"Hey Man, Is That Freedom Rock?"

Saturday, July 5, 2003: Lakewood Bar and Grill

Part I: Holiday Road

I found out long ago
It's a long way down the Holiday Road

Gigs on holiday weekends can be tricky. Take last year, for example. Diamondbag scheduled a gig on the Fourth of July at the now-defunct Boar's Nest, thinking that since the Fourth was on a Thursday, Greenville would be packed with drunken partiers who didn't have to work the next day. It seemed like sound logic, until we got to the club and played for about 14 people-all of them friends of ours. Oops.

So we learned our lesson, right? No more holiday weekend shows. Well, not exactly. When my good friend Susan from Chicago told me that she was going to be in town for the Fourth of July and was dying to see us play for the first time, I knew I had to schedule a show. Of course, there was no way we were playing on the Fourth again. I may not be the brightest bulb in the universe, but I ain't that stupid. So we reserved the LBG for Saturday the 5th, and I hoped and prayed that more than 14 people would show up.

I arrived about 7:30 to check on things, and what I saw scared the shit out of me. There were five people in the bar, all of whom worked there.Uh-oh. The band had been in early to load the gear, so I headed back home to grab "the shirt." I wasn't going to wear the usual sparkles at the show-unfortunately, I had been in a walking boot for nearly two weeks after severely spraining my ankle playing softball. Hey, at least I didn't break my nose this time! I was planning on just wearing shorts and a T-shirt due to the big boot, but that plan went out the window in a hurry when adorable LBG waitress Chelsey insisted that I simply HAD to wear the threads. I never like to disappoint the beautiful girls, so of course I went straight back home and grabbed the sequins. Jon seems to think "the shirt" has some magical mystical powers, and he may in fact be right. I guess it's like our version of the Ruby Slippers or something, except that instead of the Wicked Witch of the West trying to steal them from me, it's three guys from Oak Lawn who frequent Zippers on Fitzhugh.

When I arrived back at LBG, I was pleased to see that the place was filling up rather nicely. In fact, there were already more than 14 people there, and we weren't even scheduled to play for another hour. Thankfully, our holiday nightmare from the year before was not going to happen again. Maybe the shirt truly does have magical powers.

Part II: Thrown Down

Thrown down . . . like a barricade
Maybe now he could prove to her
That he could be good for her
And they should be together

The holiday weekend got off to a really tough start for me. Let's just say that Thursday the 3rd was a day filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I lost something that day that I care about very deeply, but it's not really something I am willing to discuss here. I know I'm usually open and honest and will talk about just anything on this site, but some things are just meant to be kept private.

However, I will tell you about the amazing experience that I had on Thursday night. For only the second time, I got to see Fleetwood Mac live-and it was from the fourth row. That's right, I was a grand total of maybe 13 feet away from Stevie Nicks. I'm sure that doesn't impress many of you, especially given the fact that I couldn't even give away the extra ticket I had. But let me assure you that the Mac put on one of the best concerts I have ever seen.

I started listening to Fleetwood Mac in 1976. My Dad played me "World Turning" in his 240ZX, and I was hooked. I even remember riding my bike down to the Wherehouse on Ventura Blvd. to buy Rumours the day it came out (obviously my freakish love of music was present even at the tender age of ten). When Fleetwood Mac opened Reunion Arena on the Tusk tour in 1980, I BEGGED my mother to take me-no dice. And when they returned in 1982 on the Mirage tour, once again I was out of luck as I was only fifteen with no car, no license, and no friends who dug the Mac. When Lindsey Buckingham left the band before the start of the Tango In the Night tour, I thought I was screwed forever. But just to prove that miracles do happen, the band reunited in 1997 for The Dance and I finally got to see them live. It was a great show.but it didn't touch the show I saw Thursday night at the AAC.

