Sunday, March 25, 2007

Our Big Night Out

I was kinda quiet around here yesterday because we got invited out by our friends Bev and Bentley to go listen to The Del McCoury Band at John Ascuaga's Nugget casino in Sparks, Nevada. The last time we were there was fifteen years ago when we went to a stop-smoking hypnotism deal. It worked on Mrs. G.

Our friends had bought their tickets weeks ago, and then got involved somehow with putting up posters for the show around Lake Tahoe where they live. Their payoff was two free tickets. Bentley said we were the third couple they asked to go, but later 'fessed up that it wasn't so. That kinda stuff passes for humor amongst us simple hill folk.

Anyway, we not only had to do our usual Saturday stuff but also had to get ready to go: trim Mrs. G's hair, round up town clothes (no holes, zipper works, two matching socks, etc.), get the Satiddy Nite Bath done early, stuff like that. That's a lot easier since we got the pump right inside the house!

They picked us up at 5 o'clock and we went a-bilin' down outta these hyar hills at high speed in their RAV4. The thing had an odd vibration at about 80 per, and I was gonna ask about it, but Bentley volunteered that they still had their studded snow tires on. I certainly don't fault him for that since we're still in snow season, but if we'da had a stud puncture, guess who was the only mechanic in the car and who woulda got to change the tire! There's always the old "gee, I thought it was a boomerang, how come it didn't come back?" trick with the lug wrench...

Oddly enough me'n Bentley both wore Grateful Dead tee shirts. His was way cooler than mine, but he's a lot younger than I am. Guys don't give a shit about stuff like like that, thank goodness, but I am gonna get one like his.

We had a nice dinner at The Steakhouse Grill in the casino. Kinda nouvelle but plenty enough to eat and I had a damn good blackened ribeye steak. The joint was kinda like fine dining, and since I had volunteered dinner as my treat, I'll remember the nice dinner at bill payin' time fer a coupla months. That's OK.

We had to pick up our tickets at the door to the showroom. I think Bev got a kick out of being on the band's guest list. Serendipitously, as they had assigned seating, our seats were all together. We were about ten feet from the stage at table 62. Perfect.

The opening act was a local Reno band, "Moonlight Hoodoo Revue". There's an explanation of the name at the link. Noodle around a little. We met their mandolin player, Zeke, before the show as he knew Bev and Bentley. Northern Nevada is kinda a small pond, and all the bluegrass fans are members of the Northern Nevada Bluegrass Association and pretty much know one another. B & B had "The Saddlerash Bluegrass Band" for years and the band people are even tighter.

Hoodoo started off with a couple of straight bluegrass numbers to get warmed up and by the the time they did the old John Prine tune, "Angel From Montgomery", they were sizzlin'! A coupla more numbers and their 20 minutes were up and to quote Hee Haw, "Pfft! They wuz gone". They're a real good band and that was a treat.

Then came the headline act. The Del McCoury Band is probably the hottest bluegrass band goin' right now. An 'overnight success' that was about 40 years in the making. Mr. McCoury has a beautiful old-time 'high lonesome' singing voice. All the band members, including two of his sons (saves money!), can sing, and all of 'em can pick like the blazes. I think a good part of their current success is that they play any kind of music, country, rock, blues, etc. in the bluegrass style using bluegrass instruments and amazing musicianship. Oh yeah, they play reg'lar ol' bluegrass too.

They played a couple of tunes, and then called for requests and pretty much played the rest of the set from the requests. The band has a vast repertoire. The crowd hollered the most for Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" which the band covered on an album a little while back. Go hear their version. Then go hear
Richard Thompson's version. Compare. Discuss. Not exactly traditional bluegrass, but they do it very well. They did Hank Williams, Roger Miller, and some traditional and bluegrass tunes. They also played "Evangelina", an old Hoyt Axton tune which was really cool because Bev worked for Mr. Axton for several years and they were good friends. They played for an hour and a half and it was a great show.

Just to show what a family-oriented group this is, when Mrs. G bought a CD after the show, she handed her money to Mrs. McCoury. I'm a little surprised they weren't dealin' 'em outta the trunk of their car, but there probly wasn't room to pull it into the casino. The joint was packed.

On our way out, Mrs. G played a slot machine. Now, it used to be that you would put your quarter (high rollers that we are!) in the machine, pull the bandit's arm, and get to listen to your vast winnings clatter into the metal box, which you then went and turned into folding money and got the hell out of there. Not any more. The 25¢ machines don't take coins any more. You put a dollar bill in for credit, then push a button. Mrs. G won big on her dollar. Nothing came out. She pushed another button and got a cash voucher which yours truly then cashed in at the cashier. Seems like a lot of trouble to go through for eight bucks, but I guess it keeps people throwin' money in the damn things longer. It sucks. Either time is marchin' on or I gotta get to town more often. Probably both.

Then we piled back in the Toyota and vibrated back up inta the hills. A good time was had by all and we were home by 11PM.

I didn't even have to use my patented Designated Driver line: "Look, officer, who wouldja rather have behind the wheel of this thing, these three drunks or sober me with no driver's license?" Works every time. We usually get a ride home with the tow truck driver.

You can probably tell from this post that we don't get out much, but it makes it special when we do.

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