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Listening to Huey Lewis Outside the Fence at the Sonoma County Fair Isn’t All That Bad

Posted by on Aug 10, 2011 | Comments (20)

Did you know that if you have no ticket to see Huey Lewis & the News when they play at the Sonoma County Fair, there are perfectly dependable other options for enjoying yourself? For example: Standing outside the Chris Beck Arena with all the other ticketless Huey Lewis fans! And let me tell you, readers, it’s just as good as watching the show from inside. I mean, Huey Lewis isn’t exactly the hunk he used to be, and there’s only a few other guys in the band still around from the classic Sports era—you wouldn’t recognize anyone else anyway! (And don’t even think about getting the Tower of Power horn section or the guys from the 49ers, either!)

What you will get is near-perfect sound, depending on the wind. Every word of “The Heart of Rock ‘n’ Roll” will be audible! You’ll also totally be able to see the stage anyway, because the front doors to the arena will be wide open. Best of all, you’ll get the fun-loving company of the average Huey Lewis fan in the year 2011. (They wear “vintage” repro shirts that say “I Heard the News”; they fist-pump while mouthing the words to “Jacob’s Ladder”; they dance poorly, and smoke!)

But you will also recall the glory days of the band, and lament that those days are over. Forty-five painful minutes will go by while Huey Lewis & the News play mostly cover material from their new ‘soul’ record. You will start counting the times a John Deere tractor drives by outside the gates to amuse yourself, or wander down near the livestock pavilion. “Why in the world,” you will think, “don’t they scatter a hit in here? Why is he ‘getting back to his roots’ when the cool thing about Huey Lewis & the News was that they implemented elements of their roots—soul and new wave and doo-wop and Thin Lizzy—and created something greater than the sum of its parts?”

All this will go through your head while Huey tries to pull off a Joe Tex song, and you’ll be glad you didn’t buy a $40 ticket from the bored-looking teenager sitting inside the fairgrounds ticket booth… but then… what’s this? The opening strains of “Heart and Soul”?! Yes! Finally! Who cares that Huey can’t really hit the high notes anymore—it’s friggin’ “Heart and Soul!”

You will hope at this point that it’s gonna be hit after hit, and even though the flow is interrupted by more new songs and a guest singer from Vallejo, they’ll start rolling in: “I Want a New Drug,” “Do You Believe in Love?” Huey’s patter will be uninspired—he’ll make comments like “Have I plugged our new album yet?” when he’s already plugged it five times—but it’ll really get miserable when he starts with the older hits. “We wrote this song 25 years ago in Marin County,” he’ll say at one point, sounding weary, “and we never would have guessed that we’d have to play it everysinglenight.” (Cue intro to “The Power of Love,” cue Huey mentally committing hari-kari.)

You will then realize that all Huey Lewis wants in life is to be in a bar band again, and then you’ll feel bad for Huey Lewis because he can never, ever go back to that. This sympathy will conflict with your resentment over his refusal to perform hit songs, and you’ll start counting the ones up he hasn’t played yet: “If This is It,” “Hope You Love Me Like You Say You Do,” “Doin’ It All for My Baby,” “Hip to be Square,” although maybe they stopped playing that last one since that horrible scene in American Psycho. You’ll sort of feel bad if that was the case. But you’ll also want “Walking on a Thin Line.”

Then you’ll remember that if someone searches your own name on YouTube, what pops up is “Walking on a Thin Line,” which leads down the inevitable path of nostalgia and how much Huey once meant to you. How seeing him in Petaluma in 1985 was your first concert ever. How your family listened to him constantly in the car. How you once entered a talent show lip-syncing “Bad is Bad.” How you once wrote that column summing up all your thoughts on Huey Lewis, and how it could have gone on five times longer. How the baby boomers like your parents needed Huey Lewis in the ’80s—he made them feel awesome for growing up and being 35 and getting married and having kids and buying houses and being domesticated. Where is the goddamned Huey Lewis for your generation, now that you’re in your 30s? Where, you’ll wonder?

