Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bruce Springsteen’s Economic Wisdom

My cousin, Andrew Horowitz, is a Certified Financial Planner and author of The Disciplined Investor: Essential Strategies for Success. We saw Andrew and his beautiful family last weekend, and after talking some finance in email, he sent me this gem last night:

Bruce Springsteen’s Economic Wisdom

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Springsteen Ypsilanti pictures

My better pictures from Ypsilanti are now up as a photo album at shutterfly. Go to http://ypsilantibruce.shutterfly.com to see the pics or slide show!

Bruce in Ypsilanti, October 6, 2008


October 6, 2008:

A year ago today I flew back from Philadelphia, having spent an exorbitant amount of money to see my first show on the Magic tour, my first show since my dad passed a month earlier. The E Street Band had its full original line-up, and played in an arena named for the mighty Wachovia Bank. It was 80 degrees outside, pool weather. The market crash had not yet begun, and the election was still more than a year off.

Fast forward to a somewhat cool Michigan day, coming on the heels of the first two days of the fall frost. My back was a bit sore after a couple hours working the fruit trees on Saturday and then the round trip to Columbus yesterday, and the cool weather wasn't much helping. In contrast to the perfect warm fall Sunday in Columbus, Monday shaped up to be cool and damp in Michigan. And the show itself wouldn't be much easier to make: in order to arrange it, I had to move one meeting forward, do another one on the phone, drive 25 miles one way to pick up Lori, and 40 more another way to get to Eastern Michigan's baseball stadium. And, with tickets being free but hard to find -- I had to drive 30 miles to Canton last Friday to pick up a pair -- I was fielding calls from friends much of the weekend.

We arrived at 3pm, just as the crowd was beginning to be allowed in to the stadium. Oestrike Stadium can charitably be described as... in need of a paint job. The outfield grass was fine, anyway, and that's all that really mattered. There were far fewer early arrivals than yesterday, so our 3pm arrival netting us a position directly in front of the stage, about 12 deep.

The warm-up today included two acts who have performed in local venues over the years; we enjoyed seeing Kitty Donohoe, who is one of our local faves. The president of Eastern Michigan University said a few words, but neglected to tell the audience who she was. Someone who I presume to be University Chaplain led a prayer; as with the prayer yesterday in Columbus, it explicitly referred to Jesus. Unlike in Columbus, though, today's reference brought audible groans in the area where I was standing. So, score one for Ypsilanti, and I ask a question: Why is it necessary to bring Jesus F. Christ in to these rallies? I understand saying the pledge, even with the God line, but why make them explicitly Christian like that?

Debbie Dingell got up and provided the unintentional comic relief of the afternoon. After making a reference to Bruce, thus producing a few "Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuce" yells from the crowd, Dingell said, approximately, "none of that! Think positive thoughts!" She was serious. She was also screaming. After that, many of those who weren't literally holding their hands over their ears would take any pause as an opportunity to yell "Bruuuuuce," finally prompting Dingell to yell out, "Stop it with this negativity!" I'm pretty sure I was crying at this point; I'll note that DIngell did finally figure out that no one was literally booing, I think the gales of laughter might have been her clue. Congressman John Dingell spoke, too, though I can't recall quite what he said. Finally, some local organizers spoke, and introduced Bruce.

The Promised Land

Bruce got up, announced he couldn't spell Ypsilanti, and launched in to the set. Structurally, it was the same as in Columbus, which I expected. I was ready with my good camera this time, as well as the video camera. Lori says he sounded a little hoarse, but he sounded fine to me.

The setlist, first 3 songs:
The Promised Land
The Ghost of Tom Joad
Thunder Road

The Ghost of Tom Joad

Bruce plays "Thunder Road" as photographers line the grassy knoll

Today's wild-card entry was a spirited rendition of "Devils and Dust"; expecting the wild-card there, I was ready with the video camera for it... and dutifully put it down for what I expected would be "No Surrender." Bruce called for a capo. I thought, "why does Bruce need a capo for 'No Surrender'"? Bruce started the song, and I thought again, "I don't remember 'No Surrender' starting like this yesterday." Then Bruce sang, "My little sister's in the front seat," and I thought, "ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, shit! Get the fucking camera back out!!" I guess I won't video very many shows, but at least I did get Bruce telling all the neighbors to fuck off. In any case, "Used Cars" was a special treat, the kind of moment that makes even an 8-song set worth the trip.

Devils & Dust


Used Cars


The setlist, final 5 songs:
Devils & Dust
Used Cars
No Surrender
The Rising
This Land is Your Land

No Surrender


Public Service Announcement

The PSA seemed to me a little more restrained than yesterday, and the crowd somewhat smaller -- though it's hard to tell on a large baseball field -- and more subdued than yesterday. The sun finally came out during the PSA, just in time for "The Rising." It was like a miracle glow that fell on Bruce, and the crowd definitely noticed. Bruce closed with the "Yes We Can" chant again and "This Land Is Your Land," using a tune that to me is the same as the one he once used for "Nebraska." When Bruce got to the line "When the sun came shining," he got one of the afternoon's louder cheers.

