Sunday, March 17, 2002: Ben's Half-Yard House
We had been waiting for this day for months-an afternoon gig on the biggest party weekend of the year. We practiced, we studied, we showered-we did everything we could do to make this a great show. Diamondbag was going to rock St. Patrick's Day, and it was going to rock hard. After watching my Horns gloriously advance to the Sweet 16 by beating Mississippi State at the American Airlines Center, I high-tailed it over to Ben's Half-Yard House in order to make the 4pm start of our set. Unfortunately, I was apparently the only one in Dallas in a rush to get to Ben's that day-the place was practically deserted. Let me point out that this was in no way a reflection on the greatness of Diamondbag; after all, three-fourths of our audience was still nursing a hangover from the enormous Greenville Ave. parade the day before. We were originally supposed to play on Saturday and likely would have knocked the socks off of hundreds of puking frat guys; instead, we were about to play to six people, two of whom were working behind the bars in Ben's impressive outdoor fiesta tent. Life ain't always fair, brothers and sisters.
Oh well-the show must go on, right? Hell no. We stalled as long as we could, hoping the luck of the Irish would get some people off their asses and into Ben's. As luck would have it, some brave souls did finally show up, and with a determined rush, we hit the stage and played "Kentucky Woman" in a warp-speed capacity that would have made Joey Ramone dizzy (if he wasn't dead, that is). My first thought during this song? "Wow, these monitors are REALLY loud." And that's a good thing, because for a change I could actually hear myself on stage over the deafening roar of the mighty always-present DIAMONDBAG STAGE BUZZ. We continued on with our set, and in a few instances actually played songs at their correct tempos. We finally debuted "Walk On Water," which is one of my very favorite Neil tunes. It gave the band fits during rehearsals-yes, Neil does occasionally write a complicated song. They ain't all E-A-D, ya know. I must say that "Walk On Water" came across famously, a fact backed up by renowned musicologist Curtis Mulkey, who was heard to exclaim, "That new song rocked!" Thanks, dude.
After about five or six songs, I blew off the set list. I just wasn't in the mood to sing "Play Me" in front of a festival crowd. We played a rockin' good version of "Cherry Cherry," and then closed the first set with everyone's favorite pseudo-Neil song "Rock Me Gently." At that point, it was time for a meet-and-greet with all eight audience members. That took about 20 seconds, and then it was time for booze (and some NCAA hoops on the big screen indoors). Despite the meager crowd, I was in a fine mood; after all, my Horns had won, and the cute Ben's waitress who had never acknowledged my existence before made a point to come over and say hello. Rock and roll baby-rock and roll.
Since I had decided to throw out the original set lists, I was inside furiously crossing out and adding tunes when much to my surprise, the band decided to start the second set without me. I know I'm the least-talented one in the band, but I thought this was just a little bit over the line. So I sprinted back into the tent, arriving just in time to join the band for a rousing "America." It was so rousing that it inspired two cute girls in the crowd to actually get up and dance-if only for a moment. For future reference, Diamondbag highly encourages dancing girls. Especially when they dance with each other. Now, if only the Bailey's shot girls had been dancing with each other.
About halfway through the set, we were joined on stage by a true Texas legend: Mr. Willie Nelson. The applause was thunderous as Willie joined me for a beautiful duet on "You Don't Bring Me Flowers." The entire crowd stood erect to get a better view of our Willie-all five foot seven inches of him. It was truly the finest moment in the one-year history of Diamondbag, a fact made all the more clear when the rest of the gig fell flatter than Gwen Stefani's stomach. Most people never get to see our Willie, and after a rock-hard moment like that, it was simply impossible for us to keep it up any longer. After the ten-minute "Brother Love" seemingly converted half the crowd to Judaism, we knew it was time to stop-but not until we had played the traditional Scottish hymn "Mull of Kintyre." After all, Scottish.Irish.English.we stupid Americans don't know the difference anyways, so who cares? Jon's son Sean joined Daddy to sing the song, and it would have been quite a beautiful moment if our pal Ian had not being playing the bagpipes in a kilt right next to them. I'm still having nightmares.
After closing with "Sweet Caroline," it was time to drink. And drink we did. We wanted to hang around to watch some of the set by Hard Night's Day, but as usual it took them about three hours to set up. We spent most of this time dodging the scary psychic lady who wanted to tell all of our fortunes. From what I heard, she only got one right: "Matt will get very drunk today." After catching a few Beatle tunes, it was time to go. But we didn't leave Ben's empty-handed that day-no, we learned something very special. We learned that it doesn't matter if it's small. It doesn't matter if it's big. No one cares if your hair is red, or if you're wearing a wig. Matt will always drink, and Diamondbag will always be silly. But everyone, everywhere, loves to look at a Willie.