Thursday, June 09, 2011

Deep Purple Wang (And Some Playing With Balls)

That title sounds unsavory enough to be intriguing. Why not find out what it's really about?

(No, it's not about Representative Anthony Weiner, the most appropriately-named elected official in recorded history.)

This will be a recap of my softball season thus far, as well as a few short stories concerning the Deep Purple concert I attended, at The Wang Center in Boston, on Tuesday evening.

(Yes, I know. Not what you pictured in your filthy head, and a major disappointment to those who find it a drag when I write about sports. Too bad. In the words of the immortal Rick Johnson: Go sit on a snow cone.)

OK, I'll get the softball stuff out of the way as quickly as possible. A select few of you (that is, my true friends) seem to enjoy reading this stuff, but there's a sizable majority (godless heathens) who wouldn't read it they were on fire and it guaranteed instant rain.

The Swingers (M Street Softball League, my weekday obsession) got off to a 3 and 1 start. I am the coach of this team, as well as a player on it, and it's the first time I've managed a team in five years. The 3 and 1 start was heartening. And the only thing higher than my .750 winning percentage as a manager was my .858 OB% as a player. In the games that led to the wonderful start, I reached base 7 of the 8 times I batted, by either hit or walk. Life was my bucket of clams.

Recently, however, the clams have turned rancid. The Bombers - my Sunday morning team for 17 years now, and a team I was convinced might finally be the one that wins a championship for my old softball ass this year - started the season 0 and 4. To add to the stench, the Swingers have dropped their last three, bringing the record to 3 and 4 there. My contribution to both teams has been pitifully anemic since the great start. I've gone 3 of 15, 1 walk, FOUR strikeouts, over the past 7 games. For good measure, I also pitched three innings (when neither of my real pitchers showed up one night) giving up 15 runs (only six of which were earned, though, which gives some idea of the great defense that was played behind me.)

(I've talked in the past of retiring, and have actually done so, too, but I've come back so many times I'm like a nasty radish in the digestive tract of softball. Here is where I'd usually threaten to quit if I don't get better soon, but you probably wouldn't believe me, so I won't say it.)

Aside from pissing and moaning about my own inadequacies, I usually use these posts to give a shoutout to the guys who have played really well. Since this covers 11 games, I'm not going to recount too many individual heroics. If you really want to see who's hitting well or pitching lights out, you can go to the M Street website and figure it out for yourself. As for the Bombers, I made the decision to not post any individual stats until we actually win a game. That screws a couple of guys out of a write-up, but it saves more of us from embarrassment.

More games today, tomorrow, and this Sunday. I expect to catch four games total in four days, in mostly 90 to 100 degree heat. If nothing else, my 54-year-old catcher's ass will get into shape (if I don't have a stroke or something.)

[That's me in the black, looking damn good for a guy who's about to strike out with the bases loaded and two away.]


Deep Purple is my favorite band. You know that if you've been coming here for any appreciable length of time. Every time they tour North America, I go to a show with my good buddy, and longtime softball teammate, Fast Freddie Goodman. Also accompanying us on a couple of occasions, including this past Tuesday, was Deep Purple fan par excellence, Mark Alimo.

Mark is a good guy, and the only person to whom I'm willing to possibly concede the title of "Most Knowledgeable Purple Fanatic". Over the years, he has seen the band perform somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty times. My own total is, I believe, seven. Aside from that, Mark has a permanent badge of his fanaticism, sporting a superb tattoo of the Deep Purple logo on his left shoulder/ upper back.

(Before going to the show, we all had dinner at a local Italian restaurant. When another diner in the booth next to ours overheard us talking about the show, and professed his own admiration for the group, I took that opportunity to embarrass Mark by requesting he remove his shirt in the restaurant in order to show this guy the tattoo. Mark did so. I was about four beers into the evening at that point, and things weren't going to get any soberer, so I don't believe I apologized to Mark for doing that to him. I'm back to normal - or what passes for that with me - so I now do so. Sorry, Mark!)

Here's the logo in question...

We finished our meal - I finished another couple of beers, too - and headed over to The Wang.

The speculation among us was that this may well be the final time we get to see the band in North America. They're getting up there in age for rock 'n rollers. Singer Ian Gillan is 65, as is Bassist Roger Glover. The best drummer in rock, Ian Paice, is a relatively young 61. That's the same age as current keyboardist, Don Airey. The youngster in the group, guitarist Steve Morse, is "only" 57. Age is not an absolute impediment in music, but hard rock and/or metal may be exceptions, especially for a vocalist. Gillan hasn't been able to hit the spectacular high notes he was once famous for since about 1990, although he is still performing the sort of style that others in a similar situation - I'm thinking of Robert Plant - haven't even attempted in the past three decades, so he gets extra credit for that.

The band is touring with a 34-piece orchestra this time around. The only other times they've played with such an ensemble were those occasions when they were performing former member Jon Lord's Concerto For Group And Orchestra, a full-blown melding of classical and rock styles that plays out at about 45 minutes, and which has been performed live, to the best of my knowledge, only twice during the history of the group. Advance notice I was able to find on these here intertubes let me know that the orchestra would be only an adjunct to the group, not a main player.

