Monday, August 3, 2009

Lyle Lovett and the 'lectrical Storm

Last night's Lyle Lovett and the Large Band's concert was cut short a bit due to the arrival of a massive electrical storm. The music was great, the band was fantastic (I mean, in addition to his acoustic guitar, we had two electric guitarists, a fellow that swapped between acoustic guitar and mandolin, a fiddle player, a cellist, pedal steel, a great piano player on a Yamaha grand, a fantastic bass player on upright bass, drums . . . and four backup singers). I mean, when you get good enough to be able to hire a band with that many session-quality country music, jazz and the blues players, you got a show.

I'm not a music writer so I'm not going to struggle to provide a review here. I like Lovett's music and love watching a great band do its stuff. So I had me plenty of fun.

The storm that ended the show was slow moving and had been walking up from the south for some time, with nearly continuous flashes of lightning. It packed a punch. Lovett said that the show organizers had requested that the band get offstage. Weather permitting, he said, they would resume after the storm passed. But by the time the leading edge of the dark clouds began to move slowly overhead, the brilliant lightning, wind gusts and light spatters of rain had the crowd on their feet and moving to the parking lots, and stagehands were covering the instruments and sound equipment with tarps.

Under such conditions, especially when one is in a metal wheelchair in an open field, one begins to feel a trifle vulnerable,

I reckoned the smartest thing to do was to beat feet down by the front, under the stage overhang, near its nicely-grounded metal legs. The lightning might be attracted to it -- a tall, well-earthed conductive structure?" You bet. But at least the current would want to flow through it to ground. Or so my thinking was: I might be wrong about all that.

The other options that presented themselves were to to stay in the field in the wheelchair and take my chances, or transfer into a plastic lawn chair and have Mrs Elliott move the wheelchair a safe distance away. And take our chances.

Or go home. Many were.

But I was also struggling with another important consideration: Mrs Elliott had just returned from the Ben & Jerry's booth with a cup of chocolate ice cream for me and I was totally torn between finishing the ice cream or getting the hell to safety. When one is in motion in a wheelchair, one has no safe place to set a cup of ice cream, you see, except in one's lap, which on bumpy grass, is insufficiently secure for a tub halfway filled with melty ice cream. It actually took me at least two minutes -- two minutes in which I was feeding myself ice cream -- delicious, cold, chunky chocolate fudge ice cream -- to realize that I would need to shortly abandon the quiescently-frozen delicacy and suggest a course of action.

A ground strike less than two miles away pretty much made my mind up for me.

I chose to get our asses under the metal stage.

But the storm got more and more violent and when another ground strike took out the power to the stage as well as every other light source within sight except for some parking lot lights at the Old Mill, and it was clear that the really big part of the storm was still dozens of miles away yet on a course directly for us, we elected to head home. We packed up and Mrs Elliott rolled us right back to the car.

I got safely seated while Mrs Elliott struggled at the back of the car to stow the heavy wheelchair. "I better not get struck with lightning while I'm putting this thing away!" she said. "If that happens, you'll be in big trouble."

[Image of photograph taken by Medical Examiner showing glass blown out of car's raised rear door, under which is charred skeleton with fingers welded to metal frame of wheelchair.]

Fortunately, the trip home was uneventful.

The storm passed overhead slowly, lasting more than an hour, so there's no chance the concert would have resumed. Too bad, as The Large Band was most surely going to end with a mighty finale.

But it's okay -- during the drive home and from the relative safety of our house we watched an amazing display. I've never seen such a stunning display of lightning. Whole sequences of cloud-to-cloud strikes lit up the skies like flashbulbs in a smoke-filled room. One ground strike had to have been within 500 feet of us. The FLASH-BLAM! positively levitated Mrs Elliott right off her feet.

The whole evening -- the music and the light show -- were worth the price of admission.

12 comments:

  1. "But I was also struggling with another important consideration: Mrs Elliott had just returned from the Ben & Jerry's booth with a cup of chocolate ice cream for me and I was totally torn between finishing the ice cream or getting the hell to safety."

    Like me say before, you totally weird, mon.

    Woulda made a hell of a story, though: "Charred corpse found clutching ice cream cup in wheelchair."

    Seriously: Glad you (and nobody else) didn't get incinerated last night. And that they had the good sense to call off the show.

    BTW I noticed the caption on the event in The Bulletin today mentioned nothing about the show being curtailed by weather. Maybe it's against Bulletin editorial policy to ever acknowledge that bad weather happens in Bend.

    My own personal scariest lightning story was being stuck out on Crane Prairie in an aluminum boat when a storm came up suddenly. Thank god my outboard was reliable.

