Saturday, September 3, 2016

Lucinda in Wonderland

Just about every year, we go to Rehoboth Beach - a small town in Delaware.

What’s best about Rehoboth is what it’s not:

While it’s got the boardwalk with the ice cream, arcades and rides, it’s not the bigger, louder Ocean City about twenty miles further south.

It’s also not the snootier Fenwick Island or Bethany Beach, which we probably couldn’t afford.

Instead, it’s a real nice balance of quiet and not too pricey.

And it’s definitely not that frat boy paradise Dewey Beach just five minutes away, which once appeared on the TV show “Cops”, in an episode that answered the question, Do people really get that drunk?

But Dewey is a perfect location for a place like Bottle and Cork, which purports to be the “greatest rock and roll bar in the world”.

Over our many years of coming to this part of Delaware, there’s been a running joke about how somebody good is always playing at the B&C, either on the day before we got there, or the day after we leave. But never while we’re there.

A couple of years ago, it was the Drive-By Truckers. Another year, it was the Monkees, I think.

But this year was different. Not only was someone playing while we were in town, it was Lucinda Williams. On my birthday, no less.

Now that circumstances were finally conspiring in my favor, the question being put to me was, Well old man, are you going to go to the show or not? I’m 59 years old, you see.

But Lucinda’s 63, so where do I get off wussing out?

I always feel bad for traveling musicians, even those with a bit of fame. Because despite that fame and the odd appearance on Austin City Limits, they still have long hours of travel, and the “joy” of playing in little shithole towns.

So, God only knows what Lucinda may have thought of Dewey. I wasn’t sure what I’d think of it, since I rarely spent more than few minutes driving through it. And only during the daytime.

But it’s different at night. During the day, the B&C is closed up like a coffin, but at night it’s wide open, and the partially open air setting, along with the thankfully cooler air, added to the party mood.

So it was worth it to see the look on her face when she and her band came out on stage. She broke out into a big grin when she saw hundreds of folk primed and ready to see her.

Oh, and did I mention that the Bottle and Cork is a BAR? Well, I did, but it bears repeating since it’s really about a dozen little bars strewn about all around where the crowd stands. So a cold beer was always within arm’s reach. And for those with short arms, there were waitresses walking through the crowd with buckets of beer and trays full of jello shots.

To which Lucinda said approvingly, “Make way!”

Anyway, I don’t know if she did her standard set or if she modeled it to the crowd and the place, but the theme was unrequited love (lust, really) and low down dirty rock n’ roll. And the crowd - my age and older, and a good mix of gay and straight, but in various states of drunkenness - was down for it. The women, especially, were loving it.

And it made me wonder if this was what it was like to live out in the country and have, say, Bessie Smith come to town.

Lucinda’s such a great songwriter that it’s easy to forget what a great singer she is. That little quaver in her voice that I love so much took the night off, because this night she was a belting it out. It was a joy to see her just lean back and wail.

And she’s such a pro that, just when you think she seems on the verge of losing control, she still lands on the exact right note every time.

So, like I said, the set was made up mostly of rockers, with a good chunk of songs from Car Wheels On a Gravel Road. But she didn’t forget my favorite - “Crescent City” - from her third album, which is one of my all time favorites. It says something about a show that even though I have nothing by LW since 1998’s Car Wheels, I still enjoyed every song.

And to make sure we knew where she was coming from, during the finale “Joy” her guitar player threw in the riff from Led Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker”.

The encore opened with the Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”, a song I’ve always hated because it seemed like such a compromise for them.  But Lucinda owned it. The theme all evening was romantic discord, so it suited her and the moment perfectly.  Now everyone please stop playing the Clash version.

Anyway, it’s good to know that one can still be in the middle of nowhere (apologies to Dewey for the provincial attitude I’m now shedding), basically roll out of bed, drive five minutes and then stroll into the greatest rock and roll bar in the world to see a great singer and songwriter.

Now that I’m back in the big metropolis I doubt I’ll be so lucky next time.

“Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

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