After the show, Bruce spent some time shaking fans' hands along the side fence of the stadium, probably for 10-15 minutes.

All photographs and video for this blog entry by Matthew Orel

Monday, October 06, 2008

Bruce at The Ohio State University (October 5, 2008)


I'm a sucker for going to see Bruce shows... even if they're far away and not really full shows.

Today's performance at The Main Oval at The Ohio State University was one of 3 scheduled performances over this weekend, coinciding with voter registration drives in battleground states. Yesterday's was in Philadelphia, and tomorrow's will be in Ypsilanti.

It was a beautiful Sunday, and for a change I had had no plans at all. Columbus is a 3 hour drive, and with the concert scheduled for 4:30, I could easily make it a day trip. For less than a tankful of gas (tickets being free), I could get a bit of a Bruce fix (and see Chris and Bryon). And so I did.

Also, a bit of a difference from normal Bruce concerts in that there was no prohibition on photographic equipment, so what the heck, I brought a camera.

As for the show... er... rally: The line-up to get in stretched around a couple campus buildings by the time we got there. Not really all that many people, it just seemed that way. Waiting out on the oval after being admitted was a little like waiting in the pit for a show to begin... only instead of sitting on floorboards over ice, we were on real grass, with sun in our faces. That is, it didn't suck.

Although the rally was billed for 4:30, the speakers started well before then. Two Ohio congressional candidates spoke, as did the mayor of Columbus. All spoke reasonably well, if usually predictably on substance. The Columbus mayor got in a zinger by referring to last Thursday's debate between "Senator Biden and Tina Fey." John Glenn came out to say a few words, and then he said he lost the lottery to introduce Bruce and so he turned it over to... contest winners. It was pretty weird. Eventually, it went back to Glenn to introduce Bruce.

Bruce seemed in good spirits, and he started off with a bit of a joke, playing the chorus to "Hey, Mr. Spaceman" (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bs2NNUCDzis&feature=related for a weird little lip-sync video of the Byrds version) for Senator Glenn, and then launching in to his 45-minute set. The setlist was:

Hey, Mr. Spaceman (chorus only)
The Promised Land
The Ghost of Tom Joad
Thunder Road
No Surrender

The Rising
This Land Is Your Land

The Ghost of Tom Joad was a powerhouse, played uptempo and with conviction. Bruce made several references to the importance of Ohio and to his own history there, even referencing a 1972 concert in which he opened for Sha-Na-Na. But he saved his most powerful remarks for the Public Service Announcement, in which he stated forcefull how he wanted his country and his dreams -- our shared dreams -- back. That 1000 George W. Bushes and 1000 Dick Cheney couldn't tear down what this country should be: "America remains a repository of peoples hopes, possibilities, and desires, and despite the terrible erosion to our standing around the world, we remain, for many people, a house of dreams. And one thousand Goerge Bushes and one thousand Dick Cheneys will never be able to tear that house down." Get the full text off the internet downloads, it's worth it.

This Land Is Your Land -- with the steeple/people verse -- was bracketed by a rally chant of "Yes, We Can!"

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Thirty Years Ago

September 19, 2008:

Thirty years ago today, my life changed a little.

No, I wasn't there. I was up in my bedroom 20 miles away from Passaic's Capitol Theater, 7 months from having a driver's license, alone with my combo radio/tape recorder, listening quietly for the first time to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band play live. I had gotten in to Bruce the summer before... well, the summer before the summer before. But here was
the lawsuit, and the endless wait for the album. Now, finally, there were concerts, and WNEW had announced this one. ON THE RADIO. WNEW was kinda like Bruce radio at that time, a seeming bastion of sanity in the disco wasteland. They'd had a midnight playing of Darkness the night before it was released... which of course I taped off the radio. But now, 'round 'bout Labor Day, they said, "special announcement at 9pm!," and so I tuned in. Special announcement -- Bruce, in concert, on the radio! September 19, and don't miss it! I waited it out, I don't know how... maybe by watching the Yankees beat up the Red Sox. But finally, the night arrived.

There were many little highlights for me. The WNEW DJs hyping it up. The Bruuuuuuuuuucing that came from the crowd. Bruce changing the day of the week to Tuesday (or whatever the hell night it was) and leading a call and response during "Spirit in the Night." Taking gifts from the audience... socks and underwear... an Islanders jersey. Just that general feeling of non-stop excitement, something even bigger than that summer's pennant chase; I didn't watch the game that night, not even on mute (must not have been on TV), but I remember Bruce asking for the score.

