Monday, April 21, 2008

Day one hundred and twelve ... and the crowd went wild.

When I arrived at room #1222 on the first day of this journey, I encountered a new amenity I hadn't expected: an ipod dock on my alarm clock.

I am new to the world of ipods, but in a short period of time I have fallen deeply in love with the little black and chrome gizmo. In fact, I have all 300 or so CD's in my collection on it. This includes my band, Drunk Stuntmen's newest album, State Fair.

It took me a couple of minutes to figure out how to get the little music box to make sounds. I had been listening to our new record on the plane, so it was already cued up.

I jogged it back to track one and pressed play.

As I opened the shade that was covering the window of my balcony, the first line of the first song came from the tiny speaker. It is sung by Steve.

"What did we do to deserve this? What do we do now that we're all here?"

Sometimes things happen, and you don't know why, but it makes you wonder if someone is watching the proceedings from afar and thinking: that was perfect.

Well, that was perfect.

And up until that moment, in my head, I have always heard that line as being said in a negative sense.

As in: Aw, man ... what did we do to deserve this?

I have since changed my perspective on said line.

So, three days later and we've successfully done both TV shows.

And now, it's dinnertime.

And once again the line pops into my head: What did we do to deserve this?

What do we do now that we're all here?

Maggiano's was the place. Italian, as you could probably guess. As we entered, it was as if we stepped into 1940's Hollywood. Big, dark, mahogany China cabinets filled with movie trinkets lined the faded, plain, paper-covered walls. Imposing fans hung from the weathered tin paneled ceiling. Big, tan, expensive leather couches that could comfortably fit five, awaited customers who might either be faint from hunger, or bloated from gorging.
It was the kind of place you see in the movies, as it were.

A burly man in a brown suit played at a baby grand piano, while waiters with white towels on their arms flitted about seeminlgly fighting over who got to show us to the handsomely appointed banquet tables.

One sign of a good restaurant can be found in the first matter of business: the napkin. If a napkin's weight can be felt on one's lap where it is properly placed, one may assume that the food to follow will be of a caliber made to suit the most discerning of palates. The napkins at Maggiano's were made of fine, heavy, white linen. I knew I was in for a treat.

A team of tidy service professionals appeared with small plates which were immediately filled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for the fresh, hot, hearth-made bread, brought to quell the appetites of a small army.

Much more food followed: too much in fact.

Caesar salad, chop salad, stuffed mushroom caps and bruschetta for starters. Broiled salmon, chicken cacciatore, linguine with pesto, penne with chicken and mushrooms in wine sauce with sun dried tomatoes were offered for our rabid devouring.

And then, natrually, dessert; a course I half-heartedly joked I wasn't ready for.

Now, I'm getting to be a pretty experienced food lover. I'm no foodie. Not yet. But I fear that I'm starting to get a bit jaded. Nevertheless, I have to say that Maggiano's served a creme brulee that was possibly the most exciting confection that I have ever dug a dessert spoon into. Creamy, sweet, a bit tart, and a bit crunchy. Perfectly flame-toasted on top and served a little cooler than room temperature. It made my already intoxicated taste buds sober up and report to duty. Simply exquisite. I may be changed for life.

Yes, it was that good.

At this time I should mention that Steve Sanderson and John Laprade had missed a good portion of the post appetizer festivities. They, most honorably, were en route to fetch a rental car which we planned on using for the night time gig planned for later. As broiled salmon and creme brulee don't travel well, I saved the gloating until now. Thank you John and Steve. You rock.

We left Maggiano's and headed back to the hotel.

An hour later and Steve, Ken, Billy, Dan, and Jeff and I were at Taix lounge in Echo Park. We had recruited Billy to play drums, and Ken to play bass a couple of weeks prior to our departure, and had only gotten to rehearse a couple of times. Regardless, it was a fun show and we made some new friends. We did most of the songs on State Fair and "Downtown" off of Iron Hip. Our very wonderful pal, Liza, was there with her boyfriend, Dan. They made the right side of the room come alive with applause to match the sounds coming from the middle. The left side of the room was a bit sluggish, not for lack of trying. Thanks to Greg for the loan of the amp and thanks to Dogweed (who made comfortable, lazy, country-blues sounds) for the rest of the gear.

