Friday, January 19, 2007

Sleepless in San Francisco

Last Saturday, Pearl and I attended another excellent benefit concert, the "7th Annual Sleepless Nights Gram Parsons Tribute Concert" at the Great American Music Hall.

As we entered, our hands were stamped as proof of payment and I was more than a little joyed to find that the stamp they used was Elvis' TCB logo. The concert was more than 30 minutes away and I was already smiling.

The (modestly named) Great American Music Hall
looks like an ornate Bowery Ballroom - a flowery Bowery, if you will - and claims the title of San Francisco's oldest standing nightclub. Since its construction in the days following the earthquake of 1906, the GAMH has spent time as a bordello, a WWII-era dancehall, a jazz club, a Moose Lodge, a condemned building, a French restaurant and its current life as a music venue.

This year's concert benefited the Pat Spurgeon Kidney Foundation, named for Pat Spurgeon, drummer of the San Francisco band Rogue
Wave who is on dialysis and awaiting a kidney transplant donor. The band's webpage ( opens with the following note: "In a logical world, medical insurance would cover his donor's and his expenses after the procedure, but it does not; so he and his family must carry the financial burden. The expenses can be huge. We are trying to raise money for costs like: donor's travel, care, bills, lost work wages, etc., as well as Pat's expenses, care, bills, etc. while he is in recovery."

As he took the stage, the host and concert founder, Eric Shea, opened by announcing that earlier in the week a donor had been found and Pat would soon receive his transplant. It made me think that maybe 2007 is curing the ills of 2006. Let's hope.

Shea originally sought to have his former band, Mover, included on the bill of Gram Fest, the Parsons tribute concert located in Joshua Tree, CA (near the site where Gram died in 1973 at age 26). In true San Francisco DIY ethic, when Shea couldn't get anyone at Gram Fest to return his phone calls, he decided "let's put the show on right here" and Sleepless Nights was born. The fist concert was held at Slim's in 1999. It soon moved to the GAMH, but continues to benefit those in need in the San Francisco community.

Shea opened his set with Hickory Wind and then moved into a audience-aided sing-a-long rendition of You Ain't Going Nowhere. The sets were short and the turnovers were quick so the evening flew by. Highlights included Miranda Lee Richards' cover of She (Pearl's favorite), The Real Sippin' Whiskeys cover of The Return of the Grievous Angel and Sweetbriar's rock out version of Jesus is Just Alright. Also performing were Dave Gleason’s Wasted Days, Red Meat, Paula Frazer and Patrick Main, Elisa Randazzo and Ben Ashley and a reunited-for-the-night Mover.

As with the acts, the audience reflected Gram's wide influence on the music of the last four decades. From folkies to country music lovers to indie rockers; from the kids raised on covers by Beck and Ryan Adams, to those who were introduced to his music by Elvis Costello, to those who were old enough to have seen him on stage with Emmylou Harris and who can remember when the Byrds, the Stones and the 70s "went country," the concert provided something to entertain every fan.

For information about the venue and for the GAMH events calendar:

For additional information about Gram, check out the following links:

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