Almanac Music: Springsteen, rainbows and a full moon; drinking our fill at Hanging Rock

Think I’m going down to the well tonight
And I’m going to drink till I get my fill.
Glory Days, Bruce Springsteen.

==

We’re in through the gates; into the Hanging Rock concert area.
It’s hot.
Not a scrap of shade on the gentle grassy slope. We’re looking west. An enormous stage holding monitors, sound, gear looms from the paddock with all the visual likelihood of a freshly landed spaceship. Behind lies the ancient jagged peak of Hanging Rock.

We’re looking to claim a patch of grass.

This morning, battling, the prospect of seeing Bruce Springsteen seemed tantalising, but too hard. It would have been the first time for either of us. For any of us. But there seemed too many hurdles to jump; pieces to fall into place.

But CJ got it done.

“Let’s just do it. It’s the only life we’ve got.”

And so the four of us are in the car. Up the Calder. And so the four of us re-fuel at the Woodend bakery (beef, bacon and cheese pies as ‘Pie-of-the-day’ claim two young converts (“my first ever pie, Dad”)). And so the four of us park inside the Hanging Rock race track. And so we carry blankets, sleeping bags, hats, food. We’re going to see Bruce.

“Gee, Dad, it’s a bit hot.”

And it is. Probably over 30 degrees, sun pretty much unimpeded by wafts of high cirrus cloud.

CJ takes the buds for a walk, back outside the perimeter fence, to rest under a eucalypt. I’m lying on a pair of picnic blankets, holding our spot on the hill. We’re up the back. Hardly a covetous patch of lawn. Johnny Diesel plays a few, JET play a few. It’s terrific.

Springsteen_HangingRock

Bruce at Hanging Rock (click to enlarge)

 

The crowd is building. The sun seems to be, too. Lying here is sweaty work. By 6pm CJ and the buds are back, somehow bringing licks of cool breeze with them.

The cloud overhead is thickening. A cheese platter and a quiet drink accompany us as nature swirls around; temperature suddenly dropping; sun lowering; it will later set behind the stage, behind Hanging Rock.

When the curtain of a shower starts to fall, I reckon on collecting our raincoats from the car. Buddy Yum (9-y-o) wants to come with me. “I’ll run, Dad. Let’s run together.”

And so we do. But we’re not half way back to the car when Bruce takes the stage. We stop, look at each other. “Oh, he’s starting.” And it’s a happy, joyous, look-at-us-holding-hands-and-running-in-the-rain-to-the-sound-of-Bruce kind of run, to collect the coats.

As we re-join the lawn, the throng, the shower passes. We’re hot and wet, in audience to Bruce Springsteen’s show under the Australian summer sky and life is pretty damn fine.

Bruce is the consummate big stage, big show performer. He’s 67. Telling us of his first guitar. That in the shop it was going to cost $18. And that he’d never even seen more than $5 in one place before. And that he soon learned that while the sound was important, so too was the “look.”

And he’s singing, playing guitar, running, high-fiving those in the expensive section, up against the stage. He’s harvesting people’s signs (“with Jake I believe in consensual sax”) and holding them up to the TV cameras. And all the time he’s smiling. It looks like smile of someone who can’t quite believe their luck. It’s magnificent.

There’s Jungleland, there’s Wrecking Ball, there’s a square-dancing version of Johnny 99. And there’s a rainbow in the east as the setting sun catches those showers. Perfect.

It’s a monumental show. Our buds have started the show lying on a picnic blanket, playing games on their iPods. But now they are up and dancing with their parents, swept up in the energy, the vibe, the happiness and the music. Always the music. It’s way past any ordinary bedtime, and they’re grinning like criminals, now wrestling each other to Dancing in the Dark.

A full moon rises now in the east. What trick of the Gods has given us sun, heat, showers, rainbows and a full moon?

And this is a how-good-is-this kind of life moment, an “ass-shaking moment.” We crack out the chocolate, swaying, leaping to Born to Run. This show has been more than the sum of its parts.

Band members are cavorting. We’re eye-smiling as band members are each introduced and the show rises to its rousing and hand-holding end. Kangaroos stand in the neighbouring field.

And as we bend to pack up sleeping bags, our patch of lawn, Bruce returns under the night sky, alone. He brings with him guitar and harmonica. And he sits himself on a stool.

“One more for Hanging Rock,” he says, raspily.

Cheering breaks out. And the night is given it’s perfect close:
“The screen door slams; Mary’s dress waves…”
Thunder Road; pared back. Thunder Road as sand and gravel track.

