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Bush Must Be Defeated

"If you take anything away from this show tonight, let it be this song," said Bob Dylan/Bruce Springsteen/Elvis Costello/Lenny Bruce hybrid Dan Bern at his solo performance last Saturday night at Henfling's. He was referring to his sing-along ballad, "Bush Must Be Defeated" that he played for an encore at the mellow end of an evening that actually started off with some fiery adversarial tension. After being told to "shut up and sing" by someone in the audience during a bit of banter, Bern threatened to filibuster the evening away and not play a single song for us "fucking mountain people." Determined to have a bit of fun for himself though, he powered through some of his cockier numbers like "Tiger Woods" and "Jerusalem," playing with such gusto that he broke two strings on two guitars, cursing under his breath like a potty-mouthed truck driver.

His second set started out strong with covers of Springsteen's "Thunder Road" and Dylan's "Visions of Johanna," but it quickly mellowed out to a fault, eliciting yawns and bleary eyes as he played one sensitive ballad after the next, ending with the aforementioned "Bush Must Be Defeated." To sing the chorus, repeat title ad infinitum while your best Bush-hating buddy ad-libs clever lines like "his base of power deleted/his resources depleted/his whole regime excreted." It was one of those songs that sticks in your head for hours, but it was by no means his most ingenious. That honor goes to Bern's latest remake of Dylan's Red Scare-era satirical "talkin' blues" tirades. In "Talkin' Al Kida Blues," towers fall, sociologist George W. Bush gives his infamous "they hate our freedom" explanation, some guy in Salinas named Al Kida is freaking out about the president's vow to wipe him out, and Bern turns his mother in to the Department of Homeland Security for making a symbolic left turn from the far right lane.

Never one to take himself too seriously, though, Bern riffed in another Dylan update on the legend about Bob Dylan visiting Woody Guthrie in the hospital. In Bern's version, "Talkin' Woody, Bob, Bruce and Dan Blues," he breaks into a perfectly healthy Springsteen's house and tries to force a passing of the torch: "I said you look bad and I asked him could he / Think of us as Bob and Woody / I said you just rest your pretty head / As I sing to you in your hospital bed / He said 'What the hell you talking about? / I ain't sick / This ain't a hospital / And how'd you get past the security gate?'"

It's true Dan Bern style--while he may not have the official blessing from the Boss, he's got balls big enough to try stealing it. Now if they'd only fit in the White House ...

Mystic No-Show

Last-minute cancellations inevitably suck for everyone involved in a show, and Mystic's cancellation of last Friday night's show at the Catalyst was no exception. The Coup, who were originally booked to open the show, stepped up to the plate and took on headlining duties, leaving the opening slot to the Lost and Found Generation, who had to contend with a nearly empty Catalyst pit, but put on a solid, energetic show regardless. My guess is that a lot of die-hard Coup fans didn't show up because they didn't want to fork out the dough to see the Coup perform a short opening set. Alas, they killed it whether you were there or not.

Diva Power

No matter how hard the well-meaning staff of the Rio tried, they couldn't prevent people from dancing in front of hapless and hopelessly seated members of the audience during the Cesaria Evora concert last Friday night. And who could blame them? With a six-piece backup band, Evora delivered a romantic cross-cultural fusion of African rhythms, lively Brazilian modhinas and melancholy Portuguese fados, which my friend Harry aptly calls "Portugal Blues." The "Barefoot Diva" herself looked on the dancers like an adoring grandmother, even encouraging the people in the front rows to get up and dance. Just following orders, captain.


Rockin' female foursome Raining Jane performs at the Cayuga Vault at 8pm on Saturday, Nov. 22, at Cayuga Vault. Serenity Blues, Sonny Boy and Leroy Sinclair and the Smoking Section perform at 3pm on Sunday, Nov. 23, at Moe's Alley.

Mike Connor

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From the November 19-26, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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