Freddie & the Fishsticks in Aspen,CO
I think I am one of the few people on this planet who has seen Harry Chapin, Steve Goodman, and now Jimmy Buffett, in small, intimate clubs. The story below recounts my recent trip to Aspen, Colorado where I had the privilage of seeing Jimmy Buffett, up close and personal. Fellow Parrot Heads, enjoy!!
On December 3rd, Jimmy Buffett List Member Bill McGreevy posted the following item:
I just saw the following listing in the winter entertainment events calendar of the online version of the Aspen Daily News: "Freddy and the Fishsticks Dec. 29, Double Diamond Now there's a band that nobody's heard of, probably because they don't really exist. But the last time Freddy and the Fishsticks were on the bill at the Double D, a fun-loving former Aspenite, who favors songs about margaritas, sailors and sailboats, and cheeseburgers, showed up to entertain a packed house. The Double Diamond is a nightclub in downtown Aspen, Colorado. Ah, I can already hear the hot lines hum!"
As I have said before, I have always dreamed of seeing Jimmy Buffett in a small nightclub. In addition, I really needed a break. My elderly mother has been very ill lately, my 2-year old twin boys have been acting their age, and my heavy work load (typically 50 to 60 hour work weeks) had pretty much wiped me out. I needed to get out of L.A., even if it was only for a day. And this seemed like a pretty good excuse.
PLANNING THE TRIP
Of course, I still had to confirm that this show was really happening. After the "Cheeseburger in Paradise/ McDonald's" hoax (nice one, Toby)and the "Promise Keepers" hoax, I don't believe anything posted on this list until I can confirm it independently.
For a variety of reasons, I had difficulty confirming this show. I was beginning to think that Bill's post was another hoax. I began to browse through the Aspen/Snowmass web page (www.Aspenonline.com), and I finally stumbled upon the "Freddy" blurb in the "Aspen Times" (not the "Aspen Daily News").
I called the Double Diamond, and spoke to the club's booking manager,Karen. Like everyone in Aspen, Karen was very friendly and very helpful. She confirmed that "Freddie" was, in fact, Jimmy Buffett, and that tickets would go on sale on December 19th. It was a benefit for Montserrat and some local kids organization, and ticket prices were $500, $250, and general admission was $50. She said the club held 400 people. I spoke to Karen on several other occasions, and we established a nice "telephone friendship."
I managed to secure airline tickets from L.A. to Aspen (via Denver). Since this is the busiest time of the year in Aspen, the hotels were booked solid. The rates were all around $200+ per night, and some hotels required booking a room for the entire week. I called Karen again, and I asked her if she could suggest a hotel that was close to the club. She mentioned that the "Grand Aspen" was across the street from the club, and then she said, "You know, maybe we can help each other out."
She explained that the Double Diamond books four rooms at the Grand Aspen 365 days a year, and they were only using 3 of the 4 rooms that night. She said, "We have to pay for the room whether we use it or not. Why don't you stay in one of our rooms, and you can pay us our cost for the room, which is $100." (And yes, the other three rooms were occupied by band members).
Everything was set, except for one thing--I still needed a ticket to the show. I called Karen again, and I said, "Listen, I've already spent hundreds of dollars on airfare and hotel, but what if I can't get through on the phone lines to buy the ticket?" She said, "Don't worry,we'll hold a ticket for you!"
Finally, everything was inked--this dream was about to come true. I was going to see Jimmy Buffett in a small nightclub.
ARRIVING IN ASPEN
I took a Western Pacific flight (Boeing 737) from LA to Denver, and then I took an Aspen Mountain Air flight from Denver to Aspen. The plane to Aspen was one of those 28-seat turboprop puddle jumpers (You know, the ones that you see on CNN every other week because they crash all the time?). There was a lot of turbulence, and we were buffeted about wildly (pun intended). The Aspen airport is located at the bottom of a valley, and the plane has to pretty much "nose dive" from 20,000 feet in about a minute. With all the turbulence, I can assure you that this plane ride is not for sissies. Luckily, the plane landed safely, and I grabbed a cab to the Grand Aspen.