Today’s, tonight’s was a wonderful life experience. I’m so thankful to have gone, to have gone with CJ and the buds. Unforgettable. Thank you Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

==

I was eight years old and running with a dime in my hand
Into the bus stop to pick up a paper for my old man
I’d sit on his lap in that big old Buick and steer as we drove through town
He’d tousle my hair and say son take a good look around this is your hometown
This is your hometown
This is your hometown
This is your hometown
My Hometown, Bruce Springsteen.

About David Wilson

@e_regnans muddling along.

Comments

  1. Hi David
    Your soul was waiting for daughters. What a beautiful dad you are.

  2. Chris O'Connor says:

    Hi David

    Is a dream the truth if it comes true, or is it something better? (apologies to “The River”)

    Chris

  3. Yvette Wroby says:

    Brilliant stuff again. Magnificent writing and great concert.

  4. G’day Tess, Chris, Yvette.
    Thanks for your comments.
    Lovely.
    Bud Yum, 24 hours later, says here: “I was just thinking about how great that concert was last night.”

  5. Curtis del Mar says:

    A great evening and perfectly captured Dave, and if there’s any readers out there who still haven’t caught Bruce Springsteen live, you really have make sure that at some time in your life you do.

  6. Really well conveyed, e.r.
    It was a brilliant night. Bruce and the E Street band just love performing. Love it.

    I saw him there at HR couple of years ago – and I reckon he improved on that performance.

  7. By the way, I saw it with my wife and 18-y-o son, and he loved it.

  8. Great essay DW. The setlist was a beauty. You got Blinded by the Light!

  9. Thanks E-R, licking my lips in anticipation of seeing the Boss on Tues night. First time was 1985 at QEII Stadium. Greatest concert I ever saw until 28 years later when I saw Bruce again, this time with my 2 boys, guitar players themselves – minds blown! Older son’s attending this time, present for his 20th birthday. There’s been a lot of Springsteen played here recently. There’s no way it can’t be good. Thanks for the sneek peek.

  10. Got goosebumps reading this. Any Springsteen concert is a joyous, life affirming experience. Seeing him with your family in such a beautiful setting sounds extraordinary.
    From memory Haiku Bob and PJ Flynn saw him play 4 and a half hours in Malmo last year. Sounds like Hanging Rock topped that. Well played all.

  11. ER, I just read this now. Monday morning. 7am. I haven’t had a better start to a week for a long time.

    Thanks.

    The decision to go to the convert, the decision to turn around when you hear Bruce, the run with your little girl!

  12. Wonderful ER! Really wonderful. Made we want to be there on a picnic rug too. There is something so familiar about a picnic rug.

    I’ve never seen a concert at Hanging Rock (sadly) but I feel like I have now.

  13. Thanks all – very generous.
    “Generous” is a word I would use to describe B Springsteen, too.
    Generous.

    Rick – did you keep a record of the setlist? I’d love to see it.
    Thanks again,
    Rgds, still floating.

  14. Peter Flynn says:

    Short by Bruce standards but still a cracker. He was loose (not in a musical sense) and relaxed.

    HB and I saw him play for just over 4 hours in Goteburg.

    Highlight at the Rock was Blinded by the Light.

    Bruce knows his astronomy. The sun was hovering over just over the stage.

    Beer can shielding the sun! We were indeed blinded!

    The rainbow (and the secondary) had just disappeared.

    Here is the Hanging Rock setlist. Ripper website this one.

    http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/bruce-springsteen/2017/hanging-rock-mount-macedon-australia-bf87da2.html

  15. Thanks PJ Flynn.
    Blinded by the Light, indeed. And the story that preceded it.
    ==
    For those with connection, there are a couple of excellent photos at the @springsteen instagram account, featuring that unlikely and yet completely appropriate rainbow.
    https://www.instagram.com/springsteen/

  16. Sounds like quite an evening, quite an event. Am I jealous? Only a little bit. A little tiny bit! Best line in your story: ‘Kangaroos stand in the neighbouring field.’

    I drove down the Calder, past Hanging Rock on Saturday arvo, heading home to Melbourne from Castlemaine, wishing, wishing, remembering shows from years gone by, but still wishing, wishing…my 23 year old son was in charge of theTarago Jukebox. Without any prompting he made sure Greetings From Asbury Park NJ was playing…

  17. What a great picture you painted E.regnans.
    My son has been to every concert Bruce has played in Victoria over the years. He went to three this time around and just loves the man and his music.

  18. Thanks Rod.
    I’m starting to understand the cult of B Springsteen.
    I bought a signed copy of his book at the concert on Saturday- looking forward to it.
    Thanks again. Very kind.

