A Fantasy for New Year - Part 4: The Encores

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Posted by Keith E Rice on 01/02/02 - 10:43:11
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It was turned 12:10. The musicians had been offstage for more than 10 minutes and still the crowd were baying for more. People, particularly at the edges of the site, though, were starting to drift away.

A spot suddenly turned on and picked up Grace Slick coming onto the stage.

She said into her mike: "Just be patient, people. We think the cops are gonna play ball. Just be cool."

She then walked offstage, with many in the crowd still calling for more.

A few minutes later Marty Balin was picked up by another spot. He was sporting an acoustic guitar for the first time that day. Behind him, almost unnoticed, Chris Smith slipped behind the keyboard rig.

The audience quieted and Marty started picking the chords to "Comin' Back To Me"; then Chris played a synth part for Grace's recorder and Marty began.

Almost alone on the stage, dwarfed by the equipment and the video screens - the big one at the back dead - his plaintive tenor seeming to accentuate his vulnerability; it was a perfect moment in time. The audience seemed almost to have held its collective breath. People on the fringes walking away, froze, turned to listen, and froze again.

At the end, there almost no applause - nothing but a ripple of polite handclapping.

Then the spell was broken as Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, Prairie Prince and Diana Mangano (now with a little jacket on) came on stage and took up positions. Marty bowed to the audience and walked off.

"Where's the bass player?" Kantner mused - and, on cue, on walked Jack Casady, Pete Sears, Brett Bloomfield and Tom Lilly, each with a bass guitar strapped on. To the mock bemusement of their colleagues, they proceded to plug in - each to a separate amp.

"Shit, I wondered what all the extra bass equipment was for," Kantner commented with a wry grin - followed by the cacophony of 4 bass players all tuning up.

"We call this the Jefferson Bass Orchestra," Jorma told the audience. "To join, you have to own a bass guitar and be able to play like God. Literally."

At that point, a grinning David Freiberg appeared, with a bass strapped across his large girth. Jorma eyed him somewhat suspiciously. "Can you still play that thing?"

Freiberg nodded enthusiastically but made no attempt to plug in - and would soon inch his way back into the wings.

Then Jack nodded a cue to his fellow bassists and they started the bolero lick. The noise was incredible, shaking the stage.

"Wait!" Diana screeched. The basses stopped. "If I'm up against four of you, I need some help. Darby!"

Ms Gould ran onto the stage and said, "It still won't be enough. There's only one thing for it: we're going to have to get Grace on."

"GRACE!" they called together. Nothing happened.

"GRACE!" they called again. Again, no response.

Paul told the audience: "If you call, she might come."

"GRACE! GRACE! GRACE!" the crowd chanted again and again, led by Darby and Diana.

Onstage Jorma first of all began to look bored with the game; then after a brief exchange with a police officer at the edge of the stage, he started looking apprehensive.

Finally Grace appeared, led out by Marty Balin and Mickey Thomas to cheers and whistles from the audience.

"Okay, okay, I'll do it," she told Darby and Diana, "But you gotta sing with me. Balin and Thomas disappeared as the 4 basses started up again. The Gould-Mangano-Slick harmonies sounded a little odd - and there was no doubt that, on the "chessboard" bridge, the two younger women carried Grace. Behind the musicians the giant screen showed a flowing montage of the acid queen.

The effect was awesome - and the crowd rose to their feet en masse at the end, clapping, whooping and hollering. Grace beamed and then walked off.

Sears, Bloomfield and Lilly all took off their basses and exited the stage as Marty returned.

Paul said, "This next one - "

He was cut off by Jorma: "Just one, Ace. We've been playing games too long. 'Volunteers'. The cops are saying just one."

"Fuck the cops!" Kantner retorted. "We can do at least two."

On the video screens, Kaukonen was seen to say something off mike to Jack that looked like: "Doesn't this old fucker ever learn?"

He then slashed Kantner's opening chords for 'Volunteers' himself, Jack picked it up immediately - and in ramshackle fashion Prairie, Chris and finally Paul followed suit.

Finally, Marty came in - and behind the band, David Freiberg, Pete Sears, China Kantner, Brett Bloomfield, Bob Weir, Joey Covington, Bill Laudner, Graham Nash, Gary Duncan, David LaFlamme and Mickey Hart gathered around a couple of mikes and chanted "Got a revolution!"

Craig Chaquico and Slick Aguilar came on, plugged in and tried to engage Jorma in some duelling; but he was having none of it - playing a perfunctory solo and then just slashing a second rhythm while they traded licks.

Finally, the song came to a shuddering, slightly out-of-time end.

As the crowd went wild one last time, Paul called out: "Thank you! Good night! We'll be back next year."

"Maybe," Jorma muttered into his mike.

The musicians trooped offstage as the stage lights dimmed, with the crowd still calling for more.

Backstage Grace reputedly told a reporter: "I knew we'd fuck it up. I just knew we would. We always do!"

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