Throwback to Easter Sunday 2003

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Austin, Texas / April 19 & 20, 2003

After the show in Dallas we drive three hours to The Backyard. Despite our half-night of half-sleep on the Dallas streets, which now that we’ve been electrified by Bob feels like forever ago, there’s no chance we’ll get tired soon. We’re full of excitement, full of the show, full of the incomparable feeling of having just launched into this great adventure. Full of all these things and more, we buzz along comparing mental notes and shared observations of the night. We roll in around 1:30 AM, first people there except for Robin and Lex who are already there sleeping in their truck (damn it!). We don’t get much sleep tonight, initially laying out our bedding in a little alcove by the front of the building. It’s dark, country quiet. We hear footsteps like someone stepping daintily in high heels and wonder who the heck it could early arriving fan checking out the scene? No, it’s a deer walking around in the parking lot. Then a worker guy arrives at some ungodly hour in the morning while it’s still dark, and wakes us up to tell us that he’s going to let us keep sleeping for a little while…but that we’ll have to move around to a different gate. OK, duly noted, and we dive deeper into our bags, trying to secure a few more minutes of unconsciousness. But a minute later he’s back and says, actually, you should just move now. So we drag all our crap and move the car to where he tells us, and by this time the first hints of light are beginning to adorn the eastern sky. Ants wake up and begin crawling into our sleeping bags. Birds begin to sing. There is a particular bird in Texas that goes Doo-dee, doo-dee, doo-dee. More on that later. For now, we’re up to sleepily greet the day, find coffee, and while away the hours until we are next in front of Bob.

The Backyard is located outside of Austin in the town of Bee Caves, at the intersection of State Highway 7 and Farm Roads 620 and 2244. History tells us that the town of Bee Caves was named by early settlers for a large cave of wild bees found near the site where the town was established. If you ask me, that doesn’t seem like the smartest placement for a town. Hey, there’s a large cave of wild bees over here, lets settle down and make a town. Bring your EpiPen.

But it’s a nice place to spend a couple days in line. It’s a quite different setting from outside the Granada Theater; also markedly different than where our next one-two punch of shows will be, smack in the middle of downtown Houston. From city show to country show. There are wildflowers and trees and cactus all over the place. Kait squats on a cactus, trying to pee; fire ants turn out to be more of a problem for me than bees, as they swarm and sting the tops of my feet when I go for a bit of walkabout in the surrounding scrub. The only place to get any provisions is the gas station across Highway 71, where the lights are timed strictly in favor of the cars, not people trying to cross the road. But we don’t have much else to do besides take our life in our hands a couple times a day dashing across in the gaps between the cars going 60 miles per hour, and it is nice being out in the country.

It says on our tickets that the show will take place in the Live Oak Amphitheatre, and once we get inside I can see why. It’s an outdoor stage behind the bar and indoor part of the venue. Several big old oak trees tower here and there interspersed throughout the audience area, and also frame the stage magnificently. Quite a nice ambiance and a bit more room to stretch out than last night, under open sky and tree boughs.

Soon it is Bob’s vocal chords that are stretching out on a galloping Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum opener, drawing out notes in an enthusiastically nasal twang. Tell Me That It Isn’t True has Bob expressing the story in ways that are alternately longing, matter-of-fact, playful, and pissed off. Some lines frankly spoken: “You say that you’re planning, planning to put me down” almost as if he’s reading it written down in front of him, nothing but the facts, trying to reign in his feelings. But when he says ‘man’ as in ‘some other man,’ it is difficult to say and the word is edged with worry, with sorrow. The journey continues, and we get, “I just don’t understaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand,” followed by a pointed inquiry from the now angry, defiant lover: “Why would I?”

In contrast to a song like Tell Me That It Isn’t True, with its myriad nuances reflecting a range of emotional intricacies, Saving Grace is straight up. Nothing tongue in cheek about this one. It is Bob laid bare, singing with sweet and unmatched conviction, and it sends shivers down my spine to hear.

Things Have Changed bumps up the energy a notch, as it usually does, and this continues into the next song, Just Like A Woman, which is sung and played with quite a bit of vigor: “And she aaaaaaaAAACHES! A-just like a WOmaaaan. And make LUUUUUV – Yeeeaaaeeeees!” And so on, demonstrating line by line just how much can be done with a song that’s been done how many times down the years? It’s vibrant and new tonight and we’re hanging on each syllable.

But my undisputed highlight of the show, the weekend, and the tour so far, is an exquisite One Too Many Morning. Oh, this tugs at my soul. It’s a rarity, and each time I’ve heard it feels like the only time. There is a pedal steel intro that might defy description in its soft beauty. It’s almost as if I can see the notes float down from on high, like clouds or feathers. With Larry Campbell, things are always just right, never overdone or underdone. On the final note before Bob comes in singing, he puts some kind of a warp or bend on it, so that it distorts just ever so slightly in the fade out, wah wah, like a sob. Bob handles the song with great love and care, singing it sweet and simple, a whole world in each lonely word. There are great spaces of music in between the sung verses. Bob plays guitar for the second time tonight, and his searching wandering guitar licks echo the ambivalent sadness of the song, that restless hungry feeling, seeking around for an answer when there really is none. We’re both just… the lilting pedal steel notes wrap around Bob’s acoustic guitar lines. The music reflects the feeling so perfectly. Bob sings the last verse quietly, making us lean in and pay close attention. When he says, “You are right from your side,” it’s followed by just the vaguest hint of a chuckle, a subtle, ‘Huh,’ which somehow seems perfectly appropriate, a touch of the comic in the tragedy, the ability to laugh which makes us human, residing there in the sadness of irreconcilable differences.

