Monday, June 8, 2009


6-08-04 Five Years Ago

After rising to the rumbling rhapsody of delivery trucks, MTA buses and jackhammers, I scored a cup of java and went on-line to check the progress of Dylan’s tour. A few nights earlier, I’d seen Bob Dylan and His Band on Indian land, at the Mohegan Sun, but just like so many times before, I yearned for more. On this night Dylan was playing two and-a-half hours away in Wilmington. And in the thick of the moment, I booked a room at the Wilmington Days Inn and hailed a cab to the Port Authority.

As I Boarded the Greyhound bound for Delaware, a steady stream of warm air blew out the air-conditioning vents. This was unsettling because the temperature outside was already 90 degrees at noon. There was another Greyhound headed for the same destination an hour later. Willing to wait for that bus, I asked the driver if there was a problem with the AC. Ralph Kramden assured me the AC would kick in once we were moving, and I believed him. Hardy har har.

Snaking through the Lincoln Tunnel and heading down the Jersey Turnpike, hot air continued to circulate through the bus. The sun beat down upon us through windows that didn’t open. Some passengers had difficulty breathing, and large people perspired profusely. The air kept getting hotter and the stench worsened. You could have fried an egg in the aisle. As we passed Perth Amboy, the folly of this voyage taunted me. I was a damn fool. I turned down a free ticket for the Yankee game for that night to put myself through this torture.

Liberated from the grueling Greyhound incident, I sucked the Molson out of a couple of tall boys in my squatter’s suite at the Days Inn before heading down to the Kahuna Summerstage to land a GA ticket. I had never been to Wilmington before. My only association with this lovely city was as a place where I’d send monthly checks to pay off credit card bills. A cab dropped me off in a lot that had a sparkling Minor League ballpark by the riverfront, but to my surprise, Dylan was playing in the warehouse to my left which was called Kahunaville. The Kahunaville compound looked like a vacated Home Depot with Hawaiian Island-themed d├ęcor inside. It was a restaurant, bar and video arcade all rolled into one. One had to walk through this whacky establishment to get to the sliding doors which opened to paradise unforeseen – the Kahuna Summerstage.

Beyond the sliding doors I stepped on to a rectangular wooden deck that had the intimacy of a neighbor’s patio, yet looked long enough to serve as a makeshift runway for planes – a fantastic setting fit for a Jay Gatsby gala. The stage sat at the far end of the runway. Scantily-clad Kahuna girls wearing hula skirts and bikini tops were selling plastic bottles of Budweiser and test tubes shots of sugary booze-laden concoctions. Fading west, the sun had a peculiar day. For the first time in 112 years, Venus orbited between the sun and Earth. During the Venus Transit, one could see Venus cross the face of the sun. Based on historical precedent, this event was supposed to trigger a major breakthrough in human consciousness.

I strutted my way to the front of the stage, unfettered. Dylan would come prancing out any minute now. Suddenly, my decision to come to Delaware was a stroke of genius driven by destiny. Dylan took the stage with the swagger of a gun-slinging cowboy busting through the swinging doors of an old time Rocky Mountain tavern. Dressed in a slick black suit with red trimming, Dylan looked to be about 6’ 5” beneath his behemoth tan cowboy hat. His Band launched into a “Johnny B. Goode” like version of “To Be Alone with You.” Dylan’s voice was vigorous from the start: “I always thank the lawwwwd, when my working day is through; I get sweet rewaaaard/ to be alone with youuuu."

Face to face with the maestro, my right hand laid upon the stage. Observing the action on the right of the stage stood Wilmington resident and performer extraordinaire, David Bromberg. Dylan waltzed into “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” Oh the humanity! Plunking away at his keyboard, the venerated words grumbled from Dylan in short bursts in step to Garnier’s thumping bass. When he sang “The sky too is folding over you/ It’s all over now baby blue,” his voice switched to a higher register mimicking Larry Campbell’s serene steel pedal picking. The setting sun bid farewell, a slight breeze blew in from the Christina River. Dylan puffed out an extended lyrical harp solo.

Dylan and His Band romped into “Lonesome Day Blues.” I chuckled at the thought of my Greyhound fiasco as I double shuffled on the wooden deck. Dylan’s voice scowled and growled emphatically. His vocals were so over the top I was expecting to wake up and realize it was all I dream. When I went to bed the night before, the notion of being at this concert had never crossed my mind. In my dreams, Dylan would come off stage, shake my hand and invite me up to sing a song with the band. But in Kahunaville, the intensity of Dylan’s vocals continued to escalate, “Im forty miles from the millll, I’m dropping it into oooooooo-verrrr-drivvve ah.”

The rarely played “If Not For You” followed. Wilmington was home to Dylan’s first wife Sara. Cosmic forces surrounded us in Kahunaville. A crush of frat boys crowded up near the front. I retreated from the stage to dance a few jigs, drink booze, and frolic with the Kahuna girls.

The rest of the concert zipped by in fleeting glory. “It’s Alright Ma” was the finest rendition Dylan ever played with this band. Larry sizzled a short cittern solo before handing off to Stu Kimball for a quick guitar blast. Five decades after he conceived “It’s Alright Ma,” Dylan’s lyrics resonated anew. His enthusiasm and attentive phrasing was remarkable. As night magnificently unfolded, Dylan alternated aggressive rock and blues like “Highway 61” with slower waltzes like “Bye and Bye.” We booed and hissed at the Bush Administration during “Masters of War.”Under a moonlit sky, I watched cats swing dance to “Summer Days,” and bow to their leader during “Like a Rolling Stone.” As the crowd filed out, the wooden deck was still shaking from the thunderous “Watchtower finale.

Cool air flowed on the bus ride back to Manhattan the next morning. I decided to drop my vendetta against Greyhound; after all, Greyhound was born in Dylan’s hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota. I read about the Yankee game in USA Today. While I was wiggling away to “Watchtower,” Mariano Rivera was nailing down a 2-1 Yankee victory over the Colorado Rockies. There would be many more nights of Mariano working his voodoo on the mound of Yankee Stadium, but Dylan rocked Kahunaville one night, and one night only. There will be another Venus Transit in 2012. A 3-alarm fire burnt Kahunaville to the ground on April, 14 2008 - Dylan will play Kahunaville nevermore.

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