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Dick Dale
The Earl
February 2007

Coincidentally, I had checked Dick Dale's schedule a couple of weeks back and was disappointed to see his tour didn't come anywhere near Atlanta. Two days later I saw a poster at The Earl with his name on it and grinned ear to ear. So when President's Day arrived, the president, of sorts, of surf guitar, if not the electric guitar itself, came to town. Degenerates EM, CD and myself arrived early to get a bite, then slipped into the back in time for opening act The Booze, a Kinks/Who/Stones mod tribute/rip off/resurrection act full of young faces dressed in style with stage moves that seemed a bit too rehearsed and lyrics that seemed almost familiar.

Others enjoyed it, but I kind of felt like it was The Monkees all over again. I was hoping Dick Dale would bust through the back wall, a la Kool Aid, and the kids of The Booze would literally melt under a wave of thundering guitar. Many years back I wished GWAR would appear on stage and bludgeon some random singer-songwriter who's name I can't even recall. Funny that Dick Dale and GWAR have the same iconography in my mind, something violent and primal.

Anyhow, The Booze really weren't bad, I was just impatient for the headlining act. I'm writing this review from notes and as I turn the page to read up on Dick Dale the page is absolutely blank. You have to be either incredibly forgettable or overpowering to rate a blank page in my notepad. Dick Dale is not forgettable.

The wall of speakers at the back of the stage pumped out his trademark sound, vibrating guitar notes coming out at machine-gun speed, before he even walked on stage, thanks to a wireless mike. It's his way of introducing himself, and he needs no other introduction. He steps into the room and the crowd cheers. He steps onto the stage with a look that exudes confidence. He's been doing this for decades, yet his fingers are still a blur.

He slides effortlessly from surf to straight up rock, blending the sounds and tunes together in a way that shouldn't be possible. I looked over at EM to see if she was enjoying the show and her mouth was open as she shook her head in amazement. I just giggled and turned back to watch as Dick switched from guitar to drums to drumming on the bass guitar and back again to his trademark Fender.

It's like watching a masterful swordsman in a pirate movie, one of those guys who's so good he takes on three opponents simultaneously while adding colorful banter and absurd flourishes of his blade, just because he can. Who else could wear a t-shirt with his own name on it and not look like a tool?

Eventually he got warmed up enough to ditch the leather jacket and the two young guys in the band were thrashing around like mad shaking off sweat in an effort just to keep up.

Unfortunately, some guy that looked exactly like the annoying "Can you hear me now?" spokesman decided he couldn't quite see from wherever he had been standing and inched his way sideways through the crowd. I saw him coming and I could tell he was one of those weenies that was going to stand right on my fuckin' feet if he had to. So I didn't politely step aside to let him by, as I would with someone just trying to get across the room. Sure enough, he stopped in front of me, pressed against me. Christ, man, if you're gonna sit on my dick do you want the reach-around too? Hey, if you're gonna get all cozy...

Eventually I made him uncomfortable enough to move two inches, not quite out of my personal space but at least we weren't dry-humping.

By the end of the set my ears were ringing and happy memories of the previous times I'd seen Dick flooded back to me. Speaking of the past, there's an interesting history of Dick Dale on his web site, definitely worth reading if you're interested in the history of surf guitar, or electric guitars and amps.


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