Sunday, August 8, 2010

Peg And Pete And Me

Something interesting happened at McCabe's Guitar Shop last Friday night.

It was the introduction of Stan Ridgway's new effort "Neon Mirage", run straight through from track #1 to track #12, the same sequence as the album.

100 of my 'closest friends' and I crowded into the small, intimate room that serves as McCabe's performance studio, a terrific little venue perfect for a cramped, personal performance like this.

I counted myself fortunate to sit vulnerably in the front row, a mere 8' from the band. Slightly amazed no one was sitting in the front rows, I positioned myself at an aisle seat and waited for someone to come shoe me away, stating my seat was reserved for some producer, family member or VIP. But, as the minutes went by, that call never came and the staff at McCabe's busily went about their pre-show preparations, never giving me a second look.

When Stan came out - backed by a 3-piece band which included wife and keyboardist Pietra Wexstun, percussionist extraordinaire Joe Berardi (rumor had it Stewart Copeland might appear, but that was the grandest of rumors as it turned out) and a serial-killerish looking guitarist who's name escaped me - he greeted the crowd with a few words of appreciation and admitted he was a little nervous to be on stage. Imagine! This veteran performer, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of shows beneath his belt, nervous and seemingly a bit twitchy at getting the show underway! I had a feeling the night would be more than just a simple telling of the new album.

"This is my period of dignity," Stan revealed to us. Another turn in his storied career. Four songs in, however, he would ceremoniously throw that proclamation out the window by flinging a couple expletives out in the midst of a tale and emphasize such by grabbing his crotch. You gotta love Stan.

I would like to say the performance of the entire album went off without a hitch ... but where would the fun be in that? Midway through the night, at "Like A Wandering Star", the band had to begin the song a second time. The timing didn't mesh during the intial performance. You could tell the band was out of sorts playing it. But they jumped back on the track once they got the thing going again.

Stan paused between songs to introduce Jackie "Teak" Lazar, his ever-present show-biz woodburner, manager, professed "Big Wheel" and foil. It was coming ... we all knew it. Jackie, after all, has been with Stan for years, asshat that the puny punk is.

A few more songs in, "Behind The Mask" began off key and out of sync. Whatever they did to try and correct their flubs at the start just moved them further into chaos. An entire 30 seconds into the song Stan cut the cord, stopped the music, bantered about the unprofessionalism in doing a new album and began again ... this time louder, with more punch and in perfect time. Warts and all, this is what an intimate performance is all about - seeing the true character of a performer come into play and watching how his reaction is handled, seeing how one accommodates a boner. Stan didn't disappoint. The apology he gave and banter resulting from the flub was nothing less than an added bonus to the song, making it more memorable.

With the conclusion of the final song "Day Up In The Sun", Stan thanked the audience for the privilege of having us attend, then launched into an old favorite, "Lonely Town". Some doofus chick behind me annoyingly kept calling out for "Lost Weekend", probably wishing to relive some alcohol-fueled end-of-week jaunt of her past. I heard her 'hurmph' and reposition herself in her chair as "Lonely Town" began.

Stan and band next performed "Mission In Life" and I sat there mesmerized, watching him tell the song's tale without blinking.

An encore saw fan favorites "Call Of The West" and "Ring Of Fire" (complete with acoustical distortion) sonically thrust upon a giddy crowd.

All in all, an absolutely outstanding show, warts and all. Those warts (few that there were) are what made the evening however ...

................... Ruprecht ( STOP )


  1. What a great time--warts and all.

  2. It is especially at times like these that I am profoundly grateful that I am not an inhabitant of the other coast....

  3. ... and, yet, Rupe has no idea why ...

    Elaborate please, Kat.

  4. I was in college when small venues started to become more popular--at least with "my crowd." Coffeehouses, small clubs--used to go to Amherst to hear Buffy Ste-Marie, to Springfield to hear Peter Paul and Mary and the Highwaymen and the Chad Mitchell Trio. Back when they were unknowns! Good times!

  5. fyi - the guitarist, who bears no resemblance to a serial killer whatsoever, is rick king...

  6. Thank you for stirring my memory, Anonymous. I do remember Stan introducing Mr. King as “Rick King”.

    Understand I meant ‘serial killer’ in a good way. The way Mr. King fingered his guitars and extracted the sounds he did from them was nothing less the spiffy. It was simply the first thing that came to mind watching him perform. No harm or resemblance to any person or persons living or dead meant.

  7. thanks for setting the record straight. never thought of the man as a serial killer - gunslinger perhaps...

  8. ‘Wild-eyed gunslinger’.

    I like it …