After the show we get invited to go to The Four Seasons to have a drink with Hutch. Since tomorrow night’s in the same spot, no need for any of us to hit the road! One of the bus drivers, Sonny, is also there, and he’s funny as hell. He tells stories about driving the tour bus for Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, being given pot-laced confections by the band unbeknownst to him, and driving an all-nighter tripping on acid. Hutch looks on with mild disapproval. On the way from the Four Seasons to the hotel where we’ll be sleeping on the floor, Nicole and I smoke a joint and it throws my head into a crazy twisted space. I go from being ready to crash to having warped visions and intense auditory hallucinations. We get into an already dark hotel room where others are sleeping and I struggle with my sleeping bag for ten minutes, trying to remember how it works. Once I lay down in my spot on the floor, I can’t turn off the sound of music in my head. As I’m kind of drifting off to sleep or, more accurately, floating in some interim space between being awake and asleep, I begin to hear songs from the concert replayed in my head. It starts out that I’m remembering a song, I think it is Just Like A Woman, and thinking about it, but soon it takes on a life of its own and I’m hearing it loud and blasting and seeing Bob on stage. Then he starts to morph into weird psychedelic animals. Then he catches on fire. That makes me realize it’s a dream so I shake myself out of it and it’s just me, lying there on the floor. But I can’t for the life of me think of where I am. Then I remember, and try to root myself there…Austin, hotel room floor, Kait’s right there, Bob played tonight…Every time I close my eyes and approach what feels like sleep, my mind starts to race, I hear the music, and I’m back at this live show where inexplicable things are happening to Bob. I wonder if I’m going crazy.

But in a few hours we’re up at 6 and I’m merely tired, heading back over to the venue. It’s Easter Sunday. We stumble into line again. The line is next to a little box office that they use for some shows, and it has an electrical outlet on the outside that is perfect for plugging in our coffee maker. So we brew up coffee right there in line. I hunch in my folding chair with my purple sleeping bag wrapped around me, listening again to the birds that say doo-dee and waiting for the sun to warm up the day.

The day passes with some hands of gin rummy and walks back and forth to the store and the car. There’s a guy there from San Antonio who slept in the bushes because he thought the night security would kick him out if they saw him. Some mishaps occur on the run in tonight. Kait has a shirt mishap, a wardrobe malfunction which receives enthusiastic applause from the guys leaning on their counters in the concession booths watching us speed in. There’s a little wooden footbridge that you have to run up and over and there’s some loose gravel on the other side. Deb from Wyoming picks up a little too much speed and goes down in a cloud of dust. I make it in mishap-free and am one of the first down there and snag ourselves a spot just a bit farther right tonight, perfectly in Bob’s sightline.

Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You replaces last night’s Tell Me That It Isn’t True, in its early show positioning as well as its emotionally indecisive quality. Bob may be staying, but he sounds kind of wrecked about it, and Larry’s crying pedal steel backs him up. “LAWD I hear that station master TOO!” He sounds pained, maybe it’s a love / hate kinda thing! Or maybe he just knows he’ll have to leave tomorrow night.

Next we hit it hard with a sprawling, galloping, Tombstone Blues. It’s barely contained, with the music all spilling out around the edges of the song, and Bob kind of loses it vocally on the “John the Baptist” verse – keeps up with the pacing of the words but makes up his own. It’s phonetically more or less accurate but isn’t really words. He’s over-excited. I’m over-excited. He attacks the keyboard after that verse. George comes in and out with drumming like gunshots.

Ah, the perfect foil to the out-of-control nature of Tombstone is You Ain’t Going Nowhere, lilting and lovely and such a sweet rendition. “Ooo Eee ride me high!” Bob’s singing on this is buoyantly enthusiastic, bouncing around the edges of the melody, like he’s trying to bust out of a cage. His harmonica solo to close it out is similar, wild and unruly within the sweet confines of Larry’s pedal steel. Wonderfully contrasting sounds.

It Ain’t Me Babe is a song that continues to bring Bob to the guitar, and Larry goes to violin. Wow! More sounds in beautiful harmonious contrast to each other! A musical jam that comprises the last third of the song has Bob’s signature staccato guitar noodlings wrapped up in a violin line that ebbs and flows in intensity and sounds kind of like a bee or giant mosquito dipping and diving in and out. It’s prettier than that description would lead you to think, and most definitely unique and interesting.

Something weird happens at the end of the show. I've been wearing a skimpy sundress with skinny straps and have noticed, particularly as we've gotten into rockers like Cold Irons Bound, Dignity, Honest With Me, a fair bit of attentiveness from Bob. He's bopping along, ducking his head down beneath his microphone at the piano and... smiling? After the All Along The Watchtower encore, he dons his black cowboy hat and stands with the other guys staring out at the audience, looking around, assessing the crowd and accepting our applause. However, he pretty quickly comes over to the side that we are on, and settles his eyes on me. We lock gazes. I blow him a kiss and tell him I love him, and he doesn’t look away. He narrows his blue eyes, the better to see me with? And he just…keeps…looking. I get the feeling he’s sizing me up. He kind of wiggles his hips a little, shifts weight from leg to leg, opens and closes his fingers into loose fists. I blow him another kiss and I think he barely, almost imperceptibly, nods and puckers his lips a little. It must be a total of a full minute that he’s staring down at me from the stage, taking me in. Is he thinking about other times he’s seen me, remembering past encounters, or trying to think where? Wondering how many more shows I’ll be at? Or thinking about what’s on the bus to eat? Who the fuck knows. All I know is that Bob Dylan staring at me for a minute feels like time without end; I kind of feel like I should look away but since he doesn’t, I don’t. Finally he turns and walks off stage with the rest of them. I feel like someone’s seen through my skin to my heart and soul, like I’ve been revealed.

It freaks me out but I want more.