I had been getting in to the Darkness album, sometimes playing along on my harmonica. I had decided that "Racing in the Street" was basically "Thunder Road" turned upside down and so if I was just doodling by myself I'd play 'em together. I had nooooo idea, but I could basically have been wiped off the floor when Bruce played 'em together that night.

The WNEW guys warned that Bruce might play stuff that wasn't released. There were only two that night, at least only two new
original ones, but I studied 'em hard. The next day in the school cafeteria, that would be the debate: "Independence Day" or "Point Blank"? "Point Blank" got most of the votes.

There was a halftime interview, recorded a couple nights earlier at the Palladium. Bruce talked about it being show 86 out of 95, or some such, and said he was sorry he didn't get to play down "home home," except there weren't many venues there. Maybe the Arts Center. He said he'd like to play the Arts Center. Said it with a strange Massachusetts accent, too, I was wonder how he could say "Arts" like that, that kinds of mangling was the province of my Boston-native father.

My tape deck was having problems; it crapped out during the interview but I started again for the 2nd set, then it crapped out again right at the start of the guitar solo in "Kitty's Back." I spent the next, oh... 18 months or more trying to find someone -- anyone -- who had taped it. (I finally bought the Piece de Resistance CD more than a decade later when I was living in Milan) I still have my own tapes downstairs, they are relics now... still with my handwriting on 'em, now 30 years old.

The concert went on and on and on, it seemed like it wouldn't ever end... not that I cared. He started playing stuff I didn't know, and I just wished I had somehow been able to go. It'd be another two and a half years before I'd get to see it in
person, and by that time Bruce and the band played only arenas. But, the first time? On the radio. 30 years ago, tonight.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

End of Mourning

Just like that, it was over. As an official sort of thing, anyway. In Jewish tradition, it is customary to be in mourning for 11 months after the death of a parent. Some traditions hold that it is 11 months from the date of death, others hold that it is 11 months from the date of burial, and yet other hold that it is 11 months from the date of death unless the burial is delayed by 3 or more days, in which case it is from the date of the burial (insert joke about having 2 possibilities and therefore 3 opinions here). We went with 11 months from date of burial.

So, stepping back to last September 1, the mourning period ended on Wednesday, July 23. I'm no longer required to say kaddish for my father except during yizkor and yahrzeit, and his name will no longer be read, except for yahrzeit. Or, perhaps more accurately, I'm required to stop.

Over the days approaching July 23, I thought quite a bit about this particular end. Typically, there's a ceremony at the synagogue to mark the end of mourning, corresponding with the final day; however, due to some communications breakdowns mine has been delayed until the 31st. I get a gift (a daily prayer book signed by the minyan regulars), someone -- the rabbi and maybe a regular -- says a few nice words, then I say something. So I've been thinking what I might say. Typically, while hoisting the fruit picker up the apple tree, or while reaching in for the raspberries -- things I can't much imagine my dad doing (and, considering that his last visit to Michigan was during the height of raspberry season and he went nowhere near the canes, I'm thinking my imagination is reasonably accurate on that one). I haven't yet figured out what I'll say, but in the meantime...

My dad, as I first remember him. I was about 10 when I took this picture, and to me it's the iconic image of him from when I was growing up. Never mind that the camera wasn't level, that my perspective wasn't the best or that I was shooting straight in to the sunset. That's dad, before he grew old, on a routine work day having just come home in the '64 Bonneville (visible behind him), carrying that day's haul of Tuscan Dairy Farms products in his handy carrying case. That's a one quart carton of Orange Drink clearly visible in the front right (not Orange Juice, which in later years I would consume by the half gallon), and it looks like a quart of Pathmark label milk at the back right. There was room in the carrying case for 3 quarts on each side, and it usually came home full. The Omaga watch was missing from his hand that day. Couldn't even guess why. Behind him is the basket he had put up a year or two earlier; it is still in the same spot, looking quite a bit less robust. Ever so slight a smile; whether it's family pride or placating the young photography, I neither know nor care. This was him, in his element, in the spot he had staked out for himself and his family.

Of course, it's not so simple. Nothing ever is. So I thought back, also, to our altercations -- and there were many. Varied in level of seriousness, but what I focused in on was one that was particularly not serious... though I suppose it was different for me at the time: music. In the early '70's, I confess it: I liked Dawn. They weren't known then as "Tony Orlando and Dawn," just "Dawn." I can blame my brother. It started with a song called "Candida," which he decided he liked because it was about a hope for clean air.

But "Knock Three Times," that was my song. From 1971 -- not long before I took that picture. Every hour on WABC 77 radio! The great horn flourish to kick it off, and that classic opening line: "Hey Girl what 'ya doin' down there." The 3 knocks and the twice on the pipe, the dramatic break with strings and, and, and, the key change! How could it be better?


