Friday, Sept. 21, at the Rubin Museum of Art in NYC, is a party for the digital release of the amazing compilation of Allen’s life recordings, Holy Soul Jelly Roll. I was lucky to join Allen for the release tour, just the two of us, him singing, reading, harmonium and me singing, fiddle, guitar, banjo and dobro when angel-voiced friend Steven Taylor ended up on tour in Italy with The Fugs. The tour was heavily publicized, several Days at McCabes (shout out to John Chelew), Viper Room (Johnny Depp), City Lights (Lawrence Ferlinghetti , and the incomparable Shig Murao), The Presidio, I still have set lists and notes from shows.
First night at McCabes Joni Mitchell was there, Rick Rubin and Donovan hung backstage before the show while we tuned up and made our set, the room was vibrating. Corso joined us one show, busting an amazing “Wild Nights” that brought Emily Dickinson into the room wrapping around the strings of lutes, 12 strings, banjos, ouds. I was pretty much a kid.
At The Viper Room, because the show would be taped and broadcast by major networks, production crew spent tons on a stage set to look like a stuffy Harvard Library… complete with a cumbersomely dark throne for Allen, which they proudly invited him to sit in. In the most unassuming language, Allen quickly informed them he had to have a standard metal folding chair, nothing else, upsetting the whole design, quite perfectly in one fell swoop, old pond frog jumps in kerplunk.
A true to form Tim Leary schmoozed Allen and whoever else, while a knowing Exene Cervenka, oh so brightlove Exene, gave me a half hour download on hype and scenester transcendence. Some young blonde with Tim lost her breakfast before the show started almost on Allen.
We flew into SF, my first time there ever with Ginsberg as my tourguide, Allen took photographs of my hands with his old Leica. We talked movement building and Buddhism, nonviolence, the bankruptcy of commercial media and art as agents of social change, the next, the future, the global human rights movement that needed to be cultivated and grown.
On the ground, Allen told stories, this happened here, here’s where this, this this and beautiful Shig Murao, who without saying a word tells you the most sublime poem. Danielle from Gwar with me there, at Shigs house. We came in too late and made too much noise, and decided to move to a hotel. Before the show at the Presido, Jello Biafra joined me and Allen for dinner – fresh off his MRR leg breaking and not totally solid healed, he chewed a cold rare steak with an open mouth while talking politics. Allen and I sipped miso’s. Jello knocked a home run with that steak for a bat when he joined us on stage that night.
I would never be the same again, I’d seen too much cool humbled by Allen’s presence – I’d never be phased by false Hollywood pretenses poser rokstars media, yet, only to be always in service to the moment, open to everyone and thing around us, putting one’s shoulder to the wheel.