A Private Concert with Townes Van Zandt

Some days I wonder about the choices I make, the missed opportunities and friends not met. See, I love live music. The nuance, the feeling, the tenor filtered out in the studio. There’s nothing like watching an artist bend a string to hit a certain high note, or feeling a bass note rumble thru the glass in your hand. Anticipating a chance to talk during a break, to compare notes about radio or writers or how they like the sound system.

Forget memorex, there’s nothing like living color.

I do love live music. I’m just not so fond of the places we go to hear live music. I’m not a bar fly. I’m not a social butterfly. I like good music and I like good beer, just not the smoke and the crowds that goes with ’em. The hassle of it all.

Poking around for something else, I found this video of Townes Van Zandt. I never saw Townes perform. If he had come to my town before he died, I probably would have stayed home anyway and today I would be beating myself up for never seeing him weave his yarns in person. There are a series of 13 videos noted as “A Private Concert: Holiday Inn, Houston (1988)” posted by this user.

It’s great when John Conquest drops a personal anecdote about Townes into a 3rd Coast Music story. Things like that help keep the memory of the legend and the man alive. I’ve heard that there is dissent among those who hold the legal rights to Towne’s music and image about releasing stuff–tracks, video, whatever. The legend is alot more valuable than the man. Tho when you care about someone deeply you want to protect them as much as you did (or even more than) when they were alive. A comment on Youtube explains a bit about this video series.

i dont know how you got this footage, but im the guy who filmed it. a law suit by his x family took away any chance i had of using this work,and spoiled a deal with universal music for the dvd and a cd soundtrack. his x’s said the quality was not good enough for them.
i am glad to see my work on youtube ,but if i put this up i would surely be sued .i hope everyone who sees it enjoys
hank sinatra

I don’t know Hank, and I didn’t try to contact him for comment on his comment. He’s got an account on Youtube with Austin stuff, so it’s plausible, just more of my avoiding social situations. I also saw the track on another Google search but couldn’t find it again later to compare. That’s really beside the point.

There have been bootleg audio copies of concerts floating around informally for years. Now we’re seeing video of highly variable quality starting to float around the internet, from bad phone camera captures to TV/DVD capture to original stuff released by the artists, with or without their label’s Okey-dokey. I won’t belabor the RIAA-copyright argument. Dismiss that for a moment—I’m talking about posterity here.

Go back in history far enough, we run out of images. Legends survive in the written word, but we have lost the context. In more modern times, particularly since the advent of photography, images survive. Then sound recordings–scratchy 78s, LPs, casettes, no CDs. And it seems like we’re just starting to enjoy video as a documentary medium.

Yes, you can say film has been around a long time. Nothing new there. And yes, we have alot of formal film. Stuff a director shot on purpose, when film cost a bunch to buy, process, archive, reproduce.  The “official record” overfloweth.

It’s the other stuff I’m wondering about. The material that would have been left on the cutting room floor. The sounds and images that are less than perfect, that show our warts and sniffles and broken guitar strings. All of that “stuff” that we’ve always lost after the live performance goes the way of all time.  The stuff we don’t value until it’s all gone.

Close your eyes
I’ll be here in the morning
Close your eyes
I’ll be here for a while

Take a run thru at least a few of these tracks. Introduce yourself to Townes Van Zandt. I expect he’ll answer back in your dreams.

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2 Responses to A Private Concert with Townes Van Zandt

  1. cat says:

    As a writer, I’m always in awe of Townes. “Sank into your dreams” How do you come up with something like that? There isn’t an accidental word in any of Townes’ songs.

    What’s it that Mark Twain said? The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the difference between a firefly and lightening.

  2. John says:

    On one of the videos, he talks about how he was staying with Guy & Susanna Clark and woke up one morning, asked for a pen & paper, and put down an entire song. It just sprung from his head, fully formed, like Athena from Zuess. If there was any doubt Townes was a god…

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