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Three Times the Rock!
Denver Night, by Jonathan Reitan
Tuesday November 14th (My dream comes true)-- My aunt takes me to the theater at about 5:45 for the V.I.P reception at the Gothic Theater. I meet up w/ Ronda and we go stand inside because its colder than hell out. We stand there with other people for about 10 minutes and they start letting us in. They hand us a bag of goodies with a t-shirt, CD, and a little flyer about the conert (which many people were getting signed).
Me and Ronda first stake out 8 seats for the rest of our group and then we get prepared for the "Celebrites" to come out. She has a camera, I have a camera, and we both have our stuff to get signed. We first saw King come out but there was no way to get there because so many people were crowded around him so we stood in the back a bit. Many people were getting pictures and books signed but he was eating the whole time, so it was kinda hard for him. The crowd was getting a little smaller so we went closer. At this point, a man from the Denver Scores organization came and tapped me on the back saying "Did you fly or drive from Oregon? I told King you drove, so lie of he asks." Then as we were really close to King the guy told King "Stephen, this is the boy that came all the way from Oregon." Stephen King then shook my hand and we walked over in the little hallway to get out of the way of the big crowd. King then asked me where I was from, and when I told him he said I was a "sick little kid for coming all the way for a concert"! I just said "Yep, thats me". He then asked me what I wanted to get signed and I said the poster that I had gotten the day before and he signed it "To Jonathan, Shine on, Stephen King." I then got a couple pictires taken with him. I don't really know exactly what went on during that time, because I was so nervous but I pretty much summed it up I think. I then got autographs from Mitch Albom ("Tuesdays With Morrie"), Kathy Goldmark (who I talked to on the internet before), Amy Tan ("The Joy Luck Club") (who is VERY quiet and shy when not on stage) and Dave Barry. I actually dropped the marker when I was done with Dave and we both went down to reach for the pen and we hit heads pretty hard. It was really funny, lol.
After we were done stalking the Celebrities we met up with other SKEMERs (Marie, Tami, and Heather) and talked for a while. The show then started and it was the best 2 hours of my life! Highlights of the show include: Mitch Albom's impression of Elvis was great!, Amy Tan dressed in leather w/ a whip signing "These Boots Are Made For Walking", King's HILARIOUS version of "Teen Angel" and telling the crowd "Shutup, we're not done yet" when they started clapping in the middle of the song, Scott Turow's WILD version of "Wild Thing", and hearing all the Byrd's songs by the one and only Roger McQuinn! There were many many songs played by the band, "Stand by Me," "Proofreading Woman," "La Bamba," "You can't Judge A Book By the Cover," and more.
When the show finally ended King looked very tired and we could tell he wanted to get out of there. After saying goodbye to the other SKEMERs we started to head out the door. I'm very glad we delayed going outside for when we finally DID go outside, the bus was out front and the band members were getting on. We got to say goodbye to all the band members and say our thanks, including King, who was now limping.
If you would like to view the picture of me and Stephen King, here is the address for the picture [you can click on this address and go right there]: http://i4.yimg.com/4/93c96673/g/84f59651.jpg
I would like to thank Ronda who made my experinence with Stephen King a VERY memorable moment, because without her, I would not have been able to get in the show. You are a very kind person and I can't wait to see you again Ronda!! Thanks for the gifts! Love ya! If a Rock Bottom Remainder show EVER comes trough your town, or state, or country, I REALLY suggest going because it will be something you will never forget!
November 16th, 2000
It’s hard trying to explain to people why going to a Rock Bottom Remainders concert is so much fun. “They’re a bunch of writers trying to sing – why do I want to hear that?” is one common complaint. Another is the irritating, “Well, I like Stephen King (or Dave Barry or Amy Tan) but I don’t really read the others, so what’s the point?”
The point is this: these people – these writers – are not here to read from their books. They’re not here to postulate theorems on the current state of American literature. No, tonight, these authors are here for one reason only: to rock and roll.
Standing forefront on the stage, under spotlights of alternating red and blue, Dave Barry introduces his bandmates, one by one. They burst from backstage, kings and queens of rock and roll bravado: Amy Tan, Mitch Albom, Ridley Pearson, band Mom Kathi Goldmark … and, of course, Stephen King.
