Amarillo qualifies as our #1 stop along the way. By far and away in terms of natural beauty, and enhanced immeasurably by the underbelly tour and general riot afforded us by our friends Andy and Danielle. Andy has lived in Amarillo for more decades than two, and he is one of the area’s best-known entertainers. Here’s a clip of Andy Chase doing his thing.
He puts an LA tour together once a year or so, and I have played with him the last two times he has come, along with Maxwell Butler, Steve Sadd, Johnny Stachela, Randy Tupper and Dave D'Alessandro.
This year, we are playing at at Cody’s Viva Cantina in Burbank on Friday, July 21, just two weeks from now, and on Saturday, we are playing in Laguna Beach. Both are cool gigs, but it being more local to everyone in the band, it would be great if we could really pack Viva Cantina, so please come if you’re in the area. Here’s a clip of Andy doing his thing with the band.
Andy and Danielle have become dear friends and they showed us Amarillo for two days. First, Palo Duro Canyon is among the most beautiful places I’ve seen. I include a couple of photos, just for reference. They’re not mine, but none of mine captured remotely what was happening, so here are a couple of pro photos.
Andy and I played some songs together with muted trumpet and guitar in the early evening that day. He showed me, Delbert McClinton’s, “Better Work On It,” which we’ll be playing wit the full band at Viva Cantina, and then we had a nice picnic dinner before going to a spectacular amphitheater built into a gorgeous cliff about halfway down into the canyon.
It has a desert floor of scrappy vegetation and sheer rock walls nearby as well as in the distance. On the first night we got there, the park service put on a musical called Texas, written in the 60s (and since, adapted). It’s the fictionalized story of the settling of the Texas panhandle and the early struggles between farmers and cattle ranchers, and both of their struggles against eminent domain with railroad lines.
Young actors from across the country and across the world audition to be in this summer stock theater, and it is obviously competitive, because they are to a man and to a woman, practiced and talented. I figured the show was going to be some over-rouged dandy in chaps leaning up against a plastic cactus playing a harmonica, but paddle my saddle and holy cornpone, what a production.
The script is a little ham-fisted with its states rights preferences, but its authentic love of the land, its admiration for the men and women of deep faith, strong work ethic and spectacular ingenuity that settled a hot, dry, often inhospitable land made it an easy thing for me to like, even though I am in general one who doesn’t particularly appreciate musical theater. I love plays, just not plays with songs that are burst into in the middle speeches, which then modulate spectacularly, and then become conspicuously epic. Still, it was a Busby-Berkeley-eat-your-heart out situation, and my suspension of disbelief was more than less willing.
The show was elaborate almost beyond belief, including expert and copious use of livery, and both water and pyrotechnic special effects, along with tremendous explosives management. The costuming and sets were likewise spectacular. Far more elaborate than anything I’ve seen here in Los Angeles in the six years I’ve been here. And I do get out. It was all beautifully executed as well. Here's one of the big numbers.
And here's an example of the livery.
The next day, we toured Amarillo and Route 66, hung out with some of Andy’s artist friends, went to some of their shops, and to an antique store, and in general skulked around in some Amarillo underbelly. And of course, we went to the Cadillac Ranch. The Cadillac Ranch is the art project of the Ant Farm art group, who decided to plant nose-first a series finned Cadillacs, one for each model year that was equipped with the fins, buried of course at the angle of the pyramid of Giza . Visitors are welcome to spray-paint whatever they want on them or around the grounds. Here are some pictures Debra took.
The four of us returned back to camp and jammed like crazy as a wild storm came upon us. Danielle recognized it as trouble while Andy and I were playing. We were getting straight on the form of the Delbert McClinton song, and we had just started it when the skies began to threaten. Debra and Danielle were packing everything away madly while Andy and I kept playing, right into where it was nasty, twisting purple skies and mean black tongues spilling down out of swatches of roiling gray. It was truly a case of fiddling while Rome burned.
We stayed in the RV for an hour and the storm was tremendous. Trident lightning bolts horizontal across the sky, thick vertical strikes, hail slamming onto the RV roof. As these things apparently do in Texas, the weather peeled away, but Andy assured us that we had seen a good one.