My dad, who had grown up on Benny Goodman, among others (see my note from last year), hated it. He didn't just hate it, clearly, it offended him. He would prance around the living room, intentionally mangling the chorus: "Knock three times if you want me on the ceiling!!"

So, Wednesday was the last day for kaddish. Last day for reading the name. At evening services, his name was read one last time. Then on Thursday, not there anymore. I sat for kaddish, and for the first time in almost a year, had the sensation of listening as others recited the old Aramaic formulations.

Thursday evening, I left work 'bout a quarter to 6. Got to the car, flipped on the XM, and it was on the '70's station. It's one of my presets; I figure it's the era I know best, and also makes it easiest to switch to the '60's and '80's with the least amount of effort. A song was just finishing up, and... the horn flourish!! Now, I don't believe in divine intervention, and if I did, I'd expect that it'd show up in other forms. But at that moment, it sure seemed that it was more than just the XM satellite that was out of this world. So I did the only thing I could: I applauded the transmission from above. Then I realized that, after all these years, despite having bought that old Bell Records single when it was new, that I didn't actually know the words.

So I listened. ok, ok, I always knew the kyrics were a little ridiculous (hey Tony, if you like the girl, why don't you just go downstairs and knock on her door? Why the heck you asking her to knock on the ceiling or the pipes? You expect her to bang the pipes -- twice! -- just to say no? Gimme a break!). But Thursday evening, I just couldn't help laughing at the 2nd verse:

If you look out your window tonight
Pull in the string with the note that's attached to my heart
Read how many times I saw you
How in my silence I adored you
And only in my dreams did that wall between us come apart

Dangling a note out the window?? I see a restraining order in that man's future!

ok, so all's forgiven. And that Tony, maybe he's liable to end up on the ceiling. Knock three times if you want him there.
Me, I still like the song. Call it a guilty pleasure.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Homegrown Tomatoes

The days are long and hot. I've gone through the cherries, and the strawberries, and on to the red raspberries and now my hands and arms are sore from the prickers of the black raspberries. The snap peas grew, were snapped up and devoured. Lettuce, too. I've done battle with the mosquitoes to get to the summer apples. And still, no tomatoes! Waiting, waiting, waiting.

Lori plants the seeds in February, they grow under grow-lights in the basement until April 1, but this year was later as the weather stayed cold. Then, outside in the walls of water. And, finally when frost is no longer a threat, uncovered. Sometimes the cherries will be ready first, but usually a hybrid variety called 4th of July. Every year, it seemed, we'd get a mention in the Detroit Free Press for early tomatoes; our best was one year when a cherry delivered on May 31. This year, though, there was nothing early. The poplars next door blocked out too much sun. Nothing in June. Got back from our Michigania sojourn on July 5, and, nothing! It got worse: I had to buy tomatoes in July.

Finally, July 19, there they were: Two red tomatoes!
Then, a couple more on July 20, and one or two each day since.
Summer, it feels like, is finally here.

I went out to iTunes and downloaded a Guy Clark song.
Homegrown tomatoes homegrown tomatoes
What'd life be without homegrown tomatoes
Only two things that money can't buy
That's true love & homegrown tomatoes

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Van Morrison in Detroit

Van Morrison doesn't make it to Detroit very often. He was here in 2006, and before then, I have no idea, but it was before I first came here in 1991. I missed that 2006 show, and determined to see Van Morrison perform sometime in my life, joined his mailing list so I'd get a notice on a pre-sale should he ever return. That night happened on Wednesday, and I didn't miss out this time. Though, with Morrison's price structure -- $300 for prime seats -- I found myself 3/4 of the way back on the floor, where it was somewhat more affordable.

Two days before the show, I received a reminder email, including this notice: "There is no late seating for this performance. The concert is scheduled to start at 7:30pm sharp. Seating for late arriving guests will only be accommodated at specific intervals during the performance." Just like at the symphony, I guess. I didn't know quite whether that notice would be accurate, but I wasn't about to chance it. We got to the venue with enough time to grab a beer (but not dinner), only to discover the notice that there would be no alcohol served this evening at the performer's request. We were in our seats with 10 minutes to spare. By 7:30, the Fox Theater was nearly full.

Morrison's 10 piece band went on at 7:31, launching straight in to Wild Night The sound was crystal clear, and quite a bit below earsplitting volume. There was nothing at all wild about it, but it was nice enough to hear. Where I thought Van and the band really caught fire was during the presentation of material from the new album, Keep It Simple. Though there were only 3 selections played, Keep It Simple, That's Entrainment and Behind The Ritual all seemed more passionate live than on disc; in particular "That's Entrainment," with some intricate clapping routines from the background vocalists.

