Date: Sunday, September 10, 2000
From: Fern MacDonald
Subject: Greg Brown/Hugh Blumenfeld, The Beardsley Zoo, Bridgeport, Ct, 9/9/00
This is New England. It was Mark Twain that once said, "If you don't like the weather here, just turn around and it will change!" That was a good description of yesterday and just about every day this summer. I don't think these parts, meaning poor little ole Connecticut, have seen so much precipitation since the great flood of Noah's time! There was hardly any wet weather when I ventured to Corvallis, Oregon in their supposed "rainy season" in January to see the In Harmony concerts! Now, here it was, a chance to see Greg Brown in a beautiful, outdoor setting at the end of summer, and there was a torrential downpour! What else is knew, I thought, as I got my belongings together to head out to Bridgeport, Connecticut? This weather is NOT going to spoil my one chance to see Mr. Brown before his last tour in these parts this November!
As we headed down the highway, there was a bad traffic tie-up! Just one of those days, I thought hopelessly! Now, we will be late! After going through the city of Hartford, though, we managed to get past the trouble on Interstate 91 and were back on track. We found a little Greek diner for a quick dinner right off of the Merrit Parkway. The service was friendly and the food was great! I wish there were more diners....you just can't beat em!
Our directions were perfect, and we parked in front of the Beardsley Zoo entrance, in plenty of time to be right up in front of the enormous, green metal gates. I had never been to this place. It was just a lovely spot, with tall willowy trees, lots of flowers and grass, serene and quiet, except for some of the animal noises faintly in the distance. And of course, there was the light rain and humidity. Did I mention the humidity? As we waited by the gates, my taper twin buddies, John and Ted, pulled up. It's always nice to see those two. Being identical twins, I finally learned to tell them apart but it has taken almost seven years, the same length of time I have been attending Greg Brown concerts. I got copies of my first live Brown shows from them.
Once inside, with low lawn chairs and umbrellas in tow, we headed for the "concert spot." Situated up on a hill, it was the highest point of the zoo grounds. We set our chairs down in front of the concrete slab that put us within ten feet of the stage. We were up front with a clear view and it had stopped raining! The sky was clearing and its pale blue shone through the clouds. I saw our very own Greg Lyons and gave him a hug. He had made the trip down from Rochester, New York after all!
Right near us was a spectacular peacock perched high above on one of the many huge pine trees that lined the area. The stage was a structure in itself, with its ten columns lining both sides. There was a wooden floor and wooden ceiling, much newer than the concrete steps that lined the front of it. Looking around, this little area was almost like a tiny, natural amphitheater. The sound would be close to perfect, I thought, and I was right!
The Beardsley Zoo has a folk series, Zoo Folk, each summer season and this was the last show of the calendar year. Hugh Blumenfeld had been its first "inductee" performer, when the series had started several years earlier. He was back now, finally, to open the evening. Blumenfeld had just experienced the birth of a new baby, his first child, six days earlier. His son Blake was born six weeks premature and Hugh shared this joyous and scary account with the audience. Still wearing the hospital name band on his wrist, he tore threw a brilliant, emotional and sometimes rocking set that made the audience cheer. Accompanied by Jim Mesnick on electric guitar, Hugh played audience sing-a-long favorites like "Longhaired Radical Socialist Jew" and "Mozart's Money." His newest number, "Bringing The Cradle Home," a commentary of his feelings about fatherhood, was full of heartfelt warmth and emotion. When he finished, the moon was rising above us, like a shimmering light in the early dusk. It was almost time for the main event, the reason for the small hill getting so packed in intermission. Greg Brown was ready to take the stage and take the stage he did!
After being announced with no Greg in sight, he was whisked to the stage entrance in a golf cart! The audience roared loudly with approval, as that big hulk of a man sauntered into focus, with a sheepish grin so many of us have come to know and love. In a new looking light green hat, blue sleeveless tee-shirt and "cackies" with no sunglasses, Mr. Brown looked totally relaxed and rested.
Greg appeared to be in great spirits and his choice of songs reflected this throughout his performance. He covered people that I have always just dreamed of hearing him do: Steve Earle's "Goodbye," Robert Johnson's "Kind Hearted Woman" with spectacular blues guitar wizardry, and Bob Dylan's (or Mr. Dylan's as he referred to him) "As I Went Out One Morning" and "Don't Think Twice." Greg remarked about the greatness of others songs but also said that he had no regrets about the life he had led. " The best things to do," he informed us happily, "are sometimes the things that don't need to be done." His self-penned numbers and the chosen compositions of others blended superbly with the now dazzling, waxing moon up above! Some Brown standouts in this incredible set were "Hey Baby Hey" with a flawless guitar break in the middle, a terminally moving version of "No Place Away, and a rendition of "You Drive Me Crazy" with hilarious banter throughout.
Greg Brown keeps reinventing his music and himself. He has always been an artist in transition. His songs are a reflection of this constant change and flux in a life full of giving and sharing with his audiences. He already has a treasure chest of gems that will be sung by many in future generations. On this special evening, in the crisp, chilly foggy mist of night, Greg shared a small piece of what makes this man such a great musician, an artist to be respected and admired. Those of us present will remember this evening with joy and regret. Mr. Brown said he was from that "after hours zoo where they keep all the bad animals." What a joy to be a part of that zoo for just a small space in time and a regret that it was over too soon, too fast.
Set Lists Follow: