- Ray Manzarek
Ray Manzarek needs no introduction, after being the co founder of the psychedelic band of the 60’s the Doors whose lead sing Jim Morrison died 40 years ago He can still provide the passion and intensity to lead me out of the closed circle of my physic bondage; it was a nuance of reality. At the age of 72, Manzarek could easily rest on his laurels, but he is still a free man making music for the moment.
My friend Ian “Skinny” Salazar and I arrived at around 7:30 catching the first band of the music packed night, called The Whisky Folk Ramblers. The Whisky Folk Ramblers are a Ft Worth based folk band consisting of Tyler Rougeux on Guitar/ Vox, Richard Lee Davenport on Accordion/Banjo/Clarinet, Trey Ownby on drums, Jack Daw Russell on bass, Mark Moncrieff on Guitar/Sitar/Fiddle, and Cory Graves on Horns/ Tambourine.
These guys kicked off the night strong, with a southern skiffle beat and an American roots vibe. I heard lots of Johnny Cash ballads, with a faster momentum and a sonic backdrop from the horns and droning accordion. After four or five songs, the band dedicated the second half of the set to their down tempo tracks, which broke up the monotony of the earlier portion of the performance. The songs were driven by the tribal- like vocals and anchor of the rhythm section. By the end of their set, the bystanders in the theater had grown significantly since they had started 45 minutes earlier.
The next band on the bill was RTB2. The twosome came roaring through the gates with a gritty, jubilant, and explosive dirty rock and roll sound, poised and prowess. My first thought was, The Black Keys! They resembled the Black Keys; there were two men one on guitar and vocals (Ryan Thomas Becker) and one man on drums (Grady Don Sandlin).
As Skinny and I listened to the twists and turns, the early Beatles 7th chord stabs, mysterious falsetto melodies, and the raw Fuzz guitar sound, we couldn’t quite determine who these guys sounded like. One song you would hear the Old 97’s, or another would be post-modern Buddy Holly, or early Zeppelin and old blues singers like Howlin Wolf and Son House. It was interesting to watch Becker and Sandlin, who Becker introduced to the crowd as his best friend, play off of each other. The electricity between the two bounced back and forth like a heated tennis ball, and the crowd fed off their energy.
Up next was Manzarek and Rogers.
It was about 10:00 and the place was packed, and the tensions of the middle aged boomers, and the 20 something Halloween clad ghosts were building.
It was more than clear that the majority of the bystanders were just Doors fans that probably hadn’t even listened to the new record. Soon the lights were dimmed and the curtain rose, and Ray Manzarek , Roy Rogers and their band launched into a tune of the new record “ Hurricane” I was instantly transfixed, virtually hypnotized, I was in the palm of Manzarek’s hand. The lyrics of the song were those of a late poet Jim Carroll -
"Would you cut the flower in the hurricane?
Burn Stem/ drop hem/ choose your dress?
Would you strap the child to the swing?
Take aim Feel tame on the wing"
I was still, the music had short- circuited all rational conscious thought. The snaky grooves, and Roger’s gritty slide guitar complimented Manzarek’s back porch blues vocals.
After the first couple songs, Ray told the audience “ We have a new album out called Translucent Blues, these are songs from Translucent Blues, and that is mainly what we are going to be playing” it was almost as though he was reassuring the fans that had come just to hear Doors songs.
The new songs were of great quality, ones like “Game of Skill”, “ Fives and Ones”, and a song I paid particular interest to called “Kick” where Manzarek expresses his hatred for “ the white powder” and coming to the realization of the drug and it’s demons.
Towards the middle of the set, all but Ray exited the stage. Ray sat in front of his keyboard and spoke into the mike, “ I usually take this time of the performance to play a Doors song,” and the crowd erupted. He began the first notes of an instrumental version of my personal favorite Doors song, “The Crystal Ship”.
Everything was silent until two boisterous buffoons in Slipknot costumes started screaming, interrupting my trance. “ Fuckin Ray Manzarek!!” “ Oh hell yeah!”
Ray instantly stopped and spotted the two assholes, and looked at them with disdain, and said “Yeah, I don’t really want anyone screaming during the song, so why doesn’t everyone just have a big scream? Let it all out.”
The audience did as they were told, and then Ray said, “Good, now we can have silence.”
He then began the song once again. The version of the song was genuine and pure, his fingers danced across the keys, and jazzy chord changes transcended through the bounds of reality. The music shut off the air.
After the song was over he said, “ I would like to dedicate that song to Jim Morrison.”
The audience lashed out “ I love you Jim Morrison!”
Ray said, “ I love Jim Morrison too, who all here loves Jim Morrison?”
Again the crowd erupted. He told the audience about celebrating the anniversary of Jim’s disappearance date by playing a show in Paris where Jim “vanished”, as some fans believe.
The last half of the performance continued with more songs of Translucent Blues, the songs had a stylistic depth, and the lyrics were consciously poetic. The singing between Rogers and Manzarek was divided equally for the most part. Of these were, “River of Madness”, “ New Dodge City Blues”, (which had significant similarities to the late doors song, “ Love Her Madly”) and the final song of the set, “Tension”.
The band exited off the stage, and lights were dimmed. There was not one moment of silence until the crowd began to chant “One more! One more!”
After a few brief minutes, they were back on the stage, I wasn’t sure what to expect, at this point they could have gone any direction, but Ray began the opening notes of the well- known Doors song “ Riders on the Storm.” As soon as the audience was able to recognize the song they were hooked, without a qualm or latent hostility, it was a communal experience. Ray sang with remarkable control and electricity. We were all getting a taste of the psychedelic mysticism of The Doors.
The song continued with its basic structure until Ray began a prolonged keyboard break, followed by a guitar solo by Rogers. The two were fervent with every note they played. They played with no boundaries or stint. Manzarek led us all into the vast unknown, and for me it was almost non-perceptible.
On the final chorus, Ray added the lyric “ We’re all riders on the storm” that is not on the original Doors recording of the song. Everyone loved it. It was pure bliss.
Manzerak doesn’t have to lie, cheat, or rape because he is a free man, he has managed to break on through to the other side, open his heart to the energy without being afraid, and walk down William Blake’s “Road of Excess” that leads to the palace of wisdom in which he basks in. The band concluded “Riders on The Storm” bowed together and exited the stage. We were all released from our trances and the crowd soon dissipated, all of us having just had a trip thru the doors of perception.