Reports of the Past
REPORT From The Field
10.09.00 - The State Fair Of Texas!
BIG TEX was obviously stoned out of his mind!
The centerpiece of The State Fair of Texas, this 50-foot moving sculpture of a tall, lanky Texan in the (stereo)typical cowboy hat, western shirt, boots and jeans usually greets fairgoers with information about shows and exhibits, times and places, and other State Fair information in a deep baritone Texas drawl similar to the speaking voices of cowboy movie stars Tex Ritter or Rex Allen.
On the day that The New Jack Hippies arrived to play at the fair, somebody had obviously slipped BIG TEX a couple of valium (or something), because the words were coming out slowly and slurred.
"Tthheee Nnnuuuu Geee Mmmm Cceeee Tttrucksssss....."
It was possibly a tape machine problem, but we prefer to think that BIG TEX was partying down in anticipation of a New Jack Hippies performance! By the time we hit the stage, they had turned off BIG TEX altogether.
A week and a half before, just few minutes before leaving for Nashville, I received an email from Dan at MP3.com, asking if The New Jack Hippies could represent MP3.com at The State Fair of Texas on the following weekend. Fortunately, we had purposely left the weekend after Nashville open for rest and followup time, so we were free to go to Dallas.
I've set up several music sites on MP3.com for many of the individual New Jack Hippies, as well as a few for other friends. Both Jay Hooks and I were asked to perform, but Jay was out of the country for the European release of his new album.
After some hurried phone calls to musicians, we left for Nashville and were only able to keep in contact thru emails from various Kinko's in Nashville and along the way. We eventually agreed upon Friday, October 6th, but then the Pontiac/GMC people got wind of the fact that Saturday would be the day of the UT-OU football game, in the Cotton Bowl - right on the fairgrounds, and that they had a country band booked. Fearing that a country band would not appeal to the young college crowd, Dan asked if we could stay the night, and play the last half of Saturday night, also! We were set for the 6th and 7th.
I asked Levon Louis if he could come DJ with the band. I figured that would increase the youth appeal (and it certainly did). When I told Dan at mp3.com about some special DJ needs, he said he'd get back to me.
When he called back, it was to pass along the clients great concern that we would not turn our set into a hip-hop show. I explained that the DJ served as a part of the rhythm section in our rock and bluesrock band, and would not be used in a hip-hop fashion. He said that would be OK, but there would be no budget for the DJ needs we had asked for. Levon said that he would find his own, because he really wanted to do the show with the New Jack Hippies!
The first set at the State Fair would be at noon, so we decided to drive up to Dallas the day before. We would be a small rhythm section (for the Hippies - a typical to large band for anyone else), with Roger and I being joined by John Chupin, Teri Greene, and Levon Louis. Heath Spencer Philip would be our featured vocalist. Our hope was to be in Dallas early enough to get a meal and a quick nap before heading out to some clubs to sit in. We were certain we could blow a few minds with Heath and a three-piece band of Roger, John and Guy.
Wednesday night was a blast at EinStein's Pub, but the crowd was thin. By Thursday, there was an email from Linda telling me that it had been our last. Her email expressed that she AND the patrons had really enjoyed the music, but the boost in business that she had expected with the jam had never come. It was great while it lasted, and I'm sure that we will have many fun nights at EinStein's Pub on the weekend nights that we are still booked to play there (10/20, 11/17 & 12/22) this year.
Heath needed sleep that night, and I didn't want to drive him home at 3am only to pick him up at 11am. At that point, we had no idea whether Connie would be out of jail in time to make the trip, and he had been up two nights in a row worried about her as she sat in the county jail for a couple of 4 year-old traffic warrants. So, after much urging, Heath spent the night at my house after EinStein's, so he could be ready to go by noon (and to be sure that nobody else could drop by his place and keep him awake).
When Chelsea and I arrived at noon to the auto rental place to pick up the van, we were told that the person we had spoken to was no longer at that location. We found her new location, but they didn't have a van on site either, and said that it was waiting at the Bellaire location, and they would deliver it to my home in 15 minutes, and....
When they finally delivered the rental van, three hours later at 3:25pm, half of the group was at my home, with the other half waiting to be picked up at Roger's. Albert Storo had called and said that he and Jessica Bucheit would join us, but wouldn't arrive until halfway through the gig on Friday. Teri Greene had to stay back for the Thursday night Blues Jam at Dan Electro's, so Heath had arranged for his sister, Elizabeth, to pick up Teri on Friday morning and join us in Dallas.
We departed my driveway, stopping to pick up John and newly freed Connie at Roger's house, drop off fair tickets and parking passes at Albert's place, and then do the same when we met Elizabeth at the James Coney Island on I-45 at FM1960. After some chili-cheese fries and coneys, we were finally on our way up 45 to Dallas at 5:00pm.
