The man (who was once young) was exhausted. His first band played it’s first gig, in Rochester that Saturday night, and they had a BIG GIG at the MayDay celebration in Minneapolis.
While the MWWOY( man who was once young) now drives past Rochester a few times a year for trout fishing, that early morning in early May was foggier than Newfoundland, and the car crawled northwards on small, windy farm and cow roads. They arrived back in Minneapolis slightly before dawn.
The next morning, the young man gulped coffee, a bagel with peanut butter and honey, and went to his first May 3rd meeting at Misako’s house. The young man liked chanting, and was excited to be a Buddhist. Craig picked him up, and then they walked over to Powderhorn Park to set up.
The day was clear, warm, and promising Don Bowles still had his red Wurlitzer electric piano ( with wah- wah pedal) in his car from the night before. He even had the amp, and cords!
The May Day Celebration in Powderhorn Park was still relatively a new concept in Minneapolis. It was 1979, and the times were a shifting. Mostly the festival was sponsored by what was called “ hippies”. Many hippies were beginning to try to earn more money, which immediately put them out of the category of hippieness.
Other people with starkly cut short hair emerged; with more frenetic , less groove based music, mostly angry guitar groups with shouted lyrics. They called themselves “ Punkers”.
The young man was really between camps. He certainly did not make enough money to be a “ yuppie ( turncoat). He desparately tried to be a hippie- but he never was completely accepted. Either his hair wasn’t long enough, or maybe he wasn’t pissed off so much anymore, and he was bad at skulking. He hung out at the Lake café, but secretly was getting bored by the music he heard, especially the Grateful Dead. The young man had started chanting NMRK, and was losing his anti-social tendencies.
But he wasn’t pissed off enough to be a punker…. And he hated the music. It was violent, ugly, too electric. Secretly he wanted an earth-mother- Joni Mitchell type for a patient girl friend. This type of person was rapidly disappearing, replaced by strong women who did not settle for co-dependent wimpy men who bordered on helpless.
Back to the story. The band assembled: Willy Reed and Bill Betel were droopy eyed, but giggly: the McLeish brothers set up their amps and drums quickly, and then went off to smoke. They were joined by alto flutist/poet. J.K.Ruth. The hillside began to fill up with people. Excitement was building.
The Rhythm section returned, and they were told that they would be on in 5 minutes. WOW! The young man had to chant softly to himself to keep from jumping out of his skin. In a flash, the group was on stage. Don began the chords of the Miles Davis/ John McLaughlin piece, “ In a Silent way’ The young man held down the bass e pedals, while the tune unfolded. After a count, the drummer kicked into a funk, in f. The young man looked into the hillside, and folks shrieked with joy and they began dancing. It was so overwhelming, he almost forgot to keep playing.
“This is what hard drugs must feel like.”, the young man thought. For maybe the first time, he was applauded in public. ( oh, no, that is not completely true. They liked him as “ bud Frump” in high school play) But yes, it was different. This band was small, and happening. The front line of tenor sax, bari sax, trombone and alto flute played great unions, and harmonies. The young man locked in with the guitar, bass and drums to make the wall of support. He made a quick run, using his wah-wah pedal on each note. It was over the top, but he liked. He thought “ They must like it. Maybe there is a beautiful young hippie girl with brown eyes ( he just learned that van Morrison song the night before) out there who thinks I am cute… and maybe she will….
Oops. The song ended, and he missed the cue. Don frowned over at him, but the audience was clapping and cheering. The hill was alive, with the sound of applause. He smiled so much his mouth hurt, and soon he was setting up the intro for that edgy Sun Ra tune, “ a call for all demons”.
They played another tune, one that the young man himself had “ wrote”, an f Lydian mode piece, vague and lonely. But with a groove.
“ so this is what’s it like”, the young man thought. “ Maybe I really don;’t want to go into teaching elementary school just yet.” The rest of the afternoon was a blurr. The young man did not meet the beautiful miss hippie that afternoon, nor the next. But his Buddhist friends all found him and told him that they were proud of him. He got a lot of hugs, and noticed that all of the Buddhist women were …delightful as well. The young man decided that he really loved the world, and wanted to play music as much as possible.
His grades tanked that semester