Take the high road - take the low, take the one you’re on

Flowers of Indulgence's picture

    This chapter of of spring tour was one I really looking forward to experiencing.  When these shows were announced I immediately knew we were going.  I was reminded of when Bob announced the 2 Backyard shows in Austin in 2003, calling Caroline, trying to wait long enough to call her and express my excitement not to wake her up.  I didn’t succeed that time.  Austin is one of those places where I have always felt I fit in.  People are out and about every night, in the days people are out with their dogs enjoying the still fast growing city.  When I was younger I dreamt of moving to Austin, trading in my car for a classic convertible with horns on the front, cruising the open road. The last time I was in Austin was for SXSW, a frenetic collection of out of towners jostling to get into the big shows.  Not the best time to visit IMO.  Prior to that I was in town for 2 Bob shows at ACL fest and a GA show at Stubb’s, another non-ideal time to be in town.  This time, despite the influx of people for the eclipse and country music awards, the city seemed more normal.  I’m so grateful for the opportunity I’ve had this spring to see so many shows.  A far cry from the old days, but many more than I’ve seen on one tour in years.  Making it even more fun is Bob is actively rearranging the songs throughout the tour.  So, despite the fact that a lot of the songs are technically the same, every night is different.  For example, I saw 4 different versions of My Own Version Of You. Over the years I’ve caught some flack from people about my opinion that I much prefer Bob as a piano player than a guitar player.  So, I was in heaven this tour with Bob really embracing every opportunity to show off his flair and being a new Liberace.

    With my usual luck, my flight from Columbus was delayed… badly.  In opposition to my usual luck, the girl at the counter was sympathetic to my very tight connect, and lack of other options, and moved me to the front of the plane from the back row adding “when I start boarding, just get on in the first group so you can make sure your bag gets on with you”.  Ahhh, things were looking up.  After a quick flight to Chicago I raced to my next gate just in time to board with my group.  Low and behold, I was in the front row again, in business class.  Somewhat over amped I decided it was a good time to have a cocktail.  As I sheepishly handed the flight attendant my credit card, she smiled and shook her head. “You’re in business class honey, its free.”  Man, this is a good start.  A couple hours later (and a very early arrival) we were in the quaint Austin airport.  Smaller than the Columbus airport even, with live music to keep you happy.  I remembered when Caroline and I had schemed to visit the airport before Bob tour back in 2003 to see Charlie Sexton play.  That wasn’t to be, though we considered finding a very cheap plane ticket to get into the gate area at the time.
    I swiftly exited into the warm sunshine with the throngs of campers, cruisers and adventurers arriving in for what was to be an ill fated eclipse trip, sporting accents from all over the world and excitement on their faces.  In a few minutes, my gracious hostess was there to pick me up and whisk me away for an extra day of adventure.  Flights we prohibitively expensive to fly from Ohio on Thursday, the day before the shows, unless I arrived late at night.  Erika was kind enough to let me stay with her for an extra day before we moved to our airbnb for the show nights.  And kind enough to haul all of us around all weekend.  Being with someone who knows everything about a city is extremely helpful, and a car means you can have your stuff nearby.  An ideal and comforting situation.  A topic all of us waiting in line over the next couple days would agree was important.

    A woman of my own heart, she suggested that we swing by the to go daiquiri stand before we headed to her house.  3 daiquiris and a few jello shots for later,  we were on the way.  We spent a few hours talking with her lovely husband and watching the dogs play.  Soon she suggested we head into town so see what was going on.  We suited up up in (her) cowboy hats and boots and hit the town for some amazing fried chicken at Lucy’s and then went on to the famous Continental Club where we hung out with in the back with the beautiful people and caught a little of Jon Dee Graham.  At some point in my past, I’d seen Jon Dee.  Most likely on one of the many trips I’d taken to Austin 20 odd years ago after my first trip there to see Bob in 2002. We did it up right that night and made it home, already knowing I’d be feeling a little rough the next day, but loving every minute.  The morning, as predicted, was slightly questionable.  But anticipating Caroline and David arriving, and a couple breakfast tacos, I was back up to full force.  We hit the road into the Austin traffic for the airport.  Quickly Caroline and David were outside and it was time for welcome the jello shots from the daiquiri place.  We were off to a great Mexican place with avocado margaritas and food and then to our airbnb.

    Located in what we would later find out was still considered “real Austin” from our uber driver, it was in a quiet neighborhood off S. Lamar.  It took a little help from the neighbor on how to get into the place which was sort of a quad condo apartment we found it spacious enough for all of us to relax in with a great screened in back porch. It was a lovely crash pad for the weekend.  We spent the evening checking out the venue, snapping pictures and walking around a little bit before we went went back to our hood, took a walk and saw some bad karaoke and got in bed, knowing we’d have to be up early to… get in line.

