Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Where Have All My Friends Gone?

I first saw The Jayhawks live on the Tomorrow the Green Grass tour back in 1995. It was at a place called Saratoga Winners, in the Albany, New York suburb of Latham. The venue took its name from the fact it's on the drive back down-state from the race track in Saratoga Springs.

That Jayhawks show was one of only two I saw at the now-defunct club, which burned down in 2009 in an incident that resulted in its owner being convicted of insurance fraud, but acquitted of arson. Go figure. Both of my visits to Saratoga Winners were for shows I consider to hold a special place in my personal history. The other was a Wilco/Scud Mountain Boys performance that still stands as the best double-bill I've ever seen, not the least important reason for that distinction being it was my introduction to the brilliant—in my opinion—Joe Pernice.

The Jayhawks show was so important to me because it was the only time I'd seen their classic lineup, including both Gary Louris and Mark Olson. Olson left the band only a year or so following that show, and all the subsequent times I'd seen them live—and there have been many—Louris was the lone front-man. Of course, you can probably guess where this is all leading.

Sorry, I'm not a great photographer.
Last Tuesday night marked the occasion of The Jayhawks reunion tour's return to Boston, and my first time seeing them live, with Olson, in over 15 years. The Jayhawks' visit to the Paradise Rock Club was also KJ's first time seeing them, not to mention it was our future son's first concert ever. Well, sort of. But, it almost didn't happen for us.

You see, KJ is 8+ months pregnant, and as the date of the performance drew closer, we came to the realization there was no way she was going to be able to stand for the duration of a club show. So, I called the Paradise and inquired about their limited reserved seating for persons with mobility issues.

Long story short, they took care of  us, and I can't express how truly grateful we are for how accommodating they were. Every member of their staff that we dealt with was extremely helpful and polite, and I want to thank them for allowing us to see this show from a pair of chairs set to the right of the stage.

Unfortunately, this also meant we had to split up from the four friends who attended the show with us—including el-squared, who it seems has gone to about a dozen Jayhawks shows with me, although that's probably a slight exaggeration—but that was an understandable price to have to pay.

Although Louris has proven to be a more than capable band leader, nothing beats the version of the Jayhawks that features the lead vocal harmonies of Olson and Louris together. So, while this performance probably fell short of the magic of seeing them for the first time in the mid-'90s, it sure brought back some pleasantly nostalgic memories.

The show also gave me a greater appreciation for their brand new material. Prior to the show, the consensus among my friends was that the new album rates as solid, but falls far short of Hollywood Town Hall and Tomorrow the Green Grass. Last week's performance didn't necessarily change that assessment, but that's more an acknowledgment of the brilliance of those two albums than a negative reflection of Mockingbird Time.

Seeing Olson, Louris and company perform this new material live highlighted how truly strong songs such as "Closer to Your Side," "She Walks in So Many Ways," and "Black-eyed Susan" are.

But, of course, the set's real highlights were the old standards, particularly back-to-back renditions of "I'd Run Away" and "Miss Williams' Guitar." The former is one of the many songs that KJ and I consider "ours," and realizing how apt the third verse of that song now is reinforced our feeling of ownership.

One day, I suppose, we'll tell the little boy about the first concert he attended, and how much he seemed to enjoy it, judging by—according to KJ, of course—how much he was moving and shaking during the show. Depending on how old he is at the time, he may roll his eyes at the notion, but we'll know we couldn't have made a better decision.


  1. Have a great Jayhawks story to share with you some day. Too long for a comment. Nice post.