Sunday, June 27, 2010


I turned gay earlier today.

I don't want to be going off prematurely here but from all early reports today's Pride Parade was a smashing success and everyone had a fabulous time. I'm talking FAB-yew-lusssss. News reports are putting the crowd at about 350-400,000. Brent Sopel carried the Stanley Cup, and for a brief moment, even for those of us unable to attend, we were all very very very very gay. Extremely gay. Flamboyantly I'm Going To Paint Myself Silver and Stencil Men's Names All Over Myself Just Like on the Stanley Cup gay. Burning Man gay.

But then, I realized that this year's Grand Marshal was Chely Wright, and I reverted to being not gay, as well as mildly disappointed that Chely is. It's like losing a really good veteran left hander to the cross-town rival cubs. I've always felt like I was a lesbian trapped in a man's body, and that inner-lesbian of mine is extremely gay for Chely Wright.

Also this weekend, according to Greg Kot, during the show at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Eric Clapton decided that, despite previous statements, this year would not be the final Crossroads Guitar Festival.

Kot's a customer of mine, and I was lucky enough to cop a peak at his music collection while working on his house. Well, okay he let me look. His entire basement looks like the aisles at your library, only instead of books, the shelves are filled with albums, CDs, and DVDs. He also has entire aisles devoted to books about music. You know that music freak from college with the ungodly huge music collection? Multiply by 100 and you approach Greg Kot. His column has been appearing in the Trib for about 20 years now. Along with Sound Opinions co-host Jim DeRogatis, they're the musical version of Siskel and Ebert.

Dude knows music.

Anyway, Greg filed a column on the Crossroads Guitar Festival, as well as a diary from the event. (And I'll expect a full report from you Robert.)

Our own Bill Murray hosted again. He's still funny. He keeps being funny. I'm sure he was funny again yesterday. In '07, he kicked things off by trying to find his way through the three chord into to Gloria, (perhaps the easiest song to play that's ever been written,) on a borrowed Fender Strat. (Dave Berry said of the Gloria intro that you could drop an electric guitar down a flight of stairs and it will play Gloria on its way down.) Murray must have started taking lessons earlier that day, cuz it was brutal! And then Clapton strolled out with his Strat, the place went nuts, and Eric saved Murray from further embarrassment...not that anyone could possibly embarrass Bill Murray. This year, the song Bill tried to play Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" and according to Greg's diary, badly out of tune. Clapton stepped in again. Bill Murray is fucking funny.

Heavy on the Blues this year, and according to Kot and just like back in 2007, Clapton's set with Steve Winwood was a highlight. Can't wait for the DVD to come out, if only to see them do what Greg calls an "epic version of (Hendrix's) Voodoo Chile." As soon as they launched into "Presence of The Lord" in '07, I went digging for my old Blind Faith albums. By the time they played "Can't Find My Way Home", I decided that I gotta unpack all that old Traffic stuff, and the Cream as well.

Kot doesn't say anything about Albert Lee, who was also on this years bill, but oh man can that guy play. Another reason to buy the DVD. That's too fast for words.

The last time around, Jeff Beck got upstaged by his bassist, Tal Wilkenfeld, an astonishing young talent, and apparently Beck did a repeat with Rhonda Smith this year.

The Allman Brothers was scheduled to appear, but liver replacement surgery for Greg Allman caused them to cancel. Warren Haynes joined Derek Trucks and Susan Tedsci as a replacement, so I'm sure it was excellent. Trucks plays a lot like Duane, so there's that. Back in 2007, Trucks just smoked the place all day long, sliding up and down his cherry Gibson SG like it was an extension of his fingers. If you can watch this video, and not hear hints of Duane Allman, well...I can't help ya. (Kot mentioned the likeness in his review, so it's not just me. )

Ya know, a true Geezer would buy the DVD from this year's show, not only to hear Albert Lee, semi- Allman Brothers Band (sorry Robert), BB King, Bert Jansch, Buddy Guy, David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos, Doyle Bramhall II, Earl Klugh, Eric Clapton, Gary Clark Jr., Hubert Sumlin, James Burton, Jeff Beck, Jimmie Vaughan, Joe Bonamassa, John Mayer, Johnny Winter, Jonny Lang, Keb' Mo', Pino Daniele, Robert Cray, Robert Randolph, Sheryl Crow, Sonny Landreth, Stefan Grossman, Steve Winwood, Vince Gill, and ZZ Top....deep breath, but because the money goes to a great cause.