Besides the gorgeous Texas sunset to our left, the ride up was uneventful, and we rolled past the fairgrounds at 9pm, on our way up to the Best Western North Dallas, where we were staying for the weekend (according to mp3.com). Check-in went smoothly, and we moved into three rooms on the south side of the motel.
Because of the rental van delay, we were in Dallas later than we expected, and it was clear that some of us still needed the nap before going out. The Dallas club scene plan was dropped. Roger and Marlo went to sleep. Levon, Connie, John and Heath drank beer. I stayed up until 4am packaging CDs to sell at the fair.
Roger woke me up with a phone call at 8am, asking about tickets for the hotel breakfast buffet. I had them with the check-in package, and we all made our way to the restaurant for scrambled eggs and pork, biscuits and gravy, cereal and fruit, and lots of coffee. We headed out at 9:30am towards a Best Buy store. We had forgotten to take a recording device with us from Houston, and we always record the shows, so we needed to pick up a recording device. Someone suggested we consider charging one to my Mom's credit card and returning it 2 days later....
We arrived at 10am, they opened the store, and I found a mini-disk on display that was closing out at $199.00. Normally a $299.00 item, I was thrilled at the break. When it turned out that the demo was the last one, the store sold it to me at $129.00. I might keep it.
The traffic to the fairgrounds was horrible, causing us to comment about the relatively smooth flow of the Houston Freeways (sic). Just as our former Dallas residents were commenting to the uninitiated about the reputation of the Dallas Police, we saw the colored lights on top of the vehicle behind us. I pulled over, jumped out of the van, and asked the officer for mercy. We had a show to do.
It was a training excersize. The experienced officer I had just spoken to asked me to get back into the van, went back to his vehicle, and returned with a fresh-faced rookie on her first training mission. They went through every proper step and procedure, before eventually letting us go with a warning. We would NEVER enter the HOV lane in the incorrect manner again!
It was a good thing that we had nothing burning in the van when pulled over, but we still had time to burn one now. Vent the windows....
When we arrived at the park, we found our way to the "green-stripped parking lot" which we had been assigned to. I could see that there was nowhere to park the van, and we were at least a quarter of a mile from the stage on which we would be performing. I told the gang that our stage would be inside the entrance and to the left - all the way down to the southwest corner of the fairgrounds. I asked if somebody would get out and go through the gates to the stage area to find the event manager from our area, a guy named Rick Gilbert. Too many people jumped out of the van, so one got back in and I drove around to the other side of the entrance looking for a place to drive inside.
I was luckier than the others. I found an access entrance and waved myself in. I drove right up to our stage and began unloading. I passed Elizabeth, who was returning to the parking lot after dropping Teri off at the stage. The others, specifically those who walked in the front gate, were not as fortunate.
"Well... I think you've got to go to the right here...", came the answer from the first volunteer they asked.
Hmmm, Guy said to go to the left.
They asked another park attendant, who promptly took out a map to look up the correct directions (always a bad sign). "Well... I think you've got to go to the right here...", came the answer from the second volunteer they asked.
They took off to the right, and walked until they figured they had gone too far. As they stopped to discuss it, Levon looked ahead and spotted a GMC truck. We were playing at the Pontiac/GMC - MP3.com Stage, so they continued walking. The GMC truck did turn out to be just that. It was somebody's GMC truck. There was no stage in sight. There was no GMC exhibit.
When she spoke of finding the right place, Marlo says that she noticed two things.
Firstly, she "...saw Guy unloading small things from the van...", and thereby determined that Guy had found a way to drive to the stage and had been there long enough to unload. "Guy always unloads the small things last."
Secondly, she noticed that our brand new silver rental van was a Chrysler, and was parked right in front of the Pontiac/GMC exhibit! I had noticed that they all had REALLY wanted me to move the van quickly, but it wasn't until we got home, and I heard Marlo tell that story, that I knew the reason why!
I parked the van. Rick picked us up in the parking lot and showed us the white 12x24 tent, which would serve as our third home for the fair. I met our sound man, Darin from Dallas Music, who had been contracted by Rick to handle the stage, sound equipment, lights and the duties of sound engineer. We told Darin about Heath's propensity to surprise sound engineers with his vocal power, and asked for a line out of the board so that we could set up the mini-disk machine and record the performances. He was happy to help in any way, and we got everything hooked up in their proper places.
We met Greg Flores and Joe Iuliano from MP3.com, and recommended some regional snacks for them to sample. They gave us our check for the shows, and stuck around all day to hear the music. They kindly invited us to join them late for pool and beer, something that had already been set up with the GMC people. We took the directions, but felt we would probably be sleeping at that time.
