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Monday, September 05, 2005


My focus on this year's Bumbershoot was the Frisell trio but the event is such a total experience I can't disentangle the jam from the overall event.

Even before it began, I had a father's stern duty to lay some ground rules down for Daughter #2 who'd risen early to apply warpaint before heading out to join the ratpack and cruise the scene.

We'd agreed to meet outside McCaw at 1500 hrs so I settled down with iPod tuned to Frisell and waited with confidence.

les girls1457 hrs on the dot: Enter the Mean Girls and, with spondulix duly handed over, off they wiggled and giggled.

jugglerI had time so I drifted and enjoyed the sights and sounds, in particular a remarkable juggler who did nonsensical things with clubs and machetés.

Frisell: In more than good time I entered McCaw and sat in on the preceding act, one Charlie Hunter whose brilliant and multi-limbed fretboard work I don't begin to understand.

The thing about Bumbershoot is that folks wander in and out, so I got a good seat and then moved up to a better one.

buskerThe other thing about La Bumber is that the audience comprises of some very fit dudes with their very lived-in women. What is it about ageing men who keep in shape that they just look more like Harry Crews heros while their women get boobier and scarier of appearance?

The Hunter show over, the roadies poured on stage and set it up for Bill, including a most attractive young lady, complete with back pack and precise knowledge and instruction of placing of mics etc.

frisell tonedThe band was introduced by some radio personality with a big voice and hearty mien, the lights dimmed, the personality left the stage ... enter Bill and messrs Wolleson and Scherr and the show got on the road.

Contrebasse: I'd not seen Tony Scherr in person. He's a squat fellow in gorilla mode and plays a full-size albeit thinned-down bass which he leans into and around and sways with in almost clown-like fashion.

frisell colorHe and Bill trade duelling phrases and boy does he know how to fit in with those Frisellian preambles into a tune. Once going, he plucks and struts and stabs at the notes and is the consummate accomopanist.

Audience: either side of me were free seats that kept being filled with guitarist boy friends and their long-suffering girlfriends who usually gave it 12 minutes before hauling their men off to more accessible sounds.

frisell_AFour seats to my left was a ginormous bloke with a washed-out blond who would *not* sit still and kept jabbiing the seat of the guy in front til he had to turn and ask her to cool it. At which point, she simply shoved her boots up on the back of the seat which annoyed him more. This time it was the *guy's* lady who turned and simply elbowed the lady's feet off in one brusque gesture.


A large African-American fellow in front of me leaned over and said "Please ..." in one of those amiable basso profundo stage whispers that brooks no naysay.

The back of his T-shirt had a simple legend: "Hapkido All-Stars 1998".

The music: Ah yes, the music. Sublime.

As I've noted, Bill starts almost as if just tuning up, drums and bass fitting in and Bill and Scherr exchanging knowing glances.

A chord here, a lick there, a rattle of drumskin, a brush of high-hat, a thwock of bass ... none of the audience knows where the hell we're headed.

It picks up, Kenny sets a beat and suddenly Bill is up around the 12th fret producing these sweeping sounds and the audience is nodding and foot tapping and the frisell_3neck hairs are bristling and your head is expanding and you want to shout hallelujah.

In Spain, olés would be ringing out as if at a Paco de Lucia concert; in Greece, the plates would be smashing to the cries of "Oopah!".

Endearing note: The first two tunes took us to 4:18pm and Bill suddenly asked, in that gentle tone of his, "What's the time?" Pause, and then, "I guess we should just play on?"

Smattering of applause, to which Bill said, "I wasn't fishing ... I was just a bit out of it ...."

He comes across as such a nice guy.

In explanation of his music, I read somewhere Bill said he doesn't sing or get in fights, so he just plays.

This guy is a total rocker. He is *the* consummate bad boy with keys and chords and everything we believe sacred about harmony. He goes in there and he plunders and transforms and works miracles before your ears and ... the man is just plain naughty and brilliant and grabs left and right from any- and everything musical which is why I hear new pleasures with each listening.

Bill also breaks all the rules: I'm a dutiful guitarist who tries not to zoom up and down the fretboard if I can get the same sound from spidering over to a neighboring string.

But Bill, he'll work a single string to come down the D or G in a run and use that slight delay moving between frets as part of the rhythm and timing of his phrase.

Risky as hell because how the heck do you count on hitting the right note? But, do you know? I tried it on "Lay Lady Lay" Frisell-style and it totally totally works.

Encore: the set ended but the audience called for an encore and since the lights didn't go up, it was pretty obvious we were going to get one. Back they came, for the standard accessible Frisell encore which, whatever it is, always segues into "What the world needs now (is love)" which had my pals just giggling fit to bust.

clouds over puget soundWe filed out and there was my darling, at attention and on time, waiting for papa with butter-not-melting expression.

Perfect perfect day, and look at the evening sky we were treated to on the ferry home.

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