The Sweetwater, Mill Valley, California, October 14, 1998
With the Sweetwater show I managed to set some sort of personal record I am
certain. I know there are those of "the Tribe" who have crossed states,
countries, continents and oceans to see John's shows, but I've always been a
local boy and have never seen John perform outside of the Bay Area in Northern
California. And when he'd play a string of clubs around here I would
generally just take in one show, whether it was at the old Chuck's Cellar, or
the Palms or the Great American Music Hall. I had in fact never been to the
Sweetwater until the wonderful career retrospective show last December.
So, I amaze myself that in the span of a month I have seen John and Buffy
perform three times ... at the Palms in Davis a month ago, then the Powerhouse
in Sebastopol, and now the Sweetwater in Mill Valley. ( I'm afraid to add up
how many times it will be that I've seen him in the past year.) But I'm not
the least bit jaded. In fact I'm more energized than ever. The shows are
something special where you can enjoy the companionship of new and old
Bloodliner friends, and where John and Buffy never let you down with a night
of the best music you can find.
There are, of course some similarities between the three shows. But Stewart
never performs a song the same way twice and you never know the combination or
when he's going to throw something completely new at you or revitalize an old
gem. There is just no way one of his shows could get "old."
I arrived in Mill Valley as the dark was coming on and drove around a bit
trying to find a place to park not far from the club. After a few loops
around I found a spot up the hill nearby. Heading quickly down to the club, I
somehow almost missed the Roadman planted firmly at the edge of the sidewalk.
He was trying for the perfect photo, with camera and tripod at the ready. He
had the entrance framed, and had decided that this dog beside him would be
perfect framed in the entrance. There were actually several rather big dogs
wandering in and about although the "perfect" one was tied to a pole.
I'm not sure if he ever did get the perfect shot but he was trying.
It was around 7 and the show was scheduled for 8:30, so there was plenty of
time to settle in and visit. Bloodliner Sue Krebs had arrived early and had
her personal front row booth, with a space held for her son who arrived a
little later. I didn't get a chance to meet Sue's son as I would be busy later
playing "Dave" at the CD table, but her son seemed to enjoy the show.
Sue and I had a nice chat and were joined soon after by Bloodliner,
George Brother from Colorado who had an adventurous tale of how he got there. Taking
the Larkspur ferry from San Francisco was the easy part.
The fun part was the ride with the cab driver who lived out of his cab.
Somehow he made it. George was worried about his wife making
it over later with the car, but she did get there by showtime.
Roadman, once he was done with his photo shoot was
interested in food and picked up a pizza for us at the nearby Italian
restaurant which is the unofficial Bloodlines eatery in Mill Valley. Just
about pizza time John and Buffy arrived. The Roadman gave John his frontdoor
of the club parking space and I got busy setting up the CD's, tapes and books
for sale. The Roadman brought me over a big slice of the pizza. I took one
bite, set it back down and went around putting out the mailing list cards for
Dave. I couldn't have taken two minutes. I go back and there is one of the
dogs at my table wolfing down the last bit of my pizza and more than ready for
more. He looked at me with these big eyes that said "Thanks!"
another slice!" I couldn't be mad. Luckily there was another slice and I
"wolfed" it down before the wolf dog could again.
John and Buffy set up and warmed up and the show began soon after.
Here's the setlist:
Wild Side of You
Johnny Flamingo on the Blue Dream Road
Keeper of the Flame
Bringing Down the Moon
Interview With An Angel
Reason To Believe (Buffy)
Davey On the Internet
Dreams of the Starman
Armstrong (with Johnny rides the lightning)
Turn of the Century
Ticket to the Stars
July, You're A Woman
Who Stole the Soul of Johnny Dreams
Santy Anno (Buffy lead vocal)
Don't It make You Want to Go Home (J & B duet)
Friend of Jesus
Across the Milky Way (Buffy)
Ghost of the Superchief/Pirates of Stone County Road
Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Buffy a cappella)
I had a bit of a hope for a repeat of the opening song from the Powerhouse
show when John opened with a wicked version of Elvis's "Mystery Train."
as I said, nothing is predictable and we were instead treated to that great
song from the Fire In the Wind album, "Wild Side of You."