We really did have fourth-row seats, thanks to my mastery of the intricacies of Ticketmaster's on-line ticketing system. We were so close that I could actually hear Stevie's tambourine from the stage. It was two and a half hours of heaven for me, and it helped me get through one of the toughest days of my life. I already can't wait to see them again, and that's a good thing because I have tickets to see them this Friday in LA. I'm taking my Dad for his 62nd birthday, and it will be his first Fleetwood Mac show since the Rumours tour in 1977-and he's going to be really happy when they come out and play "World Turning" during the encore. Everything comes full circle sometimes, my friends.

Part III: Oh Well

I can't help about the shape I'm in
I can't sing, I aint pretty, and my legs are thin

With my foot in the walking boot, I knew my usual stage antics were going to have to be curtailed for the evening. Thank God Chelsey had convinced me to wear the shirt, or else the band might have had to rely solely on our <gasp> musical ability to carry the show-and we all know that's a recipe for disaster.:) By the time the band went on, there was a pretty large crowd at LBG, inluding a great many friends who have either never seen us or maybe only been once or twice. So special thanks go out to Susan, the Meisers, the Sharers, Claire, and all of the rest of you who spent some of your holiday weekend with us. You all saw a typical Diamondbag LBG show, which of course means that even the band had no idea what was going to transpire.

After a few warm-up tunes from Jon and No Commitment, we started the first Diamondbag set of the evening with a first-time set opener: "Girl You'll Be a Woman Soon." My walking boot really limited my movement on stage, but before long I was doing my usual moshing anyways. By the time the first set came to a close, my foot was aching, my voice was trashed, and I wasn't nearly drunk enough. Thankfully, the next set belonged to No Commitment, so I had plenty of time to drink Tuaca and catch up with all of my old friends in attendance.So while Jon & Steph & Matt & Eric & Jay & Mike entertained the masses, I hung out with my pals and took requests from the many Neil fans in attendance. Someone asked for "Shilo"-hey, we know that one! Someone asked for "Hello Again"-almost, but not quite. Read on for more details about that. Someone even had the brilliant idea to ask for "America," seeing as it was the 4th of July weekend and all. Yep, playing that one hadn't even occurred to me.

Part IV: Johnny Stew

It takes a worried man, now
to sing a worried song

Last February, our buddy Mike Napodano invited all of his friends over to his home for his annual Italian Day festival. It's an all-day event featuring good food, good friends, and the greatness of The Godfather Parts I and II. (We will not discuss Godfather III, as the mere mention of Sofia Coppola induces shudders down my spine matched only by the sight of Sting singing "Every Breath You Take" with Christina Aguilera and the Backstreet Boys)On this day, however, it wasn't Jay's pizza or Simon's risotto or Dino's sausage and peppers that wowed me-it was the sight of our friend John Dietrich tickling the ivories in a most impressive fashion. I have to admit, I've known the man for years but had no idea he could play. I knew he could design kick-ass websites and annoy the hell out of Simon on a regular basis, but who knew he could play the piano?

So when John told me had impulsively purchased a Neil Diamond songbook on-line and wanted to get together and play, I said sure. After all, I love to sing the Neil any time-and it's not like Diamondbag ever actually practices or anything. So on Saturday June 7th, Johnny appeared on my doorstep with his keyboard and new Neil Diamond songbook. We learned two songs that day-the oft-requested "Hello Again," and the beautiful "September Morn." They sounded pretty good, too, although lemme tell ya that "Hello Again" is a bitch to sing. Listen to Neil try to do it live, and you'll hear what I'm talking about.

We had such a good time that I told John that we'd try to sneak one of the tunes in at our next LBG show if the rest of the band was OK with it. Over the next month, John kept asking me, "Are we gonna play it? Are we gonna play it?"

The day before the gig, John tells me we can't do it.

"I'll forget it. I'll get up there and lose my place and it will suck."

Since that basically describes half of the songs we play anyways, I told him he had nothing to fear. So on the afternoon of July 5th, we reconvened at my place to run over the songs again and pick the best one to play. It became clear that "September Morn" was our choice, although "Hello Again" was starting to sound pretty good too. After what seemed like 30 run-throughs, we decided we knew it and that it was time to unleash the majesty of "September Morn" on an unsuspecting (not to mention drunk and vulnerable) public.

