Neil Young's Stealth Gig in Hawaii: All In A Dream
Photo by David Parias
(Click photo to enlarge)
For most, it's only a dream to imagine Neil Young visiting your hometown and playing in the local bar.
But for Geoff Moore, he's still living that dream we had. Regular readers of TW may recall that Geoff designed our logo awhile back, so we were pretty stoked when we heard word of last Saturday's gig at Charley's Restaurant And Saloon, Paia, Maui, Hawaii (May 23, 2015) , hoping Geoff could bear witness to the stealth concert.
So here's Geoff's report and photos, as well as, his buddy photographer David Parias (Also, see https://www.facebook.com/davidpariasphoto). enjoy!
When I moved to Maui 13 years ago and found out the Paia dive bar, Charley's, was "Willie Nelson's bar", I thought, I hope Neil plays here one day. Then when local Maui boy Lukas Nelson came on the scene and I saw him throw down the encore with Neil a few years ago at Bridge, I thought, time to manifest this dream into reality.
I guess my quantum mechanic abilities work, because Neil played Charley's this past Saturday night with Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real, and I was lucky enough to get inside for the show. This is my long report on the details of my day and the show. I hope you enjoy it. If you don't like long-winded narratives with too much detail, it's a good time to stop reading.
My day started working, as I'm on a huge deadline. Come 12 noon or so, a Rustie named Dale I met in Kahului a few weeks before randomly (thanks to my Neil t-shirt) texted me that Neil was in attendance at a Anti-GMO planting event in Lahaina. I had not ability or energy to get over there just to possibly brush up wit the man, but I held out hope that he would play a stealth gig. An hour later, the messages started flowing in from friends that it was happening… and happening at Charley's which is a 2 minute walk from where my office is. I got up and walked down there to see what the scoop was, and they were already sound checking… this is around 1pm. I talked to the manger of the bar and the guy who was apparently organizing the event, and they told me, nothing is happening, but if it was (wink wink) it would be a private event and the public won't get in.
Photo by Geoff Moore, Silver Moon Art & Design
From there I called a couple of friends who are connected here and beyond. One friend told me he was on the guest list but that he had no pull to get me on it. The other told me he was freaking out too because he was not on this list. I got advice from both of them. The first said "Bill Graham told me a long time ago if you want to get into the show, be invisible and get into the show." The other friend told me to go back to the bar with "benjamins" in hand and see who will take them from me to get my name on the list. I liked the ladder idea, so that's what I did.
By this time, they had closed the bar completely for the sound check. I walked in, and the one guy stopped me, saying "were closed now"… I asked him for a minute and he was nice enough to listen but $200 was not enough to influence him. He told me, listen, you might be one of the lucky few who might make it in, but there's nothing he can do. I tried with another couple of crew guys, no luck, they said they had no pull.
So at this point, I had to rush home, get my act together, grab a few Neil shirts, etc etc. My client had already let me off the hook for the day as far as work… thankfully she knows I'm a huge Neil fan. She got to see him at that Hard Rock festival in London some years ago because she won the contest to go. She brought me back a Neil t-shirt. He headlined that year.
I'm completely frantic at this point, driving, making phone calls, etc etc. I almost crash in my own driveway. I call Dale back and tell him it's on and the only thing to do is go back and wait at the door…. this is 2pm or so.
I get back to Paia, grab some food, sort some affairs and go back to the bar. Anthony the drummer is sound checking and the back door is open as usual which is right behind the stage. I ask him between licks what the story is… how am I going to get in there, I hear it's a private event, etc. He's a really nice guy, as are all the guys in POTR. He said, they will let people in, you gotta just get in line.
So by 3pm or so I was in line behind Dale and a few others. Another guy named Mark was there and he was a Rustie too, official or not he was a deep fan. My friend Eric showed up before me too and brought a couple of beach chairs, so the campout began.
Over time we were joined by others. A couple hours later, the line was 50 deep. It kept growing. Lukas, Micah and maybe the whole band (couldn't see) were soundchecking at some point. All Neil songs: Country Home, The Loner & Goin' Back, Lukas belting the lyrics. We thought we heard a Change Your Mind check earlier, but we may have been wrong.
At one point the manager came out and said it again: it's likely no one but that private list will make it in, but it's possible a few will get in.
Photo by Geoff Moore, Silver Moon Art & Design
More fiends came and hung out, and by 8:00 or so, it was pandemonium outside. The line was a hundred or more back on the sidewalk (tight space in this town) and then people were grouping around the door out of line, the other direction… another hundred plus. They were ready to let in the guest list people, but they could not organize the crowd easily. Eventually they got it going, and people started heading in.
Maui is a place where everything moves slow and is somewhat disorganized. That is a beautiful thing most the time as far as I'm concerned, because it's a reflection of our laid back lifestyles. But sometimes, it can be a test of one's patience. Getting in over 200 people on this list took well over an hour. Those of us in the front of the line were absolutely jammed in body to body, and it was hot and sweaty. I was 5-6 hours in line at this point, tired, somewhat dehydrated and trying to keep it together… which I did. But it was not easy watching friends of mine - most of which know that I'm likely the #1 Neil fan on Maui, rivaled only by the few Rusties we are aware of here. So, they stream in, and as time goes on, other friends and people who showed up randomly are getting in from connections they are making with people they know. From what I understood, some people showed up with less heads than they were allotted, so they just found people to fill their shoes. It was hard to stay in a good place mentally and strike back jealousy. It took so long and the guest line just kept going, and the doubts that anyone would be let in were growing in me. I will say I had a couple of friends there that were talking to people and saying - this guy (me) has GOT to get in.
