Yesterday evening, the Berries gathered some gear, loaded it into my van, and headed to a lovely home here in Mondoville for a house concert, where we were opening for Steve Katz, about whom more in a moment. Because this was a living room show, we went acoustic (except for very small amps for keyboards and bass) for the second time this week (and in our history) — I played a conga drum, a flashback to my percussive origins on bongos.
We had tried the acoustic thing earlier in the week at a college-sponsored coffeehouse/open mike night. We didn’t play badly (except when the conga slipped out from between my knees — turns out that khakis don’t let me grip as well. I wore shorts last night.), but the audience wasn’t exactly into the kind of stuff we do. We hoped last night would go better, and I think it did.
Mr. Katz showed up as we were setting up. We were introduced, and I got him to autograph my booklet from the Nuggets box set, in which he appears as a member of these guys:
He said it was the first time he had autographed one of these, and seemed a bit amused.
The living room was pretty well filled by the time for us to start, and some folks had spilled into adjacent rooms. We did a ten-song set, including some tracks from our CD and some new songs, and the response was pleasant. On a side note, some members of our keyboardist’s family showed up, and one told me later that she really liked the acoustic performance because it gave her a better understanding of the songs and harmonies.
But of course, we weren’t the main attraction, so after we put our stuff away, I found a chair and settled in for Steve’s show. I was startled, however, when our hostess spontaneously asked me to introduce him for the crowd. Taken by surprise, I did what folks who know me would recognize as a patented “Mondo Information Dump.” I mentioned Steve’s early work, his work with the Blues Project and Blood Sweat and Tears (which he co-founded), his stint in American Flyer, his time producing Lou Reed’s Rock and Roll Animal album, and his work with Horslips. By the time he sat down, he said, “You forgot the harmonica solo on the first Skynyrd album,” and it drew a laugh.
His performance was a retrospective of songs he wrote and songs that influenced him, from his days as a pupil of Dave Van Ronk in the Village to his time in American Flyer (where he said he drove producer George Martin to distraction with questions about his work with some band from Liverpool). His voice remains in fine form, and Larry (our guitarist, who had grabbed a seat in the first row) said that Steve’s guitar work was a clinic. He also shared a few stories that will be in his memoir, which will be released next year. There was one particular revelation he shared about the Rock and Roll Animal production that he said Lou Reed had never known that I thought was a perfect story, and I’m sure the book will be terrific.
By the time his set was finished, even the folks who slept through my introduction realized that we had been listening to someone who was both an observer of and contributor to some of the significant moments and movements in contemporary culture. After the set was over and his CDs had been signed (I got one, and yes, I made sure he got a copy of the Berries CD as well), the kitchen was nearly empty. He and I were standing there, and I told him how much I had enjoyed the opportunity to play on the same bill. He told me he enjoyed it as well, and said, “You know, the songs you were doing, I think when they’re electrified… they would sound like they would have fit in times I was talking about.”
I flew the six blocks home.