Procol Harum

the Pale

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Impressions of the Los Angeles Palers' Weekend

or 'Jan's Adventures in Wonderland'

"Impression: The act of causing an event or moment to be fixed in one's mind. To affect strongly."

I think the phrase "to affect strongly" sums it up for me. As a novice, the entire event had the feel of being like Alice in Wonderland. I had no idea what to expect. I had never been to this type of event before. I'm not a musician and I'd never seen Procol Harum live, but when I read about it at Roland and Jens's excellent website, 'Beyond the Pale' ... how could I resist!

It didn't help that I had two friends [thanks, Dennis and Rodger] who keep telling me how foolish I would be to not see Procol Harum if I had the slightest chance of going. So like Alice as she stumbled into Wonderland, I walked to the edge of the hole and fell into ... The Los Angeles Palers' Weekend.

These are my impressions:

Alice finds the stage entrance to BB King's club

As if in a 40s Hollywood movie, as Alan Edelist and Jill McMahon scouted for a venue to host the Paler Band experience, the dark clouds must have parted and a bright light streamed down upon Universal City. [Although, I'm sure Alan and Jill would explain it differently].

Universal City is the heartbeat of Hollywood. Within a close vicinity are Universal Studios, City Walk (home of BB King's Blues Club), the John Anson Ford Theater and the Sheraton Universal Hotel (the Paler Hotel of choice). The entire area is surreal in its look and feel - a modern day Wonderland.

BB King's Club is an amazing venue. There could not have been a better facility in all of Southern California. It boasts a first-class stage, sound system, residing drum kit and Hammond organ, sound and light technicians, and its own fully-staffed restaurant and bar. So, let the music begin

The Authors, Jens Anders Ravnaas and Roland Clare
I run two rather large fan-based websites for bands and have been involved in two fan conventions for one of the bands. Because of this I know it is not an easy task. 'Beyond the Pale' is one of the most comprehensive and well-organized fan sites I have ever seen and I believe that without this website's support and encouragement, not only would there not have been a Palers' week-end, but possibly Procol Harum themselves might not have been performing today. Their devotion to their task is a great encouragement to me. My deepest thanks therefore goes to these two gentlemen, the authors of the feast.

Alice shows her appreciation of the Palers' Band

The Entire Cast of Characters - The Palers' Band
The ultimate praise of any band is when fans gather together to celebrate that band's music. I've seen it at Beatle conventions and 60s band reunion concerts, but never had a seen anything like a Palers' tribute band. I was not prepared for the level of professionalism that was exhibited by the members of this band. I've always thought that Procol Harum fans in general have a deeper appreciation for complicated or intricate music and lyrics. They are almost a band's band. When I witnessed how many Procol Harum fans are also musicians, it only confirmed it for me.

The 2003 Los Angeles Palers' Band included Beatle Buck [vocals, guitar, bass and percussion], Donna Blue [vocals, percussion], Richard Beck [guitar, vocals, and bass], John Crouch [bass], Marvin Chassman [drums], BtP webmaster Roland Clare [piano, bass, mandolin, vocals and accordion], Tito Davila [drums], Al 'One Eye' Edelist [vocals], Lloyd Edward [guitar], Dennis Fetchet [vocals, violin, mandolin and harmonica], Jeremy Gilien [vocals, Hammond organ, piano, acoustic guitar, and bass], Gothic Harris [guitar and Hammond organ], Charlie Kirelawich [vocals and drums], George Lovell [vocals and 'Lofty Peaks' speech], Jeff Levine [drums], Don Milione [Hammond organ, synthesizer, piano], Rodger Phillips [5-string banjo], BtP Webmaster Jens Anders Ravnaas [drums], Gary Shepard [guitar, bass, vocals and piano], Tony Sadowski [piano and synthesizer], and Nathan Walpow [guitar].

His trumpet-playing is every bit as convincing as his singing

The White Rabbit, Roland Clare
I am an organized person and I admire that quality in others, but as I watched Roland steer his way through the rehearsals, I sat amazed. He's all over the place ... he plays almost every instrument, handles tons of paperwork, leads and directs with ruthless efficiency and even sings quite nicely [sic]. I was half expecting him to cook the BBQ meal at BB King's, too and the amazing thing is he would have probably done a great job at that, too. Roland's list of songs reads like the entire setlist, so I won't mention them individually. It was a pleasure to meet Roland and an even greater pleasure to watch him perform.

Not strictly from 'Alice in Wonderland', of course. On this occasion George's stallion is apparently not in need of company ...