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  2. "BTW I noticed the caption on the event in The Bulletin today mentioned nothing about the show being curtailed by weather. Maybe it's against Bulletin editorial policy to ever acknowledge that bad weather happens in Bend."

    Or the shooter/writer went home before the show was stopped.

    It was with sadness that I saw that the expensive seats were only about 1/4 to 1/3rd full. That's certainly something the Bulletin would not be likely to mention.

    Hard to pay for a band as big as Lovett's on small ticket sales. Of course, there's no telling how many folk saw the storm coming and decided just to stay home.

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  3. "Of course, there's no telling how many folk saw the storm coming and decided just to stay home."

    Could be, but my guess is most of those seats never sold. None of the Schwab concerts are doing that well this year, say my informed sources. These are tough times and it's hard to justify $100 (or more) for a pair of tickets for what are, let's face it, mostly second-tier entertainers. (Meaning no disrespect to Lyle, whom I love, but he's past his peak.)

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  4. Open boat in middle of body of water not recommended during electrical storms. Glad you got out.

    Lyle was the only show I've bought the expensive seats for. I've enjoyed his recorded music for a couple decades and have never had a chance to see him, or The Large Band, anywhere before, so I cheerfully ponied up the cash back in April.

    The missus wants to see Bonnie Raitt in September. Raitt's a steady performer; a little too country for me, but I'll wager she puts on a good show. I reckon we'll get lawn seats and I'll try to figure out how to get out of this stupid wheelchair (months yet before weight bearing permitted on game [gamey?] foot) and into a low beach chair. Then back up again.

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  5. "Open boat in middle of body of water not recommended during electrical storms."

    Especially aluminum one. Conducts electricity REAL well.

    "Lyle was the only show I've bought the expensive seats for. I've enjoyed his recorded music for a couple decades and have never had a chance to see him, or The Large Band, anywhere before"

    Saw him and his Large Band the first year they performed here -- I think that might have been The Schwab's first season. They were terrific. That band was REALLY tight.

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  6. "BTW I noticed the caption on the event in The Bulletin today mentioned nothing about the show being curtailed by weather. Maybe it's against Bulletin editorial policy to ever acknowledge that bad weather happens in Bend."

    Huh? Buddy, that's just plain stupid.

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  7. "But I was also struggling with another important consideration: Mrs Elliott had just returned from the Ben & Jerry's booth with a cup of chocolate ice cream for me and I was totally torn between finishing the ice cream or getting the hell to safety."

    Oh, dad xD That is so you! You would have trouble choosing between safety and ice cream. I'm glad nobody got hurt and I'm jealous that you guys get such cool weather. I would have loved to see that. I can't believe it happened RIGHT after I left! Ah well.

    Sounds like an awesome band. Also, good use of apostrophe to create alliteration.

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  8. Just a little bit of info on Lyle's attendance numbers here:

    http://frequency.blogs.bendbulletin.com/2009/08/03/photos-lyle-lovett-cut-short-by-lightning

    shorter: http://bit.ly/VKzs8

    I don't have the time right now to get into a breakdown of how many reserved seats were sold, etc., but I do usually do a end-of-season wrap-up story.

    As for blackdog's comments about sales, I don't know anything about any of the upcoming shows, but I do know that Sugarland drew about 4,850. That's the largest attendance since Willie Nelson's show in 2007. Sugarland's draw bested every show of the 2008 season, and all but one from 2007.

    My full review of Sugarland will be in Friday's GO! Magazine.

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  9. @Ben: Thanks for the numbers!

    You're right -- the pictures suggest that Lovett doesn't move his left hand a lot. But he plays plenty. Andy caught Lovett when vocal blending w/ the other singers was more important than playing. BTDT.

    @Bethileptic: Yeah, you know me well. Thanks for noticing my little apostrophic gag.

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  10. "the pictures suggest that Lovett doesn't move his left hand a lot."

    The result of that injury he got from a bull five or six years ago? Must have been some nerve damage there. Damn shame.

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  11. Time to squash this rumor. Lovett played nearly non-stop, both with The Large Band, with a more intimate four-piece one-mic group doing bluegrass, and on small-ensemble ballads. His left hand was plenty busy. Those shots are atypical, moments when he was concentrating on vocal blending with the four backup singers to his right.

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  12. Whoa ... yeah, just to be clear: I was simply making a joke about how Lyle's hand appeared in the same position in each shot. I was NOT implying that he didn't play. In fact, I'd forgotten about his run-in with the bull.

    Clearly, Andy just happened to get some shots when he was singing and not playing ...

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