King strides onstage looking far less gaunt than he has in previous public appearances. He brandishes his guitar like a loaded weapon, walking easily – if slowly – to his point near center stage. Any sign that he’d been in a life-threatening accident a little over a year ago is not in evidence. The King is back in black (okay, okay; he’s wearing a t-shirt with a big rooster on it) and ready to kick out the jams.
Last time the Remainders were out, they brought rock legend Warren Zevon along for the ride. This time, they’ve got Roger McGuinn, lead singer of The Byrds, in their corner, and they couldn’t express their happiness more (short of actual genuflection.) Dave Barry then proclaims to the audience that every rock group needs three chick singers; with Tan and Goldmark filling the first two slots, Barry brings out Scott Turow, author of Presumed Innocent, in an untamed blonde fright wig. (This is just the first of many incredibly weird costume ideas – it’s as if the Rocky Horror thrift store had a sale and the Remainders bought everything.) Rounding out this wacky cast is Tabitha King, dancing like an insanely happy madwoman in the background.
They start out hard and rough – a big ol’ wallop of “You Can’t Sit Down” – almost a command to the people in the audience. It’s about this time that these people cramming the stage realize that they’re not at a book signing; they’re at a concert. Some of the more nimble folk (myself included) start to rock out with the band. It’s not much – not at first – but as the night progresses, the folks in the audience start to tune into what the Remainders are all about, and climb aboard their magic bus.
The momentum keeps with a high-octane “Mammer Jammer,” but it’s not long until things slow down and King turns in a beautiful rendition of his standard “Stand By Me.” Roger McGuinn steps up to the mike early on and the Remainders join him in a wonderful “Mr. Tambourine Man” – it’s straight-up rock here, none of the usual band antics, but it doesn’t matter. Watching these literary greats match licks with an icon of rock and roll would be cool even if the backup instrumentation was subpar. As it stands, the Remainders have improved supernaturally since their early days of playing at the Cowboy Boogie. They’re not some garage band struggling to keep up anymore; they’ve become a lot better than they give themselves credit for and the music doesn’t jar when they play with McGuinn: it melds.
Mitch Albom – whose assured singing style blew the roof off the Roxy – blasts through a rockabilly “Oh Boy”; later, he’ll don gold lamé and a pompadour and swagger out a medley of Elvis hits. Barry hauls out his signature “Proofreading Woman” (with audience participation, of course; when Barry gives out “I’m in love,” the audience screams back, “HE’S IN LOVE!”). Stephen King surprises everyone with a laid-back rendition of “Iko Iko” (replacing the screamer “Cum on Feel the Noize” this time around) and the gruesome centerpiece of the evening, “Teen Angel.” (“The fact that I was recently in a car accident makes this even sicker,” King says of the teen tragedy tune with a wild gleam in his eye.) Kathi Goldmark, tucked into leather and wearing her sunglasses at night, moans and wails through “Secret Agent Man,” with Scott Turow hamming it up as the eponymous “Man.” And Amy Tan – oh, that vixen, author of The Joy Luck Club Amy Tan – kicks ass with her trademark, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’,” in full dominatrix regalia, making the boys in the band bend over to receive lashes from her whip.
Throughout all this, Roger McGuinn is quiet, focused (even when they put a fake tinsel halo on his head during “Teen Angel,” he retains some dignity). While performing “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better,” he’s smiling, but cautious. What kind of a crowd is this? What kind of a band is this? But as the Remainders bring him toward the end of “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” he smiles widely, performing surprising flourishes with his guitar. He breathes the words “…a time for peace / I swear it’s not too late,” and for a moment everything stops. Roger McGuinn gives a reassuring smile to the audience … and flashes two fingers up in a peace sign. It’s a quintessential rock and roll moment; I have never been to the sixties, but I’m there now, and this is one giant love-in, right in the middle of Boston, Massachusetts.
Near the end of the night, the band buzzes through, “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘N’ Roll Star,” and it couldn’t be more apt. These folks, who spend most of their lives watching words move slowly across a screen or a piece of paper, are now realizing their own rock and roll dreams. Watching them, you can’t help but wish you were one of them, in all their delightful insanity. The show closes with the Goldmark/King duet of “You Can’t Judge a book by Its Cover,” Dave Barry’s always amazing “Gloria,” and the arena rocker, “If the House is a-Rockin’ Don’t Come a-Knockin,” and I realize I can’t wait to see them again. Tune in, read on, rock out: the mantra of a Rock Bottom Remainders groupie.
