On Saturday, I attended two concerts in which the average age of the performer was 82.3 years. Or, to put it another way, the combined age of the three performers I saw was 247 years old.
Plus, it was Record Store Day, during which I made two trips to J&R Music World, bought two seven-inch singles (Booker T and Tom Waits...no luck with the Dylan one) and three CDs (Thin Lizzy's "Still Dangerous," the Hindu Love Gods' self-titled CD, and a Chuck Berry greatest hits CD) and snagged four free CDs from the short-lived Free CD table in front of the store.
It was a good day.
The first show was at high noon, at the Russell Courtyard at Teachers College. I arrived just after the gates opened, fresh from the first run to J&R of the day. There were a few bands on the bill for the Rockin' Earth Day Festival (including one called Broken Wind), but the main attraction was the first performer of the day, 89-year-old Pete Seeger, who was apparently reluctant to shed his winter attire on the first day that it truly felt like spring. Of course, he was probably up at 6 in the morning chopping wood, so it might have been colder then.
Mr. Seeger started the show by looking toward the future, and reminding the crowd that it won't be one big thing that causes revolutionary change, but millions and millions of little things. He then started into "This Land Is Your Land" (a bold choice for a starter...where do you go from there?), which, as usual, turned into a group sing. Mr. Seeger's shows are more casual singalongs than anything else, so we all joined in when prompted, and, really, every human being should have the experience of having Pete Seeger lead you in singing "This Land Is Your Land." The same goes for "Turn, Turn, Turn," at the end of which I looked behind my friend Jon and saw a woman with tears flowing out of her eyes.
Mr. Seeger spent a lot of time talking about the causes close to his heart (including cleaning up the Hudson River) and my new favorite organization, Shore Walkers, whom I am seriously considering joining for their annual Great Saunter. To the best of my recollection, he sang five or six songs while on stage, but it still went by way too fast. Just to be able to hear Pete Seeger and sit a few feet away from him for a few hours was well worth the price of admission, which, by the way was $0. Score another one for New York City.
The true highlight of the show (narrowly edging out the set-closing "She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain") was "Arrange and Rearrange," during which Pete Seeger said "shit" about a dozen times in front of a crowd largely populated by children. You can click on the link above for the lyrics for context, but what fun is that? Mr. Seeger followed up his first round of "shit"s by telling the kids that he knows a lot of their parents will tell them that that's not a word to use in the house, but, well, we're not in your house, "so let's sing it again." I don't know how the parents felt about that, but I thought it was hilarious.
After my second trip to J&R and a brief stop home (during which I was finally able to confirm that Ray Price was indeed opening the show, which seemed to be something the State Theatre wanted to keep a secret), I hopped on a train to New Brunswick to see the 75-year-old Willie Nelson and 83-year-old Ray Price from the cheap seats ($41, which aint really cheap, but they were the cheapest offered). I spent an hour or so before the show outside the parking lot trying in vain to get the attention of someone who could get something to Ray Price to sign (the door for his bus was well out of shouting range from where I was, though I realized later there was a better place to stand), so after that standing around, which was preceded by sitting on concrete at the Seeger show, I was ready for a cushy theater seat. And the seat, though only a few rows from the back wasn't bad at all, and sufficiently comfortable for listening to the still awesomely smooth voice of the Ray Price, who started the night off with "San Antonio Rose." My only complaint is that the people up in the Gallery didn't stand when Mr. Price came out, which I accept may be because they didn't know there was an opening act. I accept it, but I still don't like it. Still, a few stood at the end of the set, so there was partial redemption.
Some loud and I'm gonna go ahead and guess drunk middle-aged men clearly pining for the good old days settled into their seats across the aisle after missing Ray Price's set (sigh) and proceeded to sing fairly loudly and alarmingly off-key during relative youngster Willie Nelson's set. But you can't derail my good time from the second the Texas flag drops down at a Willie Nelson show. They tried though, and I think succeeded in impinging on a few people's good times, as the row in front of them cleared out by show's end. As for me, two of the big highlights for me at a Willie show are instrumentals ("Down Yonder" and "Under the Double Eagle"), so there was no off-key warbling from the Gallery on those ones, which helped.
Mr. Nelson rolled through the usual Willie set overflowing with hits, and I am always amazed that "On The Road Again" is never used as the set closer. I mean, to write a song that is tailor-made for getting off the stage and then play it anyplace other than last...that's what makes Willie Nelson one of the coolest people alive. Well, that and a few other things, including one of the greatest catalogs of songs in music.
After his Hank Williams medley ("Jambalaya," "Move It On Over," and "I Saw the Light"), Mr. Nelson proceeded to head to the lip of the stage to shake hands and sign autographs. I had some stuff but I wasn't really expecting to get it signed. Still, since people were clearing out, I headed downstairs and took a few shots before Mr. Nelson left the stage as the Family played "Beer Barrel Polka." One's in the Revku post, the other's this one of Bee Spears and Paul English (and Trigger). I was lucky enough to get Paul to sign my now complete "Willie Nelson for President/Paul English for Vice" poster after the show and now I can proceed with my plans to set up a "Me and Paul" Wall, since I also have signed albums from Kitty Wells and Charley Pride.
Then I got on the train headed home (or at least the train headed to the train that would take me home), another memorable musical day in the books.
Long live Pete Seeger, Ray Price, and Willie Nelson. And record stores while we're at it.