I walked up to the registration desk and said, "Hi, I'd like to register; my name's Evan Chesler". The lady looked at me unspiciously and said (rather ominously), "You know, we had a problem with your reservation." I thought to myself, "Oh, shit. They don't have a room and I'm going to die of exposure."
The lady told me that Buffett's road manager, Jay Oliver, needed the fourth room at the last minute. When he asked for the fourth room, she told him that the room was already reserved for "Evan Chesler". He reportedly said, "Who's Evan Chesler? I've never heard of any Evan Chesler! He's not with the band!" Apparently, Jay was rather upset about this. Happily, the Grand Aspen was able to accommodate both of us.
I wandered over the Double Diamond at about 8:15 PM. The doors opened at 9 PM. The doorman was a rather pleasant fellow, and I said, "I don't have a ticket yet--you guys should be holding a ticket for me--my name is Evan Chesler." He checked a handful of envelopes, and then he checked a clipboard with the Guest List. He looked at me suspiciously and said (rather ominously), I don't have anything for "Evan Chesler". I said, "Karen was supposed leave a ticket for me." He asked me to wait while they looked for Karen. It took a while, but Karen finally showed up. The door man said, "There's no Evan Chesler on the Guest List". She said, "Sure there is--his name is at the very top." It turns out that the metal "clip" on the clipboard covered my name. The doorman apologized profusely, apparently thinking that I was some sort of big-shot VIP. I said, "Don't worry about it." I was in!!!
The Double Diamond is a rather dumpy bar, and I say that with the utmost respect. It's in the basement of a large commercial building (sort of like "Cheers" on TV). The red upholstery on some of the seats was torn, and it was obvious that more than a few beers had spilled on the floor over the years. It was so beautiful that it almost made me cry. This was the perfect place for a Jimmy Buffett show.
The $500 and $250 seats were at tables towards the back of the club. As I wandered through the club, I noticed that each table had a "RESERVED" sign, and each sign included the name of the people who were supposed to sit at the table. I recognized some names, such as "Costner", "Podolak" (a former Kansas City Chief running back from the early 70's who is a long-time friend of Buffett), "Slagsvol" (Jane Buffett's maiden name), and "Goodman" (possibly relatives of Steve?). Ed Bradley was wandering around the back stage area.
I went to the bar and I gave the bartender my drink order: "Four margaritas, blended, with salt". The bartender barked, "I don't have a blender!" (See what I mean? What a great bar!!!) I took my margaritas (on the rocks), and decided to "stake out" my spot.
There was a dance floor right in front of the stage, and I positioned myself directly in front of the middle microphone. This is exactly where I stood for the next four hours. For the entire show, I would be standing right in front of Jimmy Buffett!
We were packed in like sardines, but that was no problem. I was a big Blue Oyster Cult fan in the 70's, so I know how to "take care of business" at the front of the stage during a General Admission show. Ed Bradley (dressed in blue denim overalls) introduced The "PM Band" to open the show. The band consisted of Peter Mayer on guitar and lead vocals, Jim Mayer on the 5-string bass, Jay Oliver on keyboards, and Roger Guth on the drums. They played a few songs, and then Jimmy joined them. Jimmy was wearing a black T-Shirt, blue jeans, and a french beret. There was a planned "set list", but Jimmy abandoned the list pretty early in the show.
For those who are into such things, the original set list was as follows:
Stars On The Water
Cuban Crime Of Passion
Changes In Latitudes
Wait In Vain
Havana Day Dreamin'
I Used To Have Money One Time
Quietly Making Noise
No Woman, No Cry
That's My Story And I'm Stickin' To It
Take Another Road
Bank Of Bad Habits
Sitting Here In Limbo
Pirate Looks At 40
Gypsies In The Palace
Uncle John's Band
As the show progressed, Jimmy dropped "Come Monday" and "Havana Day Dreamin'". He added a Beatles medley from "Abbey Road", "You Can't Always Get What You Want", and "Jamaica Mistaica". After one song, Peter Mayer turned to Jimmy and said, "Now what do you want to do?" Very cool. It reminded me of some of Jimmy's early shows that weren't so "slick".