I'll cut to the chase and say that the show was good. I wouldn't say that the orchestra added much, to most of the tunes, other than some background body (and Purple are among the most accomplished metal/hard rock musicians alive, so it's not like they need filler.) A couple of the songs benefited nicely. "Smoke On The Water" was interesting with the accompaniment. Especially nice was the somewhat obscure "When A Blind Man Cries", a wonderful treatment with melancholy strings.

The set list, as best I can recall, went as follows:

1. Highway Star
2. Hard Lovin' Man
3. Maybe I'm a Leo
4. Woman From Tokyo
5. Rapture of the Deep
6. Strange Kind of Woman
7. Knocking At Your Backdoor
8. Contact Lost
9. When a Blind Man Cries
10. The Well Dressed Guitar
11. Lazy
12. No One Came
13. Perfect Strangers
14. Space Truckin'
15. Smoke on the Water
16. Hush (encore, preceded by a Roger Glover bass solo, which, being a bass player myself, just blew me away.)
17. Black Night (second encore)

Interesting, in many ways, were opening act Ernie & The Automatics.

Those not from New England probably have no idea who Ernie Boch was, or who Ernie Boch, Jr., is. The elder Boch was a car salesman prone to what were, at least for his day, outlandish TV commercials. He'd smash a windshield with a sledgehammer, have a Llama be his co-star, and so forth. His son has taken over the family business and, if anything, ratcheted up the insanity. His ads are either adored or hated vehemently. I like them. I think he's an egotist, for sure, but so am I. I can't be so much of a hypocrite as to excoriate him for what I'd probably do if I were in his shoes. Boch The Younger is also a musician, having gone to Berklee before settling down in the family business. Not willing to completely give up those rock and roll dreams, he formed the band and has been giving it his best shot during his down time from being a multi-millionaire. In the photo below, that's Ernie second from the right.

Prior to the show, there were 10 or 12 picketers outside. Signs said, "Negotiate, Don't Dictate" (or something to that effect) and they were aimed at Mr. Boch, Jr.

I wasn't in any sort of shape to delve into matters in depth, so I didn't ask what it was about. I opted, instead, to lean against a handy parking meter and enjoy a smoke while watching both they and an evangelical dude hand out literature to mostly disinterested old stoners like myself.

Anyway, Boch's band was pretty tight. Barry Goudreau and Sib Hashian, ex of Boston, were on guitar and drums, respectively. That heightened the appeal. Michael Antunes, on Sax, was fantastic. Short set of bluesy rock, finishing with a medley of Boston's greatest hits (which brought the crowd alive.) Boch plays mostly rhythm guitar - he traded lead licks with Goudreau once or twice - mostly hovering at the far right edge of the stage, out of the spotlight. Interestingly enough, considering their obvious hometown appeal, this wasn't their only date on DP's tour. They started the tour with them, in Canada, and will continue for a few more dates in CT, NY, and Detroit. Boch is living the RnR lifestyle. He's let his hair grow out and sports a couple weeks of beard on stage.

Best laugh of the night, and what I'll close on, came after the show.

As we left the theater, there were some guys hawking bootleg tour t-shirts. I had decided that I might get a t-shirt for MY WIFE, to wear as a nightshirt. I looked at his wares and bought a tie-dyed number for $15.

As it turned out, I guess I didn't look at his wares too carefully. On the back of the shirt is a listing of tour dates and cities. Right at the top of the list? Boston! However, it was spelled BONSTON.

Fast Freddy wouldn't let go of it. As we were walking back to where our cars were parked, he and Mark were having a disagreement concerning the name of a street. I ventured my opinion. Fred said, "Hey, don't tell me! I've lived in Bonston for thirty years now!"


Soon, with more better stuff.


Craig said...

C'mon, Bombers, let's get goin'! Let a geezer retire in peace!

I've never been a big fan of the heavy-metal, but I'm not such a churl that I can't recognize talent when I see it, and Deep Purple are good. Of course, I first encountered Ian Gillan as the original Jesus in 'Superstar'. . .

And I know what you mean about aging rockers. I've been to see McCartney three times now, and the 60-something version is still recognizably Paul McCartney (shit, he turns 70 in a year), but it was a little sad to hear him leaving some of the high notes to younger voices. . .

And there was something terribly sad about The Who's SB halftime show (which was really just the Daltrey & Townshend show). Guys in their 60s should just never be caught singing, "Hope I die before I get old". Too late, dude; WAY too late. . .

And Bonston; isn't that where the Red Sonx play? Or the Celtincs, or the Pantriots?

Ananda girl said...

Ut-oh... Bombers going down in flames! I'll be crossing my fingers that they pull up quickly. :D

Love, love Deep Purple! I can see where Highway Star would get everyone in the mood fast. Sounds like a great show.

As for the t-shirt. Hee hee!

Buck said...

