Washington, D.C.









Spring 2004

Washington, D.C.

"You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time."

--Abraham Lincoln 


Washington, D.C. is a hotbed of poetry. It is a town like ancient Greece or Rome with its huge rolling columns, statues and continuing history.  It is a place of reflection and signs for inspiration. There’s a lot of biblical references here and unique antiquated architecture. It’s the week of the cherry blossom festival. I’m searching for a museum called Folkways Recordings when I stumble upon the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library. I’m here to attend a poetry reading to celebrate and open National Poetry Month. The main event here is at the library, a poetry happening called “Taking Poetry to the Street”, with poetry slams for middle and high school students, poetry performances, jazz music, poetry workshops, films, books and readings. It's also National Library week this month, and I find a book for sale here at the library about Uncle Sam, who lived in the same area where I grew up.

My favorite band of the moment is Bob Weir and Ratdog and they are here for two shows at the 9:30 Club. Robert Hall Weir is literally making recording history on this tour by instantly recording his concert on soundboard tape and releasing new CDs after the show. It’s as if he’s been rehearsing for forty years in order to go into the studio of life and make impeccable recording after professional recording without missing a beat.

The 9:30 Club is a small intimate setting of about a thousand people. Typical of Grateful Dead related shows, people are allowed to bring in recording equipment and tape the show (no videotaping), even take pictures, and some people leave their cell phones on the floor up front while friends at home listen to the show over the phone. It seems like everybody is smoking in this place. The smell of nicotine is thick.  Drugs are not allowed. Some people are talking. At the entrance to one of the aisles is the Wharf Rat table manned by volunteers, deadheads who have transformed their lives with sobriety.  In between sets at some shows are active discussions, and testimonies from people who have given up drugs. Bob Weir is seen on late night cable TV sometimes in anti-drug commercials.

The three disc set release following the March 30th show was a gem:

 They opened both sets with jams, the first set with “Truckin’” > “Wang Dang Doodle” > “Love Supreme” > “Truckin’” > “Take Me To the River” (by the Reverend Al Green). They followed that with Bob Dylan’s “Seńor” > “Brown-eyed Women” > “Lucky Enough” > “Big Boss Man” > “Tomorrow Never Knows”> “Playing In The Band” to end their first set. They had to overcome some static and then opened with a Beatles song “Blackbird” into a Dead set that closed with “Playing In The Band” (reprise). Toots and the Maytals were the opening act, and for an encore Weir did “Not Fade Away”. On Wednesday night The Derek Trucks Band opened, and Bob Weir closed his Washington, D.C. gigs with Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia’s “Foolish Heart”. Bob Weir also covered Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” and Bob Dylan closed his show at the same club on Friday night with that song.

Dylan did an “impromptu concert” at the 9:30 Club on April 2nd. The tickets went on sale the day of the show and sold out almost instantly on the Internet. People knew this was a special and intimate show. I was really surprised at the difference in the audiences and shows from the nights before. They let me bring my camera in but there were several well-placed signs:





By Request of the Guest Artists

 For the Ratdog shows the streets are filled with people smoking and talking. The hallways are cluttered, the sidewalks outside crowded with people holding up one finger and asking for a miracle. People yak while the musicians sing. Some dance and others mesmerized by the musical presentation. It is mostly young people, and the second night a noticeable dearth of women. I thought the first night’s show was just incredible, while others found the second night better. Many had followed the band around the country. I saw them at the Fillmore on March 3rd, and the spirit of Garcia is alive and “Big Railroad Blues” is kicking. Their Vancouver show was the "best of the tour" according to those who attended the tour of shows, "especially Bobby's rendition of “One More Saturday Night” that he loves to do on Saturday nights", and he’s the best at what he does. I met with some who traveled from his Albany, New York show on the 21st to be at these shows in D.C. "His band I don’t know but what I hear is love supreme". I was standing at the backstage doorway and my eyes met with Weir’s and he reminded me of a river that inspires poetry. His makes me wanna dance and forget. Music, especially this music, encourages me.

Dylan’s audience is entirely different. There isn't anybody smoking. People are attentive and crowd the stage. There are no people in the hallways during the show. Dylan has a captive audience here hooking them with his many stories and surprising the audience with an old gem, "Hazel". A small band of people stood in line all day to get the best positioning inside. When everyone went in, the streets were deserted except for a  very few who didn’t have tickets.  There's a staff member there, with many piercings, "Mellow D." When one extra ticket showed up, a man took out a huge wad of money. “How much do you want for it?” he said. Big temptation was there. This was the hottest ticket in town, but Mellow D. helped keep it straightforward, “How much are you charging for that ticket, sixty-five dollars, right?” he said. The man peeled off four twenty dollar bills, and Mellow D. stepped back in. “Sixty-five dollars, not a dollar more, not a dollar less”, he said. Exact change found. Dylan helps keep us honest.

APRIL 1,  2004

Uncle John

Poetry Reading

Java Head Café,  Washington, D.C.


Washington D.C. Photo Credits: "REFLECTIONS" by Uncle John

 1> Bob Dylan poster w/Capital Dome reflected in background 

2> Dylan's truck after equipment unloaded reflecting life on the road

3> Abe Lincoln quote Government reflects the people 

4> Saluting Lincoln @ The Memorial where I discover read & reflect on Abe's Poetry

5> Reflection of Painting of dancers on wall of Lincoln memorial

6> Lincoln Reflecting in "The Peacemakers", painting in White House

7> Washington monument in the Reflecting Pool 

8> The White House reflecting off the lamplighter

9> Reflecting on this natural reaction at the Lincoln Memorial

10> Looking out from the Lincoln Memorial through the urn to the reflecting Monument

11> The Washington Capitol at night reflecting on the river 

12> The Lincoln Memorial in the Reflection Pool

13> Reflection by picture of Jazz paintings on the subway wall 

14> The reflecting headlights of the President's vehicle

15> Reflecting Sign: @ The Java Head Cafe, Uncle John's  Poetry Reading

 "The Picture Tells The Story", celebrating National Library month, April 1st

16>  Old photograph mirroring Abraham Lincoln, Photographer: A. C. Townsend, Enterprise Gallery

17>  Bob Weir, 9:30 Club, Washington D.C. March 31, 2004. Live Reflection Photo: Terry Rogers

Bob Weir & RatDog, Fastest LIVE Recording Release, DeadDisc, within two hours after the show