Program Notes

Sturge and Diane Ward were on-stage, blitzing and blazing, their acoustic guitars spitting fire, the timing perfect and powerful, as if the duo were connected at the hip, or the brain. I know there's no villy void of praise for Ward's voice, but I have to say it again: Wow. You have to hear it. So I'm guzzlin' on the 'House and groovin' to this mighty music, and it ends, and Sturgis gets all over me about last week's plug of the show. I'd written that he might be on hand, the caveat due to his hyperbusy sked these days. "Listen, punk, when Diane plays, I play," Nikides growled. Okay, so I'm paraphrasing. Point made nonetheless.

Then it was time for a little mellow-rock outfit called Natural Causes. Frightening. I had brought along a reggae CD for drummer Jim Wall, but I couldn't find him. Neither could manager Keith Schantz. Neither could anyone. The whole band is on-stage, ready to rock, it's one minute till showtime, and no drummer. No sign of him. Tragedy. Tension. Trouble. One, two, three A and there's Wall, walking up and sitting down A four. Another great moment, and while I might be overdocumenting, it's my job A the band's first set on this night turns out to be one of the best rock and roll shows I've ever seen, anywhere. Seen Bruce plenty, including a classic pre-Xmas show in Tally. Seen Elvis plenty, including that set at Sunrise when he opened with "Lipstick Vogue." Seen plenty. And I'm tellin' ya, objectively and sincerely, this is it. And it scares me, because I'm pretty callous, jaded really, about seeing the Causes in a club. Old hat.

And I fight it, fight it hard. But it still happens. The set arcs and bends and weaves, a summer soul sensation that almost made it onto Bomb in the Shelter A "Crazy Mixed Up World" A spins as beautiful as true love, and you want to scream out to the world "get this," and the opening notes of "God's Country" ring, and I'm really fighting it, but the sweat comes anyway, the chills, the tears, the shakes. And it can't go any further, but it does, and even a couple of hours later, after some serious breakdown jams that would have the Grateful Dead jaw dropped in admiration, the second set ends with a clear, crisp rendering of "I Ain't Pretending," a monster hit if I've ever heard one, and the cycle is complete. The chains are broken. This is it.

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