t. e. lawrence or if its this hot it must be the desert or is it just etta james and tower of power up on stage(?)
this weekend i came to realize why i hadn’t been out to the desert for a good number of years. yes, i live in the desert and i love the desert for it’s stark sunrise and sunset beauty. however, the real desert moonscape, an hour and a half drive to the east of here, is at least a good 20 degrees hotter than this portion of the desert. there’s something odd about going outside after 11pm and the temperature is still hovering around 91 degrees. weird flashback memories of singapore and ladies walking around in the hot steamy evenings wearing long sleeve knit dresses. but that’s a veer.
thankfully, we were able to check in early at our hotel, the hotel at indian palms resort. the room a/c dialed down to a nice 60 degrees. though it was still hot if you moved around. we didn’t. until shower time. i watched college football and the brown eyed girl napped fitfully while watching football. she worries about my picks. she’ a good girl. at any rate, i’d stay there again if we had the same room and were going to the same music venue.
the main point of our desert jaunt was the trip to, the spotlight 29 casino, for an evening concert with tower of power and the legendary etta james. not that tower of power isn’t legendary in their own right. showtime was 8pm. we arrived at around 4:30pm in order to gamble, drink, and eat before the show. it’s a fairly nice casino and all three things were well taken care of. the brown eyed girl even won over $80 playing slots. i won zip.
the showroom at the casino is pretty nice as well. comfortable seats but nothing special. we had great seats. row 7 center. bleeding sweet.
tower of power opened the show with about an hour and fifteen minute set. a set loaded with enough old sweaty dynamite to blow up a good portion of the palm springs area. halfway through the set the place was a seething cauldron of old hipsters and a few youngsters up and dancing. dancing up front at the stage or by their seats. an air conditioning system not made for the likes of tower of power’s power over an audience that came to see the 40 year old legends of r & b kick out the jams.
four members of the original band still remain: tenor sax, emilio castillo; baritone sax, stephen ‘doc’ kupka; bass, francis ‘rocco’ prestia; and drummer dave garibaldi. kids, if you ever get a chance to see these guys live you owe it to yourself to do whatever it takes. it’s been a number of years since i’ve seen a band grab on and hold and not let go of an audience till well after they’ve left the stage with the encore still ringing in our ears. fuck yeah. tower of power is that good. no doubt.
etta james. one of my all time favorite female singers is still kicking out some jams herself. along with two of her sons, donto james on drums, and sametto james on bass. plus the rest of an extremely talented and professional, roots band, as back up.
the roots band started the set off with a couple of rockin’ instrumental blues numbers. then ms etta sauntered out on stage and took things into her her own hands and laid out some of the best female vocals i’ve heard in many a year.
yes, of course, she is older than i am and has had numerous health issues over the years. but kids, i’ll tell you what, when she sits on her bar stool type chair and belts out an old blues standard or one of her own signature tunes like, ‘id rather go blind’ or ‘at last’ and then she starts playin’ around with herself along with an imaginary guitar playing male on the stage things became electric and amazing to say the least.
her singing/story telling came to a head with her tale of being a youngster and on the road with her friends and mentors, johnny ‘guitar’ watson and johnny otis. the johnny ‘guitar’ watson story about the perpetual towel on his lap while they drove to different venues was worth the price of admission alone. watson always had a towel on his lap when in the car. etta asked him why. johnny went off on stuff with of course the towel getting up off his lap unassisted at various times. story by etta went on with song and music in between the telling. at any rate, johnny finally told her it was a snake doing the moving. etta said that it’s not a snake. johnny said it was. etta finally said, yeah it was a snake. much to the delight of the audience
as was her very young granddaughter coming on stage and helping grandma out with one of her tunes. sweet and touching. hopefully, in the future, we’ll have another lady james singing the blues.
it’s been said that etta james is the best performing blues singer since billie holliday. i never got to see billie holliday perform live. i finally got to see etta james perform live this past weekend. i’m sorry it took so long to do so but i’ll tell you what: i would go see etta james perform live again in a heartbeat. count on it.
all in all, the evening was one of those stellar lifetime memory thingys. i put it right up there with seeing the stones back in 1969. or any other of the legends back in the day. yep. that good. plus, i got to share the evening with the brown eyed girl. nothing else needs to be said.
the photos that follow were taken with a cell phone camera and aren’t of the best quality. the etta photos in particular. the battery was running low. the good digital camera was cooling it’s heels back in the hotel room. i guess the brown eyed girl and i were just lucky we remembered to bring the tickets along with us.
tower of power.
ms etta james.