But then! You’ll be snapped back into reality by the encore. “We’re going to bring out a very special guest,” Huey will declare from the distant stage, as the roller coaster rattles in the background. “Ladies and gentlemen, the bad boy is back! Mr. Mario Cippolina!”

You will then flip out, because Mario Cippolina was always your favorite, and you’d felt so bad when he ran into some trouble with drugs, and stealing remote-control cars, and you will run up to the fence that separates yourself from Mario Cippolina and you’ll jump up and down a little. They’ll play “I Know What I Like,” but then that’ll turn into the song you most wanted to hear, the song that makes the whole cold, silly, stupid evening spent outside the fence at the Sonoma County Fair completely worth it. “Workin’ for a Livin’” will sound awesome, and the smoking 52-year-olds in their “I Heard the News” T-shirts will pump their fists and sing along, and you will sing along too.

And that’ll be your night.

 


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19 comments

  1. Tod Brilliant
    August 10, 2011

    The power of the media. I heart this piece times three hundred ninety seven.

    Reply
  2. Meredith
    August 10, 2011

    That was my experience from inside as well. I thought he looked pretty good until someone said he had a facelift.

    Reply
  3. Jessamyn
    August 10, 2011

    Brilliant!! So good.

    Reply
  4. Chris
    August 10, 2011

    I WISH that was my night…

    Reply
  5. Meredith
    August 10, 2011

    During one of his soul songs I asked my mom if it was offensive that he was some rich white dude singing about ‘being a poor brother’ or if it was okay because he added two black female backup singers to his band.

    Reply
  6. Gabe Meline
    August 10, 2011

    ‎”We feel like doing a few more from our new album, ‘Soulsville.’ Is that alright with you?” (Me: “No, you morons!”) “I knew you’d say yes. Here we go!” (Band proceeds to not play “Stuck With You.”)

    Reply
  7. Loretta
    August 10, 2011

    Gabe, you are so funny! I am cracking up!

    Reply
  8. Meredith
    August 10, 2011

    Reasons to buy the album: “We need the money”

    Reply
  9. J.V.
    August 10, 2011

    Nice work Gabe, a fine read. Like I was there outside the gates too.

    Reply
  10. Gabe Meline
    August 10, 2011

    Everyone on FB last night was all, “I can hear Huey from my front porch! Sounds awesome!” I was kinda jealous of these people, because he didn’t sound all that awesome up close. Which just proves that ancient saying: The further away you are from Huey Lewis, the better.

    Reply
  11. Alsa
    August 10, 2011

    It must be true Gabe because I was pretty close and he kinda sucked.

    Reply
  12. Eric
    August 10, 2011

    I used to bag Huey’s groceries in high school at the Petrini’s in Marin back in ’87.

    Reply
  13. Izzy
    August 11, 2011

    Love this! I couldn’t agree more—like you were in my mind :)

    Reply
  14. Chris
    August 11, 2011

    Good one, Gabe. But, from the perspective of a 1980s 30-something, a little painful too.

    Reply
  15. Sara
    August 11, 2011

    I always think of this old-ish SF Weekly article when I hear Huey Lewis songs. It is empowering for all! http://www.sfweekly.com/2005-08-03/music/a-very-special-concert/

    Reply
    • deb
      October 28, 2011

      Oh my gosh, that article made me cry, so sweet. Thank you for sharing.

      Reply
  16. Jessamyn
    August 11, 2011

    Truthfully I could barely hear them from my house and his voice still kinda sounded sour. But I still wish I had been there!

    Reply
  17. Voice Over
    September 6, 2011

    I simply needed to say thanks a lot for this write-up and say hello to my peeps on the other end.

    Reply
  18. James
    September 10, 2012

    You kids that are bagging on HLN are not wise enough to understand good music; you may not like them which is fine but they are quality muscians. Their “Sports” album back in the middle 80`s was on the Billboard top 40 for 3 years. They could buy and sell you from the money in their sock drawers. Have some respect and go back to your shitty pop here today gone tomorrow artists.

    Reply

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