Thursday, June 09, 2011
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
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.