The band sounded great from the get-go! We started with SHE AIN'T GOT TIME FOR THE BLUES, THE GLORY OF LOVE and ALL THROUGH LOVING YOU, and the introduced Heath for WHAT YOU GIVE, WHAT YOU GIVE and BUT THE NIGHT. Twenty-nine minutes, up and down, "Thank you Pontiac/GMC... Thank you MP3.com... Thank you, Texas!"
Now it was 90 minutes off until the next set. We headed off for junk food! Boudain Balls, deep-fried ribs, broccoli puffs, fajita nachos, gyros... we had it all at our table! Some of the guys spent time bonding with the soundman. Other spent time attempting to bond with the beautiful brunette spokesmodel at the Pontiac/GMC exhibit...
On set two, we did almost the same music. I threw in TIME TO LET IT GO, and Heath sang SINCE MY BABY WENT AWAY, but the other songs were from the first set.
At a park gig like this, people are not usually focused on a band for more than two or three songs, so there is no reason not to play your best, or most appropriate songs on each set. When we are in a parade, we often play the same two songs over and over...
As another reason to repeat tunes during the day and evening, we had the fact that I was recording these songs on audio and Marlo was doing video recording, and that repeating songs would allow us multiple camera angles and multiple takes on the same songs.
We had originally been told to perform five 30 minute sets at noon, 2:00p, 4:00p, 6:00p, & 8:00p, but we found out different at the park. When we arrived there, we were told that there would only be 4 sets ending at 6:30pm). Too bad! We like to play! I told Rick that we were willing to play as late as we could for as many people as we could. Things couldn't be worked out with the soundman. He wanted to leave in order to see some friends in an alt-metal band.
Albert and Jessica appeared in the crowd during the third set. On the third set, all went well again.
Between the third and last set of the day, we discovered the mall. There was a row of tall square buildings, lined up in two rows facing each other with a long reflection pond in the middle. The buildings were about 40-50 feet high, freshly painted in an adobe/tex-mex fashion in a light pueblo reddish-brown color with a single band of a brown and maroon trim pattern near the top.
When sandblasting these buildings before painting them this time, it was discovered that murals existed under four layers of paint at the front of each building. These colorful basketball court sized murals, known to having had existed - but believed destroyed in the early forties, were then carefully uncovered and are in the process of being restored.
There were columns in the front of each building, with a different three-story rock sculpture of some cosmic godlike person standing right in the middle. There were stands with lights and lasers in the middle of the pond, set up there for the fireworks/laser/light/water show each night.
These buildings housed exhibits like at any fair. They had originally been built for the World's Fair, early in the twentieth century. Then they were full of lofty things, exhibits on the newest from Transportation, Industry, Science, Medicine....
Now they held the likes of Dust-Buster, Turkey Legs and Sausage-on-a-stick, Ford, H&R Block, the Garden Weasel, and some vegetable slicer that they sell on TV.
The New Jack Hippies.
The sound echoed through the mall as if it were designed to carry sound (it probably was). There was an African drum group performing down at the other end of the mall, almost 300 yards away, but we could still here them as if we were standing in the first row. We turned the corner after the last building and discovered that our stage was right behind it. We had walked a long way, but it was easy to take the others and show them. After several oohs and aahs, we began our final set of the day. On this one, we jammed a little, introduced both Albert and Heath to sing, Jessica played bass for a couple and Levon performed a spontaneous rap in the middle of NO NEWS, GOODS NEWS.
We took the scenic route back to the motel....
We got lost on the way to the motel. When we arrived there, I went to check into the fourth room that I had asked for and found that they had not written it down as a fourth room, but had actually held four MORE rooms for us. Since the rooms we already had came with only one bed (we had expected 2), I told them to just give me two more rooms, one more for Teri, and one for Albert & Jessica, who had left the fair headed to see Lee McBee play at some local joint, mostly to visit Hash Brown, his guitar player. Hash moved to Dallas over 20 years ago. Albert remembers hearing Hash's name when he was a kid in Connecticut. Albert met Hash 10 years ago in Dallas. I gave a set of keys to Teri and John, and held the other for Albert and Jessica.
After a great rerun of a Star Trek Voyager which Roger, Marlo, nor I had never seen, most of us went down the street for Mexican Food. It was a fun meal, with a conversation in which none of us was immune to riducule, and food on our plates which was not immune from a raid by a fellow New Jack Hippie! Heath's fajitas tasted great to me, and Connie really seemed to like my spinach enchiladas! Then it was time to divide into the group who stays in, and the group who goes out! Marlo and I hadn't had much time alone, so...
At Breakfast on Saturday, Levon, John, Heath and Connie told us about their trip to lower Greenville Avenue. Levon sat in as DJ at one club. John told me of a cool funk band he saw at another. Heath was a bit upset about what he saw. These kids were his age, but he didn't quite understand the techno music they dug in the dance clubs. I guess time will tell whether he's behind the times, or just ahead of them....