The streets are in disrepair, the macadam cracked in places, simply missing in others. Hot patch is desperately needed. The sidewalk, overgrown with weeds pushing up through the cracks, is bordered on one side by a low brick wall, a graffiti ridden wall covered with what appears to be gang symbols. The street gutter is overflowing with broken glass, mostly beer bottles, as well as cigarette butts and mounds of trash. The same blue & white patrol car creeps by every ten minutes or so as one of DC's finest stands constant vigil against crime. It is a neighborhood that smells like crime, a ghetto neighborhood located only a few short blocks from our nation's Capitol building. The pedestrian traffic entering and leaving a local tavern, a tavern with a doorway framed by a partially lit neon sign, is heavy. This is a blue-collar neighborhood, it's payday night, and everyone has a few dollars in their pockets. There is a bitter cold and gusty wind that rips through your clothes like a hot knife through butter. It turns your breath into a ghostly vapor. But there still seem to be thirsts that must be quenched. The tavern does a hearty business.
Across the street there is an all black angular looking edifice bordered on one side by a dark and narrow alleyway and fenced in gravel lot. The blackened windows are covered with rusty wrought iron meshwork. Above the doorway stands one word - Nation. As 7:00pm nears a crowd starts to form and people huddle together cramming towards the door using each other to brake the cold and bitter wind and some to gain comfort in numbers, even with strangers. A kind young woman lets many into the doorway and out of the cold. But who are these people, these out of place people, that have converged on Nation, a Washington, DC nightclub located in one of the seedier parts of town? And why are they here?
Shortly after 7:00pm the doors open to them. They are fans - fans of Dave Barry and Amy Tan, Scott Turow, Ridley Pearson and Mitch Albom, and mostly, fans of Stephen King. But this is not the local library. There will be no readings tonight. These writers all have one thing in common, other than writing. They are all rock and roll wannabes and they have the wherewithal to act out their fantasies. Tonight's concert, "Rock for Kicks", is a charity event supporting DC Scores, an after school writing and soccer program for inner city kids. Innocent kids from DC neighborhoods not unlike this one bordering Nation. The literary tie-in draws out these stars, who in turn are why the crowd of strangers has gathered at the doorway.
The Rock Bottom Remainders emerged eight years ago as an idea emanating from Kathy Kamen Goldmark, one of the original Remainderettes, or "three chick singers that all bands have", as so eloquently stated by Dave Barry. The Remainders drew together in the early nineties to play one time, but something happened. There was magic in the air and they have not stopped performing since. Not even Stephen King's horrendous near death accident almost 18 months ago could stop them – it merely slowed them down. They keep getting better, nearly respectable. Not ready to quit their day jobs of course, but good enough to draw in crowds of people hoping to glimpse a star, snare a handshake, snatch an autograph, and to be drawn back in time to another place – a time of early rock ‘n roll – with their favorite authors.
The festivities began with Dave Barry's introduction, and then he in turn introduced the rest of the band. But first he asked the crowd the quintessential question asked of all rock enthusiasts. A thunderous retort of yelling, screaming and whistling echoed back to the stage merely seconds after "Are You Ready to Rock?" boomed out over the loudspeakers. As the applause died down, Dave retorted "that's too bad, because we really suck!" The ice was broken with laughter. One by one the band members were introduced, to include saxophonist Erasmo Paulo and drummer Josh Kelly, professional musicians that bring credibility and energy to the band. With Amy Tan and Kathi Kamen Goldmark on stage, Dave said that the band searched high and low for a third chick singer. He then introduced Scott Turow, author of Presumed Innocent, who strutted out donning a no holds barred long curly blond wig as the third chick singer – member of the Critics Chorus as stated in the Official Program!
