Neil Young News
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 96 17:50:00 UTC 0000
Subject: OPL June 6 (long)
Well, folks, after a mini-vacation, I have found time to write about my favorite of the 3 shows I heard while at OPL. This was the pinnacle of my concert going experiences. I've seen some good shows, but this one was special because of who was playing and the intimacy of it all....
OPL - June 6, 1996
This was the first day that I did not have to rush off and wait in line. I had attended the June 4 show, and waited in line for the wristband for this event on Wednesday the 5th. My friend, Fountainbleau had recommended a couple of record stores in the area, so I decided to check one of them out before heading to OPL.
I found some singles that I didn't have, but soon became concerned that I might miss out on something happening lunch, and then it was out Hwy 280 to Hwy 92, and then down PCH 1 to OPL. I missed being around the scene at OPL. When I arrived, there were only a few people there. It still amazes me that so few people knew about the shows on this, the third day of filming. I chatted with some people I had met in line on Wednesday, and then headed into the bar for a brew and some gazing around.
This turned out to be a most excellent idea. I was sipping a beer and sitting there wondering what the show tonight would be like, when in came one of Neil's people and said something to the bartender. Next thing I know, we were given tickets for a free drink and told that we were being kicked out for a while. I knew something was up! I finished my beer, and finally went outside and told the people there that Neil must be in the bar. They noticed the door was shut, and the "pickle barrel" window had been covered with a blanket. We guessed correctly that Neil had come in for a soundcheck, but after a brief listening to the typical "check..check" from someone that sounded throught the walls like Neil, all of a sudden we hear "Big Time" coming through the walls. There was only a handfull of people there to hear this. A couple of guys pulled up in a pickup and started to go into the bar, when the guard, one of Neil's people, stopped them.
They seemed puzzled, but became a lot more interested when they found out what was going on! Then a guy in a taxi pulled up and double parked in front of the door. He was so amazed that he left the taxi there and stuck around for a listen. The sound was louder than what we heard when listening outside the previous day, probably because of there being very few people inside. After a short period of silence, Neil broke into "Big Time" again. We were told that they were filming a video. Word is that they want to create an OPL atmoshphere while touring, so they plan on using a video screen to display the setup used at OPL. There was another break, and then the bar reopened. I went back in right away, hoping that maybe I'd see someone with the band. I grabbed my camera and my BA#63 fanzine, and headed back into the bar. Ray, the bouncer, was bartending temporarily, so he set me up with a free drink to compensate for tossing me out. Yes, I guess I was a little perturbed by this....(not)...
Soon Billy and Ralph came out and obtained a drink, and chatted with a few people for a while. Just before they took off in Billy's car, I got them to sign the issue. They were very friendly and talkative. I thanked them and headed back into the bar. Next, Pancho came out for a bit, asking about the hockey game. I managed to obtain a signature from him, although he mentioned that Neil didn't want to read that copy. Someone had taken my copy of Broken Arrow #63 to Neil and he wasn't interested in the OPL articles that were in there. Because of this unfortunate incident, I decided not to pursue any Neil signing of my fanzene, fearing that it might elicit some comments similar to what was told about his seeing the booklet. "How would you like it if every word you spoke was written down?" was I was told he had said. A little later, I got really excited seeing Neil enter the breezeway to the bar, saying "Has anyone seen Elliot?". Neil's people quickly came to his aid, and he turned around and left the bar, and headed to the back, where most of the roadies and Neil were relaxing in motor homes. This was as close as I would get to Don Grungio, except for when he came in later to play.
I sat around watching the roadies continue their setup work, and noticed that Larry Cragg had brought in a new guitar that I had never seen before. It was a black Fender looking guitar which appeared to be made of graphite. It had a bunch of what appeared to be switches where one would normally see tone and volume knobs. Neil played it on one of the new songs. It had a somewhat punchy sound, but did not drive his Deluxe into distortion the way "Old Black" does. Another point I would like to make is that I never saw Neil change to the gold guitar. It has been conspicuously missing. I do hope that nothing is wrong with it.
After the close encounter with Neil,people started arriving to stake out their claims to places on the floor. Ray the bouncer wouldn't let anyone stand or sit in front of the stage until later, so that the sound guys could have access to the set up equipment. They had rolling crates that they were using to store strings, picks, and various equipment to set up the stage. My friends Ciaran and Devon eventually arrived and we chatted about what had happened earlier. There was a brief discussion about who would stand where, but soon everyone seemed to know where their spot was. We had expected the show to start early, but that was not to be. No one seemed to get impatient, but I noticed that the show didn't start until 10:00 this time.
