I was standing less than twenty feet from Neil Young and Crazy Horse (Rick Rosas stood in for the healing Billy Talbot ) with my wife and new friends. Here we were, in Iceland, at a small venue, right in front of the stage, right in front of Poncho, with Neil cranking away a few feet to our right. This was only my sixth time to see Neil, and the first to be on the rail.
The dream was passing before my eyes and through my ears, I was soaking it in, but earlier I was distracted but my desire to contribute to a greater community; to somehow pay a self imposed debt to those dedicated souls who have devoted themselves to the love of all things Neil, sharing so much over the years.
How could I provide anything of importance to folks who have Neil data spilling out of their pores? I can’t even remember the names of songs, much less what was played when or with whom or what instrument was used and whatnot. All I wanted to do was let the music and the moment flow through me, but I also wanted to gift the experience to those who could not be here. I had two things in mind, to present a Memorial and to memorialize the moments.
The Memorial was simple; a shirt, a logo of the Human Highway. I pretended that it represented the Man who seemed to me to be totally devoted to sharing the life and principles of Neil Young with the world. He ran a server out of Germany that he called Cortez. It hosted websites mostly dedicated to Neil Young and his antics. I never met the Host in person, but he impressed me with his ability to act as a gentle ganglion in a global network, with the clever and compassionate skills that synthesized and disseminated information and opinions in a manner that humans of extreme diversity would allow to flow into and out of each other.
He had passed away earlier in the year.
I had a t-shirt that bore the design that He seemed to cherish; a design He used when He worked with others to unite virtual veterans of the Human Highway at a real place in real time, last summer in Minnesota. He flew across the ocean to meet and be with his friends.
I wanted to be close enough that Neil and the other band members could see the image well enough to read “Human Highway”. I had no idea if they were even aware that the dedicated group existed, but I knew the band would at least know the song, and since it’s all the same... I pretended the Image would be looking back at them and appreciating the opportunity to be there.
I heard about online listserves from someone I was standing next to during the Crazy Horse appearance at Bonnaroo 2003. She kept yelling, "Billy! Billy!" and I was impressed that she knew the names of band members other than Neil. I had always just listened to Neil’s music, my main source since high school, but I had never paid much attention to everyone else involved. I wasn’t, and still am not, a Rustie. She told me about the Human Highway.
So I joined the Human Highway backed then, and just lurked. Folks talked about Neil stuff and other stuff as well. I eventually fizzled away, but rejoined in 2013 and paid more attention. I joined a couple of other lists and such but never really dove in with anything of substance. Human Highway seemed more human oriented and meandering, whereas other sites appeared to be more objective and strictly Neil based. I was most impressed with the sense of community and belonging that seemed to drive participation, in addition to all things Neil and offshoot topics.
The Human Highway took a hiatus when its gracious Host passed away.
I stayed up until 4 am the previous February to purchase tickets when they went on sale. I was right on it when they opened it up, but tickets were still on sale the day before the concert.
Even so, we only arrived 45 minutes early and were still about twelfth in line outside the venue. We met folks from Norway who were following the tour for several more shows, and we became friends. When the doors opened, the Security guard was hesitant to take our printed paper tickets, and I anxiously waited on his decision while others filed past. He eventually let us in and we made our way to the floor. By then the center was taken but there were good spots on either side. I was amazed to be on the front row.
Presenting the Memorial was easy enough; I just had to stand with my over-shirt open so the design on my chest was in full view. Collecting the visual memory was to be more complicated.
I knew Neil did not like the distraction of constant fidgeting with cameras and phones, and who wants to watch a concert from behind someone else’s screen? So I figured I could just use a head mounted Gopro, backed up with a Bloggie in my shirt pocket. The Gopro looks ridiculous, but these gadgets would not block anyone else’s view. I used it at Lockn’ and Rick nodded at it with a smile while Pegi sang. No one seemed to mind it. I could hopefully record a presentable version of the show to share with those who were there in heart but could not make the trip. I knew others would be in the audience to take care of this as well, but I had a front row access!
But my plan to gather and share this show was quickly shattered by tight security. Our experience of Iceland up until the concert indicated a loose and organic social flow with very few worries about rules. Folks seemed to just get along. I knew some venues allowed recording, especially large festivals, but this was a small indoor venue. I had asked someone in line if cameras were allowed, and he answered, “As long as it’s not a good one…”
Anyway, I did not try to hide the cameras and security lost no time in telling me no video was allowed, not even photos. So I put the Gopro away. Gopros are obnoxious for sure, but I was sorry to lose the potential. The Bloggie took HD video and fit in my shirt pocket so I figured I would still try to use it. The only problem was that I couldn’t check the view on the screen without causing suspicion by security. Theguards were immediately on top of anyone with a camera in the first two rows. I was never sure if I had properly turned it on to record, much less if the field of view was capturing the band.
All of this was of no matter as the Neil and the band entered the stage.
Poncho was right in front of us, all smiles and love.
Rick stood toward the back, but ventured up now and again.
Ralph and the singers were almost hidden.
Neil thrashed enough to wander in front of us a bit as he played.
I just let it wash over me, but tried to remember to hold my shirt open.
I could have buttoned it to stabilize the camera, but the Memorial was more important than the memorializing.
Such a strange and superstitious thing, now that I think of it, but somehow I hope that the Host was with us.
It was over all too soon, and Neil and the band were on their way to Ireland, England, Turkey...
When I got home and checked the video it was all askew.
When the Horse got to Germany, they played Cortez.
Shakey vids -
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GNxIwPS-Pw - Love and Only Love
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4PYG_d0TSQ - Goin' Home
(Days That Used to Be) - didn't get it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIym8VprYz0 - Don't Cry No Tears
(Love to Burn) - didn't get it.
(Separate Ways) - didn't get it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CJ5D79mzoQ - Only Love Can Break Your Heart
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdiQoSaCuW0 - Blowin' in the Wind
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_RRuswEcqk - Heart of Gold
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ou1h7_m8N1I - Barstool Blues
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yo4tzwR3BjI - Psychedelic Pill
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PO7l1JXadFA - Whose Gonna Stand Up and Save the Earth?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzGabKreA80 - Rockin' in the Free World
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6EJtSGPZvg - Hurricane