The setlist was short on "greatest hits," really only 3 included. Also included was his version of "Comfortably Numb," which went over well. Van played harp on a few selections, most notably a rave-up of Gloria (which included a snippet of "Who Do You Love", perhaps in tribute to Bo Diddley) to close the night; he also played saxophone -- competently if not inspired -- on a few songs. He didn't have a horn section, though one of his keyboard players doubled on trumpet; I thought this hurt Domino a bit, with the keyboard player having to jump from piano to trumpet and back throughout the song, and the horn parts being just Van on sax and the keyboard player on trumpet. The audience ate it up, though.

Not much speaking by Van, not even to introduce the band. He mentioned that "Comfortably Numb" had been on The Sopranos, and introduced Help Me by saying he was going to do Sonny Boy WIlliamson Chicago Blues song, and he had a few jokes about cowboys and a bunch of name checks of blues heroes, but not a whole lot else. The audience was fine and attentive; personally I just wish I knew his catalogue a bit better. He left on a high note with And The Healing Has Begun, and came back for just the one encore.

After exactly 91 minutes, it was over, and we spilled back on to Woodward Avenue with the sky still light and the ballgame across the street still in the 7th inning. So we drove over to Mexican Town to get our dinner. Driving down Trumbull, we passed by the old Tiger Stadium; demolition work had begun earlier in the day.

The setlist (picked up from another site):
Wild Night
Tupelo Honey/Why Must I Always Explain?
St. Dominick's Preview
Keep It Simple
That's Entrainment
Wavelength
Comfortably Numb
Behind the Ritual
In the Afternoon/Ancient Highway/Raincheck
Domino
Rough God
Ballerina
Help Me
The Burning Ground
And the Healing Has Begun
Gloria

The Band:
Sarah Jory, steel guitar
John Platania, guitar
Paul Moore, bass
Paul Moran, keyboards + trumpet
Tony Fitzgibbon, fiddle
Bobby Ruggiero, percussions
Neil Wilkinson, drums
Katie Kissoon & Vanessa Haynes, background vocals

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Rider

WE DID IT!!

Tour de Cure 2008 is over. Sunday morning, Aaron and I participated in the 25-mile bike ride out of Brighton. This was an ambitious ride for Aaron; he'd never gone more than 15 before. And, it would be a special challenge, as predictions called for extreme heat.

Everything in the basic setup for the right involves a bit of nerves. There's the fundraising, of course (and there's still time for a bit more of that). The liability waivers and emergency contact forms. And... the bike rack.

When I was 16, my dad loaded me up in the station wagon to go off to summer school in Massachusetts, and we loaded my 10-speed bike up on the rack. Out the driveway he backed, oblivious to the angle of descent in to the road and the many little bumper scrapes over the years. I remember feeling a repetitive bumping sensation in the car, followed by a scream to dad to stop the car! But it was too late, my bicycle resembled Curious George's after he hit the rock. Only worse.

So, when the bikes are strapped on, I'm watching the rear view mirror the whole way. Last year a bump on Orchard Lake Road nearly unlodged them, but fortunately this time around we had no such problems.

We arrived at 9am, lathered up the sun screen, signed in, and... went back to the car to deposit the t-shirts (one must have a supply of Tour de Cure t-shirts!). By this time, the riders had been allowed to leave already and Aaron was anxious to go; finally we were on the trail just before 9:30. We got to the first turn: 7 & 15 mile riders, go straight. Tour, go right. We went right. Then, another sign: 50 & 75 mile riders, go straight. What about the 25 mile riders? Fortunately, this was the only major snafu on the path markings, and as it turned out both choices led to the same rest stop.

As the morning wore on the heat began to affect. The temperature was already nearly 80 degrees F at the start of the ride, though it was still damp from a violent storm earlier in the morning. It would quickly dry out, and the temperature surpassed 90 before we were done riding. Unlike last year, all rest stops would be mandatory this time around.

The route of the 25-mile ride. The actual distance is about 24 miles; I ended up at 25.01 including two round trips from the parking lot to the ride area

We kept on a reasonable pace throughout the first 15 miles or so, until we crossed over in to Kensington Metro Park and encountered some significant hills. After that distance, Aaron walked the bike up (as did many other cyclists). Also, the 25-mile ride was entirely on roads, even though there are plenty of bike paths throughout Island Lake and Kensington Parks; I find this annoying and unnecessarily risky, and also found that the road was bathed far more in sunlight than was the path. But we continued forward, and finally, just before 1:30pm, we made it past the finish line as the one of the Tour photographers snapped our picture.

Needless to say, we are very proud of Aaron for going the distance! The last picture is just after we finished. As for me, I re-learned that during a bike ride it is possible to get a sunburn on the back of the legs; I also got burned around the edges of my bike jersey. I drank about a quart and a half of water during the ride, and Aaron probably took in a quart of Gatorade. After getting home, it was all I could do to peel the jersey off.

