I have probably seen David Bromberg in concert five or six times. The first time was at the "P Street Beach" in Washington, DC. I was maybe 18. Can't remember. "P Street Beach" was and still is I guess a part of Rock Creek Park. A small section of the park near P street where people congregated to catch some rays and get wet in the creek just after it ran under P Street. I remember an overused area of threadbare grass, a few trees, and a bandstand. Just one of the many small gullies of nature that made up Rock Creek Park and crammed in between the buildings and sweltering streets of our Nation's Capitol. Not near "The Federal Triangle", P Street Beach was used to keep us local loose dogs happy and content with music that ran the range from Soul to Bluegrass. The music was free.
I spent many a summer Sunday afternoon there in shorts, no shoes, and no shirt blitzed out of my mind selling cans of beer for a buck each out of a metal trashcan filled with ice. Sometimes I traded a beer for a joint. Sometimes I insisted on the buck. Sometimes I didn't. Seems as the afternoon wore out, the freer the beer became. Yeah, I was breaking the law. But as I remember it, the cops were nowhere to be seen. I think they were just happy we weren't hanging out at the Lincoln Memorial and scaring the uptight tourists from upper New York and Omaha.
One of my first exposures to Bluegrass was at the "P Street Beach". David Bromberg was there. Only he did not play straight Bluegrass. I remember some excellent Blues in between the standard Bluegrass fare. He and local band made good, "Grin" are the only artists I remember from those substance hazed hot summer days of my late teens at the Beach.
In the next five or six years I saw Bromberg at bars, in concert halls, and once on the street in Pennsylvania somewhere. He was hard to miss. A big man with wild hair, rail thin, and thick glasses like I used to have to wear. Every time I saw him, it was a completely different experience. Once he came out solo. Sometimes he had three or four people playing with him. One tour he had everything from fiddles to saxophones and trombones. One thing was for sure, he made sure he played just about every stringed instrument there was at each show.
I bought his albums. I bought his tapes. His music kept me company for the million plus miles I suffered behind the wheel of eighteen wheelers on the superslabs of this country. To this day, "New Lee Highway Blues" is about the best get you in the right mood to hammer on the highway music I know of. It is also a tune he closed many a show with.
And he did it again tonight. Tried to close with that song. But I am getting ahead of myself here.
We went to see David Bromberg last night or would it be early this evening? Alpha One, an advocacy group for folks with disabilities put on the concert at the South Portland High School Auditorium. When I googled the concert for information, I was puzzled. David's name was in front, but he was supposedly going to be playing more of a support role for a band called "The Angel Band". I knew nothing about them. I will now. I came home from the concert with two of their CDs. Actually I now own a complete collection of their work.
South Portland Auditorium is a wonderful venue. A small 780 seat hall with no bad seats anywhere. I looked over the crowd filtering in and was struck by their overall ancientness. Folks around my age that had that 'We used to be wild people but we aren't anymore" look. Lots of big bellies hanging out under bodacious beards with aging Mother Earths at their side. Almost on time, some guy in a wheel chair came out and briefly told us about Alpha One and the good works they did. He also introduced a woman who would be signing for the those with impaired hearing. I will admit I thought this was odd. But then much of Life strikes me odd.
David, some musicians and three women came out. Looking like some aging accountant in his Sunday grunge clothes he explained he was really here in support of The Angel Band. As I remember from before, David did not hesitate. The music came hard and came fast. Those three women tore the roof off that hall. Once again I knew that the best use of the female voice is when it is used in threes. A trio of ladies belting out gospel, blues and country did indeed, as the program promised, make the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
The show was split into two parts with an intermission between. The first salvo was all Angel Band with David and his "Chum" Band backing them up. The second part was mostly David and his band. Classics and tunes I had never heard. All the while, David would insist on each musician stepping up and hot dogging his talent. When He tried to close with "New Lee Highway Blues", the audience would have none of it. They had to perform two more encores before the audience was happy.
Yeah, I guess you could say I enjoyed the concert. But "enjoy" might not be a strong enough word. The two plus hours I spent went by as if only five minutes passed. I walked out numb with echoes of wonderful lady voices ringing in my head.
PS - I could not understand the connection to the Angel Band and David's intense support of them. It seems that Nancy Josephson, the lead lady, is David's wife of many years. Ah ha I think. They met when she played bass for him many years ago. They both now own and operate a fiddle repair shop somewhere in the wilds of Wilmington, Delaware when they are not out on the road making beautiful music together.