I slept very well that night.

The next morning, I got lunch to go from the hotel. How does this this sound?

A duet of a 4oz Angus tenderloin with Hollandaise sauce and broiled organic white salmon with passion fruit beurre blanc served with house made mashed potatoes.

Yeah, it was good. Real good. But you've never had a lunch like that until you've eaten it with a plastic fork and knife set.

I had to get it to go because we had to get out to the Wilshire Theater by one, and I was still full from the pancakes and apple smoked bacon I had at 9.

The Wilshire theater is a grand palace indeed. Built in 1930, it has all the glamour of a golden age of Hollywood, set in a backdrop of pure Art Deco. Above: Steve Sanderson and John Laprade.

The Chorus arrived around 2:30 and took the stage for a run through of the show.

Ken, as usual, was in command of the band and ready for anything.

Fox had sent a crew of 3 cameramen to film the afternoon and evening's events. They kept pretty well out of our hair, and were professional and courteous.

We finished rehearsal, and broke for dinner. This was the first time on the whole trip when I felt a bit less than kingly. Supermarket platters of crudite, deli meats, and pedestrian cheeses sat under clear plastic domes. Neither the room temp fruit platter nor the cases of warm soda helped in this odd dinner detail. Someone dropped the ball on this one but it was okay. I was still full from my extravagant take-out plate.

Then, as is usually the case in my adventures, a few funny things happened.

First off, I don't have cable. I let my bill slide over the winter and they shut it off like they do when you don't pay. Therefore, I was not up on my American Idol as I have been over the previous 5 years. Therefore, I was not aware of the latest "shocker" of a cast-off from this season. His name is Michael Johns and he is an Aussie. We were told that he was going to be dropping by for a chat.

So, right as the whole chorus was enjoying room temperature potato salad in a cramped stairwell of a dining room, in waltzes Michael Johns with a three person crew from Access Hollywood.

Here is a very friendly Michael Johns with, from left to right, Grant Milner, Emmy Chang (Fox publicist) Joe Mitchell, a non-plussed Bob Cilman, Dora Morrow, and her son-in-law Billy (partially obscured). Partially in view on left is Louise Canady, Len Fontaine, and Stan Lynch.

As you can see, it's a bit tight. How about if we add the USC a capella group to the mix who all have to sneak by to the stairwell to get to their dressing rooms.

I decided to beat it, and head to the auditorium.

Guess who tagged along.

Above, we have, Eileen Litke, Norma Landry, John Larareo, Gloria Parker, and Michael Johns. When he was asked if he got his shirt at a Stones concert he stated: "No, unfortunately, I bought it at a store, and you don't want to know how ridiculously expensive it was." No, Michael, we don't brag about how much clothes cost where we come from. Food maybe, but not clothes. That's tacky. I must admit he was a nice guy and even remembered my name a few hours later. He must have a coach or something.

Well, how about if I head outside with Billy for a bit of air.

Not so fast.

This lovely woman is named Steph. She and her friends spied myself and our soft-spoken drummer and me and called us out by name. She said she loved us in the movie and asked for some autographs. Then she asked if it was ok if she had her picture taken with us ...

... and of course, it was.

I gave Steph my card and she said she'd keep up with my exploits. So, Steph, if you're out there ...

... Hi.

Billy even got to see his nephew.
My motto stands alone: always bring your camera. Always. See, Billy knows.

Back inside for a bit more fun.

As I was walking around I came upon Patsy Linderme, Jean Florio, and Dora being interviewed by VH1. When the girls spotted me they pointed and said, "He's the one you should talk to. That's Freddy over there."

The interviewer turned quickly to her right and took a look at this guy in the seasonable mid-spring wool threads ...

... and quickly turned back to the chorus members and continued the interview.

I shrugged and smiled at the girls. They're awful sweet.

Twenty minutes later, I happened upon Bob Cilman being interviewed by the same woman. Bob, like the girls before him, said, "That's the guy you want to talk to. That's Freddy Freedom over there," putting the accent on Freedom, as if that might hold some water.