Being in Line: Time passes Slowly when you’re lost in a dream.

    Upon arrival we found someone sleeping in the line spot.  I knew right away, it was Robin and Lex from Wichita.  This was actually a relief for me.  Friends, good.  We’ve been in this position before and it’s a-ok.  We hit the Starbucks around the corner and purchased our most important tool of the day, our iced latte cups.  These cups would empower us to use the Starbucks bathroom all day. Having the code, it wasn’t necessary most likely, but having that cup to walk in with made things a little legit somehow.  The morning moves along pretty slowly but the weather is pretty nice and we take shift switching between sitting on the blankets and in the chairs.  Musical chairs of sorts.  Someone in a chair goes to the bathroom, sidewalk person moves into the chair, etc.  The sleepy streets of Austin start to liven up slowly and then by midday there's a bit of a line going.  Unsurprisingly, mostly people we knew.

    I was thinking about being in line when I was… in line.  Why we line and what we do.  My husband has never stood in line all day for a concert.  Another friend said they didn’t get it either. I started to think about how that all starts.  It’s sort of like (at least for me) when you’re a young fan of an act that people stand in line for, you start to meet other fans and they train you how to be in line, perpetuating the cycle.  If you get too far back in line, you can get screwed and get a shitty spot on the rail.  With the cost of a front row seat at the theater shows, the drive to get a good spot at the rare GA show is running high. I have to say, at one time Caroline had standing in line down to a perfect science. In those days, there were a lot of GA shows and we were normally first.  Not because the chance to be up front was rare in those days necessarily, but we didn't have anywhere else to go usually, so why not sleep out at the venue and be first.  Kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.  Even though we flew in, with the help of Erika we had a couple chairs, a pretty big blanket and a couple butt pillows.  It was really pretty nice. Friday in line was a mostly boring affair.  We saw a lot of old friends.  A somewhat classic lineup of line sitters for the region.  We had a phone charger nearby so we took turns charging our phones, updating as necessary.  We had hoped to exchange the digital tickets for paper ones, but found that would be impossible we found.

    Closer to show time things got tense, more tense than usual. Robin and Lex found out that they wouldn’t be able to get their tickets until the same time the doors open.  This made the already intense Robin reach her limit.  The shuffling began, shifts went to the car, changed into show clothes, hurrying back until all that was left was us, pacing around.  We took turns trying to calm Robin and Lex, who had just had open heart surgery,  and assure them that we had them and a spot for them up front, they were first after all.  As it would turn out, it wouldn’t matter due to the complex system of entering the venue that would occur once we started the process. Soon we were in the process without any coaching or warning.  First, the ticket holder scanned their QR code, then it was up to the customer to rip them apart.  I felt as though I was in the relay race.  Suddenly David is shoving tickets at me.  I’m running to a table that has wristbands with 2 tickets.  Where’s Erika???  I need to hand this off.  I turn in my ticket and the wristband woman is painfully slow.  I plead for her to let me put it on myself to no avail.  Then, I’m in and first to shoot for the door which was closed tight. Confused I run in circles.  Nope!  Get in line again for the floor.  As the line builds people flow in from the side, milling.  Soundcheck is running late we hear.  No one seems to know what’s going on. I can’t talk to or listen to anyone aside from the woman at the door.  Finally we’re in.  We get a spot over to the left where we’d been at the seated shows earlier in the tour.

First show:

    First thing that strikes me as a soon as Bob says his first word is how clear everything sounds.  I said later to the group, this is the room that they film Austin City Limits in and it’s made for music. It’s definitely the best I’ve ever heard Bob sound in a room.  Unlike the theaters he’s been playing that are for music, AND plays and comedy and whatever else they might find. Every little  tiny different intonation and word is SO CLEAR.  It’s remarkable.

    River Flow features tight instrumental breaks at the beginning. “Well Hello there been a long, long time. How’m I doing?” Funny How Time Slips Away the Willie Nelson Classic.

Bob’s in a jovial mood, playing with his voice and phrasing.  He thanks the crowd several times over the course of the show smiling and darting around.

False Prophet has been one of my favorites this run.  Every show Bob’s piano playing and vocals have been fantastic. I laughs int he middle of the line “I climbed the mountain of swords on my bare feet” after a particularly nice piano flourish.

My favorite new line is “read their faces just like a book”  during Masterpiece.  Bob’s slamming it out on the piano laughing and running up the keyboard during “Sailing round the world through a world of crimson and clover”.

Another great things about these shows is how quiet the crowd is during the appropriate times, like Black Rider.  They’re some of the best enthusiastic crowd members at the right times too!

Baby Tonight is great as it always Bob really putting his all into signing “toNI-heeeat” and throwing in a harp solo in the middle between the slower intro and the surfy part with a great piano solo. “Bring that bottle over here… shit man” was a little surprise.