In the end, it works out. The guy dealing with the list and the tickets clearly had a long day, and he did good. He came out, slightly worried about a panic scene, and said we are going to sell some tickets now…. stay calm. By this time the boys ere onstage and playing Country Home. The line up front had become not exactly as it was in beginning, but everyone honored that myself and 5 others in front of me were first, and we paid our $25 and got in!
Dale waited for me to give high fives, and we got right into it. He did this because all that time we waited watching people get in, he said "I have not seen one person pump fist or anything like they are excited to be inside". True enough… I could go on about the guest list thing, which I suppose is how it goes, but so many of these people who got in hardly deserved it. I'll step back and say that's not for me to judge, but the fact that 85% of the people who got in were on a list to me was a slight injustice. From what I gathered from others, maybe 30-50 people who waited in the general line got in.
But I was in, got right up into the crowd, and was 10 bodies back from stage with a beer in my hand taking in the new Monsanto Years songs.
Photo by David Parias
The scene in Charley's is a mad house for this kind of show… it's not that much different for only Lukas and POTR, as he has plenty of friends and rabid fans here on Maui. The front by the stage is packed in body to body. Where I was 10 bodies back or so for that first set had at least minimal elbow room, but it was tight.
Because of this, vibes run both ways… it can be cool around the right people who understand you will spill their beer, and knock into them, and we're all here to have fun. Than there are others who are like "watch my girlfriend" when I was dancing in her vicinity. As much as I love Maui, I tell you, it's not a place that's used to a scene like this, and people can act like dicks. I acted like a dick at least once myself, even though I let people squeeze past me to get close a hundred times and told them to go get it…. that close proximity can be tough on the best of us.
So, the music. For me, that's what it was all about. I enjoyed hearing the new songs for the first time there in the bar. (I had heard a couple of them right quick already I suppose) I'm not a big fan of Neil's Living with War-like direct protest lyrics, even though I'm 100% behind his cause. But to me, unlike LWW, this new music had a really nice groove with POTR backing them up. All of it was very listenable, rockable, distinctly Neil, but also very much Lukas's sound backing.
They played Down by the River a couple songs in and the crown loved it, as it was the only song most people recognized the whole night. It was a nice version, not super long, but it got down. One Neil fan told me, it was good, not great. I thought, hell, in that moment it was fantastic, I can't say what it was or wasn't… I'll come back around to that later.
I think CH and DBTR were the only two oldies of the first set which was under an hour easily. They took a long break and I didn't leave but got closer in… so I ended up behind a couple-few people, but was essentially right there. It was tough as no one was giving up ground. People came back from break and pushed in anyway. I was okay with it, but it was so tight and some people were not so happy about it all.
Second set started Goin' Back, and I was thrilled to hear that one live for the first time. Very cool to hear it all electric and all too. Very nice sound.
I think he followed it right up with White Line. I thought when he told Lukas and the band the song to play they talked amongst themselves like they didn't know the song, or there was some confusion or doubt. But when they played it it sure seemed like they all knew it well enough, so maybe I read that wrong. It rocked hard. Loved it so much.. another first for me.
They played more of the Monsanto songs, he snuck in the Loner somewhere in-between which was mighty fine. Throughout the show I exchanged a couple glances with Neil, but the band was much more in tune to the crowd. Corey in particular caught and held my gaze for periods of time as he saw I knew the songs (only a few others did, or showed it) and that was cool. Lukas too a little bit.
They came back on stage for two more songs… the Wolf Creek (?) acoustic number from the new album which was nice, and then Love and Only Love. And let me tell you, while the whole show was good, Neil let loose on this last one like he had not really done yet. He was thrashing the solos super hard on Old Black, and it got spooky and deep, and everyone felt it. I was thrashing around as I do, rocking out hard, not watching him so much. I looked up at one point while he was f*cking melting my face off, and he had lost his hat and was bent over deeply… I thought, yup, that's good. That's why I'm here.
The crowd asked hard for another encore, but it didn't happen.
That's about it for my report aside from a couple short takes:
I did, I think, get Neil to respond to my "how ya doin?!" after the second song with his own, How ya doin'? If he did hear me and responded to me, that would not be the first time I took advantage of relative quiet between tunes to make it happen.
Photo by David Parias
He didn't talk really at all to the crowd other than that… At one point Micah Nelson said to the crowd… "This one is a little experimental number we are working on" or something like that - not quite a direct Crosby quote "This one's a little experimental" from Time Fades Away, but close… and this was before one of the oldies. Neil liked that, he looked up at Micah and laughed, and gave him that kind of thumbs up nod for being sarcastic.
I thought it was really cool that Lukas soloed on both old and new songs. He is so great. When that happened, it was a reminder that POTR was there… it was kinda easy to forget that there was another power-house performer and musician up there with Neil, until he made himself known with the solos... his head bopping which makes his hair flow like water on the sea (yes, you do detect a slight man-crush).
I'll leave it with this… when I saw Anthony the drummer after the show and thanked him, he said - "You got in! - awesome! I can see you a fan like me" (of Neil's). I said, "you know it brother, see you at Redrocks!"
Thanks for reading!
Thanks so much for sharing Geoff! What a dream come true to have Neil in your hometown and play the local bar.