This one is drawn from my June Relix editor’s note…
A number of years ago I saw Carlos Santana do something at one of his shows that I had not witnessed before, nor have I seen since.
Santana was on tour with Jeff Beck, and they had landed at a 30,000-capacity amphitheater in Hartford, Conn., called the Meadows. (It’s now called XFINITY Theatre, but in the years between that Santana performance and the present, it also was known as the ctnow.com Meadows Music Theatre, the New England Dodge Music Center and the Comcast Theatre. For all I know, by the time you read this, it’ll be called the 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheatre, but that’s a story for another day.)
Midway through Santana’s set, a friend of mine about six rows back from the stage was really feeling it. While everyone around him was seated, he stood up, gave in to the music and began to dance. Up until this moment, the ushers had made a point to quell any such attempts by folks in the first 15 rows or so by aggressively moving in and shining flashlights at anyone who dared to leave their seats. My friend—who was careful to dance in such a way that he didn’t encroach on anyone’s personal space—had his eyes closed, so he didn’t see the usher push into the row in an effort to compel him to resume the seated position.
The person with the best vantage point on all this action was Carlos Santana. In the middle of a percussion jam, Carlos walked to the lip of the stage and gestured at the venue staffer, then pointed to my dancing friend and made it clear that he should be allowed to continue.
Since my friend’s eyes were closed the entire time, he missed all of this. But I took it in and acquired a deep respect for Carlos’ awareness of the audience, and the active role he played in resolving the conflict in the dancer’s favor.
When speaking with Carlos for this issue’s cover story, he indicated that this scenario occurs from time to time, and that he remains sensitive to the issue—“I think that comes from when I grew up watching Bill Graham and Jerry Garcia. I remind people who work in our organization: ‘I need for you to get with all the ushers every night and look at them in the eye and say, ‘This concert is different from any other concert. I’d like for you to remember that you have a gig, the musicians have a gig, everybody has a gig because of the audience. Without them, you would be home watching TV and drinking beer. We all have jobs because of that guy who wants to dance.’ I understand that a lot of people pay expensive ticket prices to be in front but, after 45 minutes, even those people have to get over themselves because when you see a person who is doing air guitar, air drums, air congas, air keys—that person is playing all the instruments. You’ve got to let that person dance. I’m pretty sure I got that from Bill Graham.”
It’s fitting that our Santana cover story appears in the same issue as our annual festival guide because the diverse lineups that Bill Graham assembled at his Fillmore venues, and in the years to follow, are precursors to the eclectic festival lineups of today.
On this subject, Carlos also asserted: “If I couldn’t play guitar, I would be a supreme DJ because I can play music that has a collective commonality. I would take three songs from the Grateful Dead that are in the same frequency with John Coltrane and The Doors and John Lee Hooker, and I would spend the whole day weaving the same frequency. People would have to pull over their cars. I didn’t learn this at the Berklee School of Music or Stanford or any university. My university was the Fillmore. That’s my alma mater.”
There are many of us who would like to think we hold honorary degrees from this august institution.
It’s summer festival time again. Class is in session…
Later days and peace,