Jun 10, 2009, 11:22AM

"YouTube and Memory"

Let's consider Brucebase for a minute.

Put quotes around "YouTube and memory" and Google it and you only get three results. Four, once this column gets in the system. How is that possible?
About two months ago, my wife Julie was out of town for a week. Nights home alone usually go one of two directions: I either dust off a book I've been meaning to read for a while, or else I end up surfing the web. Which usually means going back and forth between Wikipedia and YouTube. One minute I'm checking to see how many World War I veterans are still alive (six, checked on Memorial Day) and the next I'm looking to see if someone has compiled a new Barry Sanders highlight reel. Hours pass by like nothing; there is something a little sad about the whole thing (I feel like I should be accomplishing something) but there are worse ways to kill an evening. I reach over once in a while to mute whatever I'm listening to on the stereo (recently it was back and forth between two Neil Young records-- On the Beach and Tonight's the Night-- better music for loneliness has not been written) in order to hear a video if the sound is important.
This night, for no real reason, I found my way to Brucebase, a website that exhaustively documents every musical activity of Bruce Springsteen's life, no matter how trivial. This is the last word in laser-focused musical obsession. I'm talking about a paragraph discussing a gig at the YMCA pool with his buddies when he was a teenager. That level of detail. I love sites like this. It's part of what got me into the Grateful Dead. Depth over breadth: devote your entire experience in music to the study of a single band. Why not? On your deathbed, no one's going to care if you only ever listened to Springsteen. You fill (x) number of hours in your life with music, and there are no rules as to what you do with that time.
On Brucebase, I started reading about Springsteen's time in Richmond, Virginia, in the late 1960s and early 70s. I knew he'd played a number of shows there when he was still fronting the bands Child and Steel Mill and was playing acid rock-tinged R&B, stuff that sounded a bit like the Amboy Dukes. I'd actually heard about the Richmond shows first-hand. My wife's Aunt Mary lived in Richmond then, and Mary's ex-husband, my wife's uncle, booked shows for Steel Mill. She had told me about the gigs, but for whatever reason it wasn't quite real to me. It was so long ago, and you know how it goes: facts get distorted over time. Maybe it didn't go down the way she told me it did. Maybe something she read or heard about got mixed up in what actually happened.
One of the shows Aunt Mary told me about was a rooftop gig at a parking deck near Virginia Commonwealth University. I used to walk and drive by that building when I lived in Richmond and once in a while, I would think about what it might have been like to see a show up there, with whatever kind of hippies gravitated to such a small town at the turn of the 70s. I'm thinking about all of this stuff, Aunt Mary and the rooftop shows, and then I see this on Brucebase:
"ONE show, triple bill, with blues band MARLO MAYS & THE STINGERS opening, MERCY FLIGHT performing second and STEEL MILL headlining and closing. Held under the stars on the upper deck of the parking complex. The general concept for this show was modeled after The Beatles memorable rooftop performance in the film Let It Be (which was in theatres at the time). This is one the most famous of all Steel Mill's gigs and it's now firmly a part of Richmond folklore. Promoter Russell Clem provides the immortal MC introduction. This was Steel Mill's first gig in about a month and their performance actually starts off somewhat ragged as a result-- something both Bruce and Vini Lopez apologize for this during the show."

Register or Login to leave a comment