Friday, October 1, 2010

Gov't Mule & Yonder Mountain String Band Live in Iowa City

For anyone dealing with the heat in the West Coast or the rain in the East, let me toot the Iowa horn a bit and just tell you that the weather around here during the past week has been magnificent. Sunshine and blue skies with temperatures in the mid-70’s; just a perfect fall week that is going to turn colder very shortly.

In other words: get out and enjoy it while you can.

Which hasn’t been a problem as the boy is in soccer, which means his little sister and I are in soccer with him, what with practices, games, and schedules that require us to rush and get to places at specific times.

This city is soccer crazy, with vast soccer fields just north of where we live in suburban bliss. There are cornfields to the left and right of the complex where the parents drag their ass every weekend to watch the kids play.

Tonight there was a game in the late afternoon featuring Ethan’s team, a group of seven and eight year old boys with vast amounts of energy and drive. They’re undefeated after four games so far this season, and most of the scores have been blowouts.

My son is a carpetbagger. A boy who is content with the throw-ins and kick-offs, letting the other, boys that are more aggressive dominate the offense. He relishes in the victories while not contributing (as of yet) to the score.

It’s not just his passiveness; the other boys aren’t very good at sharing the ball even when a teammate is painfully open. Ethan started to notice this after a few games but he doesn’t do much to publicize “I’m open!”

He’s showing improvement, but the real obstacle seems to be that he doesn’t really like soccer that much because it requires work. He complains that in practice they don’t play soccer, they play “scrimmage.” I politely informed him that “scrimmage” is indeed “playing soccer,” albeit with boring focus placed on the fundamentals of the game.

Tonight was also a kickoff of the University of Iowa’s homecoming festivities, a bunch of typical rah-rah stuff followed by a parade and after that, the university puts on a concert in the Pentacrest.

The shows are free, the perfect type of musical event to bring the family-provided that you allow for proper distance between your crew and the drunken college kids that will used the closed streets to their advantage by going to a bar for a few drinks and then head over to catch a song or two by the band.

This year, the band was Gov’t Mule-a southern rock band with ties to the jam rock crowd. In other words, a band that’s perfect for college kids who no longer have the Grateful Dead to follow around anymore.

I counted for sets of boom microphones recording the proceedings, with the other hardcore followers pushed towards the front of the stage during Yonder Mountain String Band, who even had their own loyal followers in attendance.

And rightfully so; Yonder Mountain is the kind of bluegrass band that’s designed to appeal to the collegiate Deadheads with quirky plucked reworking of Talking Head covers and originals that recall the days in the dorms when you stuffed paper towel rolls with Bounce sheets to cover up the exhaled pot smoke.

“Some of the parents in the crowd are smiling right now,” observed Yonder vocalist Jeff Olsen “because they remember those days too.”

He was right; I got a kick out of his wink-wink nudge-nudge reference to collegiate pot smoking.

The pandering continued with their ode-to-weed “Two Hits And The Joint Turned Brown” before calling out Warren Haynes himself to assist on guitar for “Death Trip.”

It was nearly an hour after the Yonder set before Gov’t Mule took the stage to advise us to settle in for a long set.

We lasted for a half-dozen songs.

With one tired soccer boy bundled in a hoodie and a blanket on a folding chair completed passed out and a three year old girl desperately trying to stay away by dancing with her daddy, the buzzkill look of my wife suggested that it was time to leave the proceedings and take the kids home to bed.

Speaking of buzzkill: she also didn’t like my idea of buying a bunch of candy cigarettes to hand out during Halloween. I still contend that the humor won’t be lost on most people and with other, stricter parents in the neighborhood; it will ensure that they stay away from us and create a family dialogue about how their children should not smoke.

So up we went during a great Mule version of “She Said, She Said” followed by an awesome instrumental medley of Beatles songs. The sounds of “Tomorrow Never Knows” reverberated off the downtown Iowa City buildings as we made our way back to the warmer confines of our mini-van.

If one of the four tapers present at the Mule show on Friday night happens to be reading this, a copy of your recording would be appreciated.

I'll be sure to play it for my wife whenever she asks why I never take her to music shows anymore.

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