Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tambourines and Elephants: John Fogerty at the Toledo Zoo Amphitheater, July 30, 2014

John Fogerty at the Toledo Zoo Amphitheater (photo: John Fogerty facebook page)
Growing up, I had 3 musical heroes. First, there were the Beatles. And eventually there was Bruce. But along the way, there was also Creedence Clearwater Revival. CCR released just 7 studio albums. Six of those albums were crammed in to an amazing 30 month period, as John Fogerty cranked out 3-minute masterpiece after 3-minute masterpiece.

Being too young to see CCR play, I waited... a long time. I didn't see John play live until the 1990s, and last night was still just my 4th show -- and two of the other 3 weren't full length performances.

In recent years, John has come around as an opening act for performers like John Mellencamp and Jimmy Buffett. No offense to those guys, but... really? I couldn't bring myself to pay money to see Fogerty in that role, not for artists I didn't especially want to see otherwise, not even this past Saturday when Fogerty opened for Buffett in Detroit and groupon was selling $150 tickets at an 80% discount. I'll stand being stuck in Porterville or Lodi with John any time, but oh Lord keep me away from Margaritaville. So it was a blessing when I saw a Fogerty date for Toledo, just 4 days afterwards, and more so when 2nd row center seats opened up online the night before the show.

John Fogerty and band onstage at the Toledo Zoo amphitheater
The Toledo Zoo is barely an hour from home. Its amphitheater holds 4500 people and feels more intimate than that. The biggest problem is getting to the beautiful venue: there's only one main route from home to get there, and all it took was one car fire on the highway to make us late for the show. By the time we parked the car in one of the many free lots, we could hear Born on the Bayou coming up from the stage; recent setlists suggest that was the already the 4th song of the evening. At least someone had stopped the rain.

After missing -- and nearly not recognizing -- Lodi during the walk up Broadway Street, we finally made it to will-call (our tickets ended up being hand-scrawled notes on a piece of paper) as John and the band started up Lookin' Out My Back Door. Such a fitting song for a zoo! Especially for a zoo that actually has elephants.

Though I hadn't seen Fogerty in nearly a decade and hadn't been following recent setlists, I pretty much knew what to expect: most (if not all) of the Creedence hits, a few Creedence album tracks (often, the hidden gems), a few songs from John's 1985 comeback Centerfield album, and a scattering of more recent songs. After Lookin' Out My Back Door, the band played Hot Rod Heart, a sentimental cruising track off the 1997 album Blue Moon Swamp. At this point, anyone who hadn't noticed yet, and who wasn't paying too much attention to the various hotrods being flashed up on the video screen, would surely realize that yes, Kenny Aronoff is playing the drums of God. Besides Doug "Cosmo" Clifford, there is no one alive I'd rather see backing up Fogerty; Aronoff's very big beat suits Fogerty's songs that well.

John Fogerty, Kenny Aronoff and James Lomenzo on stage in Toledo.
At age 69, John has lost much of the rasp in his voice, but he still has much of the upper register intact, which he demonstrated especially on slower numbers such as Long As I Can See the Light. He also demonstrated prowess on lead guitar, extending several solos. At various points during the 2-hour set, John stepped aside to allow the other band members (Bob Malone, James Lomenzo, Devon Pangle and John's son Shane Fogerty) have the spotlight as well. Fogerty had fun with the audience, even engaging in occasional banter with friendly hecklers. The mostly older crowd surprisingly adhered reasonably well to a "no photographs" policy for much of the show.

Though in a sense the evening's centerpiece was its one new song, the reflective Mystic Highway ("Lately I begin to wonder / How it's all going to end / After all the flash and thunder / Then it's gone with the wind"), the show was mostly a romp through the hits, closing with the completely predictable -- and just as satisfying -- sequence of Fortunate Son, Bad Moon Rising, and Proud Mary. More than half of last night's 25 songs can be found on the Chronicle compilation. Better yet, all of last night's performances will be available for download from Fogerty's website by this time tomorrow.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Fourth of July, Lake Walloon

July 3, 2014
One of the few vacations we take is a trip to Michigania Family camp. This is a one week camp on Lake Walloon in Northern Michigan. For us, this has meant celebrating July 4th at camp. Sometimes the camp celebration is on July 3rd or July 5th due to details of the camp schedule. This post is a retrospective of some pictures from July 4th celebrations at camp.

July 4, 1999
Our first year camping as a family, and July 4th was our first full day of camp. It was very hot, and Aaron -- then 2 years old -- was already a ball of sweat when I took this photo of him trying on my sunglasses. In the background is the old dining hall.

July 4, 2002
Elianna was 14 months old. The heat broke just in time for the parade.

July 4, 2006
Elianna, now age 5, at Ceramics, Arts and Crafts, working on a project.

July 4, 2008
July 4th was the last day of camp in 2008. This is Elianna at the closing ceremony, overlooking the lake.

July 4, 2010
Aaron doesn't usually get his face painted, but when he does it's probably July 4th.

July 4, 2012
Elianna in The Hat.

Michigania just passed its 50th anniversary and has been collecting memories from campers. These are some of our memories.