Naked Lunch at Lee Harvey’s

A while back we were driving down to the Cedars with a couple friends in the car, looking for something to do. We thought we’d stop by Lee Harvey’s for a beer and maybe a burger, but when we arrived there wasn’t a parking spot in blocks and the beer garden was packed. We weren’t looking for that kind of a crowd – we wanted more of a mellow scene – so we passed by. I was wondering what had attracted that many people so I looked it up later. It was a band called Naked Lunch – a Steely Dan tribute band.

Over time I kept hearing, here and there, how good Naked Lunch was. They were scheduled to play Friday Evening and I thought about going, but the week had been brutal, I was feeling my age, and decided I needed to stay home. Luckily, powerful thunderstorms tore through the Metroplex and the show (semi outdoors) was moved to Sunday afternoon.

I was checking the time out on Lee Harvey’s Facebook Page – and noticed their free food contest. Most days, the fifth commenter on their daily post gets a free drink and entree. I usually never paid attention, but this time I couldn’t help but notice that the post only had two comments. I counted to thirty… then typed “Can’t Buy A Thrill” into the comment line and was surprised to find out I had timed it right and was the winner.

So now we had to go.

Which was extra good because the weather was beautiful (there is no better weather… not even California weather… than late-summer Texas a day or two after a big storm) and the band was most excellent.

Naked Lunch has been playing Steely Dan for fifteen years now… and they have got it about figured out. At one point I was sitting at a picnic table, eating a bit and had my back turned to the band. I remember thinking, “If I didn’t know that was a tribute band playing, I would think someone was spinning some Steely Dan vinyl behind me.”

Of course, to put on a Steely Dan show you need a whale of a band (a lot more than you need for, say, Simon and Garfunkel). Three piece sax/horn section, two guitars, base, drums, xylophone/percussion, keyboards, and a couple of female backup singers. It makes for a big sound.

Since it was a rescheduled afternoon show it wasn’t quite as big a crowd as the time we had driven by. Still, there were a lot of folks, a very diverse crowd, and everybody had a great time.

At a show like this, with so much music over so long of a time, you have to think about what your favorite Steely Dan song is. For someone my age, “Reeling in the Years,” has to be the iconic piece of music, with its rambunctious guitars… or is it “Do it Again”? – man that one brings back memories, but in this, the second decade of the twenty-first century, neither are my favorite. The one I like best is “My Old School” and that amazing horn line. I’ve always had a weakness for instrumentals.

The only downside is that they didn’t do “Dirty Work” – Candy’s favorite.

Naked Lunch at Lee Harvey's

Naked Lunch at Lee Harvey’s

They may be called "Backup Singers" but they're pretty important, if you ask me.

They may be called “Backup Singers” but they’re pretty important, if you ask me.

Sax and trumpet.

Sax and trumpet.

Xylophone and percussion.

Xylophone and percussion.

Naked Lunch at Lee Harvey's

Naked Lunch at Lee Harvey’s

Another reason we like to go to Lee Harvey’s on Sundays is that they usually hold benefits for animal rescue groups and there are a lot of dogs in the garden. Candy likes that. Today, Dallas Pets Alive was having their anniversary party. They were selling raffle tickets and Candy, to support the group, bought a handful. Our luck held and we won a 50 buck gift certificate for Lee Harvey’s.

So I guess we’ll be back.

And He Carries the Reminders of Every Glove That Laid Him Down

I first saw Simon and Garfunkel in an interview on television – maybe 1965…. At that time they were portrayed as a pair of oddball singers as part of a documentary on the resurgence of American Folk Music. I didn’t fully understand what I was hearing (I would have been eight years old and knew nothing about music) but my instincts told me that it was something special. This was years before “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and a year before “The Graduate” – the duo had not entered the public consciousness yet. Of course, I don’t remember any details but the documentary seemed to feel that the future belonged to these two strange men.

