Day 22: Overheard

Trip Start May 25, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , California
Thursday, September 22, 2011

Walking through campus, through the throngs of students, I often hear little pieces of conversation. Most fly by my ears, but one caught my attention. It went something like this....

Guy 1: 'So last night, you were wasted man..... i was calling you name, and like, your eyes were rolling back, you didn't say anything..... you were just totally out of it dude.'

Guy 2: "Yeah. I know. I was in a bad way."

Guy 1: "Yeah - you were like, totally wasted. You couldn't focus...."


Guy 2: "Yeah. I passed out on Scott's bed, and woke up at  like 2.30 am, and he was lying in bed with me......naked. He said it's coz he's run out of clean underwear, but I was like, 'Dude. That's wierd'...... it is wierd right?'

Guy 1: 'Yeah. That's wierd!'

Ahhhh - to be a student again......well I guess I am, but not in that way anymore....sadly!

Last night though was amazing, for I did manage to get in to see Herbie Hancock at the Wellenbach Theatre on campus. Queueing up for tickets, I didn't think that I had much chance. They hadn't released any 'rush' tickets in the end, which mean't trying to heckle for a student discount. Luckily, I found a lovely girl at the box office, who saw I was on the theatre mailing list, and gave me the student rate. I AM a student by the way, but because I didn't pay as much to be here, I am not eligible for the same rates. However, i did pay a year's worth of fees for my three months here, so perhaps it all works out in the end....

Anyway...... it was amazing. Herbie Hancock was amazing. The sound was amazing - so clear and crisp that you could hear every beat of the numerous drums; the bass guitar was as sparkly as the rhythm guitar, and the piano was just as audible in the descant as the bass. My ears were on FIRE! 

The crowd was also on fire - i've never heard such an amazing response to an artist as they walked on stage......everyone was cheering and clapping..... it was going to be immense. The lights dimmed and they started blasting through some of Herbie's older stuff, from the Headhunters days. The audience knew their stuff, clapping as one tune blended seemlessly in to the next. 

The drummer was a former member of Frank Zappa's group. I couldn't take my eyes off him, as his arms and legs seemed to do the most unexplicable, yet coordinated things. The bass player was a local guy who has toured with Hancock before. He duelled with Hancock (now playing an electric piano guitar - the harmonics rising from his thick strings to an unbelievable pitch). 

The rhythm guitarist was from Benin, and had studied at the Thelonius Monk school in LA. He was brilliant, and was given a portion of the show that Herbie described as
 'You won't believe that what you are hearing is one man on one guitar.' he shook his head as he walked to the side of the stage..... 'You have no idea what you are about to hear......' he said again. 

Sure enough what followed was mesmirising...... the guitarist used various gadgets to sample the sounds he was making with his guitar, which he then fed back into what he was playing live, and subsequently overlaid that until it sounded like a full orchestra was backing a full choir - he sand in Benin, using clicks and breathes to punctuate through the swirling jazz riffs. The rest of the band came back on stage and joined in, illuminating what was an amazing part of the evening.

Herbie had his solo time  too - the lights dimming so it was just him and the large Apple computer screen graphics swirling around him.....he played some of the  tracks from his film works, and then all of a sudden, the Gershwin he loved was intermixed - 'Someone to watch over me' becames a collective smile across the audience around me.

Then, the tempo changed, and 'Watermelon' was mixed in with '17' - so called as it has 17 beast in every bar. That's hard to mix into a 4 beat riff, but wow, it worked out amazingly. Herbie said it was all very dangerous, and he felt like he was privaleged to work with such amazing musicians - that he was holding on by a string...... not likely Herbie. You are the man that stretches beyond anything else we have known. Not bad for a 74 year old.... or there abouts.

The end came around.... but the crowd refused to go. We clapped and cheered for longer than I have ever heard before. Herbie came back, and said it was the typical Berkeley crowd that he loved - he seemed as shocked and surprised as he had at the beginning. Off they went again - blasting hell-for-leather through some of the most beloved of tracks.

baba, baba, baba, baba,, ba, ba, baaa, baaa,.... baaa, baaaa.

ba, ba,, baaa.... da, da da da da daaaah daaaahhhhhh.

Finally, they lined up and danced off stage........

It took me right back to Sheffield 1998, when Herbie entered my life through Mark's playing of the CD he had bought at Fopp. I would get to know Herbie a lot better in the next few years - but I have to say that this was probably one of the happiest moments of my life. Being surrounded by such a diverse crowd, all loving the music of Herbie Hancock. 

It was an honour to watch him perform.

Sadly, it makes me want to give up on this pretence at science, and return to music - where my heart has always been. What would we do if we weren't so fearful of what may come next - what we SHOULD do, to be safe and secure. I would love to be a musician again - to own my own venue where anyone can play anything, and anyone can come and watch. Imagine Herbie playing in your venue..... how amazing that would be. I would be free to be happy.
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