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Rhode Island boys

The Greek Theater is a Berkeley landmark, built in 1903 and privy to such events as a commencement address by Teddy Roosevelt, a speech by the Dalai Lama, concerts by Jerry Garcia, Guns N Roses, Iggy Pop, and Dave Matthews, and the annual College of Chemistry fire extinguisher training (see below).

I extinguished it right after that photo was snapped.

Last Friday, David Byrne played the Greek. The vampires that run the place wanted $70 for a ticket, so it was decided that we'd find the promised land in the hills above, from where one can both hear the show in excellent acoustics, and see tiny David prancing about on stage. It's the culturally advanced version of Tightwad Hill. We had every reason to believe it existed; could the East Bay Express be wrong? ("Wedged between the Greek's barbed-wire back fence and a pricey parking lot, it's shaded and pleasant and slightly elevated...")

Joe found some cryptic instructions on Yelp.com, another dubious online source, and having packed John's home made burritos, several bottles of wine, and other assorted weekend supplies, I put on my hiking shoes and we headed up a path from the parking lot. We shortly came across two would-be tightwads heading to their favorite spot, a flat area covered with trash. One of them explained that it'd be a good spot without the trash, and she'd brought hefty bags. Adorable. She asked us if we were trying to see the show. "I've never seen the stage," she said. John replied that we were going somewhere she'd never been, and we trekked on.

We trampled through the bushes for another half hour or so, asked the guard at the national lab on the hill if he knew where to go, and got covered with dirt and sand fleas. Finally, we settled on the retaining wall just above the upper parking lot, concluding that the Greek must have moved back the fences, making the original Greek tightwad location obsolete. We expected something like this:

but all we could see was this:

Never mind the view, the real story here is the sound. The sound was perfect. It was loud enough, crystal clear, and there weren't any jackasses behind me yelling for Psycho Killer. Well wait, I guess there were, but only because I'd sent an email out to my lab inviting them along. Byrne started out with a handful of tracks from Everything that Happens, which I loved. Then the Talking Heads show started.

I'm kind of glad I couldn't see the stage when he started with the old stuff. He has trained his band admirably - it sounds just like the albums. Somehow it felt a little dirty though, a little sad, a little like a Talking Heads cover band, fronted by David Byrne. Which it was. At least since they were invisible to me, I didn't have to watch some imposter play bass. David saved the day by bringing out a full marching band at the end of the set. I don't know what they were doing, because they weren't mic'd, but I'm sure it was sweet.

I can't reconcile these pictures with the experience I had. It must have been like some bizarre combination of Mark Twain sings the Talking Heads backed up by the Blue Man Group, who have all turned white.


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