about to ask him for a favor on the day of his daughter's wedding, and I'd never once invited him over for dinner? That just didn't seem right...but it was too late.

We went inside and looked at the menu. Yep, same as before. No different. That figured.

We approached his table cautiously, though not too cautiously (I hoped). "Uh, hi, Bob, my name is Jeff and this is Kim. You may recall, Eddie introduced us earlier today. We were just wondering if anything came up...?"

He looked down at his notepad, thought for a moment, and then spoke easily the biggest understatement I've ever heard in my short life: "Well, this is your lucky day. Forty dollars."

Thankfully, we'd had the foresight to bring money along. We gave him our money, put on our wristbands, thanked him profusely and got the hell out of his way, feeling ready to explode with joy at any moment.

By the biggest stroke of dumb, stupid luck in our lives...

...to be continued...

A Rustie's Tale, Part II:
Fuck All That, What About the Music?

by Jeffrey Robert Connelly a.k.a.Hip Drag Queen
posted to Rust on March 30, 1996

I sincerely apologize for how long this has taken; between work, school, Susan Sarandon winning an Oscar (my shameless fan page is at http://www.sirius.com/~jrc/susan if anyone cares) and the eighty kazillion other email dialogues I have going on, I've been kinda busy. To get a sense of my fatigue, count how many times I say "of course."

The saga of big dumb luck continues...

After grabbing a bite to eat in the cafe--I knew I'd be spending the rest of the evening standing and gyrating, so I needed to raise the energy levels--we went back inside the bar and assumed the position.

First order of business, as far as I was concerned, was finding Eddie and thanking him. As I expected, he was completely casual about it--"I don't know, I really didn't do anything"--but I was still half tempted to nail him right then and there out of gratitude. Probably just as well.

Eddie was already in the front row, of course, and we were about a person away from him. The person, in fact, was new Rustie Ken Schick. Seeing as how I hadn't posted since he'd joined he gave me a rather peculiar look when I mentioned my handle was Hip Drag Queen--but hey, I even get that look from people I've corresponded with, so no big whoop. As it often will in these situations, bonding occured quickly amongst those in our vicinity.

A buzz made its way to us suggesting that Kim and I were even luckier than we'd suspected; apparently ours were the ONLY two extra tickets that were available, owing to Neil taking a couple people off the guest list. I really don't know how true it is, but the thought gives me such a warm feeling I'm rolling with it. (One person, having heard, turned to us and said, "Well, I guess this note really IS for you." That was fantastically cool.)

Word was also spreading about how not only were we non-locals, but that we'd found out via email from the East Coast. Nobody seemed angry with us, but some people spoke disdainfully of news of the gigs "being spread across the Internet." Of course, I agreed. Hey, when in Princeton...

And, finally, with no fanfare save for the lights dimming, Neil and the Horse came out.

I'd try to describe the initial sensation, but I don't think I could do it justice. Him. The Man. The person largely responsible for much of emotional stability during adolesence--hell, during the last year and a half. I think that's what struck me the most; not that he's a Big Rock Star, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, any of that stuff. He may have written DBTR and HHMM, but he also made Trans and directed and acted in Human Highway. Where others hold those against him, I find that sort of thing more than anything else a source of strength and inspiration. He follows his heart and soul, fuck anyone who doesn't wanna come along.

And there he was, about five or six feet away, ripping into the opening of Country Home. That home in question was probably about 10 miles away--closer than my home, in any event--and he'd be sleeping there tonight. I realized that this sort of thing is why I moved to the Bay Area. Sure, it's beautiful and offers the only affordable film school in California, but it's also Neil country. Does this make me obsessive? Naaaah...

Stupid Girl--be honest, guys, which of us hasn't been in a relationship where we found ourselves singing this song?--Bite the Bullet, Drive Back, Wonderin' (Danny Whitten-era, of course)...and I was suddenly struck by a very, very obvious factoid that had somehow eluded me up to this point. This was a jam session, a rehearsal. In all likelihood this is probably what they'd be playing if they were still up on the ranch. Christ. If it hadn't before, the real significance of what we were witnessing finally sunk in. Wow. Oh, fucking wow...this is, like, you know, just...

Big Closer #1: Like a Hurricane. Of course. Now, I confess, I've been known to fast forward through this song on occasion; sometimes it does it for me, sometimes not so much. But, again, these were--all together now--not normal circumstances.

