Missing March Madness

I have to say that March is a difficult month to not be home. You’ve got the Big East tournament, the Allmans pulling into the Beacon for 14 shows, March Madness in the air. I love all this stuff and I love the feeling of hope and renewal starting to waft through the air, as the weather fluctuates daily from 25 to 65.

It’s hard to describe just how much of a ritual and time marker the Allmans beacon shows have become — but they have been doing them almost going back to when I started working at Guitar World, during the waning days of Bush I. (digest that for a moment.) I have only missed one year, while living in Ann Arbor. I made it back for a few shows the other year we were out there. Every other March I have attended anywhere from one to 6 or 7 shows, most of them just walking in the back door without a ticket. (Thanks, Kirk.)

Last year, I had a particularly memorable couple of Beacon shows. Norm came in from California and we hung out at a suite at the beacon hotel one afternoon, jamming with each other and another friend of his. Then we went over to the Beacon Theatre upstairs dressing room and watched Andy Aledort conduct a lengthy and masterful videotaped lesson on slide guitar with Derek Trucks. Then we went back to the hotel and jammed with Andy, the King, for an hour or so before the show. The show itself, while great, as per usual, was reduced to a secondary memory.

The next weekend, Art came in from Chicago, we got a hotel room and went to a Saturday night show with Per and Rodger. It was a particularly stellar show, with several guest performers, including the great bluesman Little Milton, who took over the stage and has since passed away. Seeing your favorite band with some of your oldest, dearest friends is tough to top. I only wish we had started the tradition five, six, seven years earlier. It’s hard for me to believe how little Art and I have hung out over the last 8 years or so, since we moved to New Jersey. That was a mistake, which would have been easily rectified. Too bad we figured that out just before I moved to China – but at least we did figure it out before I moved to China.

Art and I went through so much together, shared so many experiences in college that I feel like we served in the Marines together or something. A lot of that comes from the summer we spent living together in a sheet metal cabin in Wyoming, breaking wild broncos and wrestling bison. (Okay, maybe that was just the peyote, but we really did save a girl’s life by carrying her off a mountain on our shoulders at 3 in the morning with no flashlight and coyotes howling all around us after drinking a bottle of Jim Beam a couple of hours earlier. Stuff like that bonds you, man.)

The day after the concert, Art and I roamed around Manhattan, ending up on Bleecker Street and feeling thirsty. It was a little early to pop one on a normal day but these were special circumstances. We headed into a bar to wet our whistle, figuring it would just be opening and stumbled into a mass of drunken Welshmen, arms around each other singing the national anthem of Wales. Seems that early that morning was some sort of blood match rugby game, against one of the other British Isles nations,(Ireland?) and the Welsh had own and these blokes were celebrating big time. Most of them seemed to have been there all night. Little did I know that six months later, I would be replicating their performance at 4 am in a bar in Beijing with a bunch of Steelers nuts…

That day, the early tourney games were just starting and put away a few beers while watching the hoops, enjoying the comfortable silence that can sit between good friends.

Anyhow, as you can see, I am feeling a little melancholy for home right now, sitting here at midnight, listening to Eat a Peach on headphones as Becky works away across the room. I’m sure that my good friend and Slam compadre Ben Osborne is right when he says that it is infinitely more enriching for me to be trekking around Beijing than going to yet another Big East tournament – or Allmans show, for that matter. But I really do long for both at the moment.

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