So after the second set got off to a scorching start with "America," "Forever In Blue Jeans," and "Holly Holy," it was time for John to make his stage debut. I introduced him as the honorary sixth member of Diamondbag, but of course also gave props to the other two honorary 6th members: Mike Teschner and Matt Bentle. I could tell that John was pretty much terrified all night, but it also seemed that the seven Sapphire and tonics had calmed his nerves a bit as well.

We went into the song, and the crowd roared. I thought they were cheering the beauty of one of Neil's most heartfelt ballads, but then I realized they were cheering for Jon & Simon, who had decided to slow-dance together on the side of the stage. The fact that I even remembered the words after that sight was my one true accomplishment of the evening! Everyone was holding their lighters in the air, and for four brief minutes the room was filled with love and enchantment. John left the stage to a rousing and well-deserved ovation (dude you rocked!), and then I begged the band to come back on stage. I have to ask these things nicely, you know, because one day they just may tell me to fuck off. But happily they did indeed decide to come back up and spare the audience from my a capella rendering of the Judas Priest classic "Livin' After Mignight."

Part V: What's the World Coming To?

What's the world coming to?
What's the world coming to?
Everyone's gone to the moon
What's the world coming to?

Do you remember that commercial from the late '80s/early '90s where the hippie says, "Hey, is that Freedom Rock? Well turn it up man!!!"Well, it's a given that at every rock show, be it at Trees or Madison Square Garden, someone-probably that same hippie-will scream out for "Freebird."

Of course, most bands are wise enough to simply ignore such a ridiculous request. But not Diamondbag.

Okay, I admit it: we played it. We didn't know it, but since when has that stopped us? I will say that Jon played a ripping solo at the end, and that the crowd seemed to love the silliness. Later in the evening, No Commitment also joined in the madness with another impromptu Skynyrd classic: "Sweet Home Alabama." I hid in the bathroom.

We may never live this down. What IS the world coming to?

Part VI: That's All For Everyone

I need somewhere to go
That's all
Must be what I need
That's all
I need someone to know
Last call
Exactly what I need

After Diamondbag ended its second set with the obligatory second helping of "Sweet Caroline," I knew my work for the night was done. Even if No Commitment had asked me to sing a song during their evening-ending set, it simply wasn't going to happen-my voice was shot. Speaking of shots, there were a few with my name on them.

When Simon joined the guys on stage for the evening's final song-"The Real Me"-I was tempted to jump up and take over. But then I remembered the God-awful note I hit during the last "Sweet Caroline," and my ass was right back in my chair. By the way, I don't know how Simon can rock out so hard on the bass after 14 double Jack-and-Cokes-he is truly amazing.

When they finally kicked us out of the LBG about 2:30, we all headed for the traditional after-party at "The House." Jay passed out quickly, Jon soon followed, and Simon probably wishes he had passed out. I, on the other hand, was wide awake. I finally managed to make my way through the throng of lifeless bodies covering the floor and got home about 6 a.m.. It had been a long day, but the show was a good one and it seemed like everybody had a great time. It had been a very trying few days for me, and I want to thank all of my good friends for your support. I love you guys.

As always, thanks to all of you who consistently come to our shows and for making this band so much fun. And of course, I'd like to thank Jon & Jay & Mike & Eric. I don't do that nearly enough, and I should because these guys really smoke. I hope everyone had a safe and Happy Fourth, and we'll see you again when Diamondbag invades Club Dada on Friday, August 15.Rumor has it that we're recording this one, so you may see our own little version of Hot August Night on the market in the near future. Frightening, isn't it?

And I wish you all the love in the world,
But most of all, I wish it from myself.

Set One
Girl You'll Be a Woman Soon
Kentucky Woman
Cracklin' Rosie
Cherry Cherry
I'm a Believer
Rock Me Gently
Sweet Caroline>

Set Two
Forever In Blue Jeans
Walk On Water
Holly Holy
September Morn
Love On the Rocks
Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show
Sweet Caroline

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