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Danks for the Memories... the Unexpurgated Version

Saturday 7 June, 1997
Farewell to Dank

The next morning, I called my mother. "Burlington?" she asked. "Yeah, Vermont." She sighed, and began to talk about her week. Some things never change.

We hit the road for Boston around Noon, and drove mainly straight through to Massachusetts. I got the privilege of riding in the Dank-van with Reid and John from Strangefolk, Chuck, Gibb, David, David's excellent wife, Rita (who'd flown out for the Burlington show from California...an ultimate Grrrl Dankster), and Brendan at the wheel. There, in that crucible of motion and song, I got a taste of what it's like to be a musician the likes of which I'd never witnessed, even having been in a band. Getting in motion does something to the meaning of what you're doing. Putting it in people's ears, doing it with guts and vivacity...you can't freak that funk. Peter Prince, Max, Tom, the others from Yolk...they'd moved on, for to be Danksters to them meant use your vacation time to play, play and play some more. As was the meaning for Chuck, Al and Vinnie. And the meaning was the same to Dave Ruch, who crashed out unobtrusively in Strangefolk's van, which trailed behind. He was exhausted and in pain from the chronic tendonitis that had begun to reclaim his hard-pickin' arm, and robbed him of sleep the night before.

I wrote in my diary while listening to the Toast soundcheck: "LIVE music. Pronounce the first word with the air of immediacy, the NOW of a thing, to rhyme with STRIVE. LIVE music. Pronounce the first word as though you were telling, nay, ORDERING someone to exist, to rhyme with GIVE."

I watched Gibb and Chuck trade techniques, John learned new lines, David taught them all the saucy tune, "Honeydew," which they later did onstage at the Middle East. Pulling into Boston, the boys did a quiet and riveting version of "Terrapin Station." Rolling into a grey afternoon mass of traffic, I already thought of the dissolution of the thing, all that had been cohered slowly loosening to return the parts to their separate glowing places in the vast constellation.

The show at the Middle East was packed to the gills, and sold very well out. All sorts of crazy folks turned out to see the last tramples of the freakshow, and being the best night thus far, few were disappointed. Besides the smokingest performance by Gibb so far (thanks to the GL fabric, no doubt...come on, allow me one in-joke?), there were killer jams with the supreme strumming of Doug Perkins, and generous and deft low-end from Andy Cotton, both of the Gordon Stone Trio, not to mention some really fine work on the banjo and pedal steel by the virtuoso Stone himself. Missing from the mix were the trickling trills of the mandolin, though...the whole show was dedicated to Dave Ruch, who Topper brought to the hospital upon our arrival at the club. Too much music in a life might kill you, but your spirit will vault the finale through the roof.

To close, another quote from my diary, summing up all of what I saw in those five days, what you could absorb from a bunch of hooched-up, hollow-body hawking hoodlums, with bad jokes and penile fixations, lousy wiffle-pitching arms, but fabulous senses of pitch, in any case...

"Does not knowing much of this music's origin deny the right to feel a sense of motion from it, to lose yourself in the fog of memory and a faint trace on the fingers remaining through weeks, as the strum of strings in an acoustic hush churns forth softly, like the spinning of a mill wheel? What does a Long Island Girl know about a mill wheel, anyways? Or maybe the question should really be: what could a Long Island Girl learn about the quiet and loud, rowdy and poignant, everlasting but brief perpetual elemental action of that wooden wheel? Or a rubber one, driven by steel, attached in two pairs to a 15-seat van? What could be so mad as to make her want to know...or anyone for that matter?"

The Way of the Dankster is to be Merry, explore...and to endure. Catch the Return of the Merry Danksters Tour somewhere near you, coming this December.



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