A Fantasy for New Year - Part 1: The Afternoon

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Posted by Keith E Rice on 01/01/02 - 12:17:35
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Saturday 10 August 2001...

It was 1 PM and the sun was bright in a cloudless sky. The numbers had grown to around about 3,000...and more people were trailing in. Around the edges of the site drifted the smoke and scents of the burger vans and other food wagons.

Paul Kantner looked out into the park from the stage, his face an emotionless mask.

Bill Thompson came up behind and touched him on the shoulder. Kantner started, then stepped back when he realised who it was. Thompson said something. Kantner's face remained a mask.

Behind them Marty Balin and Grace Slick came onto the stage, relaxed and smiling. Balin joked with Thompson; Kantner seemed more relaxed with Slick next to him.

They conferred in a loose group for a minute or so - joined after a few seconds by the director from the video crew. He looked unhappy with what was said, shook his head and walked away.

Dressed in a long robe-like affair and with her white hair gleaming in the sunlight, Grace took the mike at the front of the stage as the others walked offstage.

"Hello," she said.

A ragged chorus of cheers and clapping greeted her announcment.

"It's taken the guys thirty years some to stop fighting long enough to do this...but the band that loves you but hates itself has finally gotten together for the first Annual Jefferson Airplane Festival."

A second wave of cheers and clapping greeted this announcment.

Grace wisecracked: "And knowing the way we fuck up, it'll probably be the last Annual Jefferson Airplane Festival."

The cheers and clapping that greeted this were decidely intermittent.

"Okay, folks. On with the show." Grace gestured towards the three stools near the front of the stage. " You just know this has to be Hot Tuna."

As Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady came onstage and began tuning up, the video director came over to Grace and gestured in turn at each of the two smaller large-scale video screens to either side of the stage.

Grace muttered something, then said into the mike: "Okay, folks. No video just yet. Sun's probably too strong, anyway." The director walked away and Grace said to the musicians: "You ready yet?"

Jorma leaned into his mike and said, "Hot friggin' Grace."

Slick grinned and barked into the mike: "Ladies and gentlmen, boys and girls...Mr Jorma Kaukonen and Mr Jack Casady...the original Hot Fucking Tuna!"

She left the stage as Jorma played the opening bars to "Hesitation Blues" and the crowd whistled and applauded enthusiastically. It was a shorter intro than for many years, before Jack's bass rumbled in. It was a journeymanlike if unspectacular performance.

Without any comment and with the crowd still cheering, Tuna went straight into "Death Don't Have No Mercy" which seemed to loosen Jack up a bit - near the close of the song, he turned in some pretty impressive fretwork.

Next up, again both without comment, were a lengthy "Walkin' Blues" and "How Long Blues".

"Good afternoon," Jorma said as the applause died down. Nice to see you here. We're going to have some real fun today. Hours of it. And hours of it. And hours of it!"

Jack rolled his eyes and plucked out two notes repeatedly on top of which Jorma played the stinging intro to "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed And Burning". As they moved into the fast part of the instrumental section, a figure in glasses came to the third stool and started banging a tambourine close to the mike there. As if encouraged by this, Jack and Jorma went through the change sequence again and played it even faster this time.

The crowd, now approaching 4,000, went wild as the song came to a crunching end with Jorma's guitar giving out a very electric sustain.

Jorma gestured towards the tambourine player and said, "Sammy Piazza. Folks, give a big hand for Sammy Piazza."

Sammy smiled, bowed his head and left the stage.

"Killing Time In The Crystal City" was the first Kaukonen original of the day, followed by several minutes of tuning up - during which they were joined by Michael Falzarano.

"You ready, Ace?" Jorma queried and, without waiting for a reply, started "Ice Age". It was an energetic performance, with Michael singing the last line of each verse with Jorma and a lengthy instrumental workout at the end.

As the applause receded, the haunting notes of an accordion filled the air and Pete Sears ambled out.

"Another one from the Rev," quipped Jorma and sang the opening, breathy lines of "Great Change".

For "Genesis", Sears disappeared behind the huge keyboard rig to create a mellotron sound counterpointing Kaukonen's vocals.

Next was a stunning and lengthy "I See The Light", with Kaukonen and Sears alternating lines on the "Sunny Day Strut" outro.

On "99 Years" Jack took his now-obligatory bass solo. The band then played "Whinin' Boy Blues" and a particularly-haunting rendition of "Been So Long".

Falzarono took the lead on "Bank Robber" and "Pass The Snakes" - his mandolin particularly effective on the former - and then left the stage.

"In our early days, this guy used to sit in with us sometimes and make us do rhythm and blues kind of stuff," Jorma said as Marty Balin snaked his way around an obtrusive camera.

When the crowd, now well over 6,000, realised Balin and Kaukonen were onstage together, they went predictably wild. They were still shouting and screaming as Pete began a barrellhouse piano intro to "Driftin'" - on which, strangely enough, Jack seemed to have problems getting the simple walking bass line right. Not that that deterred Marty who was clearly enjoying himself, standing next to the seated Kaukonen.

For the next song, though, Marty looked decidely nervous. "I said I wouldn't do this," he told the audience.

