Back to back to Bethel: Let the good times roll
Considering that the brakes on my truck failed this past week, I was unsure that I would be rolling anywhere, much less to Louisiana or the prairie states—but a well-placed call to one of my (not so secret) crushes delivered a mechanic to my front door, tool belt (and brake pads) at the ready. Hearing the rising panic in my voice, he soothed my jangled nerves and got to work, making it possible for me to get on the road... in search of good times. (Thank you JW!)
Unencumbered by fear, I made my way (once again!) to the Bethel Woods Performing Arts Center (Bethelwoodscenter.org) to check out American country rock legends Pure Prairie League (PPL), joining a faithful legion of fans who turned out in droves to hear the tight harmonies and masterful musicianship of these guys, who have been entertaining country fans since their first bona fide hit “Amie” climbed the billboard charts in 1975.
One of the reasons I love all things country is that every song tells a story, and PPL current members Mike Reilly, John David Call, Rick Schell and David Lee Clark still have the gift of (musical) gab, performing standards like “Falling in and out of Love,” “Two Lane Highway” and “I Can’t Stop the Feelin.’” While hardly resting on their laurels, the band displayed their expertise, employing the pedal steel guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddles and washboards as they chatted with the audience. “We’ve played a lot of great venues over the years,” they called out to the crowd “but playing here, at Bethel Woods, is unparalleled!”
As the crowd roared with enthusiasm, the guys riffed on Woodstock and the “disco scare that almost caught on” while reminiscing about the good old days, transforming the event gallery into a honky tonk, weaving more musical tales like “I’ll Be Damned If I Let You Break My Heart” and “Let Me Love You Tonight.” While signing everything from CDs to T-shirts and (remember vinyl?) LPs that fans had brought along, the boys laughed when I invited them to “join me down the road a piece,” at the Dancing Cat Saloon (www.dancingcatsaloon.com) after the show. I explained that local band “Yasgur” was performing, and the guys promised they would follow me there, using the title of PPL’s 2005 CD release “All in Good Time.” True to their word, the group showed up, the Cat was packed, Yasgur rocked the house and the good times continued to roll.
Unwilling to stop (but at least having brakes to do it), I switched gears on Sunday and conjured up the (Cajun) French translation of my weekend’s theme: “laissez les bons temps rouler” and rolled into the lot at Bethel Woods (one more time!) to celebrate Mardis Gras with Brother Joscephus and the Love Revival Revolution Orchestra (www.BrotherJoscephus.com).
I checked out the Bethel Woods website and read that BroJo is a 10-piece “explosion of righteousness that blends New Orleans party music, laced with soul and a good helping of jam-bandy Roots Rock with a righteous splash of good, upbeat Gospel without the religious overtones (we like to call it secular gospel).” Unsure where I had stashed my love beads, I grabbed the camera and snapped pics of the kids, who were making Mardi Gras parasols in preparation for the festivities—yet another charming aspect to the World Stage Series, which presents these events free of charge, and encourages families to participate, while learning about the musical heritage of assorted cultures all around the globe.
Magically creating the atmosphere that New Orleans is famous for, the troupe paraded to the stage, instantly engaging the crowd with spirit, energy and fantastic voices as they launched into rousing renditions of “Les Bons Temps,” “When the Saints Go Marching In,” “Bury Me in New Orleans” and yes, even “Good Times!” Addressing the horrific devastation that Hurricane Katrina left behind, Brother Joscephus himself spoke to the crowd and declared that “It seems like there’s a lot of bad news these days, but as bad as it looks, the forces of hate ain’t got nothin’ on love!” as the audience jumped to their feet, dancing and grasping for the beads being tossed while the orchestra exploded with their rendition of “Mighty Mighty Chain of Love.”
Dedicated to “bringing the spirit of New Orleans to the world,” Brother Joscephus and his band of merrymakers’ explosive show is (IMHO) exciting, infectious, uplifting and inspiring in it’s unabashed celebration of life. With no encouragement needed, the audience leapt to their feet and joined the parade as the troupe worked their charm throughout the gallery, gathering momentum and basking in the glitz, glamour and sequined revelry that only New Orleans (“the spirit that will never die”) can evoke.
With my personal energy level at an all time high, I was hesitant to leave and hung around for a while, shaking hands and snapping more pics, as the company posed with fans, signed CDs and admired the parasols that the kids took home as souvenirs. All in all, the new brakes came in handy, as I made my way from the prairie to the bayou to my home near Bethel Woods and (then and there) I made up my mind to hold my head high, go with the flow and most importantly... let the good times roll!