Finally, the time arrived for the show was at hand. The band quickly entered and they started off with the now familiar opener, "Country Home". We could tell very quickly that this would be a good night. Billy was incredibly focused. Ralph's backup singing was solid, and Pancho was intent on following Neil, waiting to see if each song would be extended. The first set seemed like the old OPL sets, except that a BA tune would be added. Each set had one or more of the new tunes. The second set opened with the third "Big Time" of the day. It was obvious that Neil was hitting his stride. The sound was very tight. Neil was playing extended breaks at times that were longer than some I had heard previously. "Loose Change" hung on one chord and a chunky rhythm for quite some time. By the time they were done, it almost seemed like a different song.
I had an unobstucted view of the stage, when all of a sudden a tall "groupie" type girl decided to stand in front of me and give Neil the goo goo eyes. These people are experts at coming in and saying something to someone nearby, and then all of a sudden they are standing in front of you. Everything had been great up to this point, but I must confess that I had to "fight to control". If she had been shorter than me, I probably would have just shrugged it off, but now my view of Neil and the Horse would be blocked, and it didn't set real well with me.
When she turned to look at me, I was singing the chorus to "Drive Back" and looked right into her face. "Drive back to your hometown. I wanna wake up with no one around." She then found another spot to stand in. I guess the darker side of me came out there. I was not alone. There was a guy who kept excusing himself like he was just passing through, and then he would just stand there in front of people who had staked their claim to an up front spot. These people all seemed to have a drink in their hand, and didn't appear to be all that "into" the music. I allowed the girls in our group to stand in front of me, as it didn't interfere with my view, and I could keep these poachers away from them. The second set ended much too quickly. It was again a mixture of the same songs heard before at OPL, with a few of the new tunes peppered in. Powderfinger was added, and at some point, Neil again played "Sedan Delivery". This song has such a strange, surreal lilt to it. It rocks, then it floats, then it rocks again.
The third set was outstanding. Neil pulled a few oldies out of the hat, sprinkled in some new material and finished again with "Like A Hurricane". This set seemed very long, and LAH was again a monster. I marvel at the energy they still have at the end of the show. Billy was pounding the bass on the floor again. Pancho was at the synth, as always, and Neil was throwing everything into this one. He finished with the furious Bixby flourish, and then left no doubt about the end. When he was doing his Arc rendition with the Bixby, he popped all the strings off "Old Black". He pulled on the lever, just like he was pulling a slot machine handle as hard as he could. Strings popped on "Old Black", dangling all over the place. Another day, another masterpiece. This was the definition of "shredding". Neil and the Horse left, and it was over. We knew when Neil's guitar looked like a broken set of box springs that there would be no encore.
Neil is ready to rock Europe. He has plenty of material ready to make each concert interesting. The total of different songs being played during this OPL/Catalyst stretch must have exceeded 40. I won't be surprised to see even more as the tour progresses. A few new songs would be nice, also.
The show had ended late again, due to the extended third set, and the late start, the bar was cleared and did not reopen. I waited outside wishing I had something else Neil might sign, besides the fanzene. My only mistake was to not bring anything that I would like Neil to sign. On the other hand, I never fully expected this trip to turn out as wonderful as it did.
Devon managed to get in and get a group hug from Billy, and a drumstick from Ralph. We soon learned that there would be no Friday show, as the roadies started packing up everything. I knew that my OPL adventure was soon coming to a close. The dream would soon start to fade. There were plenty of memories, though. I'm keeping my wristbands, and I took about one roll of pictures. They are in for developing now. Devon and Ciarron will be getting a copy of them, assuming they come out. I didn't have the foggiest idea what I was doing when taking them. I'm camera illiterate.
My friends talked me into staying with them for one more night, but I had to get up early Friday and leave. It was an easy drive back to L.A.. I had the memories of the "once in a lifetime" opportunity to keep me company on the way back. I do hope that tapes of these shows surface. I will treasure these days.
It hurts that I'll probably have to settle for listening to the concerts while in the back row when Neil comes to town. I still want to go, but how can you ever top what went down at OPL? It isn't much larger than a living room. It makes one wish that Neil would only play small places in the future.
In closing, I would like to quote my inspiration for going on this journey. I was fortunate enough to meet Mr. Leo Fender before he passed away. We were talking about how he got involved in being around rock musicians, and he said, "It's better to be in the picture than out of it." I can tell you from my experience that he's right on! Don't be denied...
Thanks again to Devon & Ciaran,
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