So there Neil was, flying on the solo, and I couldn't help but wonder how many mindblowing performances like these would never be heard by anyone but them and a few angry neighbors. It just didn't seem right, so much energy expended and nobody there to truly appreciate it.

Poncho, of course, was on keyboards; I noticed that he was playing both the synth and the piano at the same time (the synth being on top of the piano). I should know this already, but is this normal for him?

For those of you playing along at home, this particular performance the line was "You are just a dreamer, but you are just a dream."

Some more empirical observations...upon first seeing Billy--by virtue of where we were standing, we were closest to him and Poncho for most of the show--my initial thought was that Lou Reed had been duplicated in a freak transporter accident and was filling in on bass. My next thought was that the bolts had fallen out of his neck and that a mob of angry Romanian villagers bearing torches would show up any minute. Both thoughts were, of course, really mean so I immediately disregarded.

Billy and Ralph, in the heat of things, are completely oblivious to everything around them. The only time I saw Billy open his eyes were occasionally when singing; otherwise, he'd be doing that mad head-bob we know and love so well from RNS and Weld. Ralph, on the other hand, never seemed so much oblivious as disinterested. His beat never wavered (then again, I'm utterly lacking in rhythm, so how the fuck would I know?), but more often that not he'd be looking around, seeming more bored than anything else.

Poncho's eyes never seemed to waver: he was locked on Neil, apparently Neil's hands. Watching him play, I sensed on some level how they worked together, though it's beyond my ability to express more clearly than that. Poncho picked on every Neil did and worked with it. On at least one song he took the lead, but for the life of me I can't remember what it was. (Anyone?)

The second set was my favorite, and I'll be so bold as to suggest that it might have been theirs, too. The Losing End, Dangerbird, Roll Another Number--this last being the only one of the set that they perform in concert regularly, if for that matter one of the few the entire evening.

The Zuma theme continued with Barstool Blues. For my money, this is where the show really began to peak; they began to more visibly enjoy themselves, like they really were just a bar band jamming for kicks.

It was more obvious a couple songs later during Homegrown, but the sight of the three of them practially huddled together (Ralph, by all appearances, may have been wondering if he'd left the iron on), swaying back and forth in that familiar manner, aware of nothing but the music -- and then us in the crowd a yard or two away, probably consciously mimicking the action -- well, it may not have been a Kenneth Anger film, but it was ritual. We were invoking something.

Probably when I get a tape of the show, first thing I'm gonna listen to is the When Your Lonely Heart Breaks. Believe it or not, it was a highlight in its own way, 'cuz I just don't see them breaking it out again any time too soon. Though they probably could have recreated the Life sound if they really wanted to, it was much more minimalist, with a strangely thumping -- almost discordant, if I understand the word correctly -- line from Billy and a particularly bizarre synth sound from Poncho. In fact, I don't think the synth came out right at all, judging from the look on Poncho's face and the fact that a tech fiddled with it a little, to no effect. Still, I'm a confessed fan of the Geffen years--and believe me, the sound will intrigue you.

As if to make up for it, next up was that great singalong, Homegrown. As I mentioned, this was when they really seemed to be enjoying themselves; I got the impression that a rehearsal probably doesn't go by where they don't try to throw it in just for kicks. (I'm sure if I went back and looked at the setlists I'd find they didn't do it every night, but I'm not feeling up to it, so there. :) ) Neil had this great shiteating grin on his face, not something you see often.

The sense of pure fun carried over to the Big Closer #2: Prisoners of Rock and Roll. This, of course, was pure wish-fulfillment on my part; the version from the '86 Cow Palace show is one of my favorite Neil performances, and I'd long since given up any hope of witnessing it live. (Hell, it didn't even last through the Garage tour.) The audience was completely into it, and the boys were playing like they meant it. I was a smidgen disappointed that the second verse was the Life version and not the oh-so-juvenile one from Garage (When we're jamming in our neighborhood/The girls are movin' and they sure look good/There's really nothing like the very first time/After that it's like standing in line), but I wasn't about to complain.

In a way, though, I kinda understood why they dropped it from their regular lineup. It just works better in a more intimate (i.e., garage-like) setting, in much the same way that...oh, I don't know, Love and Only Love wouldn't have quite worked that night. Still a shame, because it's just such a goddamned fun song. Ralph even tried to pick up a verse when they went back into it after what would normally have been the final chorus and neither Neil, Billy or Poncho bothered. His mike was turned down low--I wonder if it'll even come across on the tape--but it was fun listening to him try to sing it when he obviously had no idea what the words were.