The crowd went silent immediately at the beginning of My Own Version of You. The crowd cheering madly after “I’ll bring someone to life…You know exactly what I mean”

To Be Alone with you opens with a harp solo.  Bob’s been really ramping up and building on the harp solos since the shows at the beginning of the tour.  “I won’t sleep a wink til I’m (hahah) alone with you” They’re getting into some good instrumental breaks that will culminate at the show the next night.  Even Doug gets a few good licks in.

Serve somebody is the new, smooth version I LOVE.  I adore how smooth and 70’s it feels.  It gets a little of the brown sound, muddles smooth sound I’m so fond of.  “You might have a day they call you nothing at all”. Bob’s vocals are amazing.  Laughing during the last “gotta serve somebody lines”

Of course the most AMAZING part of the night was Across The Borderline.  Bob, so gently and compassionately play the most perfect song he could in Austin or anywhere in Texas.  I feel so honored to have been there listening to his beautiful piano.

“When you reach the broken promised land

Every dream slips through your hands

And you'll know it's too late to change your mind

'Cause you pay the price to come so far

Just to wind up where you are”

So pertinent and so true.  I felt so stunned, maybe I teared up. I don’t know, but it’s really indescribable what it was like to hear that now, there.

I was lucky enough to hear all the covers aside from 2.  That is my most cherished moment of the tour and one of the most of all the years.  The way he went into Made Up My Mind To Give My Mind was one the most perfect transitions I’ve witnessed as well.  The crowd was virtually silent and hung on every word aside from an occasionally appropriate whoops of encouragement.  Bob’s singing was immaculate and tender.

The way he sings “I’ll see you at sunrise, I’ll see YOU at dawn.”  The crowd bursts into enthusiastic applause at the end.

Next, Bob busts out his new signature style of piano playing for Big River. It changed, like so many others since the first shows I saw this spring.

Jimmy Reed is another that never disappoints me (aside from it indicating the end of the show).  It’ll be another good one to take into the summer tour.  It’s got a lot of oomph.

Too soon, It’s time for EGOS.  Bob sings it thoughtfully and adds beautiful piano emphasis in throughout and adds another beautiful harp solo, which have really shaped up nicely over the the course of the tour.

    Afterwards we’re all high on the show and run into a our pals on the road outside the show.  All raving about how great it was we headed to a meet up organized by Nancy in a swanky hotel near the venue.  Everyone in the place seems glamourous.  Nancy treats us to a drink and we park ourselves in one of the booths she’s reserved.  We chat and take some pictures and head back to the BNB to continue celebrating a great show and for a few ZZZs before we get to do it all over again.

Austin 2: I'm first among equals, Second to none, The last of the best, You can bury the rest

    Morning comes too early and we slowly make our way to line.  Today we’re in the 3rd spot behind Kevin and his wife, who I’ve never heard speak a word aside to Kevin over all these years, and Robin and Lex.  Robin goads us a bit saying she thought wed be there earlier.  Well, we aren’t.  We drearily make our way to Starbucks.  “Hi, it’s just us again.”  Nicely, Lex had already scoped out the bathroom code for the place across the street and informs us they also sell cocktails, wine and beer to go.  Interesting. Time passes by a little more quickly.  More quickly than the extra hour of sleep would seem to merit.  We know what’s going to happen tonight so it’s not quite as stressful.  I take a walk and grab a latte at an offsite, but nearby coffee house to stretch my legs and body out a bit.  It’s outfitted like a post modern warehouse of sorts.  Everything is concrete and and as I sit on their concrete pillar, I think, this isn’t much of an upgrade from sitting on the street is it? All day its been spitting rain off and on and as it seems to have let up of the moment I take a little stroll.  First a circuitous route down by a stream to the river which is a little jungle and transports my mind to somewhere more tropical and pleasant.  Popping out the end of that trail, I realize I’m nearly back where I started and head south, towards the river.  I see town lake (the river) and I think about the bats that live under one of the bridges, but not sure which one.  A sight I once took in on a vacation to Austin so many years ago.  I don’t particularly care for bats but I’d been reminded they have special bats here that people watch in the evenings, and I mutter to myself something along the lines of “one of these fucking bridges has bats…” while I gaze wistfully upon the lake river in my second show haze. I find myself thinking about how Zilker is a lot more scenic and how I could use a swim.   My mind is wandering, and I find myself lost in what’s happening and Caroline messages to say that she and David are going to the brewery.  I snap back to real life and start walking back to the venue. Erika has been off for lunch with a friend and it’s time for me to man the chairs again.  Field trip over.  I stop quickly for a sandwich and wine in a can and head back to the relative comfort of the folding chair.  It starts to spit rain again.  Queries for any spare rain jackets go unanswered and I hunker down hoping the red dye from my vintage jacket, fondly known as Mr. Leggs, doesn’t stain my arms. Not to say my winter white Ohio skin couldn’t us a little sunny glow.  I purchased Mr. Leggs in SLC when I flew out to see Masked and Anonymous at Sundance in 2002.  It’s amazing it’s stayed with me through so many moves and adventures.

