The People I Met Last Night

Lyle Lovett played the first concert of the Carolina Performing Arts Series 2006/2007 season last night at UNC's Memorial Hall. As usual, I was there, row R, seat 15.

The show was great. Lyle and his Large Band drifted from big band, to blues, to jazz, to gospel, to bluegrass, to straight honky tonk throughout the evening. The highlights included his performance of "Since The Last Time" - "I went to a funeral. Lord it made me happy seeing all those people I ain't seen since the last time somebody died." - and his witty on-stage banter. (I rank him behind only Jeff Tweedy of Wilco in terms of on-stange commentary.)

Someone asked me to describe Lyle Lovett's music earlier this week and I offered "American". Having seen him in concert, I can't think of a more appropriate description. Smart music, smart guy.

The concert was great, but the evening didn't truly kick into gear until the after-party at the Carolina Inn. My wife booked a honky-tonk-garage-country-punk band called Hank Sinatra to play the party. Seeing those guys play to a crowd of old people was hilarious. Lots of wide-eyed old people trying to digest music that was probably a little grittier - and louder - than they were accustomed to. However, once the alcohol started flowing and the band turned it down from "11" to "8", all of the big money donors started dancing and the night went well.

Hank Sinatra brought Phil Lee along to sit-in. Phil is a Durham native, a seen-it-all veteran of the music scene, and a heckuva nice guy. Once the party shut down, I spent some time chatting with Phil while the band loaded out. He had some interesting anecdotes about his days in Chapel Hill in the 60s and his side job as a truck driver.

Kelly and I traded Phil a Memorial Hall bolo tie for a copy of his latest record, "You Should Have Known Me Then" - I highly recommend it. It features tracks with Gilian Welch and members (and ex-members) of Wilco.

After we closed down the Carolina Inn, we had to hoof it back to Memorial Hall to pick up a few things. Lyle Lovett's crew was still loading out and Lyle was hanging around the parking lot. I positioned myself between Lyle and the bus and waited until he made his way over.

He walked right up to me and I introduced myself and Kelly. He did likewise and was quite friendly through the course of our 5 minute exchange. One of his crew members had a minor heart attack during load-in earlier in the day, so we spoke briefly about the status of his friend.

(It wasn't until he walked away that I started hyperventilating - both because I was excited to have met such a great musician and to have shaken a hand that has touched Julia Roberts.)

I've met a number of famous - and semi-famous - people through Kelly's involvement at Memorial Hall. None have been as engaging and friendly as Phil Lee and Lyle Lovett - except for maybe Dean Smith. (Which isn't surprising - one should expect God himself to be both friendly and engaging.)

Nickel Creek plays on Tuesday. Here's to hoping my good luck continues...