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Palomar Observatory

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Show me the way.

It has been a whirlwind weekend. I am in Los Angeles at the Westin Bonaventure with Leslie and we are running on fumes.  Last night the Vintage Motorcycle Show opened at the Fallbrook Center for the Arts, partially sponsored by my friends at Monster Energy Drinks. My compadre Jim Swan helped coordinate the show and brought a lot of important motocross bikes in. The show will be up for a month and is worth seeing if you like rare motorcycles, beautiful Harleys and Ducatis and bikes of every description.

We had a good time at the opening and I got a chance to get up close and personal with the lovely Monster Girls. We ducked out with our friends Morgan and Brigitte and were treated to a great sushi dinner at Yama.

After dinner, the group jumped in my van and drove out to Harrah's Casino in Rincon to see the double bill of Peter Frampton and Yes. It was such a beautiful drive through Pala and Pauma Valley, past miles of orange groves and ancient pepper trees. We finally approached the Harrah's monolith rising up out of the Rincon Valley. Harrah's most reminds me of a maximum security prison with its tall hotel breaking the visual harmony of the once pastoral setting.

We walked into the small outdoor venue through the pool area and checked out our fellow concert goers.  Leslie thinks that the average age was around fifty, I would say most of them are already getting a senior discount. We all looked pretty snazzy in our leather and nice threads, but were a bit out of the norm.

It was turning into a gorgeous summer night and Frampton opened the show right on time, before we had even found our seats in the bleachers. I was never a huge fan of Frampton when I was younger, when he made it big in the seventies, I was lost to the bluejean bands like the Dead or the Band, and always felt he was a bit too commercial. I was a fan of Small Faces and as I got more tolerant in my old age, I started appreciating his work in Humble Pie more and sort of became more tolerant.

I saw him backing Bowie on the Glass Spider tour, after he had faded out of view a little bit and was blown away by his musical proficiency. I remember watching play the guitar riffs on Fame and thinking about the irony of him falling off his perch at the top and into what was now pretty much musical obscurity.

I didn't know what to expect from Frampton last night but knew that we were going to have fun no matter what. Thought that we would hear some hits and some pyrotechnics and then get the main course with Yes.

Guess what, Frampton kicked ass. He had an easy stage banter and told the crowd that all of his equipment had been destroyed and then subsequently replaced after the recent floods in Nashville. He is going back to do a fundraiser for the gulf.

Frampton started off playing some slower jazzy stuff and I was blown away with the way he structured his songs in such a tasteful and musical way. Then he put the metal down and he never let up. He can play jazzy and he can grab the Les Paul and rip, he is just a tremendous player.

I saw a player with similar chops a few years ago, Jeff Beck, and pretty much hated the concert. It was all pyrotechnics with little emotional feeling or heart. With Frampton on the other hand, the music was still very relevant, and even more so for me, since I had never been a true believer. Excellent keyboards and second guitar player, improvisational jamming, even a new topical song attacking Wall Street greed. He played the Soundgarden song Black Hole Sun and totally nailed it, including some great, weird sonic touches.

The only downer in his set was when his son came out to sing a song with him that bombed like a fart in church. Frampton ended the evening with a blazing version of While my guitar gently weeps.

I turned to my mates after the set and asked if it was possible that Yes could hang and play with the kind of irascible energy that we had just witnessed? They certainly hoped so but alas it was not to be. We walked over to the pool and had drinks between sets. Attitude adjustment in the parking lot and ready for business.

Yes came out with a greatest hits medley. Very old guys playing compositional prog rock note for note like it sounded on the album. And unfortunately I could have just listened to the albums. It was like not a note had changed in 40 years and that is death for any artist. I know that it works for Mozart or Rachmaninoff but not for rock and roll. I remember when Yes was thought of as one of the consummate psychedelic bands in the mid seventies. I wonder if I could have mustered any fervent belief if I had been zonked out of my head?

The band is now fronted by Canadian Benoit David, a vocal ringer for the departed Jon Anderson. He reminds me of Sandy Duncan in Peter Pan and Leslie said she was expecting him to launch into a broadway show tune at any time. I figured that it would be curtains for the bands if his testicles ever dropped. Rick Wakeman has been replaced by his son, Oliver on keyboards. The fantastic bass player Chris Squire is still on board, but looks like a grizzled sailor from an old viking fleet. Howe is also ancient. The last time we saw the band 20 years ago, they had Trevor Rabin playing the second guitar and I found it more interesting. Howe played an acoustic number doing a travis picking thing that was just embarrassingly bad. He also had an annoying habit of having a roadie place another guitar in front of him at certain points in the concert so that he could be playing two guitars at once, as if that is ever enough? I was hoping that he could go for three.

After about 6 or 7 numbers we decided to call it a night. I think that it is great that these guys are still working, they have a fine library of work, it just didn't offer anything new for me. While Frampton sounded totally engaged, they were going through tired motions. One of the most annoying things were seeing the words Yes constantly floating around on the video screens, lest any one in the audience or the band forgot where they were.

We went to the cafe and had some monster sized desserts and coffee and drove back home. Harrah's is a super venue, small, intimate, pretty, with a natural bowl of hills behind the stage that made for good sound. Nice place to see a show. We got home at twoish. The alarm went off at six and we drove to Pasadena to meet a client at the Rose Bowl swap meet. He never showed. I found a nice little painting by Charles Partridge Adams and walked for miles.

Then Leslie and I headed over to Zankou chicken on Colorado, with their great humus and garlic paste and pickled turnips. Leslie had tarna, a marinated chicken and beef dish with tahini.

After lunch we went to the Huntington Gardens and walked the amazing landscape. Checked out the new chinese garden and the bonsai zen garden. We walked until our feet hurt and it was very hot. They were having a  Charles Rohlfs show at the Huntington that was wonderful. We also went to the Scott Gallery where we saw the same Allan Adler teardop teaset I have in my collection as well as some great Sam Maloof furniture. Sam and Allan were both good friend's of mine and their families loaned great stuff to the museum. I laughed when I saw that the Maloof's had lent them a yellow piece of Natzler pottery that I had once given to Sam on his birthday.  I had also sold a lot of paintings by the same artists that were hanging in the exhibits which is always a good feeling.


We are chilling, Les has an appointment in the morning with a vendor. I just got out of the rooftop pool. The show goes on.