From Eugene, Oregon...
...by Cerulean Ravenwing
Dickhead (dik'hed) n. A fan of Dick Dale...
It was a quiet night in Eugene, Oregon. The streets were almost bare of traffic. Despite an appearance of calm in this sleepy college town, the Wild Duck, a local micro-brewery (a place where they make their own special beer), was preparing for an attack. This wasn't going to be an ordinary attack. No, tonight there was going to be a staccato attack of hard-driving, in your face guitar chops that only Dick Dale can provide.
The evening started innocently enough, with a small crowd gathered around various tables and chairs in the dance hall. People were talking about how long they've been a Dickhead, where they first saw Dick play and other topics that are common at concerts.
There was no introduction, no fanfare, no knowledge that the opening band had even come onstage, when the crowd was silenced by some very unusual sounds. The Tex-Mex Pistols, a band from Eugene, started their set. It consisted of crossing Mexican classics with heavy metal -- Heavy Metal Mariachi. Not only did these guys succeed at producing a unique combination of music, they were extremely good as well. Two standouts were Sleepwalk and an absolutely fabulous rendition of Ring of Fire. After an hour of playing, they gave up the stage.
The quiet dancehall was now packed. Capacity of 250 be damned, there must have been over 500 people in there. Ten minutes after the Tex-Mex Pistols ended their set the lights went out. A cacophony of cheers rose to a deafening crescendo. We all knew what was about to happen. The time had come.
The lights came up and there he was, in all his spendor. Graying hair pulled back into a pony tail, trademark leather jacket with the airbrushed blue eagle on the back, black shirt, black Levis and black boots. And "The Beast" (Dick Dale's legendary Fender Stratocaster guitar). He didn't introduce himself -- he didn't need to. He was Dick Dale, "King of the Surf Guitar", "Father of Heavy Metal".
He started right in on his set, creating a mesmerizing orgy of sounds that had the crowd in a trance. There were no flashy special effects, no lasers, no sound effects, no dancing girls, no gimmicks. It was raw. It was real. It was powerful. It was Dick Dale.
The Wild Duck shook as he rocked us with his double picking, string-bending, mind-blowing music. I was pumped, the crowd was pumped, the whole damn place was pumped by those incredible sounds. It was music in its purest form.
While entrancing the masses with his fretboard pyrotechnics, he spotted a little girl, of no more than seven, swaying to the music. A gentle smile crossed his face as he moved over to that part of the stage. He held his hand out to the little girl, guitar pick in his fingers. A man standing behind the girl reached out for the pick. Dick pulled his arm back, looked at the man, and said, "No, this is for the girl. Here honey, take it."
A few minutes later he stopped playing and wandered over to the microphone. He just stood there, smiling at the crowd. You could tell he was seriously enjoying just being there, doing what he's doing. When he'd collected his thoughts, he started talking about how great it is to still be loved after all these years and how flattering it is to know that a new generation is embracing him. He referred to a television commercial to emphasize what he was saying. "You know that new Mountain Dew commercial, where the kid's driving that car and grabs a Dew? Hey, what're you laughing at? That's ME on there with the music, not you! Yeah, that's my song."
I knew what this meant. I looked up and said one word. Just one, "Miserlou!" He looked down at me with a smile. In a booming voice I heard, "Yeah, Miserlou, just for you!" And all Hell broke loose.
After dazzling everyone with the likes of Take it or Leave it, The Wedge and Miserlou, Dick took a moment to prepare us for something I don't think anyone expected. There in his hands was an acoustic guitar. Obviously he can play one, but in a concert? The King? An acoustic? While he was tuning it he kept everyone involved, spinning a yarn about the last time he was in South America, in a picturesque little seaside town called Bela Horizonte. He was sitting on the beach, watching the ocean and a song started running through his head. Then he started playing one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. Melodic, sad, joyous. It captured the essence of a small peasant town in an underdeveloped country. It was amazing.
Even Dick Dale gets the blues. It's something I didn't know and I don't think anyone else in the crowd did either. It's true, though. At least to the extent that when Dick Dale plays the blues you'd swear he just walked out of the Louisiana bayou region. It was a classic blues song done in the traditional style - Went Down to the River to Watch the Fish Go By. If you haven't heard it, grab a copy somewhere, it's a great song.
Two hours after The Beast sent the first notes screaming through the speakers, it went silent. Dick talked for a few minutes and retreated into the background. I was sad to see him go, but heartened in the knowledge that, no matter what, he WILL be back. I, for one, intend to be right there, front center, when he does return.
When his tour brings him to your town, don't miss it. No matter how much the tickets cost, go to the show, you'll be glad you did. It really is a fabulous experience.
Dick doesn't drink alcohol. People at the show kept trying to hand him glasses of beer (remember, this is a micro-brewery) and he finally said, "I don't drink that firewater. If it was water or Gatorade, sure, but not that shit."
At a Dick Dale show, every song he plays, no matter how long he's been playing it, is different from the CD. Each time you see him it's a new experience. The reason for this, in his own words, "It gets boring hearing the same song over and over. Besides, I forget how I played it the night before, so I make it up as I go along."
Before this show, I was a Dickhead. Now, I'm proud to say that I'm a DICKHEAD.
Cerulean Ravenwing is a freelance event reporter who will go just about anywhere, anytime, for a free good time.