|I flew in last night after taking a plane from San Jose, the heart of Silicon Valley. Today I drove to Luckenbach for Susan's gig, which is about as far away from Silicon Valley as you can get. While I was drooling over the fact that Google and Apple were headquartered mere miles away, it was nice to kick back in Texas under a giant oak tree and watch The Boss and her hawt band. Hawt in the heat.|
My mini-vacation to see Mary Chapin Carpenter was excellent. I left my laptop at home (gasp!) and was instructed not to do any work for 2 days for gawdsakes. (I mostly succeeded but maybe I did a little booking, maybe I did). I flew in and was picked up by my buddy Heidi, a fellow Mary Chapin fan, who has always been my tour guide extraordinaire in the Bay Area.
The first show was at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, a gorgeous hilly, sprawling, EXPENSIVE little town. Grapes and technology will do that to a community, I can tell. The venue was stunning, and the music was stunninger (ha). Shawn Colvin was on the bill as well (weird, I didn't see her on my Southwest flight from Austin) and started the night off with a solo set. Then MCC came and rocked our faces off. It got kind of chilly, so much so that we could see the bands' breath onstage when they sang. I did not mind because I knew back in Austin it was 102 or something stupid like that.
The second night was at the Wells Fargo Center in Santa Rosa, a bit north of San Francisco. We drove through the city in some fog, making for a gorgeous if obstructed bridge view. Heidi had scored me awesome seats both nights, and photography was allowed thank goodness. Video was not, and I felt the oppressive stare of the ushers both nights so all I managed was about 5 different 3-second clips huddled in fear behind the chair. Which is fine, although I'm pretty sure appearing in one of my homemade videos would launch MCC to fame and fortune. Oh, wait. Nevermind.
The music...ah, the music. You know, Mary Chapin was the first artist I latched onto as a young kid looking for musical greatness, and she has held steady in my book of the best ever since. I truly believe she is one of America's greatest songwriters, period. Fight me in the alley if you disgaree.
So anyway, the last time I saw her was 5 years ago when I was in college, still unsure about the musician life but thinking it would be horrifically awesome to be a touring musician. So when I saw her 5 years ago everything was magic and mystical and electric.
This time it was not that, but not on a bad way. Judging by Mary Chapin's tweets, the tour life for those guys - which consists of riding on a Prevost bus - is not much different than what we get to do in a Sprinter van (or an Element, as the case currently may be).
It's not mystical in that I know the band has worked their butts off musically to be consumate pros at what they do. Nor is it magic to imagine how they got the venue or set everything up...that stuff's all pretty much how you do it on any level of touring. You drive, you play, you sleep, you drive. (Although I think on a big tour bus someone else drives all night and you wake up at the next city...awesome).
So what this means is that instead of being ridiculously shocked that this was all happening in front of me, this time I got to focus on the music. Helped considerably by the 3rd row seats (again, thank you, Heidi!), I was able to see nuances and facial expressions and chord fingerings and all that good stuff. Very very very cool.
Mary Chapin is, for one, a phenomenal fingerstyle guitar player. You know how some people start chording a song and then talk over their playing to introduce it? That's kind of hard. It's like tapping your foot in time for 3 minutes while telling a story. I have done it to some success and also messed it up entirely. Both nights MCC finger-picked the gorgeous pattern to "I Have a Need For Solitude" (Youtube is here) while telling a fairly long introduction to the tune, without missing a beat. My eyes crossed because it looks simple BUT IT IS SO NOT SIMPLE! My new goal is to get that good at finger-picking something. Anything. Check in with me in 7 years.
Other stuff like watching one of my main guitar influences (I refuse to use the term "guitar hero" anymore, oops I just did), John Jennings, tear it up -- but then also seeing what scales he was using for some songs or what chord forms...that was awesome. There's a musical language being spoken by these great players that I am not fluent in, but starting to understand common phrases and techniques. That made me happy, too.
Ultimately, I enjoyed the stage presence and songwriting of someone who, while I've only met her briefly once, is one of the main people responsible for getting me going along my path. While there are much more active mentors in my life now like a Dan or a Susan or a Terri, when you're 15 and sitting in your room with an electric guitar wondering what you're playing it for, you need motivation, and I was fortunate enough to latch on to Mary Chapin at an early part of my musical growth. I had a good example set early.
And THAT, dear readers, is why I flew 2000 miles for a concert. Amen.
Labels: inspiration, mcc