This past Friday, August 31st, Fiona and David crossed the Hudson to the Chance theater in Poughkeepsie.  (I had a commitment at school.)  They were going to see two bands, Ashes of the Phoenix and Thunderstruck.  Ashes is fronted by one of David’s fellow students at the Rock Academy; their set list covers classic rock from the seventies, eighties, and nineties.  Thunderstruck is an AC/DC tribute band.  Now, AC/DC is, with Black Sabbath, one of David’s two favorite bands; indeed, it was the promise of performing in the Rock Academy’s AC/DC show that enticed David to join the school last summer.

Well, from what Fiona and David told me, Ashes performed a scorching set, playing two encores.  Afterward, when Thunderstruck came on, David was at the front of the crowd, singing along to every song at the top of his lungs.  When the band started playing “Whole Lot of Rosie” (a song David had sung at the Rock Academy show), the singer leaned down and held out the mic for him to sing a line.  When David did, the singer passed him the mic so he could finish the verse, which concludes with a long, stretched out note that Fiona says David nailed.  The singer took the mic back from David, gesturing for him to come up on stage with the band, and when he didn’t, sending one of the stage hands to grab him.  David sang straight through to the end of the song with Thunderstruck.  Once the song was over, the singer asked him what his name was, then declared him possessed of the true spirit of AC/DC, an assessment with which his ridiculously proud parents could not agree more.

Thanks to Thunderstruck, for giving a fifteen year old kid an experience he’ll never forget.

(photos via an antique flip phone, but you get the idea)

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Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan

If I can trust my memory, which I think I can, I stumbled onto Bob Dylan’s music through MTV, back in the early years when pretty much all it played were music videos.  There was a video of Dylan playing “Tangled Up in Blue” live, and right from the get-go, I was blown away.  I loved the brilliance of his lyrics, the story whose contours they traced.  A little later, I saw the video for “Tight Connection to My Heart,” from the just-released Empire Burlesque, which became the first Dylan album I owned.  There was something about being a fan of Bob Dylan in the mid-eighties:  compared to even the more outré artists and bands some of my friends were listening to, Dylan was out there, his own thing.  Eventually–a surprising number of years after I first heard “Tangled Up in Blue,” actually–I bought Blood On the Tracks in cassette form and wore it out on a succession of tape decks.  Somewhere in there were the Traveling Wilburys albums, on which Dylan sounded as if he was having a blast, and then, later still, Time Out of Mind, with the astonishing “Highlands.”  After my wife and I got together and we consolidated our CD collections, I spent one fall listening to a lot of Dylan’s early albums, amazed at how timeless they sounded–they still sound.  As with so much of his music, those albums could have been released last week.

I suppose the biggest complaint my family and friends who don’t like Dylan have had over the years has been his voice, which, while tuneful more often than I think he’s given credit for, does go in its own direction.  For me, though, that remains part of Dylan’s fundamental appeal, his stubborn insistence on being himself, on performing his way.  He’s seventy-five today, and he continues to put out innovative and exciting work.  It’s hard for me to think of anyone like him in America  music.  I sometimes envision the late Johnny Cash as a mountain, this great, craggy rise.  If that’s the case, then Dylan would have to be the Mississippi, father of waters.  May his music continue to flow on.

Here’s that original video from all those years ago.


A lesser-known Dylan track, but well worth a listen.


Dylan having fun with some other greats.