Thanks to everyone who showed up to the Steinbeck Fellows reading. It was a great time --- and the crowd was so much bigger than I expected (standing room only. Cool.)
in other news, John Prine played for free at an enormous festival at Golden Gate Park this weekend. I joined a small throng of Prinefreaks who made a single-file line that snaked its slow way to the very front. Prine is one of my heroes; his songs are so precise. (no word or phrase feels out of place to me. He can switch gears from heartbreak to comedy and back again. Sometimes he'll even figure out ways to combine these things in the same three-minute song.)
Prine sounded great to me; he battled throat cancer a couple of years ago, and, if anything, his voice sounded scratchier, deeper, croakier and more distinctive than before. More than this, it was great to see all the twenty-somethings and teenagers close to the front, 'discovering' his music at long last. His songs sounded more relevant than ever (especially his Vietnam-era classic, "That Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore,' which drew a lot of rueful laughter from the crowd, along with an almost violent rebuttal from a fellow standing close to me who decried the song as "disgusting.'' Prine must be doing something right if he can get under someone's skin like that.)
As I was walking home from the set, I heard an unusually beautiful live version of Nick Lowe's "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding.'' Upon further investigation, I realized that Nick Lowe himself (!) was the man on the stage singing the song. All in all it was a fantastic festival. My only quibble is the fact that so many people showed up to the festival for the sake of talking very loudly, in braying tones, during the performances. That's just plain rude. The louder acts held up just fine but quieter acts (such as Gillian Welch and David Rawlings) got lost in this sea of lame kibbitzing.