Once again, the host looked in Captain Apropos' direction and exclaimed loudly, "Oh ... yeah ... we already saw him."

Well ... she had.

Thanks for trying, Bobby. But they didn't come to see the guitar player.

By 5 o'clock a line had formed at the ticket window.

I watched and took some pics as it grew ...

... and grew ...

... and grew.

... and grew some more.

Kill the house music and cue the lights.

The show, ladies and gentlemen, is about to begin.

The evening's entertainment kicked off with the aforementioned USC a capella group. They were good, but a bit too slick. They kind of had that Up With People vibe, or as if it were a matinee performance at Disneyland.

I don't know why, but each of the 3 or more a capella groups I have seen opening for the Chorus always seem to include "Somebody to Love" by Queen. It's a pretty song, but, at this point, it's become de rigeur. A wedding band's "Chicken Dance" if you will.

The band and chorus were ushered on stage and the performance began as all the "concerts" start: with a short film of clips of the chorus from TV shows over the last ten or so years.

The screen was raised and the crowd went wild. Loud, boisterous, sincere screams of delight emanated from a good portion of the 1,900 people in attendance, screams and applause from people who knew they were in for something special, something that may not happen again for a long time. US appearances outside of the Pioneer Valley have been scarce, to say the least.

The first song was The Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" which had to be started 3 times as the applause just wouldn't let up. It has a quiet intro that kept getting lost in the pandemonium.

"Come As You Are," by Nirvana was next. It wasn't immediately recognizable until Pat Cady started singing. Then the screams came. It was soon clear that what had happened before the first song wasn't just a polite hello.

Sonic Youth's, "Schizophrenia," which has become a Youtube favorite, delighted the crowd next. I'm sure if Thurston and Kim (from Sonic Youth and incidentally, Valley residents) had been there, they would have been happy.

We played one of the best shows I can personally say I was a part of. The band was hot, the chorus was excited, and the energy in the room was almost intoxicating. Never have I experienced the madness that ensued after many of the songs began, as the crowd quickly realized which popular tune they were about to be turned on to. It was only when we threw a curve ball with The Flaming Lips "All We Have is Now" that the audience could collect themselves and regain their composure. A couple more tunes and it was time for intermission.

The second set was as rowdy and raw as the first. It included the big hit of James Brown's "I Feel Good" which we had just pushed on the NBC lot mere days prior.

It was amazing. It was thrilling to be a part of. And, for a change, it was nice to hear what cheers and whistling, and yelling sounds like away from home, yet still proudly atop American soil.

The Europeans have had it easy.

It was time to give it and get it-- to, and from our own.

There was a champagne reception (I had a Coke) and I met some nice girls. One of whom books contestants on Survivor.

I gave her my card.

I'll let you know if she calls.

In the meantime, here's some audience footage of "Purple Haze" sung by Lenny and Gloria, with some guitar that I think sounds nice.

And here's some footage that the fine folks at Fox put together from the same night.

There's still one more day.

Come on back and I'll tell you more.

Thanks for reading.


Here's the complete setlist:

Young at Heart Chorus
Wilshire Theater Beverly Hills, CA 1.17.08

(Opening film)

You Can't Always Get What You Want
Come As You Are
Fake Plastic Trees
Dancin' in the Dark
Somebody to Love/Purple Haze
All We Have is Now


Film: "Stayin' Alive (from Young at Heart)

She's Not There
Please Send Me Someone to Love/Please, Please, Please/Shotgun
Disappear/I Want to be Sedated
Bicycle Race
Walk on the Wild Side


I Feel Good
Yes We Can
Forever Young


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the adventure. The narrative was cool, and the pics were great, too.
I live in Hamp and (sorry to say) I have not yet seen the flick, but I will ... promise.
I do, however, follow your blog via my RSS feed, so keep writing.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to BE that tshirt Michael Johns is wearing. I swear, I wouldn't cost much for the pleasure...

Unknown said...

Hey Al! I'm glad you guys had such a good trip. I find myself rescanning your blog to see the photos of people I know. Arizona is great, but I'm a bit homesick for the Valley and some outdoor music!