    I stare at the wall, the sky, the dogs walking by… then the whole gang is back.  It’s time to change.  Erika gives me directions to the car and I think I’m listening but clearly I’m not.  We get to the garage entrance and I realize I have no idea where we’re supposed to go.  Erika kindly walks over and guides us in. I’m not taking information in very well, thinking about too many other things, most of all Bob. We get changed and back to the line.  A nice venue person comes forward with Robin and Lex’s tickets for the day so that drama is under control for the day. They switch it up a little for entering the floor today, instead of wristbands they give us invisible stamps.  Not sure how that’s better but whatever. We’re all a little more calm (and/or weary) today anyway.

    When we’re inside waiting, I hear an unfamiliar guitar being tuned somewhere off stage.  I began feeling the energy that something special is going to happen.  Will Bob play guitar? Will there be a special guest?  Soon we will find that it will be a very special show with our old friend Jimmie Vaughn, one of our biggest fans from the old days.  Perhaps unsurprisingly we had become pretty good pals with the Jimmie gang when he was touring with Bob before, like the Willie gang before them.

    The show starts as normal, with a maybe slightly more laid back honky tonk River Flow. As the show gets going, I can hear that the crowd behind is more (rough and) rowdy than last night.

Most Likely is in it’s slow groove and Bob’s playing with his vocals “Some times it gets so hard to caaaarrrrre” with a drawn out middle and his pointed piano playing.The energy keeps up in  the next song with various people in the crowd chime in responses to Bob during False Prophet.

Then the surprise is revealed as Bob says “we have a guest guitar player tonight” Jimmie Vaughn!  I didn’t expect him at all of anyone I thought maybe would turn up.

Baby Tonight great with Jimmie Vaughn, so much applause. On point frillishes during the slow parts. Bob laughing and sticking his tongue out at Jimmie several times as Jimmie added some killer licks. Bob is so happy and smiling during all the Jimmie songs which would be the rest of the show aside from Ket West and Mother of Muses.

My Own Version the crowd settled down.  The performance was intense with the quietness and the great sound in the Moody Theatre.

Bob starts with harp on To Be Alone With You as it sounds like one person in the crowd is about to lose their mind in ecstasy. And there’s the call and response to the instrumental breaks from last night in full form.

Serve Somebody is more angular with Jimmie on guitar, but still carrying that same smooth 70’s groove with Bob laughing at Jimmie at the end.

Walking by Myself is also of course with the addition of Jimmie.

Big River is great with Bob essentially a cappella for the first verses and then heading into an extended song and then going a cappella again for the next verses with the band slowly coming in.

“Im traveling light and I’m slow going homeeeee” really hits me with no more shows to look forward to per se.

Jimmy Reed is more of a jukebox dance number with the addition of Jimmie.  It’s got a good groove. His guitar solos really add to the song tonight.

Bob says something to the band and gives one last “thank you Jimmie”

Then it’s EGOS and it’s bittersweet.  I’ve never heard a bad version of EGOS but it’s been especially good this leg.

    After the show we stand out front and chat with our buds and invite a few over to help us get through the alcohol we really over purchased on and then we get out of downtown pretty quickly.  After we get home, we make some cocktails and give cheers to a great weekend.  We start listening to an old show when I get a text that our friend Liz is outside!  I managed to get her the right address after the show in my gleeful state. We continue listening to shows, dancing to a 2002 show with our drinks and celebrating the weekend.  At some point we send Liz off in and uber with the rest of the booze, aside from a barely touched bottle of rum from Key West that I love.  Caroline decides she will check it in her bag with her.  I have zero room so It’s not an option for me.  We bumble around and finally lay down in our various places.

    Sunday Morning comes way, way, way too early.  I look at the clock, ascertain that I’m still wearing parts of my outfit from the night before and grab a very quick shower while I try and figure out what I need to do to get out of town. Caroline, David and I are the last at the house and after a vague clean up and some coffee, we grab an uber to the airport.  We get a nice youngish guy who picks us up in a truck and tells us a story about being at a music festival with his grandma when he was 13 and getting thrown a joint.  He smoked it. I’m the last to leave that day, so I float around the airport with various friends from the road who are also fleeing town.  It’s a small airport so it’s easy to run into folks you know.  I see one off, then another and another and finally make my way to my gate. I rest my weary feet upon my carry on and reflect on everything that’s happen that weekend.  No regrets making the journey back to Austin for this great weekend and fabulous shows.