That's me in the black, looking damn good for a guy... TIGHTS? WTF? (insert big-ass... err... SMART-ass grin here)

In re: Deep Purple. It's good to see them, and you, keepin' on keepin' on. I'm more of a Stones fan (blues, and all) and they may yet tour again. I hope they take a page out of Deep Purple's book.

That's pretty funny about the shirt. I'm thinkin' YOUR WIFE will wear it anyway.

Suldog said...

Buck - They're not tights, damn it. They're just black baseball pants, and accompanying black baseball socks (all tight, granted, but NOT tights.)

Buck said...

Heh. What was that about roses by any other name? ;-)

Michelle H. said...

Well, unlike Bucky, I think your tights... er... pants look good on you. Black does suit you. Go Bombers and go Swingers!

As for the concert, glad it didn't turn out like the last one where you Fast Freddie had to... um... use the "facilities" and it took all night to get home.

IT said...

Yup... tights alright. I wouldn't expect anything less from Swingers.

I'm gonna leave that Bonston thing alone.

lime said...

sounds like a good time was had by all. i admit the part that made me well up with joy was that the shirt you bought YOUR WIFE was tie dyed.

Barbara Shallue said...

So much fun!! I went to tons of concerts in my 'youth' but never saw Deep Purple or Boston and I don't know why. I'm sure they came to Houston. I can't afford to go to any big name concerts anymore - kind of ironic, isn't it? I'm glad you're not threatening to quit this time - and yeah, you looked great in that photo - you could have told me you hit a home run and I'd believe you! How sweet you bought YOUR WIFE a shirt - Bonston just makes it more special!

Anonymous said...

I'm visiting from Knucklehead's blog. I enjoyed reading your entry. I've been listening to my husband sing Deep Purple songs for months! He and our 17 year old nephew are going to the concert tomorrow (Friday 6-10) in NJ. I've already warned him about the book leg tour t-shirt!

Cathy from Tokyo (or actually - - New Jersey)

Cleary Squared said...

DP Mark II was the "best known" version of the band (Gillan, Paice, Glover, Lord and Richie Blackmore). "Perfect Strangers" was the very first cassette I bought with my own money ($8.98 plus tax at the Dedham Mall Strawberries) in 1984.

Blackmore had a reputation for being very, very difficult, and he and Gillan's fights over content were legendary. Blackmore ended up quitting DP for good in 1993 and now plays folk ballads. Gillan and Blackmore still snarl at one another, but at least the members now are more cooperative.

Ian Paice's drum, put him and Neil Peart together for a drum duel...

Cleary Squared said...

Also...Ian Paice is 62, not 61.

Shrinky said...

..dragging my arse over to go sit on a snow cone..


Clare Dunn said...

To paraphrase a popular ad jingle:
this post has "Got It All!"

xoxoxo, cd

Suldog said...

Michelle - Ah, I love a fan who remembers previous tales with the same cast of characters! Bless you, my child!

Lime - As I wrote that line, I knew you'd love it!

Cleary Squared - Gillan still snipes at Blackmore in the occasional lyric. Any time he says "banjo player", which he has at least a couple of times in context, that's the person to whom he's referring.

messymimi said...

Wishing you good luck, and no Charlie Brown finish, for your games this weekend.

Uncle Skip, said...

GS has a tie-dyed shirt. Maybe I will stencil Bonston on it?

rc said...

The reason Suldog and I have been friends for - what - about 20 years now is because my four favorite conversation categories are:
1.) Sports
2.) Heavy Metal
3.) Drunken Stupor Dares and
4.) General Bathroom Humor (a catch-all for anything that makes me laugh in a drunken stupor).
I kind of like it when he fits all four into the same post...

Jeni said...

Only you, with your wonderful, wacky way with words, can bring me to read and enjoy reading posts about heavy metal music -which is not high on my favs list, although I can say that I do like Knocking on My Back Door! (or is it "your back door?" Whatever, I've heard that one and do like it!) And I think rc's reasons for liking you are pretty much along the same lines as mine! (Plus, I think for all your bluff and bluster at times, you are a genuinely nice gentleman too!) Peace and stay as cool as you can with the temps being what they are of late.

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

While I have to agree that Anthony Weiner IS the most appropriately named politician ever, we do have a local guy out here by the name of Russ Blewett. I'd say he's a close second.

Okay, a distant second.

Karen said...

Well, the subject line drew me in and then it's just about baseball, so I left :P

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Never seen Ernie et al but wouldn't mind catching their gig sometime, especially now that you've given them a really nice review.

And early 60's is hardly old for a rock star...I mean shoot, Keith Richards has to be what? 150 by now & he's still out there doing his thing. Oh, that's 150 in whiskey years.

Carolina said...

It's not that I don't want to read about your sporting adventures; I just don't understand any of it.
"The Swingers (M Street Softball League, my weekday obsession) got off to a 3 and 1 start"... Sorry? Huh? What?

And about that T-shirt: I once worked for Shell and they have a large oil refinery in Pernis, near Rotterdam. They give out a monthly magazine, called Shell Pernis. Someone once forgot the 'r' ;-)