As in years past, the Remainders also rely heavily on a "ringer" - a well-known, well-respected musician. Two years ago Warren Zevon added his own special flavor to the band. For this tour, fans were treated by the presence of Roger McGuinn, founder of that 60's icon, The Byrds. With the band complete, Dave Barry had one more piece of information to share. He reminded us that “this is not a concert, consider it a dance – so dance, drink heavily and sing loud - we’ll sound a whole lot better!” Again thunderous applause, hootin and hollerin as King and Goldmark started the long evening with the duet You Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover.
While playing 50’s and 60’s music, the Remainders mask their lest than perfect renditions with zest and light hearted pantomime to the delight of the audience. Amy Tan leads the band through a wild version of Leader of the Pack culminating in an entertaining, if not overacted, death scene. The remaining band members hold up score cards like those presented by judges during an Olympic ice skating competition as Amy bids farewell to the dying biker. The death scene, reminiscent of how a child perhaps sees the actual moment of death, appears to have come right out of Cartoonville, USA!
Dave Barry, the de facto band spokesperson, leads the band through a believable rendition of an original song Proofreading Woman with Ridley Pearson, a decent bass player in his own right, prodding the audience to respond loudly with “HE’S IN LOVE” every time Barry sings “I’m in Love!”
The audience, many virgin to Remainders’ performances, warms up quickly to all of the band members. King fans are enjoying Amy Tan’s extroverted performance, while Pearson fans are wallowing in laughter over Kings antics. As a Remainders newcomer, Scott Turrow leads but one song, a rousing rendition of Wild Thing, complete with audience participation on souvenir Kazoos tossed out by band members. Scott does return to center stage later on, sans the blonde wig, but dressed as none other than the Secret Agent Man, as Kathy Goldmark belts out the vocals to this sock hop favorite.
Stephen King, playing rhythm guitar, slows down the tempo as he aptly sings a solo version of Stand By Me. How apropos! With all band members donning silver tinseled halos (imagine Roger McGuinn in a silver hairband halo), Steve steps through the tragic tale of the Teen Angel, culminating with the appearance on stage of Ridley Pearson’s wife Marcelle dressed in angelic white regalia, but with a blood spattered face and chest. As Steve turns towards her he has but one thing to say, that being “Hey, it’s Carrie White!” The audience raves.
Like his rock solid “Tuesdays with Morrie”, Mitch Albom leads the band through a believable and rock solid medley of Elvis songs. His performance culminates as he dresses down to white muscle T and jailhouse stripes to Elvis’ memorable Jail House Rock. Dave Barry perused the audience (well actually the dance floor) for a volunteer. He said anyone could get up on stage and sing and sound good. The young woman chosen, Janine Sabino, stepped on stage looking comfortable and let the Remainders through a passionate version of “I Thank You.” Not really a volunteer, Janine was later introduced as Mitch’s wife. Another spouse, Michelle, introduced by husband Dave as having the Cuban connection and having the credentials to perform the next song, presents an awesome interpretation of La Bamba.
Throughout the Dance, Roger McGuinn provided excellent backup vocals and instrumental accouterment. For most of the Dance his face was determined, perhaps stoic as he carried the tunes, but when Roger McGuinn took center stage, with a better than fair accompaniment from The Remainders, he smiled. He took the audience down memory lane with treats like Mr. Tambourine Man and that Byrd’s favorite, Turn, Turn, Turn. For just a moment, sans the Remainder antics, Roger McGuinn’s enchantment transposed Nation into a surrealistic sixties concert. As McGuinn finished his moment in the spotlight, hand raised with that 60’s symbolic peace sign, reality returned, the audience roared, and McGuinn smiled in appreciation.
Sometime during the enchanted evening, Amy Tan disappeared from the stage, but to emerge moments later for an eye-popping performance. Siren, Dominatrix, or Temptress – this was not the quite and composed, the introverted Amy Tan? Clad in black skin-hugging leather, whip in hand, Amy’s enticing version of Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots are Made for Walking lured out the boys in the band. Steve, Dave, Ridley, Scott, and even Roger McGuinn presented their derrieres as receptacles to Amy’s whip. As she mock whipped them she stated over and again “You’ve been bad, very bad!”
The Dance closed with an ever favorite rock tribute as Dave Barry led the Remainders and the audience through that rock standard G – L – O – R – I – A! The way I spell it, the night was over, but the Dance had just begun.