James Earl Keen gets me feeling good again

I needed a show to lift my spirits and the James Earl Keen band came through for me on a night that started with me as depressed as I could remember.   Between Dad’s dementia /Brother Tom’s Parkinsons / Harvey/Irma/Mexican Earthquakes/Maria/North Korea/Las Vegas/Tom Petty/ I was feeling pretty low as I headed to the El Rey Theatre last night.

Nature is always a bitch out of control, but goddammit Las Vegas was senseless and easily prevented. The idea you can’t legislate evil is pure bullshit. Whatever you feel about the 2nd amendment, you can’t be sane and argue against automatic weapons and the products that create them.

How could I put Tom Petty in the same sentence as all those other catastrophes? Man, I don’t know, it is very possible I’m simply not a good human being, but I do know his death hit me harder than all the other misery being commiserated on the human race right now.  I guess it is the old death of familiarity compared to strangers. Not that I knew Tom Petty personally, but I have known Tom Petty for all of my adult life.

I have most of his catalog, I have seen him numerous times, and would have seen him at the Hollywood Bowl but I needed to see my dad 650 miles away instead.  I took an Uber ride from my car rental to my home when I got back and the young Uber lady driver told me that she had taken a client to the bowl to see Petty and how much she would rather have been going to the show instead of being the driver.  We were easily 30 years removed in age, but we had one thing in common, the brilliance of Tom Petty.

Anyway, I’m not a huge Keen fan, but I do enjoy his music and he has a few songs that are real treasures.  I heard he puts on a kick-ass show so I got a single ticket for Wednesday Night. I had a Senior Softball game last night but it ended by 07:00 so I took the Metro to Hollywood/Highland and walked a block down to Selma and Ubered from there so as not having to make the driver deal with the massive mess of traffic at Hollywood/Highland.

I got there early enough to hear the complete set by the opening act, a trio of ladies named The Wild Reeds with golden voices who had outstanding harmonies.

Still, I was feeling listless. The music they played was nice to listen too, but it wasn’t moving the needle for me.  Keen came on about 09:45 and was good. He played the songs I liked but not the five songs I loved. The band was great though and every song was a treat. But it still wasn’t moving my needle. The El Rey was about 3/4 full, just the right amount of space to move around but still have people around you. Some dude moved into my space and started blabbering during the set. It was fortuitous, as I moved from my comfort zone, and into the throng of fans next to the stage.  As soon as I moved Keen went into my zone and played the four songs I had wanted to hear. The Mandolin player was on fire, I’ve seen some good Mandolin players including Chris Thile but this guy was smoking. By the time Gringo Honeymoon had ended,  the needle had moved,  and a little joy had finally touched down.

I had one final request for this evening. I had read on twitter coming in that Bruce Springsteen had opened his set with a dedication to Tom Petty.  Keen did two encores but no Tom Petty. I started to leave feeling a little disappointed when he came back on the stage by himself and told the audience “I’m always clueless but the band without my knowledge has put together a song for Tom Petty that they would like to close the night with”.

And with that, the band walked back on stage and lit into an American Girl.  It is not my favorite Tom Petty tune but the band rocked the tune with a ferocious tilt that it deserved with the mandolin player doing the vocals.   It brought tears to my eyes. I used to be a very sentimental person but the realities of a life lived for 58 years has blown most of that away.  It felt good to feel the moistness running down my cheeks for joy and not for sadness.

Thanks to the Keen band, for putting a caper on a night I needed.

Feeling good again, indeed.

Here are some you tube videos but they aren’t of the band I saw. No Mandolin player.


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