PermaLink Playing games while they're playing music09/05/2006 01:34 PM

Suzanne and I saw and heard the amazing Les Paul this weekend.  We're curious where the next generation will learn about people like this.
Suzanne and I spent the weekend playing in Manhattan.

I got up there about my usual time on Friday night, driving the newly-fast red Passat, and we went out to have Chinese food and then went home to molest each other without mercy.  While it had actually only been a few days since we'd seen each other, it felt like much longer.  This weekend was the weekend she chose to celebrate my 44th birthday, though the event actually occurs in the middle of the week, and we had all sorts of interesting activities lined up.

Saturday evening we got all dressed up and while we were supposed to go to dinner at some place in New Brunswick, it was raining hard when we got there and parking was basically impossible to find.  I got a little autocratic and said, "we'll go here some other time," and we went back to Princeton and went to Lahiere's, a place we've liked before.  The rain had stopped, and parking was no problem.

Sunday we got even more dressed up -- Suzanne had a long black dress and heels she'd wanted to wear somewhere -- and went into Manhattan, enduring some really long and stupid delays to get through the Holland Tunnel and up to 45th Street to see Avenue Q, the musical that won Best Musical in 2004.  Picture Sesame Street for adults, including such puppets as Trekkie Monster, The Bad Idea Bears, and Lucy The Slut, and you only begin to get an idea of what the show's like.  Suzanne adored the show -- she'd only heard two tracks from the cast recording I'd put on her iPod -- and we bought the piano/vocal music book and we stuck around and got pictures with most of the cast (six people) and autographs and stuff.  Afterwards, we had a nice late dinner at one of the little theatre-district restaurants on 46th Street and zipped out of Manhattan through the nearly-empty Lincoln Tunnel to go home.

The real jewel of the weekend, though, was Monday.  We charged up all the cameras, including my new Nikon L3 minicamera that has replaced the recently-departed DSC-U30 (more about that later), and went into Manhattan to play around.  We got over there very quickly through the Lincoln Tunnel and found a nice easy place to park on 53rd near Sixth Avenue, and went off to amuse ourselves.  We had a nice early dinner at Rosie O'Grady's, then wandered around taking pictures in Manhattan and doing touristy things like gawking in store windows.    By the way, in the men's room at Rosie O'Grady's, I had my first encounter with an astounding device called the XLerator.  Don't call it a "hand dryer."  

This guy has a much better writeup of it than I could ever produce.

We had tickets to see the Monday night show at Iridium, the jazz club at 51st and Broadway underneath the Stardust Diner (where they have singing waiters for some reason).  Les Paul and his trio (a total of four guys) play every Monday, and I was determined to see and hear him.

7:15 came around, and we got back to the club, picked up our tickets, and got our seats.

At five minutes to eight, Les Paul himself appeared, hopped up on a well-padded stool, picked up his eponymous Gibson, and started playing.  He was amazing.  True, you could tell he couldn't do the spectacular picking he'd done back in the 1940s and 1950s when he played with everyone from Nat Cole to Bing Crosby, but he had that Les Paul style you can hear no matter where it's buried in the mix.  Several interesting guest players came up to sit in with the band, including a Brazilian country music star named Jesse Lee Jones who plays in Nashville with a band called Brazilbilly, and none other than Dave Somerville, part of the original lineup of The Diamonds, who had a big hit with "Little Darlin'" in 1957.  Sure enough, he got up and did "Little Darlin'" and even forty-nine years afterward, his voice was terrific.  There were also two amazingly young girls (perhaps 22) who got up and did the remarkable harmonies on Les Paul's old recording with Mary Ford of "Smoke Rings."  Les played for more than an hour and a half, interspersing it with stories from long ago in jazz and banter back and forth with his sidemen.  You don't expect the phrase "chihuahua humping her leg" to come out of the mouth of a 91-year-old guy.

Or, maybe you should.

Anyway, his set was terrific, and the girl at the ticket window said that we could come back after the second show, when Les would be signing autographs and meeting people.  With that in mind, we went off exploring some more.  We ended up at the Apple Store at Fifth Avenue and 58th Street, wandering around while Suzanne got more and more used to the idea of giving up Windows machines and changing over to a MacBook.  Me, I went and used the men's room, and I have to say, even the bathrooms at the Apple Store are reminiscent of something Apple would design.

