A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Friday, August 04, 2006


Weather has been unusual this summer, including what the papers called a "violent storm" a couple of days ago. Amir's friends dropping over to the house shortly after the storm cleared described the devastation in the Sixteen Acres section of the city as a "tornado": snapped and uprooted trees everywhere. Close to 20,000 people lost power. Police Lt. Cheryl Clapprood was urging people to stay home because of so many downed electrical wires. She described the city as looking "like a war zone." Mayor Ryan estimates the cleanup cost to the city at a million dollars, maybe more, which he doubts he'll be able to recoup from state or federal agencies.

Here's a tree that the city hadn't gotten around to, spotted today on Parker Street. Fortunately, the Emory House and its surrounding flora were spared.

Ten Years After, Thirty-five Years After

This will be the summer I'll look back on as the summer of Weather with a capital "W"...record-breaking rains and record-breaking heat...and all the craziness that goes along with a heat wave in the city. Feels like the '60's all over again. Also the summer of great block party concerts...and they're mostly '60's redux, too. Like tonight's: Ten Years After.

Alvin Lee is the only one of the original lineup that's been replaced, by twenty-something Joe Gooch. AL seems to have fallen out with his former bandmates, and isn't too cool with their using the original name--says, in fact, it's the only way they could get work--but they sounded pretty damned good to me.

Woodstock was what made the band famous, but it was the beginning of the end in a way. Once they became a mega-band, playing to huge arenas, they lost their connection to the audience, which is why they eventually disbanded. But venues like Stearns Square are pretty near perfect for musicians that like to tour. Just enough people to keep it lively, but still small enough to be intimate.

Drummer Ric Lee did a ten- or fifteen-minute solo--long enough for the rest of the band to take a break--with fearsome energy and some combinations I've never heard before. (And my son is a professional drummer, so I hear my share.) Reminded me of Gene Krupa or Buddy Rich. He had a nice set of DWs with seven cymbals, a bass, two snares and a couple of toms. By the time he was done, most of the audience was on its feet, clapping and shouting, and stayed that way for the rest of the night.

They played "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl," "Love Like A Man," "Choo Choo Mama," "I'd Love to Change the World," etc., etc....an Elvis medley...and plenty of stuff from their new album. All with their patented mix of jazz, blues, and rock, lots of changes, and virtuoso solos.

Sorry, Alvin. You were an amazing guitarist back in the day, and apparently continue to be. But your old mates aren't pathetic, washed-up losers trying to cash in on boomer nostalgia. They're talented and experienced musicians who make the old stuff sound pretty much the same as it ever did, and have some impressive new stuff, too. They seemed to be having a blast, and they showed us a good time, too.

I had met some friends in the Square for the concert, and we headed over to Theodore's afterwards. The band was busy doing the usual after-show autographing, selling merch, and meeting fans. I didn't stay long at Theodore's, which hosts a no-cover open mic on Thursday and is the perfect after-concert spot, imho. So I don't know if Ric Lee, Leo Lyons and Chick Churchill hung around town to party or not. But if they fell into Theodore's and jammed a bit, they wouldn't have been the first Block Party band to do so. They certainly looked like they had the energy for it.