The White Knight, George Lovell
George has a passion that is so contagious that I found myself swept away in his love for all things Procol. How could you not love Procol Harum and their music after listening to him speak eloquently of his many 'Lofty Peak' experiences. As a final proof of his admiration for the band, George sang Rambling On. It was a joy to listen to. He literally threw himself into it and as he sang I could see the words of the song coming to life with him as its subject. Bravo George.

Dennis, Nathan and Rodger with Jan

The Mad Tea Party with Dennis Fetchet and Rodger Phillips
One of my favorite experiences that week-end was sitting in the upstairs dressing room for a couple of hours on Sunday with Dennis Fetchet, Rodger Phillips and Nathan Walpow, as they practised their bluegrass version of So Far Behind. I felt like poor lost Alice who had been invited to the Tea Party, even though I don't drink tea.

There I was at the tea party with Mad Hatter, March Hare, and Dormouse [you gentlemen work out who is who]. It was great fun to watch them pore over every detail of the song. Dennis and Rodger have always puzzled, confused and entertained me, and life is never dull with them, but there aren't two friends in the world I'd rather spend an afternoon with.

A perfect likeness of the Grin in question!

The Cheshire Cat, Don Milione
Watching Don as he maniacally caresses the keyboard with wild abandon is very entertaining, but what catches your eye most about Don is his winning smile. How can you not have a good time watching him have such a good time? He pulls you into his tide pool of joy and the undertow takes you away. Don's songs included Kaleidoscope, Conquistador, A Rum Tale, All This and More, Nothing That I Didn't Know, Wreck of the Hesperus, Quite Rightly So, Still There'll Be More, The Milk of Human Kindness, and Whaling Stories.

Another interloper from 'Through the Looking-Glass and what Alice Found There'. Needless to say Donna is 8,000 times better-looking even than the White Queen.

The White Queen, Donna Blue
I admire Donna. Singing songs originally written for a band you greatly admire is no small challenge, but when those songs were written for men, it becomes a real task. I loved Donna's version of Still There'll Be More. Let me explain why: this was already a favorite Procol Harum song of mine, but Donna added a dimension to it that intrigued me. I believe that dimension was attitude. When she sang that she would 'blacken my Christmas' or 'piss on my door', I believed her. She had a way of delivering the lyrics with conviction and I loved it. Donna also sang on Kaleidoscope, Conquistador, All This and More, Fool's Gold, Too Much Between Us, The Milk of Human Kindness, Wish Me Well, and Whaling Stories.

Charlie snatches a moment's rest in between numbers

The Gryphon, Charlie Kirelawich
For a man who had never sung before on stage, Charlie must have been possessed by the spirit of Jim Morrison. He delivered his musical selections of Thin End of the Wedge, A Christmas Camel, Beyond The Pale, and This Old Dog with rock star charisma and had me in awe and asking why this man hasn't sung publicly before. Charlie also did a great job on the drums with his lusty back beat on Still There'll Be More and many other tunes.

A Caucas Race and A Very Long Tale: So Far Behind
Based on the title, this song could easily have been from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I have to admit that as much as I love rock music, there is also a portion of the heart that craves bluegrass. That's what made this song special for me. Performed by Dennis Fetchet on mandolin, Rodger Phillips on banjo, Roland Clare on bass and Nathan Walpow on acoustic guitar, it is a supreme example of how one can take an already wonderful song and make it their own. It is so well-written that it translates into either musical genre. My fondest memory of this song was watching Gary Brooker and Geoff Whitehorn's faces as my friends launched into the only song off the new album performed that night, but the smile on Dennis's face as he sang to a man he has idolized all his adult life (ie Gary Brooker) was ... priceless!

The Mock Turtle sings his melancholy airs. Defective Leslie rotor not shown.

The Mock Turtle's Story : Jeremy and the Wreck of the Hesperus
Jeremy Gilien - with the help of Roland Clare on piano, Don Milione on synthesizer, Richard Beck on guitar, John Crouch on bass, Dennis Fetchet on violin and Charlie Kirelawich on drums - told a truly inspired story musically that invokes pictures of the sea. Jeremy's quiet voice sadly brought to life the seaman's tale, as if he himself were one of the sailors who witnessed the event.