Five years later I remember riding in the car with my father one dark evening in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (I even remember the stretch of road) when the DJ announced a brand new release by Simon and Garfunkel – and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” came on the crackly AM mono radio for the first time. It was mesmerizing – I had simply never heard anything like that before. In this age of autotuned over-exposed pneumatic digital teeny-bopper corporate shovel-ready cash cow starlets we easily can forget how music was made to move your soul.

I bought the album and listened to it over and over until the vinyl was worn flat and I had to tape pennies to the tone arm to keep it from skipping.

I was especially obsessed with the non-hit music – all of it. “Frank Lloyd Wright,” “Cecilia,” “Keep the Customer Satisfied.” I was also fascinated by “The Boxer.” I studied the lyrics of that song – how the rhythm changes subtly – how the phrases speed up and slow down building to the heartbreaking climax. It was a small piece of amazing writing (but everybody already knows that).

Now, this was the third Thursday that I rode the train downtown after work for the Patio Sessions of free music in the Dallas Arts District. I was excited because this was going to be Holt and Stockslager in a duo tribute to Simon and Garfunkel.

Chris Holt and Chad Stockslager performing their tribute to Simon and Garfunkel

The music was fantastic – actually it was better than fantastic – it was perfect. It sounded like Simon and Garfunkel would if they could play a small, live, simple, intimate, outdoor set. The played all the favorites and a handful of obscure songs. I loved it, simple as that.

My one complaint, as it was last week, was the kids. It was worse this time around. Right from the beginning – a large horde of squealing children – from toddlers to pre-teens – ran boiling back and forth across the reflecting pool directly in front of the musicians.

This went on for the entire two hours of the performance. The parents did nothing to stop this. In fact, one idiot father in a Ranger’s cap ran out and actually dropped a small soccer ball into the roiling clot and then produced a portable plastic bubble machine to excite the rug rats even more.

I tried to ignore the kids and concentrate on enjoying the music but it was impossible. They were right there, kicking their feet noisily across the water, splashing through the shallow film, screaming at each other and running back and forth in front of the singers at top speed.

I would look (glare) at their parents – most of whom were sitting on blankets in groups well back from the water. They were sipping wine and chatting, ignoring the music completely. When they would turn their heads and look at their spawn running around their smiles would beam beatifically and you could read their minds leaking out of their mouths, “OH, look how cute my child is – I am surely the best parent with the best kid in the world! How lucky I am and how great for all these other people to be able to see and enjoy my wonderful creation… my offspring!”

And that’s it. This event isn’t about the music – it isn’t about Simon and Garfunkel. It’s about them.

My kids were as wild as they come – wilder than these hellions. I thought back – would I have let them run around during the concert?

Absolutely not. I would have let them careen around the reflecting pool before the music started and probably allowed them back between sets – but never while the band was playing.

It’s not about discipline or about how to raise your kids. It’s about respect for other people. Just because you’ve squeezed out a pup or two doesn’t make you the king of the world and a mellow concert is not the same thing as a children’s water park.

In a few weeks they are going to have a string quartet play down at a Patio Session. I would love to go to that – to hear them play. It would be the perfect relaxation after another tough week. But I can’t imagine listening to that subtle music with all those damn kids running around the whole time.

I am just a poor boy
Though my story’s seldom told
I have squandered my resistance
For a pocket full of mumbles such are promises

All lies and jests
Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest

When I left my home and my family
I was no more than a boy
In the company of strangers
In the quiet of the railway station running scared
Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters
Where the ragged people go
Looking for the places only they would know

Asking only workman’s wages
I come looking for a job
But I get no offers,
Just a come-on from the whores on Seventh Avenue
I do declare, there were times when I was so lonesome
I took some comfort there

Then I’m laying out my winter clothes
And wishing I was gone
Going home
Where the New York City winters aren’t bleeding me
Bleeding me, going home

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev’ry glove that layed him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame

“I am leaving, I am leaving”
But the fighter still remains