Whenever I drive down this stretch of
IndustrialRiverfront, which is often, I think about what used to be there: the Three Teardrops Tavern, the honky-tonk that served as home-away-from for old-timers (Boots Bourquin was a regular), newcomers (Ed Burleson got his start there) and those in-between (Ronnie Dawson, then taking his first steps on the comeback trail, played many a show there). And then there was the magical night of May 8, 1992, when Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark pulled in, bringing with them special guests Ray Wylie Hubbard and Bobby Rambo.
Though the haze I vaguely recall that show, the first but not last time I'd see Townes before his death five years later; there was that woozy eve at the Sons of Hermann in '96, when Butch Hancock opened, and a performance on the Santa Monica Pier, at the old Ash Grove, later that year. But he was in declining health then; he looked like a shadow. It was as though the audience had come to pay its last respects.
But on this epic night -- pristinely preserved here, courtesy that secret stash, or here -- Townes was in fine form, his downers recounted as if each were an in-joke and his laffers offered with a warm shot and a chilled chaser. All the standards are here: "Pancho and Lefty," "If I Needed You," "To Live Is To Fly," "Mr. Mudd And Mr. Gold." Said Townes, he was happy to be there: "I was born in Fort Worth, so it's nice to be on this side of town."
Clark, doing stand-up between songs, also leaves no standard unturned; ah, so that's what "L.A. Freeway" is about. Ray Wylie does his classic ("Loco Gringo's Lament"), Rambo plays a few, then Guy and Townes take the stage for a song swap. It runs two and a half hours, feels about 34 minutes and ought to last you, oh, a lifetime. The perfect sound track for a back-porch eve before New Year's Eve.