"But I said I wouldn't even let you on the stage unless you agreed," Jorma cackled. "Kantner couldn't get you to do it. But I can." With that he started "Turn My Life Down".

From close up, you could see the sweat on Marty's face. He made the first "oh-oh" and that seemd to spur Jorma on into a stinging break. Kaukonen sang Kantner's part on the third verse but Marty's voice cracked on the second "oh-oh". Sears rescued the song with an organ flourish and Jorma finished it with another burning solo.

The crowd howled their appreciation; but Marty left the stage looking slightly bemused.

Jorma let the crowd go quiet before announcing: "A man whose belly is as big as his heart - David Crosby.

Crosby waddled out and raised his hands in the air as the crowd went wild again.

"How about that?" he said, grinning from ear to ear. "That Marty Balin, he can sing some. Let's hear it again for Marty!"

It seemed that the park was just filled with noise as people shouted, clapped and hollered.

Finally the noise died down, and Crosby said, "Okay, folks. This is a song Jorma and Jack and I did in San Francisco many, many moons ago around the time I did my first album. It's called 'Highway Song'."

The number was done as per "BURGERS", but with Sears playing synth in place of Papa John's violin.

Crosby told a little tale to introduce the next number: "This was a song I did with Stephen and Nash. But before that I did it with Jack It was in the Summer of 68. We were goofing off around Laurel Canyon and we were up at Joni's house and Stills decided we should do some recording. But when we did "Guinnevere, it was just me and Jack and a guy called Cyrus Faryar.

The crowd started cheering as Crosby was handed an acoustic 12-string and began the familiar chords. They went quickly silent when Jack started the snaking, tremelly bass lines and exploded in applause at the conclusion.

"Thanks, Croz," Jorma said simply as David left the stage, beaming and waving with both hands to the crowd.

Falzarono returned and Tuna knocked off "Uncle Sam Blues", Trouble In Mind" and "Know You Rider" -  with Sears' piano well to the fore on the last one.

"Dime For Beer" followed, with Michael alternating verses with Jorma.

Falzarono then left the stage again - followed by Pete Sears.

"Time for 'Chelsea'," Jorma ordered. "Grace, can you come out?"

Ms Slick walked out onto the stage and said into the mike: "I told you, Jorma. I won't do it."

Jorma affected surprise. "Grace, you have to. We can't do 'Chelsea' without you."

Jack chimed in - barely audible, as he was several feet from the mike: "You know 'Chelsea' just ain't 'Chelsea' without that voice."

Grace responded: "Well, you can't use my voice. But I know a woman whose voice you can use...Darby Gould!"

Darby walked on to fairly muted applause. It seemed that the audience weren't quite following this game.

Grace left the stage and Darby, in one of her usual very short skirts, sat on the third stool - showing an awful lot of leg. There was a kind of groan from the first few rows in the crowd. Darby, being Darby, shrugged.

"Do I know you?" Jorma asked, all innocence.

"You're my going to. My voice that is," Darby grinned.

Jorma now shrugged, turned to Jack and said, "Go, Ace."

And off they did, Darby and Jorma grinning at each other weirdly  as they sang the introspective lines.

As Darby left the stage to good applause, Jorma shouted after her: "Hey, you know, if Kantner won't give you a job..."

He then said: "Speaking of the devil, I'd like to bring him on now...I've had my differences with him over the years. Now the bastard's stolen my tune!"

Paul Kantner walked out and he and Jorma and then he and Jack made a great show of shaking hands -  while the audience went wild. This time even wilder than for Crosby or Balin!

Paul sat down on the third stool and plugged in - while Chris Smith sat down at the keyboards.

They then went into the Jefferson Starship arrangement of "Embryonic Journey" which they segued into "Hijack", with Diana Mangano (in skimpy halter top - to compete with Darby?) coming onstage to take Jorma's mike off him and sing with Paul. Joey Covington materialised behind a pair of congas and Sammy Piazza reappeared with his tambourine. The spacey outro was quite lengthy, with Jorma using his effects pedals to great effect.

Via some fuzzwork from Casady substituting for "Home", they went into "Have You Seen The Stars Tonite". As Jorma and Chris exchanged wails and strange noises during the long intro, Graham Nash, David Crosby and an equally-corpulent David Freiberg came onstage and Diana took her mike behind the stools. The three men gathered around her and sang into it.

When he looked behind, Kantner seemed taken aback to see Freiberg; he fluffed "Would you like to go up on A-deck" - and Crosby and Freiberg laughed at him.

Via more Casady fuzz and some Smith moog noises that did the "XM" transition, the crew were off into "Starship" - which featured a blistering Kaukonen-Casady instrumental section.

At the "Blows"suite's conclusion, the the park was once more filled with the noise of people shouting, clapping and hollering.

It was now just after 4:30 PM and there were over 10,000 people in the crowd.

Paul said: "We're going to take a short break now while they set up the stage for electric. Besides Jack's complaining his fingers are tired!"

Jorma grabbed the mike off Paul. " Hey, now, thanks to the Croz and Graham Nash. David Freiberg too.And Joey Covington. Sammy. Diana. Oh, and Chris Smith. We'll see you shortly."

As the crew walked offstage, Kantner and Freiberg looked somewhat uncertainly at each other.

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