Tour Diary: Craig Bickhardt and Ronstadt Generations

itinerary:

june 24th: sellersville theater, sellersville PA

june 25th: studios of long valley, long valley NJ

june 28th: eagleview summer concert series, lionville PA

the folks in ronstadt generations have become friends over the past couple of years from a handful of one-off shows here and there. michael, the patriarch of the band, is linda’s brother, and he helms the band with his two sons, petie and michael G…they’ve been travelling with josh hisle for the past few shows we’ve done with them, as well. you’ll probably remember josh if you’ve seen the deja vu documentary from the CSNY tour that followed the living with war album, having been in the movie and subsequently taken under neil’s wing. most recently, they had been part of our “evening of thanksgiving” show that we do every year at milkboy in ardmore.

this was the first time we’d put together something like this – we’ve done on the road and in the round shows before where we’ve done strings of shows with guests, but we hadn’t really done a co-bill like this…with the OTRAITR shows, everything is in the “round” format, and the formula is largely tried and true – it’s just a matter of gathering the right personalities and talent. these were standard co-bill performances, and relied strictly on the two artists – the ronstadts, and craigs’ mighty little touring unit (which, for these shows, included michael G on cello, since he was along with the family and all).

sellersville
tommy geddes onstage during load-in for the sellersville show...

the first gig was a sellersville theater show that we all promoted pretty heavily – it’s a 300 seat room, and it was our first time putting a show there that wasn’t as an opener for a pre-booked headliner…so there was some pressure to put bodies in the seats, as we hadn’t really proven ourselves there in that capacity. we were really happy to have drawn the respectable numbers that we had at showtime – it was quite a relief, believe me. now, what i wasn’t really aware of was that petie was planning to record the show. i didn’t really give it a thought, as we record shows occasionally at sellersville, but it’s usually just as a record of the show, or to review the set…generally academic in purpose.

this was more than just a soundboard recording, though…petie was setting up for a multitrack capture. i just assumed that they were recording their own set, for their own purposes, and it wasn’t really pertinent to us at all. well, as it turned out, they were recording our set as well…but i didn’t really realize it until after the show.

we were incorporating a couple of new songs into the set tonight – one of them a song that craig had written in the aftermath of the nashville floods called men and rivers, and the other an ode to the creative spirit, called crazy nightingale:

in the video, you can plainly see the price tag still hanging from the headstock of my then-still-new-to-me national new yorker lap steel, the one i’d just gotten while on the road with the boys in boris garcia during our west coast run. 🙂

during, and then after the show, i felt good about how we’d played…i wasn’t particularly excited about it – didn’t feel it was exceptional from my vantage point or anything like that – it just seemed like a solid set, good performances, minimal clams. everyone enjoyed everyone else’s music and company, and we said goonight until the following nights’ show.

the next night, when i got to load-in, larry was positively raving about the recording from the show the night before.

apparently, petie’s recording of our set had turned out pretty well. 🙂

ronstadts
ronstadt generations onstage at the studios of long valley in NJ

this venue, the studios of long valley, has been a favorite of mine – fabulous sound system, good people…a little off the beaten path to be sure, but a great place to see a show. our friend carol bernotas from WNTI was there for the show, and her musical DNA is very, very similar to mine, and she’s a pleasure to hang with. jon and georgina rosenbaum made it out to the show, and i had a little something special in the trunk for jon – he had bought a les paul standard goldtop from me, and we’d agreed to do the exchange at this show, since he was planning on being there.

there was only one other date set for our shared run – an outdoor concert series in chester county, just outside downingtown and pottstown in tiny eagleville that’s been happening on tuesdays in the summer for several years, presented these days by jesse lundy and rich kardan at point entertainment.

eagleview
my side of the stage at the eagleview summer concert series with craig bickhardt

it was pretty much the perfect show to wrap up the run…it was sticky and humid outside, but we had a great crowd – and that went a long way towards making the heat bearable. we even had a dancer during our set, at one point…who slowly started removing clothing during the song, but thankfully we ran out of song before he ran out of clothing. 🙂

after the show, we all grabbed a table in the courtyard behind the stage area – the ronstadts, craig, elaine, jake and our crew – and ordered some food, a few drinks, and watched hisle terrorize our waitress for a good half hour…papa ronstadt sat at my end of the table, and we had a great conversation. we had just lost kenny edwards, who played bass for linda and produced karla bonoffs’ amazing debut album, so we remembered kenny together for a short while…he’s a good soul, papa ronstadt. the whole night reminded me that there’s a lot of comeraderie that’s been lost as our business has morphed over the years…i use almost famous as a yardstick for a lot of things in my life, and i couldn’t help but flash back to the backstage scene early on in the movie as everyone was getting reacquainted, running into folks at the arena dock during load-in. a lot of the time in between nowadays is spent in solitude now, and we travel in tight circles because that’s what we can afford…and the hang after this show just reminded me of that.

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EPILOGUE: the multi-track recording of the sellersville show apparently turned out so well that craig and pete are mixing it for release as a live album!

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