Monday, August 10, 2015

from the bayou to the castle

Dr. John rattled the white keys with such an intensity there seemed to be like a Hurricane rolling through the stage. With an impeccable sense of rhythm and a style for flourishes, Dr. John rocked on. If you haven't heard of Dr. John, you've missed a life long career of weird voodoo antics, amazing piano playing, and some psychedlic jazz blues rock that not even the highest of Deadheads could ever reach. It's all the hoodoo magic that does it, and to convince you, the doctor always puts a skull on the piano and dresses in the most flamboyant of Cajun styles - purple suits, gator skin boots and black hats lined with gator teeth. Here is my favorite song of his, Such a Night:

In Prague, it's not hard to catch a live music show. Touring acts almost always stop here and the night almost always ends up cheaper than it would in Paris or London - though the door fee might be the same cost, drinks are always a bargain in Bohemia. The trick though is to know if the show is worthwhile because of the place. Even the best bands can be kind of a let down if the place isn't that good.

View from outside the Terrace
Dr. John was playing at the Castle Riding School Terrace, which meant in the boiling August heat that it would be an event wet with sweat. I felt sorry for the old Doctor, wearing his purple suit and having clear trouble even walking - he looked quite feeble crossing the stage, that is, until he sat in front of his piano or held a guitar, then he went all Yoda on Dooku - but what else could be done about the heat? The Terrace is a beautiful place, no doubt, with a very amazing view of St.Vitus Cathedral, one of the few places in Prague where you can see the full church without any sort of obstruction, top to bottom, and still be close enough to see the architectural detail. This however, was my first complaint - the stage faces the cathedral, so instead of getting the ocular feast of both the band and St.Vitus, you must choose one and only one. How much more of an amazing venue would it be if they combined both, and all they would have to do would be to move the stage to the other end? It's a free standing stage as it is, so this is no big ordeal.

The stage and seating is the second problem. The seating is all level and the stage is very low, which means that unless you are sitting in the very front row, someone will always be blocking you. They divided it into two sections - a VIP section in front and a cheap section in the back, with no clear room for standing, though halfway through the concert, people decided to move up and linger on the sides. It was unclear if that was an okay thing to do. What the venue should have done here is leave the expensive seats, and then make a proms area on the sides for standing, with tall tables available to place your drinks - no seat reservations there. If back seats were really necessary, then they could have arranged them in addition as tables, or at least on some sort of bleacher system. Otherwise, what was the real point? Anyways, Dr. John plays funky, danceable music - either in the swing sense or the weird hippy raise your arms and feel the Eternal Earth Spirit of Communion sense. And with the weird Louisiana bayou vibe, why have such a structured seating arrangement?

Dr. John on stage
And lastly, the failure of the venue was to serve only champagne. I realize most of the clientele were older people, but it's still Prague and the musician is still playing psychedelic funky bayou jazz music - it's not supposed to be bourgeois champagne swilling silt. But that part was fine, to each their own, just it would have been better with a cold pils in my hand, helping to contain that intense Autumnal frying pan.

Dr. John though was amazing. He put on a full two hours non-stop, barely even wasting time with idle chatter to the audience. His "musical coordinator" tried to do some awkward chatting, trying to rile people up for "the living legend, Dr. John!" but it was unnecessary and silly nonsense, better to leave legends be legends and people to know it from pure inference. Once you have to announce greatness, you already lose it.


  1. I love this post. It all sounds a bit otherworldly, us voodoo.

  2. I love this post. It all sounds a bit otherworldly, us voodoo.