Beauty & Pain, Magic & Loss…

Photo by Bill Goodman

There are few nights that I go out on the town that I can say that the evening was touching, moving and heartwrenchingly emotional. However, this was indeed the case at Last Exit Live last Thursday, February 27th when The Dirty Rascals Presented the Music of Andrew Duncan Brown. Last October 13th, Brown passed away mysteriously while on vacation in France and those who had known him or who had been a fan of his music were devastated. Andrew was a prolific artist with a songwriting talent like few others, I saw him before he left and he was excited about the new projects he was working on and the last show I had seen of his with The Dirty Rascals was unbelievably great. There had been talk at the time of his death that there would be a show to celebrate his music and his life with the consent of The Dirty Rascals and his family. And so that’s what last Thursday was, a celebration and to most of us who knew him and loved his music, it was also a memorial service, and through it all he was very much there. I’m guessing there were a couple hundred of us there and I seriously doubt anyone’s eyes were dry the whole night through. My eyes welled up with tears quite a few times throughout the evening and that trend started at the beginning when the event opened with an unreleased Airstream Session of Andrew performing “My Blue Eyed Son.” This is a song that for personal reasons can get me crying on a normal day, but that night it was a bit overwhelming and hauntingly beautiful.

The Dirty Rascals took the stage and in case you don’t know, they are the band that backed him on his most electrifying performances and they consist of Jason Messer and Judge Karman on guitar, Jess Pruitt on bass and Creamy Dave Libman on drums. Joel Ekdahl (Exploding Oranges, Manic Monkeys) had the honor of singing the opening song, “Burners” and I have to say that it was one of the strongest vocal efforts I’ve ever heard him deliver. Ruca joined The Dirty Rascals next and brought more emotional moments to the crowd and to Ruca herself who was visibly moved to be apart of this tribute, including an amazing version of “All That You Need.” After her amazing performance, Meredith Moore (The Sugar Thieves) took the stage to announce that Andrew’s family had flown into town including his mother Nancy and they would be passing a collection bucket to help pay for the expenses, which led to more tears for many.  Jason Messer took the stage for a solo round on the touching “Too Hard To Hide,” brilliantly performed on keyboards it felt like “one holy moment” indeed. Next he was joined by Judge Karman for an amazing version of “It’s Not Yes or No, but Why.” Until this evening I had only heard Andrew sing these songs and it was quite an amazing listening experiencing to here them performed by others.

Next was a series of tribute songs to Andrew by friends and former bandmates. Sage Gentle-Wing was the first to play a tribute song in the form of the hearbreaking “I’ll See You Again Little Brother,” after telling the story of how he met Andrew and introduced him to several members of his future band. Following that were tribute songs by Fernando Barajas and Ryan Hays, both members his first band The Future Band of America. This was followed by footage of Andrew playing at the Yucca Tap Room, including a brilliant performance of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.” The Dirty Rascals returned to the stage joined by Kevin Lloyd (Banana Gun) and Solo Lansbury (The Woodworks) while she took lead on “Drink To Blue.” Kevin remained on stage joined by Mikel Lander (The Sugar Thieves) to perform a couple more, including one of my favorite songs of the night and one of my favorite songs by Andrew, “I Was So Confused,” Loyd gave it a gritty soulful edge that was in stark contrast to Brown’s angelic original. Next was an unreleased song by Andrew called “Game” and it was one of many hints throughout the night at how much we lost musically with his passing.

Photo by Matty Steinkamp

Mikel and Meredith took the stage with the Rascals to belt out “Life On Doubtin’” followed by Meredith’s beautiful rendition of “Sway,” after telling the story that “Sway” was the nickname she had for Andrew, and when she called him something different, he corrected her. This was followed by another unreleased song by Andrew over the sound system at Last Exit Live. At that moment I was sitting with his mother and she asked me “Did you know Andrew,” to which I replied “Yes, I wrote about your son” at which point her eyes grew wide and she said, “Oh, my god, you wrote all those beautiful words!” She stood up and by the time we hugged tears were streaming down both of our faces. Immediately after that she realized it was her son on the sound system singing “Beauty and Pain.” The Dirty Rascals returned and Mark Zubia joined them on stage to deliver one of Andrew’s greatest songs “Get Up, Get Down,” it was in short time that half the musicians from the night joined them on stage to sing along to the magnificent chorus, best illustrated by the photograph above.  Yet another unreleased song was played by Andrew before Lee Perreira and Mikel Lander took the stage to perform a song Lee wrote in the day of Andrews death, called simply “ADB”, it was a loving tribute that I hope he intends to record some day: “My brother, My friend, Today is not your end, Your music Will mend, All the broken hearts left Frozen and seized…” The ended perfectly with Marc Norman taking the stage and again, nearly everyone else that had performed through the night to perform the blazing rocker, “Midnight Radio.” Though the live music had ended the evening seemed to freeze in time as they played recordings of The Dirty Rascals and The Future Band Of America over and over again. We had raised over $500 for Nancy Brown’s travel expenses, which included $100 from Brannon Kleinlein who was “honored to have had Last Exit Live chosen” as the venue for this event. It was a beautiful night and a perfect tribute to an amazing young man who left our midst far too soon.