Saturday I went to the Interurban Railway Museum in Plano. The Interurban ran an electric train from all the down in Waco, in central Texas, all the way up to Denison, on the Oklahoma border, from 1912 through 1948.
The museum was very well done, and it pointed out the way that an affordable rail line served to end the isolation and connect rural people to the broader culture. I thought of the parallel to the internet. The museum attendant unlocked the actual train car next door and gave me a tour. It had a mobile post office in it, as well as somewhat plush seats. He showed me the little racist sign that could fold out, to demark for African-American the seats at the back of the car, as in that earlier unfortunate time, segregation of this type abounded. I always marvel at people who talk of the "good old days" or imagine that the world is for the first time filled with injustice, because of things like this.
I liked the black and white photos of (white) families share-cropping cotton fields.
The Second World War ended the subsistence farming sharecropping system. I also liked the conductor's cap, the essay written by a president of the line why the car would never replace the train, and the picture of people in front of the train on its first day of operation, which features men in bowler caps.
Saturday night my wife and I went to Applebee's, whose Weight Watchers menu makes it easy for me to select entrees (and even dessert, a raspberry chocolate cake) which fit within the plan. She has been coping with a recurrent bug that appears to leave and then comes back, so I went to the concert alone.
The Wildflower! Festival in Richardson is a three day event in which the city brings in dozens of "once were" and "hope to be" bands to play live shows. I went for a late Saturday show by Cheap Trick.
I've always thought that Cheap Trick is one of the most under-rated of the 70s bands.
Although they play this area quite frequently (Cheap Trick tours enough that they play virtually every area quite frequently, I'd never had a chance to see them. To me, Cheap Trick is the last, and the best, of the great midwestern touring bands, barn-storming hundreds of cities a year, providing straightahead fun. Cheap Trick came along in the swirl of glam, power pop and heavy metal, and somehow melded them all to get a very winning pop sound. I like that Cheap Trick always takes the process of making music awfully seriously, but never takes themselves too seriously.
The parking for the festival was incredibly easy, and the admission price for the entire day of music, fifteen dollars, was quite reasonable even though I only wanted to see Cheap Trick. When I arrived, I made my way over to the outdoor stage, where five thousand or so fans were comfortably arrayed on chairs and lawn. I found a good place to sit on a retaining wall, and listened to forty minutes of the conclusion of the Leon Russell show. I'm not a big Leon Russell fan, although, like many people, I love a few of his singles. His long, silver hair and concluding Rolling Stones covers were quite winning, and anyone who ends on "Going to Kansas City" is all right by me.
A few moments of preparation followed, and then Cheap Trick took the stage. From the first "Hello there Ladies and Gentlemen", through "Southern Girls got nothing to lose", beyond "I beg you to beg me" and right on up to "me, I got my Kiss records out", the show was accomplished fun. Robin Zander's voice still has that alternation between dead-pan imitations of wide-eyed wonder and biting sarcasm, while when Nielson or Petursson sang, they seemed to want to imitate and distort Zander's more caustic tone.
The show had the requisite unexpected song or two, like "Big Eyes". But really, a Cheap Trick show proved entirely satisfying--a solid, well-done sound, not too much theatrics or noodling, and as catchy a set of pop songs as any aging set of dinosaurs play. Those fellows were twentysomethings when I was a late teen, but their music always seems to me part of "my generation", a time when rock, for a moment,
had more fun making fun of itself than trying to be relevant in some cosmic sense. I think that part of what I like about Cheap Trick is that they appear to see the British Invasion bands, and in particular the Beatles, in the way that the Beatles and the Rolling Stones saw the blues fellows who preceded them. Cheap Trick's more radio-pop-worthy songs can be annoying sometimes, but the concert proved quite fun. When the band encored with "Dream Police", the evening seemed altogehter worthwhile.
I visited their website this morning, and saw that they still tour a zillion places, even after their "big time" is somewhat over. Next concert--way up north, June 1, way over in Richmond--these guys stay on the move, a 100s of shows a year band if ever there was one, and I'm glad.