Monday, November 18, 2013

Patina in Heaven?

In the 21st Chapter of the book of Revelation, at the 5th Verse, we read:
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
I was sitting in a Coney Island restaurant a little while ago, and I happened to look over at the blue neon sign which marked out the Men's Room, and these words of St. John came into my mind.  "Why?" you might ask.  Well, because the neon of that sign, and indeed all the neon in the joint was brand spanking new.  And when I thought of these words from the mouth of the enthroned Christ, they struck terror into my heart.

"All things new!  What if I like antique things?  Weathered things?  Things with a definite patina on them?  What if I don't want all things to be new?

I briefly imagined Jesus borrowing a page from President Obama's playbook and telling me:

"If you like your patina, you can keep your patina!"

But I immediately dismissed that possibility.  The words of the Revelation of Jesus Christ seemed all to clear, all too immutable.

Let me be clear:  I hated that neon sign!  When I go to a restaurant to eat an omelet and hash browns and rye toast, I want the neon to be faded and chipped, and to buzz loudly.  If possible, I would like it to sputter and blink intermittently.  Why?  I don't know; it's just more beautiful to me that way.  It's the same reason I prefer the look of a real, flesh-and-blood woman sitting across from me in the restaurant than some airbrushed model in a slick magazine that smells of haute couture perfume.  It's just more real.  Flaws make a thing beautiful to me, as does age, antiquity.  There was a move afoot to clean the soot-stained exterior stone work of St. John's Episcopal Church, Detroit, a few years back. I and a few others staunchly resisted it.  My friend Jim made an eloquent speech at the Annual Parish Meeting, as to why we dare not squander the hard-gained patina of our building.  I think his speech swayed some.  In any case, the soot is still there, and the building is 100 times more beautiful for its presence.

So, I got to thinking:  Is it a sin for me to love soot, buzzing neon, and imperfections of many other varieties?  Shall I grumble against God when He comes to make all things new?

I was speaking of this matter to a friend at lunch the other day, and he said that I was taking the word "new" too literally.  But I really only know one meaning for that word.  I take some comfort from the fact that the same book of Revelation describes the Christ (the Lamb) in words that indicate the eternal presence of His wounds:
And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain. (Revelation 5:6)
Furthermore, the resurrected Christ displays his wounds to St. Thomas (as chronicled in the 20th Chapter of St. John's Gospel).

So, I think that a strong case can be made that the promise to "make all things new" does not include a reversal of damage which is freighted with meaning, does not necessarily indicate a return to a pristine original state.

On my way out of the Coney Island restaurant, I took a good close look at the blue neon sign.  It was perfect.  Horribly perfect.  It mad no sound, had no flaw, and made nary a flicker.  It was like something out of one of the paintings of the worst sort of "hot rod culture" painter.  And I shuddered.

"I look for the Resurrection of the dead, and the Patina of the world to come.  Amen."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Flamin' Groovies at the Beachland Ballroom

As I may have mentioned previously, my son is 19 years old, and has been a fan of the Flamin' Groovies band since the age of 7.  We didn't really intend to see them two nights in a row, but it providentially worked out that way.  A facebook friend who had heard me and my band perform the FG's hit Shake Some Action, posted on my facebook "timeline" an article about their upcoming concert in Cleveland, Ohio.  I immediately called the Beachland Ballroom to order tickets for my son and myself.  It was a few weeks later that we found out the Flamin' Groovies would also be playing a gig in Detroit, the evening before the Cleveland show.

It seemed like a shame not to come out and support them in our own hometown, so we bought tickets to the Detroit show also.

So, on the afternoon of Saturday, November 9, we got in the car and headed for Cleveland.  Before the concert, we met a friend at Bearden's Restaurant, where I had my first ever "Peanutburger."  It was yummy!

After locating the Beachland, we were enthused to hear (for our first time) the sounds of a band called the New Salem Witch Hunters.  We really, really liked them, especially the guitar playing of Tom Fallon, on his hollow-bodied Gretsch.  Their songs were catchy, accessible, rich, and varied.

Then, it was time for the Flamin' Groovies to play.  The were absolutely terrific, and the Beachland was a very fine venue at which to see and hear them.  We got so close to the stage -- it was really a dream come true!

At first, the set list closely resembled that from the Detroit show, but then it veered off and took on a life of its own.  Every song was wonderful, and especially because of the intimacy of the club, I will say that it was worth every minute of the 37 years I had waited to see the Flamin' Groovies play!

The band was very generous with their time, and did 3 or 4 encore songs; I was having so much fun that I lost track.  But their last one was a very popular one, Teenage Head, which I think I'd first heard and loved back in 1977.  That's the song in this video.  Just before the song, you can hear Cyril Jordan say, "You guys are great.  I wish I could stay and ... kiss every one of you."

The tour is not over!  If the Flamin' Groovies are coming to your city, you owe it to yourself to go and hear them!

