David Lindley At The Levitt Pavilion

He drives a Toyota Sienna minivan, a 2004, if it weren’t for the sideburns he’d be mistaken for a soccer mom.

For far too long we’ve equated music with riches and fame. Ever since the Beatles, and then the paradigm was supersized with MTV and now too many see playing as a vehicle to somewhere else, assuming they play at all.

But not David Lindley, who picked up a ukulele at four and got hooked, the deal was sealed when he put his head on the piano while his relative’s string quartet played back in the forties, he’s been picking ever since, from long before you knew he played with Jackson Browne, long before “Mercury Blues.”

The Levitt Pavilion is a free venue in Pasadena, we took the train, there’s a stop right there.

And in a small clearing there’s old fans, families and those in search of cheap entertainment assembled under the stars to hear music every bit as good as that being paid for across town, but without quite the same cachet. Oftentimes performed by those past their commercial peak, from back when music ruled the world and chops were everything.

And David Lindley’s got chops galore.

And a personality to match. As Dolly Parton put it during the recording of her “Live From Dollywood” LP, Lindley came to the gig all the way from MARS! That’s right, musicians used to be known for their quirky personalities as opposed to their ability to dominate social media.

So Lindley’s got a rack of instruments. He plucks them one by one and ekes out a sound that’s skilled but absent from the radio, they call this music.

And the highlight was “Meatgrinder Blues.”

Like every other number, it had a backstory. David was with Ry Cooder, telling his fellow axeman a tale of a friend’s woe. And Ry responded that this person was in the “self-meatgrinder.” Hmm, there’s a song in that, David said to himself, and he went home and wrote one with his daughter and sang it last night.

And it was satisfying but then when it was nearly done David told us he had a self-meatgrinder with him right on stage. That it was off in the corner, and if we wanted to go inside…

There were handles, you had to climb up. And when you got inside, you had to spread your haunches over the blades and then pull the handle and…GRIND, GRIND, GRIND!

You suspended disbelief. The story went on so long you had time to remember when you’d put yourself in the meatgrinder. And then the playing got fast and furious and one wondered…WHAT EXACTLY IS HAPPENING HERE?

There was Elvis, and then the folk explosion. Then came the Beatles and the business was transmogrified from a sideshow of hustlers and crooks to the mainstream, suddenly musicians were not only rich people, they had more power than politicians and businessmen.

And then it all disappeared.

They took it to the limit too many times. The joy was no longer in the note, pure and easy, but in the penumbra, the trappings, the side salad.

But David Lindley is still interested in the main course. He practices three to four hours, almost every day. You see it’s all about education, he wants to LEARN! He’s studying tracks from the Middle East and videos on YouTube. How did they do that? He wants to do it too. And he won’t be finished till he can play everything he hears in his head, which is never.

And the penultimate number was his classic “Mercury Blues.”

Only this time there was a new verse, his baby went to Costco, brought home some tuna, and he doesn’t want that mercury runnin’ ’round his brain.

I first saw Lindley at the Bitter End, accompanying Jackson Browne, who referred to him as the “Lindley Brothers,” since every time David picked up a new instrument he exhibited a new personality.

And then there was his star turn on “Stay.”

Needless to say, I needed to buy “El Rayo-X.” We were not only fans of the stars, but everybody we saw in the credits.

And David re-emerged with Jackson at the Greek a couple of years back, re-creating that seventies magic with a twist.

But I had no idea I’d see him last night until a friend informed me of the gig. You see there’s so much happening you can’t keep track.

So I ended up sitting outside on a hot summer night exposed to a guy who never gave up because it was never about stardom and bank to begin with, but only the music.

And that’s not only refreshing, it’s a REVELATION!

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