“This was going to be the last one,” Clapton said, “but I don’t think it will be. … We’re gonna have to do it again.”

Works for me, and if I had decided to stay gay like earlier this afternoon, I'd have very gay thoughts about Eric Clapton.


Anonymous said...


Indulge me

Calves still sore from standing for 14 hours or so; a little bit red-necked from the hot sun and with scant remnants of the ringing in the ears from the sound system – still enjoying the buzz from the 2010 Clapton Crossroads Guitar Festival:

A 7 A.M. pick up from Jimmy; quick trip to his house, meet up with the other boys at his house and we’re on our way to the south side of Chicago (well, Bridgeview, right next door). In the parking lot at the Toyota Stadium at about 9:30 and it’s about 85 degrees already. Hydrated as best as I could for a couple days before in anticipation of a long day in the sun and we mixed in plenty of water with our tailgate Screwdrivers and Champagne. We nailed down some bagels and got in line for the General Admission area. Snuck in a Heineken and one water and wish I would’ve brought in a few more as they really didn’t check us very well. Up into the stadium and down onto the field. About a quarter of the field was filled and we settled into a nice spot on the west side of the field which was covered with a heavy duty plastic protective structure that got hotter as the sun got higher. We had good, quick access to the portas as well as to food and drink. Barely a line for any of it all day long which was a major winner.

Time to meet the neighbors. Our friends for the next 14 hours were from Pennsylvania, St. Louis and Canada. It was a crowd from quite a few places with a lite sprinkling of south siders added in – pretty mellow for the most part. We had a few times where people would just walk onto our lot (our blanket) and just stand right in front of us – oblivious, stoned or maybe just heat buzzed.

Sonny Landreth opened the show after an intro from the one and only Bill Murray who was in fine form all day. Landreth set the bar really high; putting a scorch on the guitar like the sun was doing to us. Clapton, ever the gracious host, jumped in and joined on “Promised Land” and we were off to a start that I thought would be hard to top. Robert Randolph was on next joined by Joe Bonnamassa. I’d heard Joe’s music on “Blues by the Bay”, KPFA radio, Saturdays, and I was eager to see him live for the first time. The guy’s good and he and Randolph cranked into “Going Down” before their set ended.

Anonymous said...

Part II

The rhythm was established as quick, tight sets of 25 to 35 minutes flowed with 5 to 10 minutes in between thanks to a 2 sided stage that they rotated to change band setups. Enough time to take a leak (the hydrating was working) or buy a $5 water or a $9 Blue Moon Beer. Or one of each. Back in time for the next set.

Jimmie Vaughn was cool and clean in his set and I’ve always loved his classic style – completely different from brother Stevie Ray. Joined by Hubert Sumlin and Robert Cray – it was multi generational blues topped off with “Sitting on top of the world.” I had my binoculars with me and checked out Sumlin, resplendent in his Sunday finest, even though it was Saturday. He was hooked up to an oxygen tank and it didn’t seem to slow him down.

We found the right water vendor and were able to procure a couple of treats, one of which we shared right away. The heat, the sweet buzz coming on and a couple of lower key sets prompted a walk around the venue. They had several Demo tents which had all kinds of guitar gear where people were free to plug in and jam out. There was some pretty good music going on in those tents including a couple of young kids – I mean young – like 10 or 12 years old, playing like old pros. Why didn’t I learn to play guitar when I was that young? Great vibe walking around and head nodding everyone. Thought I’d save $5 and fill my water bottle in the bathroom. Bastards had nothing but scalding hot water coming out of the taps. “Drink our $5 bottles of water or die.” Diabolical, that is.