No XLerators, though.

We wandered back down Fifth Avenue critiquing all the fashions in the windows at Bergdorf's and Versace and such.  We got back to Iridium just as Les had ended his second show, got out the cameras and the newly-purchased CD, and got in line.  I was truly amazed he still had the energy to sit and talk with so many people.  At least half a dozen people had brought their Gibson Les Paul Editions for him to sign, though Jesse Lee Jones of Brazilbilly got him to sign his Martin!  Suzanne and I got some great pictures with him and we talked briefly before we moved on.

Home, home again.  Out the empty Lincoln Tunnel.  A long delay for some stupid accident on the New Jersey Turnpike barely a mile from Suzanne's exit, and then we were home.

A damn good birthday.  Probably the best I've ever had.  Ever.

But something bugged me.

While we were at Iridium, listening to Les Paul -- the guy who invented half the stuff that made modern popular music possible -- there was a mother and her son at the next table.  She was in her forties, and really digging Les.  Her son was probably 17, and could not have looked more bored.  Late in the first show, Rich Conaty came up and talked onstage about a lot of the early days Les spent playing with the likes of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, and Les spent probably fifteen minutes telling stories about the old days.  I was mesmerized (and I was about the only person who knew who Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards was) and at one point I looked over at the next table.

The kid was playing games on his phone.

Now, think about how stupid he's gonna feel someday.  Some friend of his, or maybe his kid, will discover the records of Les Paul and Mary Ford, and this kid will say, "uhh... I think my mom took me to see him when I was in high school, but I don't remember a thing about it."  Just like how now, there are people who probably had tickets to see the Beatles at Shea Stadium back in 1964 and gave them away because they didn't think it was worth going, or people who probably wanted to get some guy named Elvis Presley off the stage so they could hear Spade Cooley instead.

And by then, nobody will remember Widespread Panic or Sublime or Outkast, but you'll still hear Les Paul.  Shit, he may still be alive and playing for another 40 years.
This page has been accessed 102 times. .
Blabber :v

1. Ed Oster11/12/2006 02:22:48 PM

I'm really delighted at how many--"younger(for want of a better word)---people are impressed by Les Paul and his music. He was my hero at 12, and still is. He embody's both genius and courage in a man deserving to be the legend he is. His winning of two grammies were alost as gratifying to me as I'm sure it was to him

It was as though he were saying--"Yeah!! You young guys are good. So sit back a minute and I'll show you how to REALLY play!

He brings new meaning to the word GREAT.

A longtime LesPaul fan

2. Gregg Eldred09/07/2006 01:54:57 PM

Wow, the XLerator! I remember finding it in a bathroom in Charleston, SC, a few years back. It was so cool, that my wife thinks it was my highlight of the trip.

3. Richard Schwartz09/06/2006 07:51:37 PM

I've heard of the Frog And Peach. Someone must have mentioned it the last time I was in the New Brunswick area, which was probably about three years ago. It's (apparently) named after an old Peter Cook and Dudley Moore sketch.

As for the Gibson, if I get to spend a week in the city anytime soon, I just might do that.

4. Turtle09/06/2006 06:07:28 PM

Yup, Lahiere's is still there, since 1919. They've loosened up their dress code... coat and tie are no longer required. The place we were gonna go in New Brunswick was the Frog And The Peach, which is fairly recent. Down off of New St. somewhere, over near the river.

Next time you're in New York on a Monday night, you might bring your Gibson.

5. Richard Schwartz09/05/2006 09:08:00 PM

Lahiere's is still there? Wow. The last time I was there must have been somewhere between 25 and 30 years ago. Lived right smack between New Brunswick and Princeton from '66 to '78. What was the place in New Brunswick? Odds are, it wasn't there back then, but you never know.

I wonder what a Les Paul signature would do to the value of my '78 "The Paul" 25/50 (commemmorative of the 25th anniversary of the Les Paul guitar, and 50th anniversary of Gibson).

Other stuff to waste your time:
Weightless Dog
My YouTube videos
My Head Talking
Today's Poll
Recent Entries
The BlogRoll
No calendar found.
Monthly Archive
Lotus Domino ND8 RSS News Feed RSS Comments Feed RSS Validator Blog Admin Lotus Geek OpenNTF BlogSphere
Say hi