I was the only person who saw Dan Bern at Lytton Plaza, Palo Alto at 4:30 then Three Dog Night at Menlo Park’s new glossy Guild Theatre at nine. I was pondering the possibility and then my wife –Terry my wife –Terry Acebo Davis, said her friends were going so we should go, too. [Note: previous draft of this was called “Three Small Dogs at Night”]
Three Dog Night was all over AM radio when I was a child and I listened to Top 40 on AM radio. They have, according to the internet, twenty Top 40 songs, from about 1968 to 1975 and three Number 1 hits. We previewed the show on our Apple SmartPhones with Apple iTunes and Terry knew all of those songs; I got a 12 out of 20.
The most famous song of my childhood and the one that made me more or less connect those other 10 or 20 was the one about Jeremiah the Bullfrog. I wonder if the band briefly considered changing their name to Three Frog Night. Which reminds me that here in downtown Palo Alto there is a firm called Ribbit Capital – “ribbit” is the noise a frog makes, a frog is green, money is green, etc. Ribbit Capital according to the Silicon Valley Business Journal, formerly the San Jose Business Journal, has $1.2 billlion to spend on future hits not in music but in money per se. In Silicon Valley people are very creative about how to take money and turn it into more money. Who’d of thunk it?
Of the 17 songs on the set list last night I liked six of them, meaning it was a song I looked forward to them playing and then the payoff was satisfactory.
The man I was with Sunday night is a retired doctor from Stanford and former UCLA lineman, and I joked that he should go from his reserved seat in the balcony to very near the stage so that if the band had a heart attack he could intervene. My wife, a retired nurse with 44 years experience, much of it in the emergency room, has an app that showed her that the nearest defibrillator device was not in The Guild but across the street somewhere. Meaning, if the lead singer of Three Dog Night, who said he was 76, has a heart attack on stage, the doc would run down from the balcony to the stage and start compressions and Terry would tear across the street grab the AED and run back in to zap him back to life (which reminds me: they got Macy Gray in April — sold out — and Femi Kuti in July – they could also book Zap Mama).
Terry and the doc remembered that they once won a dance contest in the Amazon, on a medical mission. They also tell of one of their colleague who didn’t trust jungle food and brought many pouches of tuna fish. Terry in her younger days was very daring and would fly in a helicopter to pick up sick kids in Turlock and zip or zap them back to Stanford hospital, so years later she decided we should leave Doc and Mrs. Doc in their cozy reserved seats and try the Three Dog Night mosh pit.
Which is how I saw the set list with the names of 17 songs. There was a new one called “Prayer” that had a very long intro and was a decent enough way to kill four minutes of a Saturday night (as Robbie Fulks might say) – the song itself more than the intro — but it sounded like they were singing along to tracks (pre-recorded parts).
During a long intro to a song listed as “LIAR” I yelled out “You’re a liar!” to considerable effect. It literally rocked and rolled the house. The singer stopped and gave me a very concerned, hurt and shocked look. Some audience members – it was not actually a mosh pit, there was elbow room — gasped and turned towards my direction. The sound guy doing mix monitors left his perch to say something scolding to me, pointing to a crowd noise mic which I hadn’t noticed before – earlier he told me that my clear plastic drink cups were in clear violation of the sign that says PLEASE DON’T PLACE DRINKS OR BELONGINGS ON OUR $35M STAGE. And, most dramatically, for the rest of the evening – “LIAR” being #12 of the 17-song set list, uniformed security guards, in rotation, stood two feet from me gving me the stink-eye. A young Latino guy then his older white boss, maybe ex-military or at least ex-cop with his crew cut (yet both behind the masks). I was not intimidated — I had a former Bruin lineman as my wingman – and he knows first aid– but I certainly did not yell out “LIAR” again, nor did I call the singer my “MAMA” or “a BULLFROG” at the exact wrong times. I mean, the song, which I was not familiar with, literally goes “LIAR, LIAR, LIAR” as a hook, but I guess it was not about him. Actually, he said he joined the band in 1980; the song may have been before his time. It was potentially about Chuck Negron or Cory Wells.
I was going to write a preview to both shows around the fact that Dan is the name of the singer in the Dan Bern project whereas the sole surving member of original Three Dog Night is also named Dan or Danny: the second lead, Danny Hutton, also a former artist manager from Donegal, Ireland. The drummer and keyboardist and guitarist each got to sing the lead of a song, and were all about my age, 58.
Dan Bern has a song called “Tiger Woods” about his testicles — or a metaphor for courage or nerve. It says Dan, or the speaker, has big balls, that swell up to the size of small dogs. He actually sang that song Saturday, on request, but made it more PC by swapping out “Madonna” for “Toni Morrison”. Actually that’s a lie, I suggested such but Dan ignored me. Dan Bern: tw0 balls the size of small dogs; Danny Hutton, three dogs, night. And three number ones, got it?
Dan Bern played a song about Barry Bonds and the numbers of homers that man had in successvie seasons, peaking at 73. (“…sixteen, twenty-five, twenty-four, nineteen, thirty-three“). Actually Dan’s license plate from New Mexico says BBGX92 which is not a vanity plate but could be interpreted as a gift from the gods or the bureaucracy to say Barry Bond Going Extreme in 1992, or something. It ain’t bragging if it’s true.
