Concord Jazz Festival

Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Chekere

Phase 2

. . .

11:30 PM — I'm walking downstairs backstage as Jeff is walking up. "Hey man, you coming back to the hotel with us?" Hmmmm... His drum tech, who's probably just a few years younger than me, chimes in: "Yeah, we're gonna go get FUCKED UP!", smiling wide. I'm not really up for getting fucked up, so I'm not sure. I confer with Damon, who figures it would be cool to hang out, but he doesn't want to get fucked up either. Cool, we'll have safety in numbers if we need it. Francisco's up for it too. Cool, we're going. Since we don't know where the hotel is (Francisco says he knows, but we don't believe him; he thinks about nothing but music), we're going to follow Avishai.

There's only one problem: Damon's car is dead.

He says "Let's push start it. It'll be cool, I've done this a lot."

It doesn't work. He's rolling down a hill, on a dark road in the back of the venue, with no headlights. After failed attempts at both push-starting the car and dying a horrible death on the grille of an oncoming car (and not for lack of trying), he pulls over. Does anyone have jumper cables? No. Except me. Or rather, Lisa, who's at camp, but whose parents gave her an emergency car kit for our cross-country trip. Thank God for paranoid parents. We get his car started up easily, and we're off.

There's only one problem: Avishai's long gone, and we have to follow Francisco's lead.

He's a great guy, but music is all he thinks about. He takes the lead, driving like a bat out of hell, and we're sure that we're either going to lose him, or he's going to get all of us hopelessly lost in Concord. Thankfully, he knows Concord a lot better than we think he does, and we get there just fine.

There's only one problem: they never told us which room in the hotel.

I expect we're going to see chairs flying out of some room, clouds of marijuana smoke billowing out of its windows. We see no such thing; we may be sunk. What Hilton employee is going to let seven twenty-somethings into a guest's room at one in the morning?

Fortunately, we see in the lobby some people from backstage (not people who played, people who had passes), and they point us further down the hall. The party we've been invited to is a reception for Concord Records, the label on which all of the night's performers (except us, of course) are signed. There's food, something I haven't enjoyed in twelve hours because of fried nerves and intestinal butterflies. There's Chick, there's Jeff and Avishai, there's Poncho, there's lots of people schmoozing with Concord Records execs. There's us. We eat, drink, and be merry.

12:45ish AM — Avishai joins us for a while. I didn't get the chance to talk with him earlier, but he's also a really nice guy. He is a native of Israel, and his accent that I hadn't previously noticed becomes immediately apparent, only adding to his allure, never mind his dizzying bass talent. Everyone at the table talks about music and other things for quite a while. We're having a nice conversation, learning a lot about one another. Eventually the lulls start taking over the talking, and I decide, around 1:45, that I'm going to leave. I don't get up yet, but my mind is made up. The majority of the partygoers are now gone, with maybe 20 or 25 people left.

1:46ish AM — Jeff comes over to the table. Now I have to stay. He chats with us for about five minutes. And then:

1:51ish AM — Jeff grins and says: "So, this guy's over at his buddy's house. His buddy grew up next to the highway..." Jeff starts telling jokes. We start laughing. A lot. It turns out Jeff Ballard, along with being a great drummer, is a joke collector with some of the best delivery I've seen in someone who isn't a professional comedian. He has us, and himself, rolling on the floor in no time. Pretty soon everyone at the table is trying to think of jokes. Maybe it's not good conversation, but what do you expect at 2:00 in the morning? If you see me, ask me to tell you some of these (there's a lot more, but these are the ones I remember), they just don't work written down:

3:30 AM — The joketelling marathon finally ends. The whole room is clear except our table. I say to Damon: "Didn't I say I was going home?" This time I actually make it, as do all the rest of the participants. We say goodbyes all around and head to our cars with handshakes and hugs all around. It is a good night.

4:00 AM — Bed.