ZZ Top came on and I’m not a big fan of theirs but I thought they stayed with the day’s groove pretty well and the riffs were basic and bluesy and the growling was raw. “Jesus just left Chicago, and he’s bound for New Orleans.” It was around 3:00 and about 95 degrees on that stadium floor with a sticky humidity. There was a bit of a breeze and the misting tents offered some relief but there were some folks feeling the heat. A couple of stops to the shade under the stadium’s overhang to just sit and chill readied us for the evening’s onslaught soon to come.

Peripherally caught Doyle Bramhall’s set and watched a bit of Sheryl Crow’s kind of wondering why she was there. Citizen Cope? Not sure what he was all about and later on he came out for a jam session and was positively lost on the stage – going to the wrong mike stand and looking S T O N E D. Must give him a listen because I’m sure he’s good maybe just not at an internationally significant music event.

Earl Klugh who I was not so familiar with was fantastic. Nice change of pace with his Jazz tinged set. Vince Gill I thought did a fine job as well and again will be someone I check out a little more in the future along with Klugh. These guys were guitar players from different genres playing to the crowd and doing it up good. The cross pollinization effect perhaps and I was into it. John Mayer was then introduced by Murray in full Elvis persona. Pretty boy pop star can rip up the guitar pretty well and his take on “Ain’t No Sunshine” was a highlight.

Anonymous said...

Part III

Connie’s pizza, pulled pork sandwiches, tacos, water, beer, water, smoke, beer, water, a respite under the shade of the upper deck. Gotta keep it together. The heavy hitters were coming up.

The "Real Fuckin’ Deal" – Mr. Buddy Guy with Johnny Lang was next. We were following along in our program and were surprised when, not listed, Ronny Wood shows up with them. I don’t know that any other set had as much fun and it was awesome to see Guy really play instead of just noodle around like he occasionally does. I’ve seen Buddy Guy probably a dozen times and he was at his best this day – coaxed and challenged by Lang and Wood into the brilliance that makes him by far the greatest living Blues guitarist and the one of the greatest living anything guitarists on the planet. A blistering version of “Miss you” by the Stones broke out. Brilliance. Coming soon to a theatre near you.

I’m like a major Allman Brothers fan and was bummed they weren’t there as the ABB because of Greg’s liver transplant surgery 3 days prior. Murray came out and paid due respect to Greg and then quipped that to raise some more money for Eric’s Crossroads charities, they would be auctioning off Greg’s old liver. All while raising high a Bloody Mary. Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi came out and were joined not only by Warren Haynes but also Oteil Burbrige of the Allman Brothers. Sweet, sweet sounds come out of Derek’s guitar and Susan sounds a lot like Bonnie Raitt these days. Trucks and Haynes’ interplay is just phenomenal to see and Derek’s cherubic countenance and strictly finger playing, make you feel like he’s pulling something special out of the heavens just for you. Brilliance once again.

Ladies and gentlemen: JEFF BECK…. JEFF BECK…. JEFF BECK. Sounds come from his guitars that aren’t supposed to come from guitars but from jet engines and butterfly wings. Like I said, I wished I had learned how to play guitar and holy shit – to be able to play like Beck and just churn a crowd like butter. Another tight backing band with a new Bass guitarist since the last Crossroads fest. Savage thunder reined and then there was – uh, yeah – that’s right – “Somewhere over the Rainbow” coaxed from his strings, lending a layer to his genius that was positively, yes, Brilliant. He finished whipping out some Italian Aria by Botecelli or someone like that from his instrument of choice. The guy is at the top of his game these days and is truly a master. Go see him any chance you get.