When we arrived at the park, it was obvious that the soundman was upset about having two bands split the day. It DID make him have to set up twice. Soon, we found that the schedule had changed. We had been asked to prepare for a 3:30 first set, but it had been moved back to two hour-long sets at 5:30p and 7:30p. This was OK with us. We wanted to play late - we're used to it. It was obvious that the soundman was upset about having to stay later than on other days at The Fair. Our too early arrival was cool, also. With the Texas-OU game ending between 2 & 3:00pm, we wanted to be securely into the park before then!
We headed for junk food...
The music that day was powerful. With Albert and John playing together in a two-drummer ensemble, we kicked ass! Everybody was happy!
Everybody except the sound man...
When it came time for our first set, Darin the soundman announced that he would not let us record the show. He said that he had no time to do a separate mix, because of all of the panic while switching bands.
We asked if we could just plug it into the mains, requiring no separate mix? He said no, because that doesn't work (it had worked the day before).
We asked if he could record the second set, or even get the machine going during the first - after he gets the live mix going? He said no, because he doesn't have the correct adapter (it had worked the day before).
We asked if we could just plug into the record out jacks, and take whatever signal was there - with no effort required on his part? He said no, because no signal came out of there without another adapter (it had a worked the day before).
It was time to play. Levon asked him which type of adapter it took, and the soundman went silent. Levon asked him again, and he grinned and rubbed his fingers together in the universal sign for 'give me some money'.
If he had only held me up for blackmail forty-five minutes earlier, before I had just given my last cash to three musicians for fair food. I had a friend's card for gas, but the sound guy didn't take cards. I asked if I could mail it to him when I got home, but he said, "I just don't want to do it!"
This was frustrating. I had promised the mp3.com guys who attended the fair that I would have live recordings to set up a new page with - FROM THE FAIR and the MP3.com stage! I hopped off the stage...
When I hit the ground, my left knee gave way and did a thing to the side that sent a jolt of pain through my whole body. When they helped me up, it was clear that I could not put any weight on it. The sound guy brought ice, and we wrapped strong adhesive tape around my tie-bleached jeans at the knee.
He asked if there was anything else he could do to help?
I replied, "Record the show!"
He says, "No thank you! You already got a full day of pro-quality recordings from me for free yesterday."
Needless to say, with those words, he cursed the mix. It's funny how that often goes. If we forget to record, or choose not to, we seem to guarantee that the performance will be top notch. Calling the mix a "pro-quality" mix left us very little to work with. The recorded mix had no guitars and little vocals on 90% of the tunes. And, after watching some of the video, and hearing the sound from the microphone on the camera (which was stationed in front of the sound system), it seems that he might have purposely kept the DJ down in the mix.
As soon as we began playing, the knee pain disappeared for a while. We played well together, and everyone was having a good day.
Between sets, we took the tram tour of the grounds. We were all ready to head home. Packing up took no time at all, and soon we were on the road.
Marlo and I sat up front in the van with Roger, Teri and Levon. Our ride home was uneventful, boring even, except for the pretty good but not great meal at The Bluebonnet Cafe in Ennis. It was mostly fried catfish and chicken fried steak (a tradition for me - we were only 20 miles from the truckstop where I found God in the song!). Marlo's soup sucked, but her grilled cheese was excellent! We hit Houston at 2:25am, dropped the other three off, and were home by 3:15am.
Albert and Jessica went to Desoto. I'm not sure whether that referred to a town or the name of a club, but they were returning to see Albert's friend Hash Brown, this time with the Robin Banks Band. This band contained all of the same guys as the night before, with a different bass player. Albert and Jessica sat-in before hitting the highway, and got into Houston around 6:00am.
Heath and Connie eventually showed back up at the stage area, and joined an impatient Elizabeth and John for their ride home. Heath says that John was just worried that by waiting to leave the park, Heath and Connie had blown his chance to follow our van, so that I would buy his dinner. MP3.com paid by corporate check, and we almost always receive cash at the gig. We were all cash-broke. "John wasn't talking to us", Heath says.
The cuisine on the way was Jack-In-The-Box, and somebody purchased John a Jumbo Jack, prompting John and Heath to imitate John's neighbor, Mouton, a ritual dating back a couple of years. John was talking again!
Elizabeth was pulled over near Centerville, but was let go by the officer (even though she couldn't find her insurance). In fact, the only one who got a ticket was Albert, who suffered a parking ticket in front of a club he ran into ("for one minute") for a music magazine.
It's Monday now, and I've spoken to them all. Everybody had a good time!
Thank you, MP3.com! Thank you, Pontiac/GMC! Thank you, Texas!
Marlo has tonight's enchiladas ready now.
The New Jack Hippies
Houston, Texas, USA
Reports of the Past