Tuesday, November 12 - Washington, D.C.

Thursday, November 14 - Boston, MA

Friday, November 15 - Brooklyn, NY

Wednesday, November 20 - Oakland, CA

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Flamin' Groovies - Shake Some Action!

My son and I went to see the Flamin' Groovies, a favorite band of ours, two nights in a row! We saw them in Detroit on November 8, 2013 and in Cleveland on November 9, 2013.

This video (sorry for the sound quality) shows you how close we were able to get to the stage.  When Cyril Jordan put his foot up on the monitor and started playing the guitar lead standing about 6 feet away from us ... I nearly lost it.  FANTASTIC!!! I'm so very glad to see this band back and touring, and to see the extremely warm reception they are getting from their fans!

And, to give you an idea of what this song means (and has meant) to me, here is a humble little attempt by me and my old band, Chrome Folk Bar-B-Q, at covering this legendary Flamin' Groovies song: 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

And I Won't Come Back This Way Again

"If you don't dig what I say,
Then I will go away.
And I won't come back this way again. No.
'Cause I don't need a friend."
So ends the third and final verse of the Flamin' Groovies flagship song, Shake Some Action.  And, after the rough reception they were given by a few hooligans at their concert here in Detroit tonight, I would not blame them a bit for not coming back this way again.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here.  I attended this concert with my son who, at the age of 19, has already been a Flamin' Groovies fan for 12 years.  The Magic Stick, on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, seemed to be the perfect venue in which to first hear a band I'd been waiting 37 years to see:  warm, welcoming, and intimate.  And, so it was, at the start.

The Groovies did not disappoint.  As the band blazed through treasured classic covers such as Freddy Cannoon's Tallahassee Lassie, the Byrds' Feel a Whole Lot Better, and the Rolling Stones' Jumpin' Jack Flash, the large crowd responded in lively fashion, clearly appreciating the rare and beautiful event.  The reaction was perhaps still more positive, however, when Cyril Jordan and the boys rolled out a string of the Flamin' Groovies' own hits, including You Tore Me Down and I Can't Hide.

According to my hand-scrawled notes, it was just after a fine cover of the Stones' Paint it Black that the trouble started.  A large and seemingly very drunk audience member decided to grab Cyril's mic and pull it down toward himself to make a request of the group.  Instead, he bonked himself on his bald head with the mic before he finally replaced it clumsily on the stage.

This did not sit well (understandably!) with Groovies' lead singer / guitarist Chris Wilson, who warned the man not to do that kind of thing again.  It seemed a fair warning, and I expected the music to get right back on track, but it didn't quite happen that way.  Apparently this patron and several of his friends were under the mistaken impression that the rest of the audience had come to see them -- that, indeed, they were the show.  Some of them made obscene gestures at Wilson and at least one suggested that Wilson come down and fight him.  

Chris opined that this audience member had rather better wait until after the conclusion of the concert to have his butt kicked (or words to that effect).  At some point, beer bottles were thrown.  One shattered somewhere near me, and I felt a rain of glass shards come down around my head and shoulders.

What Security people were there seemed slow to respond.  Even once they got there, it was difficult for them to wrestle the fat balding man out of the hall.  And then, even after that, it was not over.  Others who remained jeered or shot the bird at Chris and, to his credit, he played the man and would not countenance this type of behavior.  He asked for the troublemakers to be ejected from the music hall.  Security eventually removed one or two other patrons, and the crowd where we were near the stage had thinned out quite a bit.  I thought at that point:  "That's it, that's our concert." 

And I would not have blamed the band one iota if they had called it quits then.  They'd already given us quite a decent show, and hadn't been treated at all well by the several hooligans in the audience.  But, to their great credit, the Flamin' Groovies came back out energized even more, it seemed, by the confrontational behavior of the few, and finished off the concert in a blaze of glory.

The high point for my son was their brilliant performance of their song, Slow Death, during which Chris Wilson could be seen with a distinct glint in his eye, probably thinking of the young punk who had tried to call him out and had ended up disgraced.  The song ended up having the perfect menacing tone.  But then, they outdid themselves with what was nominally their final song, the epic Shake Some Action.  Some action had indeed been shaken up in the Magic Stick that night, and one was only saddened if, indeed, the opening lines of this blog (from the 3rd verse of the song) are to become prophetic.

Chris, though he hadn't done anything untoward, repeatedly apologized to the crowd for the way things had gone down.  But, for the actual perpetrators themselves ... only the chilling warning of the lyrics of the Groovies' encore song, Teenage Head:
" When you see me,
Better turn your tail and run.
'Cause I'm angry,

And I'll mess you up for fun."
I think if the drunks and punks knew what was good for them, they were probably safe at home in their pajamas by the time this encore was actually sung.  So, did my son and I get enough of the Flamin' Groovies tonight?  No way!  We're headed to Cleveland to see them again tomorrow night!