Later on Sunday, horrific storms uprooted trees throughout nearby neighborhoods and left thousands without power. But we got the ride in. 25 miles.

For anyone who may be interested in donating toward the ride, donations may be made via the American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure website. My page is at http://tinyurl.com/yp6hax, and Aaron's page is at http://tinyurl.com/3ygh2k. Donations may be made through June 23, 2008.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Good Night For a Ride

April 27, 2008

The afternoon before my father's funeral last September, our family met with the rabbi. He explained Jewish customs of mourning. I knew most of them, but there was one that was new to me: during the 11-month mourning period, it was prohibited to attend any performance of live music (unless required by profession). I immediately thought, I don't think I can observe that one. Springsteen is going to tour with the E Street Band. Danny's been ill. I can't wait a year. I need to be there.

Ten days have passed since Danny Federici died. I’ve read eulogies. Lots of them. From Bruce Springsteen at the funeral. From fans. From former colleagues. Many eloquent eulogies, and a groundswell of emotion. I didn’t expect any of this, or my own reaction.

I know of Danny Federici, of course, because of his 4-decade long association with Springsteen. I became a fan in 1977, so it’s more than 30 years for me. But, in all the time I’ve followed Bruce, my attention has always been on Bruce. Of course I know who all the E Street Band members are, and I’ve known occasional personal details, but if someone were to ask me if Nils Lofgren is married or if Garry Tallent has children, I wouldn’t know. For that matter, until a couple months ago, I didn’t know that Danny Federici was married, or that he’d been married multiple times, and I only found out within the past 4 weeks that he has a son in addition to two adopted daughters. Point being, I never became much attached to the band members separately from the unit.

Of the E Street Band members, Danny was possibly the least well known outside the collective. He put out two solo recordings, but both are obscure and long since out of print (you can find one of them on Rhapsody, though). He had done touring stints with Joe D’Urso, with The BoDeans and with Mary Cutrufello, but even most fans didn’t know about those gigs. Right up until his death, if you googled Danny Federici, all you’d get would be a link to his defunct website with V2 Records, and a hodgepodge of articles announcing his temporary departure from the E Street Band last November due to melanoma.

His nickname with Bruce, “Phantom,” originated from a 1969 gig at Clearwater Swim Club, when Danny first pushed a speaker cabinet on the Middletown cops to keep them from breaking up a Steel Mill show, then somehow slithered through the crowd to evade arrest. Never was a nickname more appropriate. “Now you see him, now you don’t,” Bruce would exclaim when introducing Danny during “Rosalita” at shows, and everyone understood – even the fans like me who didn’t know those details.

Going through Springsteen records, it’s not always easy to pick out Danny’s parts. He’s often associated with “Rosalita,” but if the credits are to be believed he didn’t play on the studio recording of that song. Nor did he play on the original recording of “Jungleland,” nor on “Backstreets.” But, he did play the accordion on “Sandy,” the song that I still regard as his signature part, and also on “Wild Billy’s Circus Song.” Springsteen’s first top 10 hit, “Hungry Heart,” featured a keyboard solo from Federici, and the follow-up single, “Fade Away,” also featured a major Federici role. Federici’s sound seemed to me to be the shore sound; through his instruments I could imagine the waves crashing, the kids along the boardwalk, the seagulls above, the old men on the piers trying to catch a few fish, the salty fries and the saltwater taffy shops and the feeling of freedom on a warm summer day as the breeze blew across. Never mind that I never really liked saltwater taffy, or even that I spent far more beach days in Connecticut along the Long Island Sound than at the shore in my native New Jersey, that sound was something I could feel.

On June 5, 1993, I went to New Jersey to see Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes play at Great Adventure amusement park. The opening act that night was Joe D’Urso and Stone Caravan, with Danny Federici playing keyboards. There weren’t many people on the floor of the amphitheater there, but that didn’t seem to matter to the bands. After the show, we drifted over to the shore, where… I got pulled over by the Middletown cops, right across the street from the Fire Station. Come to think of it, I got pulled over one more time at the very same spot in Middletown, which was also after just having seen Danny Federici play… 6 years later, as a passenger. I think of it as my Federici connection, and hope never to drive trough Middletown again.

