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Danks for the Memories... the Unexpurgated Version

Thursday 5 June, 1997
Free Dank and Pickin'

By the time the third day rolled around, it became clear to me that this "Merry Danksters" thing was going to be more than just a couple of days' live music for me. Not exactly a journalist, by age and experience if nothing else, I figured out that I am simply a lunatic, quite possibly insane to know just what it's like to move from place to place, and drop the germ of movement and melodic madness in all you meet. That's why this article doesn't contain any interviews. A quite shy, but always involved, I wanted to let it move over me like wind. Undisturbed and unaffected, I wished only to lay back and inhale.

I took the day off work. Actually, I'd scheduled to take the next one off as well. My boss told me a few weeks ago that she had a dream that I went on one of my "vacations," and disappeared forever without notice. I told her, "Oh no...I won't disappear. I'd let you know first if I wasn't coming back."

On the bus to Albany, I tried to come up with questions. In fact, I came up with a whole bunch of queries that I wanted to flog upon the folks involved. However, the fact that randomness (as I mentioned) is the nature of the Dankster, made things deliciously difficult for my already spineless self.

I had no clue whatsoever about what was going to happen to the more practical aspects of my existence (i.e. my body, camera and other scant possessions) when that night's show was over. But I wasn't too worried about it. Sitting on the steps of a Chinese food restaurant across the street from Valentine's, about a half-hour after I'd arrived in Albany, I quietly inhaled vegetable fried rice from a paper container. I looked up at one point, and a jolly guy in overalls and a flannel shirt was bopping down the street. The guy was Didgeridoo Dave, yet another moe.show veteran on his guttural Australian instrument. I'd met him the evening before, and it seemed that he was along for the ride as well.

Highlights of the Albany show included the one-night only appearance of freebeerandchicken, hopping in right in the midst of an East Coast tour. I first saw the group of infectious, super honest hoe-downers in my college town of Oswego, NY, where the guys were stationed for a time. They rule...really down-to-earth, knee-slappin' good time music is the best way I can describe it, and the dudes behind it as well. freebeer not only added a taste of their routinely low-fi aroma, but also got a little adventurous, and added a Dank grrrl cello player named Al to their lineup, for a gentle, orchestral feeling amongst the outback strumming, Seth Juhas's syrupy sax, and Kevin [harmonica]'s invigorating harp bursts.

That night's later jams added the third, and most recent, member of moe. in the team, also on a night-only basis. Vinnie Amico, now full-time moe. drummer and recent first-time father, joined the band in November 1996, and is doing extremely well, in my opinion (and surely a few others). I chatted briefly with the rambunctious and unquenchably excited Amico before the show. Seeming pretty psyched in the hometown environment (almost everyone from the tour, as was joked upon later, hailed from somewhere around Albany, NY), he gushed about the new top-of-the-line Yamaha kit that he'd just procured, reminisced about old bands he'd played with, expressed great glee about the then-impending summer-long Furthur tour.

Finally, Vinnie spoke of his wife, Debbie, who was, at that point, very near exploding with child. I looked at him, and asked him if he was freaking out (myself freaking at the mere thought of such weighty commitments). Living pretty nearby, he replied, he was close enough to jet quick if things got hairy. But for the moment, he was used to the anxiety. He bolted off somewhere seconds later, and I didn't see him again till he was onstage behind a couple of congas.

The rest of the evening was mellow and quite tasty, with a great dollop of added spice in the mighty sole-stompin' end jam soul-fest, with Peter Prince leading the flock on tunes such as Otis Redding's "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay," and Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine."

The biggest highlight for me, though, came after the show. Not only did the ever kind and industrious Topper find me a place to crash, but walking down the steps to the street, I encountered Gibb Droll pickin' random lines on the sidewalk, truly kickin' it hobo style. Chuck, just off the stair on the pavement, almost visibly began drooling, whipped out his Martin and squatted beside. Not seconds later, the two were ripping out a street-side "Salt Creek;" no crowd, no press, nothing hindering (nope, not me...I'm a nocturnalist, not a journalist). It was about quarter after three in the morning, a cool breeze blowing over the empty streets, nothing but dueling bluegrass...lightning fingers of Gibb, and the measured elegance of Chuck's momentary emulsions.

The Way of the Dankster is spontaneity.


ONWARDS TO 6 Juane >>


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