Fingers Taylor was not in the band, and that disappointed me. However, I did not miss all the extraneous distractions that have permeated recent summer shows. By distractions, I mean things like fancy sets, congas, horns, backup singers, steel drums and the whole overblown mess. This was a real "band", and I loved it--it reminded me of my earliest Buffett shows in the mid 70's.
THE GREAT "BOAT DRINK" DISASTER
I am rather embarrassed to have been a part of this next story, but it's a great story. Hopefully, everyone will see the humor in it.
"Boat Drinks" was the fourth song that Jimmy played, and I will never forget what happened at the end of the song as I live. We all know how the song ends; there are two power chords that end the song. The last line is: "I gotta go where it's warm! (bum-BUM)"
As the song was ending, my arms were in the air. Unbeknownst to me, the guy who was standing behind me also had his hands in the air, directly above my head. Unfortunately, he was holding a bottle of Budweiser in his right hand.
As Jimmy hit the last chord, I shot my right hand up in the air triumphantly. In the process, I unwittingly knocked the beer bottle out of the other guy's hand. The bottle flew straight up in the air several feet above the crowd. The bottle was spinning wildly, and the contents flew out of the bottle. Happily, the bottle fell to the floor harmlessly.
Now, if life was fair and just, the contents of the bottle would have fallen on the two of us. However, life is neither fair nor just. To my horror, the beer (approximately 8 ounces) was heading directly toward Jimmy Buffett's face.
As I think back on it now, the whole thing has taken on an eery, surrealistic feeling, sort of like a movie where everything happens in slow motion.
Anyway, the beer hit Jimmy right smack dab in the face. The beer was all over Jimmy's face, Jimmy's hat, Jimmy's shirt, Jimmy's guitar, the monitor--everything. I don't think a single drop of beer hit the floor until after it bounced off of Jimmy Buffett.
I was absolutely horrified. I looked at the guy behind me, and he looked even more horrified than I did.
AND JIMMY WAS SERIOUSLY PISSED OFF. I can't say that I blame him either. I know the feeling. When I was in college, someone threw beer on me, and I almost killed the jerk until about four other guys pulled me away. It has something to do with the smell, the stickiness, the total disrespect for human dignity, and the fact that everyone involved is usually sloppy drunk.
Now, if life was fair and just, Jimmy would have directed his wrath at the two of us. However, life is neither fair nor just. Jimmy thought that some other guy threw the beer, and this other guy was standing six or seven feet away from us. Jimmy went after the guy, and the security guys took him away.
I felt horrible for my unwitting involvement in soaking Jimmy, and I also felt horrible that an innocent bystander was unjustly blamed for the incident. I even tried to explain what had happened, but the security guys weren't interested in listening to anyone and the crowd was screaming wildly. Jimmy eventually started the next song, and my voice was completely drowned out by all the noise.
SPECIAL MESSAGE TO JIMMY IF YOU EVER READ THIS
I want you to know that it was a freak accident, and I apologize enormously. If I was going to create a Letterman-style list of "People On This Planet Who I Would Never Throw Beer On", you would be #2 on the list (my mom would be #1). A great man once said, "Tragedies very often become comedies, and they better become comedies real fast, or else you're in a lot of trouble." Apparently, this was one of those "tragedies". If there is a "silver lining" to this story, you should know that I've reported these events to many people, and the story has generated a lot of shocked, amazed, good-natured laughter, and that's your specialty. Hopefully, now that you've had a chance to dry off, shower, and calm down, you will also see the humor in this. After all, it is pretty funny.
I was able to take a handful of snap shots, most of which came out beautifully. If I was more of a computer-geek, I would include a few photos with this story, but that is well beyond the scope of my expertise.
When Jimmy was playing "Margaritaville", I took a few pictures of him, and then he motioned that he wanted my camera. I gave it to him, and he took a photo of me and all my new pals from the stage. This photo is great, and it is one of my most prized possessions.
Obviously, this was a great experience. If you ever get a chance to see Jimmy in a small club, do it. It was money and time well-spent. While I do not consider myself to be an official "Grumpy Old Parrot Head", I do share some of their feelings. If you're a GOP, you really need to see one of these club shows. It's like discovering JB for the first time.