july 2001 - the diary

Friday 20th

Returning back to NYC the fast way by I95, the whole trip is less than 2 hours, and getting through the Lincoln tunnel is certainly much faster at noon than at 8 AM! Because of the heat I have decided to start the "NYC tourist" part with going on the Circle Line 3 hour Manhattan round trip, and that turns out to be a splendid way of getting some kind of overview of this crazy island.

Afterwards I manage to survive walking from the west end of 42nd to somewhere around 100th street and 5th avenue. It 's pretty hot but hey it's not every day I get the chance to walk "The City". I even manage to clear up what has been a mystery for most of my life. Why would anyone want to put up a big ugly fence around the lake in Central Park where all the joggers do their counterclockwise exercise? Aha - it turns out to be a drinking water reservoir - that could be used as an excuse I guess.


Lack of time makes a proper visit impossible, but even from the outside the Guggenheim museum is a pretty exciting view. To make sure that I will be able to stand through tonight's show I wisely select to get a cab back to the car park.

Finding somewhere to park near the Bowery turns out to be a bit difficult, in fact I end up in the Edison next to the Mercury Lounge, that I also used last year for the Juliana shows at the Lounge.


Thankfully my legs still manage to make the 15 minute walk to the Bowery Ballroom, which seems like a really nice place. Much bigger than the venues of the last 2 nights, and for the first time with a stage that actually has a stage entrance. Steven and his friends has of course arrived already, so we have a chance to talk a bit before Wheat appears for another very nice show - not too different from last night.


Straight away from the first notes of Cesspool it is clear that tonight the Blake Babies are going to do their utmost to give us a perfect show. Vocals are spot on and even Daniel is firing on all cylinders now. The only thing that takes away from this is the fact that in the beginning Daniel and Juliana spends quite some time carrying on a private conversation during the breaks. Juliana ends up excusing this, explaining that they are in the middle of a very involved discussion, which unfortunately she can't involve us in!


I guess this would be a good time to try and explain what kind of communication goes on between the 4 on stage during a typical show. I know this is a simplification but the general impression is something like this:
John talks to Freda and sometimes he might try to get in touch with Juliana but not too often. Juliana only talks to Daniel. So when she wants to suggest something it's up to Daniel to tell the rest of the group. Definitely weird to observe - but I will refrain from coming up with possible theories on why this is so.


Anyway Daniel and Juliana does put an end to their conversation and certainly delivers as much stage presence as one could wish for. Another thing that contributes to make this night special is that special NYC audience vibe. Daniel started playing some stuff just to entertain himself during a break and someone in the audience asks him to stop it. Then another loud voice from the audience yells out a really ironic "Who IS this guy?". Well I guess you'd have to be there, but what I'm saying is that (from my meager experience consisting of 3 NYC shows) the typical audience here has a great mixture of humor and respect for the band. I don't know what to say about the guy who cried out for "Josie and the Pussycats" though :)


Midway one of the possible reasons for the whole band being so excited becomes clear. "Our friend is going to come up and sing a song with us...". In comes Evan Dando, for a historic performance of "Brain Damage". It is of course tempting to describe him as mister "Brain Damage" himself, and I doubt that it would have been a good idea to take a piece of chalk and ask him to "Walk a thin line" this evening, but his talent is undeniable. So is his popularity, and of course the audience goes wild.


Although it's obvious that "Brain damage" is not one of the songs that the band have rehearsed to death they get by quite well, Evan only delivering a few false notes. The guy at the mixer makes sure that we can hear those though, since he doesn't do anything to compensate for the fact that Evan sings quite a few dB's louder than John. In what is most certainly a comment to the old Lemonhead himself Juliana underlines "I've done every drug that I can FIND!" while looking directly at Evan with a smile.


Evan stays on as an extra guitarist for "Nothing ever happens" and the audience still loves it. The live intro to this song has become very much a "Sweet Jane" thing, and Freda's drumming first of all makes me think of Moe Tucker. Now with the stage being "The City" itself and Evan adding some very Lou Reed inspired guitar solos the whole thing can best be described as "God bless the Velvet Underground". No - I didn't see Lou in the audience, and of course saying that Juliana's voice resembles the voice of Nico would be rather far fetched.


So Evan gets several rounds of applause and the band carry on in great fashion without him. We get the standard encore consisting of "Girl in a box", "Let me roll it" and "Downtime". Amazing to hear how many in the audience actually sing along to "Girl in a box".


Not even the incredibly rude staff at Edison Park Fast is able to spoil my mood after that experience. The cashier apparently has a vocabulary consisting of only one sentence "$25", so I never solve the mystery of how this can be the price for a 3 hour parking. When I give him my credit card he can do nothing but knock on the glass and point to a handwritten note saying that the "machine" is out of order - cash only. Whatever....


I make the 1 1/2 hour drive north to my next M6 in New Haven without even feeling sleepy. Going to a Blake Babies or Juliana show is obviously such an adrenaline kick that you might want to recommend it to modern athletes looking for alternatives to what is currently on the doping list! So am I looking forward to tomorrow? Yes indeed!



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