Sunday, December 4, 2016

Love Minus Zero/No Limit

Thanks to the Bijou, I finally saw D.A. Pennebaker's classic 1967 documentary "Don't Look Back."

You know the one, about Dylan's '65 tour of Britain that begins with the inspiration for INXS' finest video moment as Dylan drops cards with the words from "Subterranean Homesick Blues."

But more significantly, I got to watch a film that also caused a music critic to predict the future.

It will be a good joke on us all if, in fifty years or so, Dylan is regarded as a significant figure in English poetry. ~ Donal J. Henahan, New York Times, September 7, 1967

Maybe it's best the prescient Mr. Henahan was dead by the time Dylan's Nobel Prize nomination was announced.

Although I'm no one's idea of a rabid Dylan fan, I've always been aware of the poetry of his songwriting and over the years I've come to appreciate him in an entirely new light. Still, I needed this 90-minute crash course in that pivotal pre-electric moment in the icon's career.

Watching it, what struck me most was his unexpected charisma, the brashness of his youthful confidence and his sheer nerve in challenging the very square British press corps' shallow grasp of his music and mission.

I don't know how he kept a straight face looking at their bad teeth and walrus-like mustaches, or perhaps they're the reason he asked them questions like, "Are you sure you're really friends with [your friends] if you can't satisfy them?"

Fair question, then or now. For that matter, I'd pose it to my own friends.

But also: So. Much. Smoking.

It's a wonder Dylan's still alive given the 80 or so cigs (the press' estimate of his habit then) he smoked daily and that was on camera. Who know how often he lit up behind closed doors.

Like me, Dylan is a Gemini, so I recognized his tendency to constantly observe and make mental notes about people and surroundings. Some minds just don't turn off.

Is it wrong that after hearing him say, "Either be groovy or leave," I want to have that made into a sign for my apartment? After all, it's really not too much to ask of people, is it?

The many clips of him performing onstage and in hotel rooms were invaluable to a casual fan like me because I saw not only how completely androgynous he looked as a young man, but heard his youthful singing voice and realized it was far more melodic and less full-on nasal-y at this early point (he was 23) than it became.

The Bijou crowd may have been small for the late afternoon show, but our appreciation for the big screen Dylan experience was anything but.

Following the satisfaction of upping our Dylan quotient considerably, there were dogs to be let out and fed, shawarmas to be eaten and a show to get to.

We walked into Hardywood - where they were celebrating today's release of Christmas Morning, a gingerbread stout with coffee - just as Baltimore's Great American Canyon Band took the stage to seduce us with their ethereal folk pop and lovely harmonies.

You could tell that the two singers in front of the drummer were an item just by looking at them.

A musician friend looked at the long, tall drink of water playing guitar and observed, "He looks like Evan Dando." I laughed because had he said that to the younger set in the room, they'd have been clueless, while he bemoaned recently mentioning Michael Stipe to millennial blank stares.

Might I say once again that I weep for the future?

I'd have been happy devoting all my attention to the Great American Canyon Band, but in short order, I ran into a half dozen people I knew and paused from soaking up their gorgeous music to catching up with friends on matters of careers, families and pie-baking skills.

Seems some people are unwilling to pay for a wooden pie carrying box, even if it is American made and sold at a trendy shop.

As the next band, Mikrowaves, was setting up, a friend shared that he'd heard their new album and that if it were coming out this year (it's not), it would be his favorite album of the year, a fact which didn't surprise me since I've been an unabashed fan since the first time I heard their soulful sound.

Besides, who doesn't like a band with not only a drummer and a percussionist, but a female back-up singer and horn section? Or a song that singer Eddie described the opening riffs as sounding "like a Wendy and Lisa song?"

Not us, I can tell you that much.

We were totally getting into the band, dancing in place and having a superb Saturday night when, like a plague of locusts, a group of plastered middle aged people showed up all at once, leading us to joke that they'd arrived by bus.

One guy in a leather jacket, beer held aloft and sloshing dangerously near my head, proceeded to dance off-beat so close that his arm knocked me a few times. Meanwhile, the high-maintenance female contingent muscled their bejeweled selves to the front to dance frantically to songs like "Bubblegum."

Their moves weren't half as sweet as the song.

Fortunately, they were so far gone that when Eddie mocked them from the stage, they didn't even realize, although it got a good laugh out of us.

For my part, I began sending out subliminal messages to them so they'd clear out and return to whatever suburban hell they call home.

Either be groovy or leave, dig?

And they did leave so we could finish enjoying Mikrowaves' smooth musical stylings without the distraction of flailing drunks bearing down on us. Their killer set ended to major applause.

And, sure enough, when we left there was a black bus idling on the street outside. All I can say is, thank heaven that ain't me, babe.

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