Thursday, October 25, 2007

3rd Townes Van Zandt Tribute night

"gotta take a picture of this mess"
Eric Taylor, backstage of 3rd Townes italian tribute

Dear folks,
the long awaited 3rd Townes Van Zandt Italian Tribute finally took place in Figino Serenza, Como, thanks to the efforts of that untirable excellent songwriter, promoter and bearded Bodhisattva that goes under the name of Andrea Parodi. It was my first TVZ tribute, both as a listener and as a performer. I loved it, and I'm glad to say that all my shyness and problems - about celebrating someone when it's too late... - really disappeared and got wiped off by a stream of good feelings that really didn't show a single trace of falsehood or hipocricy. My short tale cannot be an objective one, 'cause I had the luck to be on the bill with some real fine artists, so don't expect some serious reviewing from me.

For me, it all began with a nice dinner with "everybody". I'd done the car ride alone, from my hometown Modena to near Cantù, where Figino with its nice mid-sized theatre is. My main feeling was the fear of a speed ticketing machine, and the terror of not making it on time... all disappeared as I got to the theatre, not on time to make a soundcheck, but still on time for mushrooms risotto (italian way of cooking rice), served by none less than the excellent songwriter Ralston Bowles. What a nice person... a thoughtful smilin' musician with a whole universe behind his boxer's eyes... but he will never get boombastic over anything and his presence is as quiet and soft, as if you had always known the man. The pre-show dinner was an excellent occasion to make some acquaintance with new friends, all real fine musicians and all well aware of the incommensurable value of Townes' art.

Show time arrived quickly, and then the backstage mess began... as the hall was getting crowded to almost its size. Someone who has never performed on stage just cannot imagine that kind of backstage mess... and actually, even an experienced artist such as Eric was amazed at it the other evening. Just imagine an 8 square meters room with about 12-15 musicians in, everyone with instruments, cases, luggage and so on. And a reasonable number of beer bottles. Amazingly enough, seems that everyone was managing to do his/her own necessary things. Can you imagine a couple dozens musicians softly rehearsin' 12-15 different TVZ songs all at the same and place, everyone taken into his/her own feelings, with his/her own fear and ambition and hope, but never disturbing the others, and all of us covered by Townes' spirit? Of course you can't... but so it was, Hazydavey never lies.

The show was opened by Tarantula Waltz, a really nice very young guy from Sweden doing a whispered version of "Flyin' Shoes". Markus' shoes sure can fly: I have not seen Hayes' movie on Dylan, but I'm quite sure that if the director had ever seen Tarantula, the Scandinavian kid would've been booked to play the part of some young Dylan. Ehm, maybe with a bit of black hairdye, and some artificial curls. Anyway Markus is great, he has an infinite heart and is as open and clear as Townes' Texas skies. I sure wish him much luck, for he deserves to get what he's seeking - whatever it is and no matter whether he knows or not!

Then more artists took turns on stage... I can't remember much about it, 'cause my own small set was approaching, and also 'cause - having stepped out the security exit for a piss and a cigarette, I managed to lock myself out just few minutes before having to get on stage. I started banging on the backdoor, and if it wasn't for Romi Mayes I would still be outside there! I can remember hearing Ralston doing "Lungs"... two nice Italian friends, Milena and Luca the "Flying Roads", doing a passionate, touching version of "No Place to Fall". Also on stage we had Andrea Franz Franceschini, who is a great connoisseur of Americana music, and a promoter of excellent events at his own place, the Pegaso Music Bar. All there for the sake of the song, with nothing to prove but our love for the Man and the Music. Beautiful, heart-lifting feelings. And oh, Stefano Barotti who is an extremely talented song-writer, a real young poet, who did a very special treatment of the first TVZ song I ever heard, "Dollar Bill Blues". I hope I'm not forgetting anybody, I beg everyone's pardon if I do... but it's hard to tell about a show you only heard... from behind.

Well, I was out there banging on the door, sweet Romi finally opened the emergency door and I got literally thrown on stage, having just the time to wear my "No Deeper Blue" original T-shirt. I was nervous, I confess it. Being sober (I've been for 3 and a half years) is a great thing, but well -- if there is a time when a shot of booze would really be fancied, that's before getting on a stage! I enjoyed performing, but I'm not totally satisfied with my own performance. I suffered from not checking the sounds, and from being rusty after almost 3 years of inactivity. I tried to balance the lacks with all my heart. Tried to keep the guitar soft, and poured all my fucking heart into the singing. Somehow it worked, some say. I did 2 songs. I introduced the first ("Il blues del corvo/Black Crow Blues") explaining that, since TVZ wanted to be remembered as a poet, I thought it was good to have his words translated into a language that everyone could understand. After my first song, I spent one more minute for late great Jim Calvin, asking the audience an applause for "a good person, a great musician, and a friend of Townes and a great Townes' musician". Then I did "Kathleen", got off stage, spent a little more time in the backstage and took a seat in the audience.

From there I enjoyed another small set by Tarantula, who did a very Townesian song of him. Only then I realised that there was a screen on stage, displaying Townes on video for the whole length of our show. Very nice! Then, in a random order, I enjoyed the excellent guitar player Marco Python Fecchio, doing an english, faster version of the "Black Crow Blues"; Marco also served as an accompanying guitarist of the artists to follow, like Andrea Parodi and Eric Taylor.

