COMBINED REPORTS - Rio Theater, Santa Cruz CA, July 21 2002
Subject: Rio Theater, Santa Cruz CA
Date: June 25 2002
Here's a review from my Santa Cruz friend Tim Ledwith, who doesn't subscribe to the list probably because he has a "real job" or just a sense of Catholic guilt about the time he would spend reading it at work...he lives within walking distance of the Rio Theatre. BTW he introduced me to Dan Hicks circa 1971. - Rich Donnelly
The Dan Hicks show was excellent. I'll just have to ramble off some observations as they come to mind. Dan was as funny as ever and the band was tight. Brian Godchaux is an awesome violin and mandolin player, and Paul Robinson is a guitar virtuoso. Dan did a mix of old favorites and newer tunes. There was a lot of scat singing, and great little rhythmic interludes. The Lickettes were good singers (both took scat singin' solos) and good lookin' (Dan: "After the show, the Lickettes will be at the card table in back, siginng CDs. In their lingerie."). Dan was wearing a dark maroon shirt and big black old- man pants that came well up his belly.
The Dan Hicks show was in a converted movie theater, and the audience was very quiet at first. Quite a contrast to the usual bar or club- type settings where I've seen Dan in the past. When the band walked onstage you could hear a pin drop. It felt sorta awkward. Dan was non- plussed, of course, and laconically told us "We're going to take a minute to get set up here. So why don't you just talk among yourselves". An audience member yelled out, "Nice clothes, Dan", and Dan ambled back to the microphone, and motioning with his hands in a circle, drawled "The suggestion was to talk AMONG YOURSELVES". At one point in the show, Dan announced "We're going to take a 30 second break and drink some water." He then held up a bottle of Crystal Geyser water and rambled on about how where ever the band goes, there's always some local brand of bottled water. He turned to one of the Lickettes and said "Remember that bottle of Frog Snot? Where was THAT? Butthole, Virginia wasn't it?". A few second later, Dan said "Ah, well, we're getting in to some weird territory on this break, I guess we'll resume the show now."
He did more slow tempo numbers that I remember in the past. They opened with Canned Music, including the line "Canned Music, playing on the Internet, Canned music, as digital as it can get". Highlights included Long Comma Viper (with Dan urging "Everyone!" to sing the unintelligble fast-paced tongue-twisting chorus), Evenin' Breeze, a mind-blowing I Scare Myself, I Feel Like Singing (Dan, introducing the band: "The Lickettes went to college together. Yes, they were in the Cmonna Wanna Layya sorority. Kind of a Polynesian thing"). During I Scare Myself, Paul Robinson played a solo where he dropped down the scales to the lowest notes on the guitar, then untuned the top string even lower and kept playing, and then, without stopping, tuned the top string back into tune, and jammed on. Amazing.
Dan, after introducing the band: "Get to know them now, cause in a year they're all going to be famous. We're all moving in together and doing to a TV reality show like the Osbornes. Yes, it's a great opportunity for us." Audience member: "What are you going to call it, The Hicks?" Dan: "I'll get back to you later. Much later." Later in the show, Dan did a couple of slower Southern tunes, and did an odd, funny, soft-shoe funky-chicken shuffling dance with the Lickettes. During I Scare Myself, after each band member had taken a solo, Dan took his in his usual fashion, he stood in front of Paul Robinson and , while Paul played a rippin' solo, Dan acted it out as if he himself was playing the notes. I'd seen this before but Dan took it to a new level, including finger picking in the air, and wiggling his finger in his ear during one long searing-note solo. Lots of facial mugging and posing, (even grabbed his crotch).
After one song's applause died down, Dan complimented the audience on the applause "That was a real good job on the applause. Nice and loud, and then it stopped all at once. That's how we like it. When you're done, just stop all at once. Don't drag it it on. Applaud, then stop. Thank you." When someone called out requests, Dan gave 'em the evil eye and spat out "We'll be picking the songs this evening, ladies and gentlemen". He dedicated the version of I Scare Myself to the Catalyst nightclub, where he admitted that he'd left town under "let's say, weird circumstances" in the past. (He was referring to the time in 1984 that he was so drunk he laid down on the stage and wouldn't play. The show was cancelled and he was banned from the Catalyst forever.)
A couple of tunes featured two violins, with Annabelle (one of the Lickettes) joining Brian Godchaux for a twin violin sound. (Dan: "And now we're going to feature our twin violins. Even the Grateful Dead couldn't claim that."). Dan also did The Piano Has Been Drinking, (Dan deadpanned: "Tom Waits is gonna be real glad I recorded this song. This song has kinda done nothing for years and years, and now it's going to be a big hit. Yes, Tom's gonna say, I'm sure glad that Hicks fellow recorded that song"). One surprise was a Jimmy Rodgers country tune, with Dan yodeling and encouraging the audience to join in the yodeling (Dan: "Jimmy Rodgers was the first country artist, back in the 20's. Yep, the first country singer to sell out."). Dan was in fine voice throughout the show, with some brassy low voicing (remember the album version of O'Reilly at the Bar?) and even some wheezy Bob Dylan parodies during a couple of tunes.