The crowd at my smaller but not humble show included unscripted solos by Octavia age 7 and Ruben age 10. Ruben had two solos. When Dan Bern sang “Jerusalem” which is about the fact that Dan Bern more than Danny from Three Dog Night is a candidate for the Messiah, Carol Kiparsky and Ian Irwin sang along. That is the couple on Cowper Street in Palo Alto — near the former tree called George — I will repeat that for emphasis – near the former tree called “George” — who were in the local news because in February, 2020 they got lost in Marin for a total of nine days and nights. They returned with faculty intact — which is a pun because they are or were college professors. I was not terribly surprised to see them because I had recently met her son Jon Kiparsky who used to work for Waterbug Records before becoming a computer guru and told him of the show. I wonder if somehow the complete lyrics to Dan Bern “Jerusalem” came to Carol and Ian miraculously as they were lost in the woods dehydrated and starving, and sans dog, or they were already fans. I don’t recall seeing them at any of my previous 500 concerts over the previous 27 years, and didn’t ask for their history.
Dan Bern performed under a tent my wife found at REI for about $100 last year. Khoi from the band Corner Laughers helped me pitch it. Thanks, Khoi from Corner Laughers.
It started to rain hard when Dad got into his groove and he invited the crowd – which was about 20 people – to join him under the small tent. Indeed, in shows like that I am a stage manager, at the ready just in case someone hassles the singer or messes with the gear. Not that that gives me the right to yell “LIAR” in the middle of another guy’s monologue at another venue, either.
When The Guild opened I wondered if it would put me out of business. They are doing 10 shows a month in a $35m venue with a catering kitchen and showers. I am doing three or four shows a month either at The Mitch, the Mitch Bowl or The Lyt, all public facilities built by the taxpayers for diverse purposes. But Dan Bern in the rain for 20 people in the rain for free, to my mind, is a better show than Three Dog Night for $99 per ticket and only 1 original member. It may turn out that the founders of the glossy non-profit theatre will hire Dropkick Murphys and no security just to add a patina to all that glass and metal.
Anyhow, up next for me is an Earth Day show with Matt the Electrician and MC Lars Sunday, April 24 at Mitchell Park Bowl outdoors and free – – rain or shine.
In May I have multiple nights or days with Gaye Adegbalola a Black, 76-year-old lesbian doing solo blues guitar and voice, debuting two songs she wrote for Lions with Wings, my label, one about John Lewis the other about Kamala Harris and her pussybow.
Gaye was in Saffire The Uppity Blues Women who recorded for Bruce Iglauer’s Alligator Records. Bruce Iglauer like Dan Bern is a graduate of Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. Wisconsin the Badgers play Iowa State at 3 today and are 25-7. Stanford women Friday beat Montana State by 41 points and a woman named Fran Belibi believe it or not dunked the basketball. I rode the elevator in the business school parking lot after the game with a family whose daughter was with Montana State but they had come out from Silver City, NM, just like Dan Bern.
- “Black and White” was actually a Pete Seeger song twenty years prior to being number 1 with 3DN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4f65mO146Zo
- The original singers were Danny Hutton, Cory Wells and Chuck Negron.
- This is pretty close to the band that played last night:
- I guess a similar discussion is: is it still The Grateful Dead without Jerry Garcia? is Joe Russo’s Almost Dead better than Bob Weir et al? And what about the cover bands, Grateful Shred featuring Palo Alto’s Dan Horne? If you wrote a bunch of these songs, would you go out with a lesser skill set then when you were 30 or would you license a bunch of kids to play your music and make your music immortal? Or maybe its better to play until you collapse on stage, which is better than what my mom went thru fighting dementia and being bedridden for the final 14 months of your life. But we’ve somehow skipped the needle from the track about “sex and drugs and rock and roll” to something geriatric. Green Day has a bit where they pull three audience members from the crowd to finish their songs; maybe bands made of septagenarian should travel with recruits and pass the torch onstage in a ritual; there’s a documentary about a blues singer passing the torch, maybe its Buddy Guy. And I’m not truly discriminating based on age if I have a 76 year old and a 64 year old coming to town, I’m flying them out. But if you’ve done what it takes to get to number 1 – three times — you can take a little ribbing forty years later. Long Days Journey into Three Dog Night as Eugene O’Neill might have said. Keep on rockin’ in the free world.
- Kind of a red herring but before going back to Stanford to watch women’s basketball at 6 I am watching a bit of either Wisconsin-Iowa State or Michigan State Duke, I am reviewing four books: Bruce Iglauer’s history of the blues and his label, Alligator; Annette Gordon-Reed about Juneteenth (she being the Dartmouth alum and Harvard professor from Conroe TX where there is now a mural of her); I Feel Love: Donna Summer, Giorgio Moroder and how they reinvented music by Dave Thompson, 2021; and a pamphlet by Rigo about 1987 and Brian Willson with two L’s not the pitcher not the singer although Rigo has it spelled wrong on the cover: Willson was a peace activist badly hurt while protesting military munitions in Concord, CA; BUT THEN, I ran into Janis Stevenson or Stephenson the former teacher at Foothill College who once taught a history of the blues and I gifted it to her, the Iglauer. In exchange for her phone number. So it’s fair trade. God bless. BTW, the man who made my Dan Bern flier, Rob Syrett, is also a musician an expert on electronic music and knew who Moroder was when I forgot. I don’t want to jinx it buy I hope to sponsor a harsichord concert in Palo Alto by a fairly wellknown civilian who will blend baroque with Moroder. Donna Summer meets Monteverdi or something.