Monday, September 06, 2004

Louiemania, Pt. 4

The Wailers were supposed to take the stage at 3:30. (I should note that since their revival in 1995 the band has been officially known as The Fabulous Wailers, taken from the title of their 1959 LP, to avoid confusion with the Marley-free reggae boys who are still using the Wailer name. To me, though, fabulous or not, they're still just The Wailers.) Anyway, the stage took longer to set up than planned. Understandably so. They were setting up not only for a back-to-back show with The Kingsmen, but for the army of guest guitarists who would join them for the big Louie, Louie finale.

It must have been an electrician’s nightmare up there. A great wall of amplifiers marched across the stage, lined with a forest of microphones and monitors. Getting all that calibrated took an amazing amount of time. To fill the musical gap, we slightly-less-than-celebrity guitarists started getting our own equipment set up on the floor.

By this time, a respectable crowd had filtered into the Dome. Folks with guitar cases had been trickling in all day, and while I doubt we approached the 750-odd of Louie Fest 1, there were enough of us to make a considerable racket. Our little group snagged a spot in the second row and proceeded to crunch out our individual interpretations of the Louie theme.

When all the fiddling was finally done on stage, The Wailers roared into their 30-minute set. I don’t remember what all they did, but it sounded great, as always. I know they did my all-time favorite Wailers tune, Dirty Robber, followed by their all-time biggest hit, Tall Cool One. No matter what I was hearing on stage, I gotta admit I still had Louie, Louie running through my head.

The Kingsmen followed immediately and absolutely kicked butt. These guys are a far cry from the sloppy party band they were in the 60s. They’ve evolved into one of the tightest, hardest-rockin’ bands on the planet. They surprised us all (including The Wailers, I think), by doing Louie as the last song of their set, and inviting us to join in. Halfway through they were calling for The Wailers to join them on stage, which didn’t happen. I had the feeling they thought they were supposed to start the official Louie jam. The announced plan, however, called for a break to introduce all the celebrity guitar players, then a celebrity jam of some unannounced song, followed at last by the 1000-or-less Louie attempt.

But hell, we didn’t mind. We all jumped in, and didn’t want to stop. And some folks didn’t - continuing to play right through several minutes of last-minute celebrity set-up and introductions. The introductions were made by Roger Hart, the one-time Portland disc jockey responsible for helping Paul Revere & the Raiders break out of the Northwest. There weren’t a lot of big name stars. Nokie Edwards, original lead for the Ventures, was up there. And Doug Heath, long-time guitar player for Revere’s post-Lindsay Raiders. And two of my present-day Northwest favorites, Portland bluesman Lloyd Jones ( and Tim Langford of the hard-rockin’ blues band Too Slim and the Taildraggers (

By the time everyone was ready, they must have decided to skip the celebrity jam. They went immediately to the mass performance of Louie, saying they hoped to keep it under an hour. An hour sounded great to me, but I’m pretty sure it actually lasted less than 10 minutes. I dialed Drew in Omaha just before the thing started, and laid my cell phone down to let him listen. When I picked it up afterwards, surprised to find him still there, I think the elapsed time read 9:52. What the whole thing sounded like over a cell phone I hate to imagine, but to us in front of the stage it sounded fantastic. Everyone up there, including a couple of horn players, did solos, and Wailers lead singer Kent Morrill did a long duet with The Kingsmen’s Dick Peterson. Paul Revere roamed the floor brandishing his toy flintlock and mugging for photos. Cap’n Bob rocked, I rolled, Brian did his Jimi Hendrix impersonation, and Alex showed us all up with some fancy lead work. And luckily (or unluckily) for posterity, Laurie Mills, chanteuse and keyboard artist for eclectic Portland combo CenterLine, popped in just in time to immortalize us all in digital images.

When the Louieing was all over, the guys on stage were just as pumped as the rest of us. So they decided it was finally time for their celebrity blues jam. We weren't exactly invited to join in, but it wasn't necessary. It would have been damned hard to stop us. Another 15 minutes later, when the jamming finally blasted to a stop, I found Drew still on the phone, experiencing all this madness from 1500 miles away. Ample evidence that, like me, he’s no less demented than he was 37 years ago.

Next year, promised the promoters, we’d do it all again, and maybe add another song – like Peter Gunn. Suits me down to the ground. Not only is it just possibly the third-coolest song in the world, but I have a whole year to learn it. As I write this, I’m grooving to a few of my 50-odd different versions. So far, I prefer Duane Eddy and the Art of Noise. Or maybe The Silencers. Or Sarah Vaughn’s vocal version. Or whichever one’s playing at the moment. Will my next post be titled “Gunnmania, Pt. 1” – ? Nah, I don’t think so. No promises, though.


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