John followed with "Johnny Flamingo"asking the audience to sing along.
After this, John asked if any of the Bloodliners were there and with our response
he commented that the tribe was growing.
George then joked back with the "no, we're a cult" remark, and John,
quick wit that he is, came right back with "but we have better Kool-Aid."
This would be mostly a twelve string night with no tuning troubles of
consequence, although John used the 6 string Taylor for a number of songs in
the middle of the show. Buffy had her usual assortment of percussive
instruments and John would refer to her later on as the "Queen of the Guiro."
It's that thing that Buffy always gets into a groove with,
that looks like a maraca but she hits andstrokes it with a stick.
If you've seen Buffy you know what I'm talking about.
She's truly the queen of whatever it is.
You haven't lived till you've seen Buffy keep the time and never miss a beat.
A couple years ago at the Maestro's show when Buffy was really going at it,
my son let out a shout to me of "What IS that instrument" just as the song
We were in the front row and it was rather funny since it rang out.
But John came right back with a, "THAT instrument is aGuiro."
So, for me, it's "Buffy, Queen of the Guiro".
John gave us a very nice "Keeper of the Flame." I am a big fan of the
Damned Lies" rocking version of this song that leads off Bandera,
but the acoustic version is just as fine.
John and Buffy followed with "Bringing Down the Moon." John and Buffy
just a bit tired to me, and we would soon learn that John was recovering from
the flu. This led into the most vivid description I've heard yet from John
about his near death experience when he had a terrible bout of the flu several
years ago. It was told so vividly it was like I was watching it happen before
my eyes. The man can tell a story. I won't even attempt to retell it.
Serious and hysterical at the same time, esp the part about Mother-Outlaw.
But he spoke of this light in the shape of a being that came to him as he
faded to a place of calm and peace, which some of us would call an angel. He
then starts to play an intro to "Interview With An Angel," leaning over to
Buffy for help with the song before he would begin it for real. This wasn't
planned and you can see John running through it mentally and then Buffy then
came out with a very funny "Why are we doing this song?" Well, once it
it was more than fine and it was so nice to hear this one again.
Other highlights of the set for me include Buffy doing Tim Hardin's "Reason To
Believe" and John with a nice California Bloodlines. John finished the first
set with "Armstrong" with the addition of a few lines of "When Johnny Rides
the Lightning" on October 29. Nice finish.
The second set just got better. First with "Turn of the Century" and then
song I can never get enough of, "Strange Rivers." You could think a song
"July, You're A Woman" could get old and worn, but you'd never know it when
John plays it. John remarked that when he wrote the song he didn't realize
that the story was such a common male fantasy. Hmmm I always liked to think
this was a true story. (What was Henry Diltz's fantasy about this song?... he
got visions of a tortoise in the middle of the road or something equally loony?)
Before the night was over I was once again treated to "Coal Tattoo." I'm
than happy to hear this every show from now on. John talked of writing
"Friend of Jesus" while he and Buffy lived for several months in the old
Marshall Hotel back in '67 (or '68?). Buffy once again gave us a very fine
"Across the Milky Way." I always want John to do this since I like his
version from "Teresa" so much, but every time I hear Buffy sing it I tell
myself to shut up. The songs were over much too quickly. But the Sweetwater
crowd called John and Buffy back for a second encore and Buffy closed the
evening all by herself with a completely unexpected "Somewhere Over the
Rainbow," as John stood back watching with love and pleasure.
What a nice way to close.
I took several photos and the Roadman took many. Let's hope the lighting
cooperated. We'll get them up to the websites before too long. Roadman and I
shot the breeze out on the street after the show, recalling some of the good
moments. We discovered we both have tickets to see Mary Chapin Carpenter in
Santa Rosa next weekend. Music is good these days.
for Catherine, the missing part