Good Hang with Dashboard and John Ralston

We got home at 4 am from our 2 day Dashboard Confessional/John Ralston pilgrimage.

We ate at HOB and enjoyed the pass the line privileges both days… see my previous description  if you’re unfamiliar with HOB scams. While waiting in our elite line Friday there were a few rainy spells. Disney Marketeers were all over it with $3.50 HOB ponchos. If you wanted to pass the line for the poncho you could pay $4.00. Seriously. In a shop 20 feet away ponchos were $3.50 but strolling poncho marketeers cheerfully offered them to us for $4.00 including delivery. So for an extra $.50 you get delivery to your door place in line – which would makes sense if they did this while it was raining. But they didn’t – they came around after the rain stopped, so that’s not much of an enticement to buy.

Friday’s show was sold out. John Ralston’s band played a half hour set. They kick ass. In fact, they sound better every time I see them. They played some old stuff like “When we are Cats” and “Gone, Gone, Gone” and some tunes from their fabulous new album, Sorry Vampire. John Ralston writes thoughtful lyrics and they’re accomplished musicians and nice guys. This is an unsolicited plug but if anyone reads this, check out their album.

Augustana also opened for Dashboard. They had a few technical issues but got them ironed out quickly. They  had a good mix and sounded great live. The lead singer reminds me of Michael Stipe. I’m thinking that’s intentional on his part – but I’m not really sure. Drummer Justin is a friendly guy.

Dashboard’s show was awesome but I don’t expect anything less of them. They played for about an hour and a half. “Where There’s Gold” from the new album sounded great, enhanced by John’s cool jangly guitar. They did “Age Six Racer,” which is one of my favorites, a long jam on “Remember to Breathe,” throwing in a line from “The Moon is Down” (that is the line actually) and a couple of lines from “Flags” and “Heaven Here,” and a couple more from a Hold Steady song.  (I’ll take song lyrics for $200 Alex…) As a treat, Mike Marsh came out and rocked the tambourine on their “El Scorcho” cover.

Note to kids who’ve never been to a DC concert: You should maybe stop calling out for “Hands Down” during the concert. Chris plays this during the encore.

Johnny and Chris came out post-concert to visit with fans, pose for pictures and sign autographs. Somebody asked Chris to pose with a chicken. Way to objectify him! But he consents to all the strange requests with humor and charm because he is the wonderful Chris that he is.

We were actually the first ones in the elite passtheline line Saturday. Probably the only time in my life I’ve ever been the first in line for anything. We met some more nice Dashboard fans. We had chairs. We had books. When it rained we had ponchos and umbrellas.  Overall it was a pretty good line experience.

We checked out the Virgin Megastore and it was pretty cool. They even had The Believer magazine. We read a strange story about Joshua Bell and apparently he and his ex-girlfriend just had a baby but they aren’t together. He said they planned it years ago…so does that mean they set up a couple of sex appointments or he made donations or what?

Saturday’s concert wasn’t sold out and the crowd was a little more subdued although a couple of kids tried to crowd surf. (When security got after them Chris told them let the kids stay – that they’d chill. He said if they wanted to crowd surf they’d need to come when he had the band because he didn’t want anyone to break their neck.)

John Ralston kicked ass again. I really liked “Legends I & II” and “Fragile”. Really tight.

I wonder if Chris ever gets rumpled? I’ve never seen him look less than perfect, although I did see sweat on the back of his shirts both nights. He sweats. Who knew?

He debuted “The Shade of Poison Trees” with John, which is a beautiful song from the new album. He brought out Dan Bonebrake and John Owens for “Ender Will Save Us All”. He also did “Angels of the Silences” (Counting Crows) from the Wire Tapes CD. It sounded fabulous. They did another long “Remember to Breathe” jam, but changed up the setlist nicely.

We hung out upstairs with Ralston and band a bit. Em talked poetry & music with John. He gave her college advice…We had a reunion of sorts with our new Dashboard friend, Craig, who was helping with the Ralston merch. He kissed my hand which is adorable and made me feel regal. (Later I will practice waving like the Queen.) E visited with John Lefler and Chris which is almost better than the actual concert…

Dashboard fans are really like a family – at least on this acoustic tour, and Dashboard treats their fans like family.  The only other concert I’ve been to that had that kind of connection with the audience was Dave Matthews in 1996. It was at an arena at USF and we were far from the stage but everyone was happily singing and dancing the whole time.

Our crash joint was a huge Comfort Inn about 2 miles from HOB. Our door stuck from the inside and the water wasn’t very hot. I almost scored a sweet “Gumdrop Station” totebag that had a smiley, strolling gumdrop on it. I have no idea what Gumdrop Station is but the tote was new and goofy and was in our fridge. But then it disappeared so presumably the staff  came in and took it.

The continental breakfast was lousy. Probably a bit  like a factory farm… There were hundreds of people with the Disney-glazed-caged-animal look in their eyes, lining up for cold toast and ash-tray coffee. It was loud and hectic and crowded. Wiggly children. Lots and lots. That’s the Disney spirit. I like to imagine that going on every day, 365 days a year. Actually I don’t like to imagine it. It’s depressing as hell.

There was a small  feedstore next to the troughs selling candy, drinks & snacks. Starbucks frappucinos were $4.19 a bottle. The grocery store usually has a 4 pack for around $5.99. Is there is such a thing as price gouging for caffeine or does that just fall under the if you’re stupid enough to buy it that’s your problem category?

Life goes back to normal non-ass kicking oh shit Monday now…Stephen Colbert’s book is out tomorrow.


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