The encore was a great, jumping Buzzzard Was Their Friend. They finished up with a mid-tempo Milk Shakin' Mama , heavy on the double- entendres (with Dan improvising: "She can really shake 'em" and "Jerk! jerk! jerk! jerk!"). It had all the elements of a classic Dan song: tongue-in-cheek lyrics, sly humor, catchy melody, and two animated Lickettes trading lines and knowing glances with Dan.
Kathy & Ken
We left Fremont for Santa Cruz on Friday morning, stopping in the misty seaside village of Pescadero for a late breakfast at the justifiably reknowned Duarte's Restaurant. Kathy partook of one of the specialties of the house, the Artichoke Omelet. After a pleasant lunch and a little shopping, we took Highway 1 south toward SC, enjoying some beautiful views of the ocean.
When we got to Santa Cruz, we decided to drive by the Rio Theater since we had never been there. It is a well-restored and maintained 1940s movie house on Soquel Avenue, fairly close to our overnight lodging place, and near several promising-looking restaurants. Another nice thing about the area was the absence of SC's infamous professional "homeless" beggars, which we have seen more than enough of on our past visits to town, when Dan has played at venues on Pacific Avenue, the main pedestrian-friendly shopping district.
Our digs for the night were on nearby Ocean Avenue, at the Absolutely No Frills So Don't Even Ask, Travelodge of Santa Cruz. The room had a sign stating the allotment of one washcloth, one hand towel, and one bath towel, per guest, per day, and listed the tariff to be added to one's bill for each missing towel. (Example: $10 for one of the see-through bath towels.) The room card-key had to be inserted into a slot in the ice machine to get it to dispense some cubes. After that warm welcome, we settled in to relax for a bit and get ready for the big Dan show.
For supper, we tried a crepe restaurant across the street from the Rio. The crepes were yummy, and the ambiance straight out of the 70s, but our ring-lipped server was a little offputting, especially when he sang along with the dreary piped-in "alternative" music. Most of our fellow diners were, like us, in the 40+ crowd, so a staff member evidently got hip to the demographic, since the music eventually changed to what sounded like the "Undercover Brother" soundtrack.
After dinner we crossed the street to the Rio to get in line, and meet up with friends Bob and Melanie, fellow Hix fans driving over from San Jose after work. The line was a little slow to develop, but reached around the corner by the time the doors opened. Kudos to the Rio's door and security staff who, unlike those at (insert name of other recent Bay Area venues here), were pleasant and courteous to us music-lovers.
After finding seats near enough for aural ambience, and midway between the speakers, we settled in to wait for the show. The Rio has no bar, so we munched on big cookies and drank bottled water while Patsy Cline's Greatest Hits played over the sound system.
At about 9:20, Patsy's sad songs were finally switched off, and Dan and The Hot Licks entered the auditorium from the lobby to take the stage, acknowledging the warm applause as they came down the aisle. We noticed right off the bat that Dan has a snazzy new guitar -- a Gretsch Rancher Jumbo, with built-in Fishman pickup and cool French-style triangular soundhole.
We also couldn't help but notice Dan's stage outfit for the night: A plum-colored shirt and black slacks, accessorized with a bright blue belt and shiny blue-and-white wingtips. Ken said it made him a little queasy at first, but he eventually got into it.
The evening's lineup was Annabelle Cruz and Susan Rabin as the Lickettes. Paul Smith on bass, Brian Godchaux on violin and mandolin, and Paul Robinson on lead guitar. As Buffalo Al mentioned in his show notes from the Coach House, Paul's slide guitar on "I Scare Myself" was truly awesome, and it was great to hear him with Dan again. Brian's violin work really stood out, and he was the recipient of some warm rounds of applause after his solos. Several of the Lickettes' vocal arrangements have been very nicely updated and enhanced.
Dan was in really good humor -- our faces hurt after the show from laughing. After a couple of songs, he introduced the band (with himself as "Mike Tyson"), and said that they would all be household names in a year, because they were moving into a big house to do an "Osbournes" thing (If only!).
Except for "Canned Music" being the first song of the night, here is the set list in no particular order:
Peach Pickin' Time In Georgia
Some of the high moments of the night were: * One of the best versions of "Viper" that we have ever heard, it just cooked! A really nice "Bottoms Up!" with Paul R. reprising his tasty guitar solo.
"Blues For Dixie" is new to the band, and was acknowledged as a "work in progress". Dan made mention of it being on Vassar Clements' "Hillbilly Jazz" album. It was a pleasant surprise for Kathy, since the tune was on her late 70s set list; she remembers learning it from Merle Haggard's version. Dan mentioned that a new album is in the works. He said it's still untitled, but *won't* be called "For Lovers Only".
Dan and the Lickettes did their dance routine during the break in "Exactly Like You", to the audience's delight. There were a few beats where the choreography went a little weird, but of course that made it even better. Dan's "guitar solo" during "I Scare Myself" was also well-received; it was even more out-there than usual.
Buffalo Al mentioned in his report that things got pretty hot and stuffy at the Coach House, and we must say it was the same at the Rio. Good thing it was in the low 50s outside or things would have been much worse. It was a relief to get outside. All in all, though, the Rio is a nice venue, with good sound; we only wish they'd turn on the fans or something.