Musical Memories – Get The F#!K Outta My Way! Aug 18, 1993: Neil Young w/Booker T & the Mg’s / Pearl Jam / Soundgarden / Blues Traveller

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Sitting alone on the bus bound for Toronto I looked down at my feet and exclaimed “Oh shit!” louder than I should have. People turned to see this large man who looked more biker than student, wearing a pair of headphones shaking his head at his own stupidity. Sandles… I was wearing sandles to a freakin’ big ass concert at the Exhibition Stadium. Worse, it was general admission floors and I realized that I had made a huge mistake.

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I hook up with my girlfriend at the bus station, and meet with my roommate at the show as Blues Traveller put on a set that was entertaining to the few people who had arrived. I had expected a large crowd for Soundgarden who were still touring Badmotorfinger but that didn’t really materialize either. Despite low turnout for their set Cornell and co. put on a great performance. When they left the stage, that’s when things started getting weird. The crowd started filling in, but it wasn’t too bad until Pearl Jam walked on and the opening chords of “Go” rang out. Finishing the last dates supporting Ten, and having just finished the as yet unreleased VS. Pearl Jam was at the top of their popularity. Suddenly every kid who had a seat relinquished it and started breaking for the floor. Security was helpless as hundreds of people started to rush the stage.

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I was perhaps 50 – 60 feet from the band when this started and within just a few seconds I was thirty feet from them; except I had not taken a single step. It was a current of kids turning into rapids. My girlfriend started to stumble. At that moment a mixture of fear, anger and adrenaline took over. I grabbed my future wife, said excuse me to the first couple people, and with no other choice just started pushing through the crowd sideways. Each step I became angrier and despite the music I could hear screams of pain in the distance. Finally, the three of us came into a bit of a clearing when some poor kid, who had my height but was twig thin, ran straight into me.

BANG!

He looked down, went white and murmured, “I’m sorry.”

I didn’t have to look down to know what had happened. His Doc Marten kicked my big toe nail, and ‘pop’ my foot was now a bloody mess. All that adrenaline went straight to my chest and I bellowed “GET THE F#!K OUTTA MY WAY!!!” He disappeared in a shot. We went to a concession stand got a few napkins and then watched the rest of Pearl Jam’s set from the furthest seats of the stadium. Pearl Jam finished with a rousing rendition of the Who’s “Baba O’Riley” and left the stage. As they did so did the Pearl Jam fans. Hundreds just left.

We made our way back to the floor which was now civilized and found ourselves pretty much where we were standing before all the chaos.

Neil Young took the stage with the legendary STAX band Booker T & the MG’s and knocked through a set that pulled from both his acoustic and electric sides. The crowd was mostly in awe at the aging veterans who were putting on an awesome spectacle. For the first encore Young pulled out his harmonica and began to play the familiar whistle opening to the late Otis Redding classic “(Sittin On) The Dock Of The Bay” (Booker T &b the MG’s play on that Redding original). Unlike other covers by artists like Michael Bolton, Young didn’t use the song as some opportunity to emote through musical masturbation of vocal range, instead he stuck to the true dreamy nature of the original. Then he went electric again and broke into the Dylan stomper “All Along The Watchtower.” When the band finished everyone left the stage.

For the second encore Young & the MG’s were joined by Pearl Jam for “Rockin’ In The Free World” which delighted fans both young and old.

My girlfriend decided to drive me home when the radio started announcing several injuries due to the crush of people. I looked at my foot, considered myself lucky for only losing a toe nail, and popped Harvest Moon into the tape deck. That was the last time I ever went to Exhibition Stadium. It was torn down in 1999.

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I Really Want This! Sweet Relief: A Benefit For Victoria Williams – Various Artists

 

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Back in ’93 I was given an album to review that became a best friend of sorts. Surprisingly it was a compilation record (which usually just don’t stand up due to inconsistency) of songs by an artist whose music was only known previously to musicians and music geeks, but it knocked me over. One song after another caught my imagination with vivid imagery and music that could be both morose and uplifting within the same moment. It was brilliant, which is something you usually can’t say for a record recorded by “various artists.” However, what holds it together is the artist to who the album was benefiting – Victoria Williams.

“My sister got bit by a copperhead snake in the woods behind the house” is the first line that pops out the old speakers as Soul Asylum breaks into “Summer Of Drugs” and I as listener was hooked. By the time Evan Dando (of the Lemonheads) sings “Frying Pan” I’ve decided I want to play guitar.  By the conclusion I’m looking for a bullhorn so I can tell any and everyone within earshot that they have to listen and buy this record. Williams’ songs are so detailed in character that songs feel like you’ve both read an exceptional short story and listened to a new musical experience. Despite the different styles of the various artists performing the songs, the original vision of the songwriter herself remains potent and shines through any genre leaping in the album itself.

If you don’t know the story, Williams star was on the rise when she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Having been bogged down with debt from increasing medical bills a virtual who’s who of 90’s alt rock and beyond joined forces to help her and others out. The Sweet Relief Charity Fund was set up to help musicians in need of expensive health care.

More than 20 years have gone by and Pearl Jam is still playing their contribution “Crazy Mary” live, and my CD still has a home within twelve inches of the stereo. So, you can see my love for this record runs deep, and I want a vinyl copy… I just didn’t think that one actually existed. That is until the other day when I just started putting album titles into the discogs search engine and… oh my, it exists. But damn… only in European used stores that would raise the price with shipping to over a hundred bucks.

So, I hope that it gets re-issued on vinyl eventually or that the ghost of Ed McMahon shows up at my door with an oversized check.

Sweet Relief can still be purchased at your better record stores on CD and has two follow up LP’s.

Sweet Relief II: Gravity Of The Situation – The Songs Of Vic Chesnutt

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And

Sweet Relief III: Pennies From Heaven

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Check them out, give ‘em a listen, and maybe you’ll want to drop a few dollars to a worthy cause.

P.S. – Here’s a video of Victoria Williams covering the great Sam Cooke