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Earlier this year, I was asked if I might help Danny out with a project he was doing. He was looking to set up a new fund with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital to raise money for melanoma research, and could use some ideas as to how to put together his website. I tried to put aside my perspective as a fan and approach it as I would any project, and I’d like to say I helped, and that what we see today as The Danny Federici Melanoma Fund is somehow an outgrowth of our online discussions. But it’s not; I was unable to crack the mystery that was Danny, or to figure out in time what he really wanted or needed. That failure gnaws at me and will gnaw at me for a long, long time. Eventually, Danny turned to his son, Jason (that’s how I found out that Danny had a son), who put up the site for the fund that will hopefully prove to be a legacy as meaningful as Danny’s music.
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There was one performance for which I’ll remember Danny most. November 25, 1996, my first time to see Springsteen play Asbury Park, at the Paramount Theater. One of the final shows of the solo Tom Joad tour, though this was a benefit show for local charities. On this night, though, Bruce had several guests join him throughout the show, including Patti Scialfa, Soozie Tyrell, Vini Lopez and Danny. Danny came on first to join Bruce on “For You,” and then again for “Wild Billy’s Circus Story,” “Shut Out the Light,” “Spirit in the Night,” “Rosalita,” and “This Hard Land.” But it was the show closer, “Sandy,” that stays with me. It was just Bruce and Danny on the stage. As I wrote shortly after the show:
Just a few feet beyond the walls, the Atlantic Ocean meets the beach at Asbury Park. Inside, Danny Federici is playing accordion and Bruce Springsteen is singing "Sandy." I didn't even hear the last verse, I just kinda sat there in a trance and absorbed it.
I think everything I really needed to know about Danny Federici was bottled up in that one song, at that one moment.

Tonight the Passover holiday ends. The final day is marked by a memorial service. I sat this morning in a room full of a couple hundred mourners, thinking back on my father. But thinking, too, of Danny. And thinking back to that night in 1996, when, after seeing Danny Federici on the stage, I drove with Lori -- pregnant with our first child -- to my father’s house, and topped off the night by taking his ’57 Bel-Air for a spin, ending with the euphoric feeling that I could drive all night.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Incidentally, No Magic in Columbus

My report from the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert in Columbus, March 24, 2008, as published on the official Bruce Springsteen website.

Before the Cincinnati show, I told some friends that just once, I'd like to be "between the mics," that small portion of the front of the pit between Bruce and Steve. The lottery odds of that are rather small, of course, but last night my number came in. So, any veneer of objectivity I might otherwise pretend in a review will be absent in this one, there's just no way. My ears are still ringing, I'm operating on three hours sleep, I have a meeting with a new boss in half an hour, and, and... I'm feeling just fine.

Even taking into account a once-in-a-lifetime (so far) position, I've seen Bruce enough times (73) to know that last night's show was pretty hot. Right from the opening salvo of "The Ties That Bind," Bruce and the band were on a mission. Shaking things up just four songs in to the set, Bruce circled the stage multiple times to call out for "Adam Raised a Cain"; Charlie Giordano, unable to read Bruce's lips, missed the beginning of the song while getting the translation. Did it matter? Hell, no. I'll remember it for one of the more fiery performances I've seen, including Bruce tearing into his guitar solo at the end.

"Magic" was dropped from the setlist last night. That meant losing part of the spoken "message," though I believe it was covered well enough during "Livin' in the Future." With the relatively quiet number removed, the show had virtually no letups -- rockers and classics all. It also opened up the set a bit for a different selection from the Magic album, and last night's debut performance of "You'll Be Comin' Down" was more than worthy.

Highlights? Way too many to remember them all. "Something in the Night." Nils possibly topping the "Prove It all Night" solo from Cincinnati with a blow-out on "Because the Night." ÊBruce's guitar playing on "Adam Raised a Cain" and on "Incident on 57th Street." Every time Clarence played the bari sax. "Long Walk Home," with Steve's new vocals at the end. A cameo by Ed Manion on bari sax during "Born to Run," leading Bruce to say, "C'mon, Big Men!," and also producing the biggest, baddest sound I have ever heard for that song. And "Rosalita." Yes, "Rosalita"!

One bit of strangeness, likely to become a recurring event at Springsteen shows, was the song contest winner. There are advertised contests for several upcoming shows for fans to select a song. Last night the "winner" -- and who knows how many voted; no one near me was aware of a contest for last night's show -- was "Sherry Darling." Bruce asked who picked "this bastard," prompting Stevie to raise his hand (Stevie used another little gesture involving both hands a little later when Bruce announced "sexy time").

Everyone on stage appeared to be in high spirits, having a great time being with each other and giving Ohio everything they had. My favorite interaction was after "Sherry Darling," when Bruce found a sign in the pit that read, "Incident, Please," then, after holding it up, walking over to the piano to say to Roy, "Incident, Please!" Pure magic.

Leave 'Em Wanting More

My report from the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert in Cincinnati, March 22, 2008, as published on the official Bruce Springsteen website.

At just about 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band left the stage, having just completed "American Land" before a nearly packed house at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. The crowd was loud and had been on its feet -- even back in section 201-- for nearly the entire show. But, even before Springsteen was off the stage, the house lights were on. At barely two hours, the show was over.

