The first concert of the year was in Bend, Oregon with Alabama Shakes. If you’re going to do a concert summer, there is no better way to go than starting with Grammy winning Alabama Shakes.
Robert had signed up for the newsletter from Bend Concerts when he bought tickets to Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals. Not long after, he saw Alabama Shakes was going to be there and having become recent converts, immediately bought tickets. Good thing because they sold out. And the timing couldn’t be any better because the concert was on May 27th – Robert’s 33rd anniversary of his 39th birthday (his mother said she couldn’t have a son over 40 and it took Robert this long to figure out why). Needless to say, we were psyched and ready to go!
On Thursday, May 26th, we packed up Silver, only forgot a few minor things, and headed to LaPine State Park, north of LaPine, Oregon. The park is on the banks of the Deschutes River and is popular now with bikers of the motorless kind. It had been quite awhile since we’d camped there and we were shocked to find out that ALL spaces had electric and even if you didn’t need or want power or water or sewer, you HAD to have at least power. LaPine should be renamed LaPine State RV Park. So we had to pay an extra amount to listen to the hearty chugging of the diesel powered pickups pulling their 35+ foot homes along with them. Ah, camping America.
Of course, it was crowded because everybody was celebrating Memorial Day, Robert’s birthday, and the creation of Bobzillasaurus Rex, a formerly world renown cookie monster, now trapped in an aging, uncooperative body. Peering into the mirror the morning of the 27th, Bobzilla (for short), discovered his once-feared, cookie crushing jaw, along with the rest of his facial features had sunk to a 72 year low. So, to prove he could still party on, off we went to Bend for the concert.
We went early and parked in a lot provided and wandered around Mill Creek for awhile. We ate lunch/dinner at Hola’s where the food was ok and the service not so ok. During the meal we decided to stay at a hotel nearby so we could drink and party at the concert (we were having a great day and REALLY stoked about the concert). Spending way more than our budget – hey, you only have a birthday (or anniversary) once a year, right? – we selected an extended stay place within walking distance of the amphitheater.
The gates didn’t open until 5pm, but around 3:30pm, having nothing else to do and knowing we’d be on our feet the entire night (sold out, after all), we went to the amphitheater. The main opening has a pathway with a lot of use running in front of it. The last time we went, everyone sat off to the sides and this time there was no one there, so we sat down. Looking around we noticed a bunch of people standing in front of the gates, blocking the path. In a little while, someone from the concert came over and told them they couldn’t stand there, pointed to the sides and told them where to sit. The concert agent then walked over to us, with people in tow, pointed at us and said: “They are first in line.” So, we were first in line, first in the gate, and stood at the foot of the stage, four feet right of where Brittany Howard ending up standing. We had a magnificent view!
The opening act was a disappointment. Not even sure who they were and the sound mix was terrible, you could hardly hear the lead singer. She had a raspy voice and it would have been nice to have a better mix than the one they selected in pre-show sound checks. A woman about the same size as Peggy, she had her microphone just above her head so that she had to stand on her tip toes to sing into it. She made no move to adjust it and one can only assume she did it deliberately. Perhaps to make herself reach for new heights in her performance?? She played a Gibson and used an inordinate amount of discordance in her playing. But, they looked like they were having fun and the audience has some fun with them as well since they were from Philly and points east.
By the time it came for Alabama Shakes to take the stage, we’d met everyone around us and found a group from our neck of the woods and the amphitheater had filled with the other 7,998 eager spirits. As we said, we are recent (within the last year) converts. You will be, too, the first time you hear Brittany Howard sing. This awesome voice mesmerizes from the opening note and draws you into her world.
And what a world! Both Brittany and her other guitarist, Heath Fogg, play Gibsons. In the right hands, Gibsons are some of the sweetest sounding guitars on the market. And in those four hands and that voice! Everyone was drawn into her web where we were bombarded with the Soul of Rock and Roll and treated to some of the finest guitar work to be had. Because we stood in front of the stage, we were right in front of a row of bass speakers stacked two high. Every time Zac Cockrell threw a string into motion, our whole bodies resonated along. The entire concert was a both a physical and cerebral experience. We spent the next two hours clapping our hands, stomping our feet, dancing, and yelling at the top of our lungs.
Have you ever wondered about people that buy homes on golf courses then complain about golf balls breaking windows and flying into to the yard? The Les Schwab Amphitheater is along the same lines. They built the place in the boonies so they could play music without disturbing the neighbors. So, of course, people with more money than brains build homes around the amphitheater and now those homeowners complain about the “noise”. Well, duh, what did you expect? At ten o’clock, just as they were getting warmed up, they had to shut down. Hey, we’re sorry if you don’t agree, but two hours of Alabama Shakes is just not enough! We could have lasted all night long! THEN you’d have something to bitch about.
Like all good concert goers, we headed back to the hotel and fell into bed exhausted and hoarse, but knowing we’d just seen one of the best singers of rock and roll.
The next day, Robert’s feet would not cooperate and let it be known they were not happy about all the abuse they got yesterday. Evidently when you turn 72 your feet rebel, so Robert spent most of the day in R&R and Peggy spent it, you guessed it, drawing. The day wasn’t a total loss…
On Sunday, dreading the drive up to the Portland/Vancouver area, we called our cousins and canceled our short visit and decided to head back early and beat the traffic. We stopped and had lunch with some folks Peggy knew through one of her professional organizations. Even though we had never met personally, Mike and Sandy treated us like we were long lost friends. We had an enjoyable lunch and conversation and appreciated the hospitality.
The drive home was uneventful – thankfully – with little traffic. We arrived home safe and sound and completely satisfied with the concert we’d just seen.