Jeremy also used this excellent vocal styling to tell the sad, but compelling tale of Jenny Drew in Nothing That I Didn't Know and delivered one of the more touching musical numbers of the week-end. He was amply aided in this song by Don Milione on piano, Roland Clare on accordion, Gothic Harris on guitar, John Crouch on bass, and Jeff Levine on drums. Jeremy's other songs included All This and More, Dead Man's Dream, The Thin End of the Wedge, Fool's Gold, Separation, Rambling On, Still There'll Be More, Hard To Be Sure, This Old Dog, Toujours L'Amour, Fool's Gold, One Eye on the Future, Quite Rightly So, and Whaling Stories.

The Caterpillar holds court

Advice From A Caterpillar, Neal Fischer's talk
Neal Fischer is an interesting collector. While most people collect tangible things, he collects music. Not just any music, but as many versions of A Whiter Shade of Pale as he can find. Whether it was used on TV, in movies, in commercials or in other people's cover versions, Neal has it or is looking for it. What usually makes a collection valuable is its uniqueness and his collection is unique indeed. Along with this collection, he has gathered a vast amount of knowledge about the band and its musical influence in today's culture. His talk on Monday was fascinating and informative. Thanks, Neal.

The Lobster Quadrille at The Ford Concert
In the story of Alice in Wonderland, the Lobster Quadrille is an occasion all the sea creatures look forward to. The ultimate experience of any Palers' Week-end is the performance of Procol Harum. The event started out well enough with a crowded, but fun cab ride to the theater.

Thunder and lightning not shown

The John Anson Ford is an outdoor venue with the stage located against a scenic hillside. At one point, my husband and I even spotted a pair of deer grazing on the hill high above the stage. Up until the last minute, my daughter's extra ticket had gone unused. However, Dennis Fetchet surprised me by inviting a mutual-performer friend of ours from Disneyland to sit there. That alone was quite a shock, but very memorable. You could feel the electricity in the air as showtime neared. Unfortunately, some of that electricity was due to a passing thunderstorm that began two songs into the concert. And I thought it never rained in California! I think the unusual weather unnerved the band as they began their first selection, Bringing Home the Bacon and that fear grew stronger , as heavy rain began to fall causing them to quit part way through their second number, Pandora's Box. I was slightly disappointed, as Bringing Home the Bacon is one of my favorite songs, and it was hard for me to enjoy it as I sat their imagining the next day's headlines. 'Woman Fan Fried at Procol Harum Concert'. The fear grew even worse as I realized that many Disneyland fans would be shocked to find I had died sitting next to their idol, Kirk Wall.

As the rain grew heavier, the band left the stage. There was an extensive intermission and eventually we were asked to vacate the theater entirely until the lightning had ceased. (This request was necessary due to equipment and sound towers located around the theater).

Finally, over an hour later, we were allowed to return to our slightly soggy seats and were treated to twelve more songs, (see BtP's official set list) including my favorite song off the new album, VIP Room. Unfortunately, as strains of Salty Dog lingered in the air, so did the next wave of thunder and lightning .Gary quickly launched into their classic hit, Whiter Shade of Pale that ended after only one verse due to a slight downpour.

Alice, about to get Lost in the Looking-Glass

Through the Looking Glass to BB King's After-Party
The Ford Theater concert would have been a disappointing ending to the evening, if we had not had the Palers' After-Party to attend. As we arrived, everyone was in good spirits and the music began with renewed vigor. Five songs into the Palers' Band musical tribute, Procol Harum arrived at the After-Party and renewed everyone's spirits. The Palers' Band was able to perform Wreck of the Hesperus, So Far Behind and Beyond the Pale before Gary, Geoff, Matthew, Matt and Mark were persuaded to play a couple of numbers. Perhaps it was the disappointing rain situation that helped, but Procol Harum gave us more than we asked for. Their numbers included A Rum Tale, The Emperor's New Clothes, Echoes in the Night, Juicy John Pink and the ever-popular jam tune, Green Onions. The evening finished up with four more Palers' Band songs before we closed down BB King's. It was a memorable evening.

Like Alice in Wonderland I could not let my adventures end there. When I woke up the next morning, all I could think of was that Procol Harum was playing again that night in San Diego, not ninety minutes from my home. After several quick arrangements, I was off on the road again, by myself to get another Procol Harum fix and, as One-Eye has mentioned in his Fellow Traveller's Diary, this was not a show to miss. For the first time, I was able to not worry about the rain, lightning, who I was sitting by or if I needed to take more pictures. I simply sat transfixed and was carried away by Procol Harum to my own personal Wonderland.

Thanks, Alice!

Procol Harum concerts in 2003: index page


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