Anonymous said...

Last Part, I swear

The sun has set on our side of the stadium for awhile now and there’s a nice breeze taking things back down to the 80’s. Batter up again and a fresh round of brews. Clapton’s set now opens with the day’s title tune, “Crossroads.” Jeff Beck actually came out and joined Eric for a tune or two – hardy guitar legends still in their prime. Others came and went with Clapton and then Steve Winwood came out and some more magic ensued. Winwood is such a talented dude. Saw him at the Taste of Chicago a few years back. He plays keys, Guitar, Saxophone, and his vocals are as sweet and evocative as ever. “Dear Mr. Fantasy” knocks us out. “Cocaine” and other Clapton classics follow. Then they jump into what I consider the seminal guitar slinger’s jam: “Voodoo Chile.” I have the “Hendrix Plays the West” live album and his version of Voodoo Chile is the greatest guitar performance I ever heard. Until I saw Stevie Ray Vaughn perform “Voodoo Chile” live. Now I can’t say that this version topped that one, but their take on the song was epic. Fifteen minutes or so of unbridled jam. Winwood was cooking on the B3 and Eric was having his ass some real fun. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen him cut it loose like this and the crowd loved every second.

You go to a concert and might catch, if your lucky, a moment of brilliance. Here was another one, of a total of at least 4 or 5 on the day. And I reserve the right to claim perhaps more moments of brilliance when I see the DVD because the total impact of this day’s music was rather filling and I may have forgotten bits.

The finale jam was almost anti-climatic to me as some of our new neighbors and friends along with others in the crowd started heading out. BB King was the master of ceremonies for a group jam dropping out “Sweet Home, Chicago.” Best bets here were Susan Tedeschi and Jimmie Vaughn taking their turns and then it was onto a group read of “The Thrill is Gone” with BB snarling out some sage lyrics to his guitar family boys, misters Clapton, Guy, Vaughn, et al. The full moon witnessed the rather sublime ending to a long day of the best in the game.

Fifty dollars spent on water. Some good friends met along the way, really 32,000 strong. Good food and brews. Sizzling temps but no rain which was supposed to be a big player on the day. Murray just nailing his role as usual. Clapton saying that after thinking this would be the last Crossroads – he’s not so sure. So much good music and brilliant moments that I’m struggling trying to remember it all. A smile on my face getting dropped off at my final destination at 2 A.M.

- - Robert

Schmutzie said...

That's what I'm fuckin' talking about. That's what I call a full report. Thank you my friend.

Your words are echoed by other friends who were also there.(I hated the Sweet Home Chicago finale to the 2007 concert, and I'm sure I'll feel the same way about this one. Okay, maybe hated isn't the right word but...enough already with that fucking thing.)

If you haven't already, check out some of Klugh's stuff with Bob James, especially "One on One" a staple for some friends of mine at U of Chicago back in the day. I'd go visit them at their house in Hyde Park and that album was almost constantly playing, while they were studying, drinking and smoking dope.(simultaneously)

Vince Gill was great in '07, and I hadn't really paid much attention to that dude before then. Albert Lee? Forgetaboutit. Eric calls Cray "immaculate" and I agree. With all the famous Strat players over the years, to have your own distinctive sound on that instrument like Robert is saying something.

Anyway, thanks for the terrific review. Twice they've had the Festival here, and twice I've been unable to attend. If EC decides to come back once more, I'm there.

Anonymous said...

So much good music - so little time. I will keep digging.

Robert Plant dropped in on Los Lobos for their encore tonight at the Taste! What a topper on their back to their roots set.

- - Robert

Schmutzie said...

You never know who the heck is going to show up here. Mick and the boys used to stroll in to Legends, unannounced, and just start playing with Buddy. (I hear the new Legends is nice, but the old one had that gritty feel.)

What a town.

And're being treated to some fantastic weather on the lakefront. Glad you're enjoying your stay bud.