After the set, I went outside to reacquaint myself with the concept of circulating air. After walking to a sufficiently shaded grove of trees surrounding a creek (I don't know if anyone else has mentioned this, but it's really quite lovely out there), I proved Dale Cooper's thesis that there's nothing quite like urinating in the open air.

Stopping momentarily by the car, I was suddenly struck by a curious fact: to an observer, I probably would have seemed drunk. Indeed, I was feeling a bit on the tipsy side, in spite of the fact that I hadn't had anything to drink at all that day and I'd smoked the grass a solid twelve hours before--heck, I'd even gotten some sleep in the meantime. All the same, I seemed a bit daffy. I decided it was a good thing.

Set III continued the Zuma-thon with Don't Cry No Tears, always a favorite of mine for obvious adolescent reasons--and it just now occurs to me that it's a pretty damned amazing song considering its lineage reaches back to at least 1965, probably earlier if my memory is correct in that I Wonder was a Squires song. Yikes. Roughly 33 years old.

I'm probably wrong, but I *think* this was when Neil stepped back and let Poncho sing a couple verses. It may have been another song, but it definitely happened at some point.

And, of course, the now legendary way-long Down By the River. Kim was kind enough to time it; 19 minutes, from 11:56 to 12:15. Though it was my third time hearing the song live (that is, being there), it was strangely my first time with Crazy Horse -- the other times being last year with Bruce (not too shabby in its own right) and '93 with Booker T.

It was during this song, though, that I really got the sense of legend -- the Ultimate Garage Band doing the Ultimate Garage Band Song, and their song, no less. I wish I could explain it clearer than that, but the words aren't coming to me.

There was a scary moment, though. About a quarter of the way through (about five minutes, I guess), one of the more rotund security guards started edging his way through the crowd. Now, I ain't exactly small (Ken Schick will attest to this, plus that I apparently have pretty strong pipes -- I apologize again for shouting into your ear, buddy), but this guy was mountainous. He was talking via headset to a another guard standing just left of the stage -- I don't know how they heard each other, but they did -- and being directed to a fellow about smack dab in the center, a couple people back. The guard grabbed him and dragged the protesting fellow out. Nobody said anything, but I guessed he was probably a taper. My heart sank, not realizing that there were apparently as many people taping as were on the guest list. I hoped that he would at least be able to do a tape switcheroo.

Eddie had told an interesting taping story earlier; apparently a friend of his was standing on one of the tables outside looking in through the window during a previous night's show (as people were still doing); the difference was, he had a video camera. Well, the bouncers were having none of that, and confiscated the tape. In feat of fast-talking I sincerely wish I could have witnessed, he actually convinced them to PAY HIM FOR THE TAPE. Got $7 for it. I have to admire people like that.

I don't remember for certain if they took the form of encores or not, but the last two songs were Baby What You Want Me to Do -- nothing too special, but I'm always jazzed to hear them do something new -- and the perennial Powderfinger. I was tempted afterwards to shout, "What's that song about, anyway?" but decided that the last thing I wanted to do in that crowd was seem like a journalist.

At many points during the show, I found myself thinking of the people who've given me shit about Neil, self-described "real" musicians who insist that he's really a mediocre guitarist at best, he can't sing, et cetera--you've heard it all before. I wondered if they ever get to experience anything like this; not that I would have wanted to bring them along to try and convert them (if it was up to me the place would have been filled with Rusties, fuck anyone who can't appreciate it), but if they're even capable of feeling the kind of emotional satisfaction that comes from his style; can you really, when you're so hung up on technical precision? Here we all were, on another plane altogether, and the fact that his fucking technique allegedly hasn't improved in twenty years couldn't have seemed less important. God, what a miserable existance that must be, to only be able to take pleasure in things which fit into a measurable criteria.

But those questions are probably unanswerable, and why would you wanna go to the trouble? To put it bluntly--surely in violation of the CDA, and the Shurtzes may want to make sure little Neil isn't looking--if rock and roll is sex, then this was probably the best gangbang I'll ever experience.

Well, that's it, pretty much. I'm sure I'll end up thinking of a lot more I could have mentioned, but for now...

. . . . .Hip Drag Queen
. . . . . http://www.sirius.com/~jrc

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