On the floor, some long-time fans were apoplectic. What the #%&!? Anyone with an internet connection knew that, in the prior two shows, fans had been treated to incredible guest appearances. Not that anyone expected anything like that again, but here we were, on a Saturday night, with a phenomenal crowd, and it was already over?

Sure, we'd collected a bunch of moments. An unusual (and unrushed) opener of "Darlington County." Consecutive audibles by Bruce, the first shouted out to Max and Garry during "Reason to Believe" to follow with "Candy's Room," and then for "Prove It All Night." An incendiary, wailing, gun-slinging, foot-stomping (literally) solo by Nils Lofgren to punctuate "Prove It All Night." An audience scan for signs, leading to a relatively rare performance of "Be True." Following that, a show-stopping "Lost in the Flood" before the final five songs of the main set. And, as likely captured on YouTube already, an encore dance with Hannah during "Dancing in the Dark." Still, I couldn't escape the feeling that Bruce rushed the band through the final hour of the show as if he were late for the plane.

Not that the performance suffered too much from the breakneck pace. Clarence sounded great. Charlie Giordano fit right in, adding his own textures from Danny's spot. Patti wasn't there (Bruce's explanation, as it were, included a terribly lame joke about dealing with the kids and the hash brownies back home), so Soozie helped out with "Magic." If anything, the themes of death, life, despair, faith and hope that run through the set, and the final sequence starting with "Devil's Arcade," were amplified by the pace. The playing was nearly flawless, and Bruce's voice was in fine form. And that solo from Nils on "Prove It All Night" -- put that one on brucespringsteen.net, please! If it was Bruce's intent to keep the audience out of breath and begging for more, it worked.

But just as fast as all the songs had been, that's how fast it was all over. Or so it seemed.

The techs came out to gather the equipment, with the roadies to follow to take down the stage. That was it. Some fans filed out, some celebrated the evening, and some, well, were asking "What the #%&!?"

That's when the roar went up from behind the stage, as Bruce and the band re-appeared -- with the house lights still on -- to re-take the stage. Fans rushed back to their seats, equipment was plugged back in, techs were sent scrambling. "Kitty's Back" was a lovely mess, with Max flubbing some of the opening beats, Clarence's tech struggling with the Big Man's neck strap, and an extended guitar solo from Bruce. They gave 'em a helluva time. And left 'em wanting more.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Monty is climbing Everest

What does one do when a seemingly normal friend -- albeit one I've met in person only once, through more than a decade of email correspondence -- decides to climb Mt. Everest?

Not that Monty can't do it, he's climbed mountains in the Himalayas before, and has had his share of near death experiences. But I'm aiming to see Monty out in Portland in August, so he better make it back it one piece! And while my travbuddy profile is now updated because I have seen the Birmingham, Alabama airport from the tarmac, I think Monty's is a bit more interesting... and scenic.

So what I do is, decide to follow along with Monty's blog. It's at http://monty-val-everest.blogspot.com. Good luck, Monty, and I look forward to sharing some good wine with you in about half a year.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

New Year's Greetings

It's mid-February, so I guess the New Year's greeting is a bit overdue. In recent years, I haven't written so much, but will make a short exception this year.

For the rest of the New Year's greeting and the pictures, please go to http://matt.orel.ws/2007_album/.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Discography and Amazon, 2007 Q3

In late 2005, I established an associates account with amazon, going primarily from my discography page. Any amazon.com sales generated by people navigating to amazon from my site generates commissions, that amazon eventually sends my way.

As I noted at that time, anything that comes my way from amazon.com will be turned over to charity, on a quarterly basis, doubled by a match from me. All selected charities will be from the set of charities documented at http://bruce.orel.ws/charities.html.

During Q3 2007, a total of 54 items were sold by amazon off links from the site. Total commissions for the quarter were $50.35. With rounding, this quarter's donation+match is $100.00. This brings the total raised for charity since the inception of the amazon account up to exactly $1100, to 12 different charities. To see a list of the beneficiaries to date, please see http://bruce.orel.ws/donations.html.

The donation for Q3 is to the Melanoma Research Foundation. The Melanoma Research Foundation (http://www.melanoma.org) has been actively supported by Danny Federici. The foundation was mentioned on Bruce Springsteen's website when Danny recently took a leave of absence from the E Street Band in order to undergo treatment for melanoma. The Melanoma Research Foundation is The largest private, national organization devoted to melanoma.

If you buy things at amazon (doesn't have to be Bruce stuff), please consider going through one of the links off http://bruce.orel.ws/discography.html, or the left panel link on any page within the sub-site "The Songs of the Seeger Sessions". Or, if you're viewing the blog, just click to amazon logo above. You'll get the same prices as ever, and a percentage will end up with one of the charities. If you have any recommendations for the next recipient, please contact me at matt@orel.ws.

Thanks to everyone who has participated!
Results for Q4, along with the next recipient, will be up in a couple months.