  19. bruce? no melodies and the musos r 2nd rate

  20. I can guarantee you DW you won’t be disappointed. Apart from Dylan’s Chronicles the best Music bio I’ve read in the last 10 or so years. He’s not the best prose writer but his story is so compelling and he is refreshingly candid.

  21. Punxsu.... Pete says:

    Not the world’s biggest Bruce fan*, myself, but if ‘Brilliant Disguise’ or ‘Tunnel of Love’ was in the set, it would have been worth getting out there. You made it sound like a great evening.

    *Bruce’s drawl drives me nuts after a few tracks. It falls on my ears as caricature at times. But before all you die-hards get worked up, Bruce has my respect. Can’t say that about most in the music biz

  22. G’day Nippy. Fair enough. I wonder who you do rate highly.

    Cheers, R Kane.
    That I’ve even dipped my toe into this pool owes a lot to your writings over the years.

    Punx… Pete. Again, fair enough. We find meaning wherever we can, I guess. It sometimes turns up in unusual places.

    Any word from the Brisbane show last night?

  23. Thanks Vin.
    The outdoor bush venue worked its own magic on the day/night.
    The kids lapped up the story of “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” too.

    “Ooh, I wonder where those girls are now…”

  24. Luke Reynolds says:

    “Let’s just do it. It’s the only life we’ve got.” Very well played CJ. Love it.

    Like yourself ER, I’ve ‘got’ Bruce later than most others. My gig going mate Jamie and I both saw Bruce for the first time at the Thursday night AAMI Park show. What a show. What a showman, an entertainer. What a bloody great band. We are still buzzing.
    3 hours of (literally) non stop brilliance. Wished I could have gone to one of the other shows, particularly Hanging Rock. Will see him again next time round for sure.

    Hope I have half that much energy when I’m 67….

  25. Mrs Smokie on Saturday afternoon: “There’s that big fellow from the Almanac!”
    “Who? Cookie?”
    “No. David Wilson.”
    And I looked over and there was the Wilson family disappearing into the crowd. A sliding doors moment, as I saw e.r’s scally cap vanish.
    I reckon our HR set-list was first-class. Didn’t miss out on too much; I could maybe quibble and say there wasn’t enough from Nebraska.
    I looked at the Brisbane set-list (14/2), and interestingly of the 26 songs, 6 were tour debuts. Unusual. And some obscure ones also.
    Like religion, music is something I never argue about. There is no point. You believe what you want to believe. Or not. But to call the E Street Band “2nd rate”? Hahaha

  26. David,
    Ive seen him many times. Starting as a single man and then with adult daughters. He’s a perfectionist, driven… and he cares about the people. Jealous I wasn’t there. Sounds great.
    As to E Street being 2nd rate… Nils?… Stevie?… that’s just funny. That’s what that is.
    This year my youngest daughter wrote on a Christmas card she made out of a gum leaf, “Dad, Merry Xmas. You ain’t a beauty, but hey you’re alright.”
    Made my yuletide.
    Well written.

  27. And there’s this by Lester Bangs (no better rock writer) when reviewing Born To Run.
    “In a time of squalor and belittled desire, Springsteen’s music is majestic and passionate with no apologies… we can soar with him, enjoying the heady rush of another gifted urchin cruising at the peak of his powers and feeling his oats as he gets it right, that chord, and that last word ever on a hoodlum’s nirvana.”
    He’s no urchin anymore. But the rest still stands.

  28. Love it, ajc. The Christmas gum leaf.
    My bride CJ offered that same line in a speech she gave at my 40th.
    “you ain’t a beauty but hey you’re alright.”
    To much mirth.
    Offers that cracking moment in Thunder Road a new intimacy.

  29. Nice work David. I was given “Born To Run” for Christmas and had read it by New Year’s Eve, but I’d like to read more about the E-Street band members — what motivates them to follow BS around the world for 40 years, smashing through the same tunes night after night? Am I the only one who wonders how fit Max must be whacking the skins for three hours solid? And I had wondered if Steve still actually played on stage, until he delivered a scorching solo during “Murder Incorporated” at AAMI this year — not quite as good as Nils on the lap guitar but scintillating nonetheless.

  30. Keiran Croker says:

    Just got to this now Dave. Great read. I was there at HR with some of the same guys who I saw the Boss with at the Showgrounds in ’85. Both memorable gigs, as well as HR in 13, AAMI in 14 and again in 17.
    The bio is a great read. He is not a great writer, though it is compelling because of his honesty .. just like his song writing!

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