I think Max De Bernardi and Veronica Sbergia (both on vocals and stringed instruments) did the most joyful performance of the night. They did an amazing version of "Delta Mamma Blues" which you can also appreciate on Veronica's myspace (look for Veronica Sbergia and click on the video above the TVZ tribute poster). Much, much work on the instruments, and they really brought us lotsa joy, folks!

Renzo Cozzani did a beatiful translation of "Tower Song": you'd be amazed at how deeply, and gently at the same time, Renzo is able to catch the true spirit of Townes' lyrics.

Andrea Parodi, master of ceremonies with good friend Massimiliano Larocca, did "Carolina": it's his italian version of "Tecumseh Valley", which he recorded on his beautiful first cd. Really heart-touching, the man is highly inspired.

Massimiliano Larocca (the other master of ceremonies) did a splendid, very well fingerpicked version of "Rex's Blues", again in italian language. Kreg Viesselman did another great TVZ slow minor key classic; I'm sorry I can't remember which song it was, but Kreg surely served well with his extemely powerful voice! I totally missed Romi Mayes' performance, 'cause it must have been right after mine. I "only" had the pleasure to appreciate Romi's niceness and energetic presence during the very long aftershow... surely an unforgettable night.

Terry Lee Hale got on stage with his dobro and heavy copper bottleneck. Killed us all with his outstanding human niceness, and with a rather changed version of "Snake Song".

Then it was time for Eric Taylor, accompanied by Marco Python. It was a sketch on Townes' own beginning: they simply started making music together. Eric did a compelling rendition of "Nothing". And told a couple of nice tales about having "tough gigs" with Townes. And a funny gag about a whisky bottle which he claimed lost or stolen... the bottle finally appeared, and after another theft and comeback, the bottle definitely ended up in the middle of the stage, beside Eric, on an empty performer's chair. I could not help thinking, that should have been Townes' chair... with Townes' place on Earth being blown away by a bottle of whisky. Real high, unwanted metaphor that almost made someone cry in the audience. Or, at least, making my eyes wet just now, as I try to recall and write...

After that, Eric did "Brand New Companion" (with an exciting blues lyrics improvisation) and "Where I Lead Me". Marco Python surely matched the singer's height, and added a lot to the hard-blues power of that unforgettable performance. That was also the show's ending, with no shared finale but I can say that, as Eric and Marco were finishing their act, all of us were on stage or just beside. Just to feel as close as possible, it simply came natural. So, no other finale was felt as really needed. A real fun version of "White Freightliner Blues" sprang from Romi's guitar in the backstage... I joined, and Eric did, too. And that was maybe the most funny time for me.

The after-show was maybe even nicer than the concert, though I obviously can't tell you all that can happen when you put Renzo Cozzani, Tarantula Waltz, Romi Mayes, Hazydavey, Eric Taylor, Terry Lee Hale, Ralston Bowles and Kreg Viesselman all in the same empty hotel lounge, from one to almost five in the morning. That is a private affair, I guess, though the hotel night clerk is probably gonna keep the memory for a while. I can only, and I wanna say, that trading stories, songs and feelings with this wonderful bunch was a true experience, I mean it with a capital E. All of us had songs that caught the other folks' enthusiasm... and I took the chance to listen to Ralston and Romi, whom I had not heard on stage 'cause their acts were right before, and after mine. How good they are! Romi is simply one of the nicest, and more enthusiast people I ever met... Ralston writes unbelievably deep songs... and he is deep himself, too, though he may try to deny it. And it was touching, to see how Eric was moved himself by the high quantity of true feelings and devotion we displayed for the whole night towards his old gone friend, Townes Van Zandt. I'm not joking, the man was already moved in the backstage and, having been there, I can easily understand why. Had I been a true old friend of Townes, I probably would have cried somewhere somehow.

Being simply Hazydavey instead, I had to wake up early the morning after, leaving Renzo still sleepin' and dreamin' of the Manitoba Line, and Davide Ravera's ID at the hotel reception. Andrea Parodi is warned: invite Hazydavey for a show, and there is a good chance he'll leave Davide Ravera somewhere else. Or, call him Hazy and hazy he may be. A terrible 5 hours drive through Milan's traffic jam, and 200 more kilometres of heavy rain, could not lower my satisfaction level for having taken such a chance to go back to some serious stage after almost 3 years of inactivity. Now that I've done it, I really feel like trashing Davide Ravera's ID when it comes through the mail. But you know that keeping Davide Ravera and Hazydavey both alive, in the same time and place, is my present challenge, so I won't do it. Not for now, at least.

Now I'm gonna get ready to get out this evening, for another show in my hometown, in the nice theatre where I performed (for the first time in almost 3 years) last week. Gotta get there, have fun, and support my fellow musicians. Beside that, I really like the woman who plays percussion... but I'm afraid this also has nothing to do with Townes.

A gigantic "thanks" to everyone who organized, gave support, played at or attended the 3rd TVZ Italian tribute. Hats off to Andrea Parodi and Massimiliano Larocca, for their truly passionate job, and good luck to everyone with their own individual projects.

Hats off, and incommensurable appreciation, to Townes Van Zandt the poet, man, and musician, whose songs have such a special gift of putting hearts together, and make them sing and play. May he smile, as we do our best to honor him here below.

Peace, love and happy trails to all,
davide ravera "hazydavey"

"and if we help each other grow
while the light of day
smiles down our way
we can't go wrong"
Townes Van Zandt

hazy pic by martina - grazie

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