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Dick Dale at the Mystic Theatre

by VM Brasseur on September 22nd, 2007

Remember that bit on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack? You know, that one where you hear a snippet of audio of Pumpkin (Tim Roth) and Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) sticking up the diner, leading into this totally smoking bit of guitar godliness commonly known as “That song from Pulp Fiction” but actually entitled “Misirlou?” Remember that song? Yeah, that’s Dick Dale, King of Surf Guitar.

Yesterday the king held court at McNear’s Mystic Theatre in Petaluma. The opening band for the evening was The Pyronauts, a surf rock group hailing from Auburn, CA. They were pretty good, but the crowd was dead. I guess they were saving up their energy for the main event or something. I spent this set sitting down, but as soon as the Pyronauts played their last notes and the roadies came on to swap equipment I stood up and worked my way to the front of the crowd. By the time Dick Dale came on I was dead center with only one other person between me and the stage. This put me in a good position to take a lot of pictures (BTW, click that link to see the pics) of the show. The Mystic (and Dick Dale) are cool and don’t mind folks doing this. Gotta love that. The pics in that album aren’t the best but, hey, I was there to enjoy the music not for the photo ops.

Aside from just wanting to be in the middle of it all, part of the reason I wanted to get closer was a hope that it would get me out of the path of the massive amplifiers. The Mystic is a nice enough room but it’s a BARN. When sounds get loud in there they turn into a muddy slush. I noticed this back in April when the Albertellis and I saw The Red Elvises here. “Acoustics? Meh…over rated.” And it was definitely loud in there last night. In truth, moving to the front didn’t help with the volume but it did help cut through the mud. I could hear Dick Dale loud and clear. Too loud, unfortunately. This morning my ears are still ringing and I think my right ear has decided to call in sick for the rest of the weekend. Whoops. Earplugs are being purchased soon to prevent this from happening again.

Besides just being loud, how was the show? In a word: spectacular. The title “King of Surf Guitar” is not just a bit of ego. He has totally earned it. Not only was Dick totally shredding his guitar, he also took a turn on drums (and drummed a bit on the bass) and also picked up a trumpet for a bit. Every song was great and the crowd, no longer standing around like zombies, were entirely into it. Dick did a smoking version of House of the Rising Sun, letting the crowd do some of the singing for him. It one of those rare concert moments where you feel the whole becoming more than the sum of its parts.

I entirely enjoyed this performance. At first I was concerned that I wouldn’t, partly because I was headed there alone and thought I would get bored (which I actually did for a while during the opening band), but once Dick Dale took the stage I forgot all about my surroundings and was completely focused on what he and his band were doing. Aside from the (hopefully) temporary hearing damage this was one of the best shows I’ve seen so far this year. That’s two “one of the best shows” so far in September. Let’s see whether They Might Be Giants can make it three when I see them at the Fillmore at the end of the month.

One Comment
  1. Update: my hearing decided to return to normal at some point during the day yesterday. Also, I’ve already picked up some ear plugs.

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