Welcoming The Palms 2.0, and reminiscing too
It’s been three weeks since The Nightmare began, and it’s still tough to smile. But one thing got me grinning, while interviewing the new owners of The Palms, Andrew Fridae and Nora Cary.
When I arrived for the interview, I wasn’t feeling particularly enthusiastic. What could a couple of 20-somethings know about great music, or about The Palms, and what makes it special. But, about halfway through the conversation, that “Yes!!!” feeling started sparkling in my solar plexus, and I knew: It’s going to be just fine. I was reminded that not only does each of them have an impressive musical pedigree, both have a genuine love of The Palms. They’re already fans! They “get it”!
So, relax, fellow “Fronds.” The Palms won’t disappear. But I predict it will get better, and don’t knee-jerk away from that idea in disdain, because many of us didn’t realize how wonderful an upgrade can be until we replaced our heavy old picture tube TV with a new flat-screen. Sure, it was fine the way it was. But the new one is undeniably better.
That. I think it’ll be like that.
My joy for the return of The Palms aside, I imagine that some folks down on Far East Grant Avenue are disappointed that The Palms didn’t use this opportunity to return to Davis, where it got its start in that ratty old barn. I feel for you. I loved the ratty old barn too. It was magic. Ah, the memories there… my first real date in college was at The Palms, in 1980… the vintage days of The Club and the Antique Bazaar. It was some sort of theatrical production — a tomato workers’ celebration — a bit on the lame side, frankly, and definitely not “first date” material, and surprise, surprise, that relationship eventually flopped.
Although that relationship never took root, it did introduce me to The Palms. In fact, I sacrificed a certain percentage of my hearing to the old Palms, in particular, an Elvin Bishop concert that had stadium-sized amplifiers in a 20 square foot space. My ears rang for days, but Dude — so worth it. It was all I could do to keep my cool when I was standing at the bar during a break and Elvin himself suddenly appeared right next to me. One of my favorite performers of all time! Right next to me! And it only gets better: After the show, he signed my 8-track of “Juke Joint Jump.” Now, that’s a moment. When The Palms relocated to the Winters Opera House, I was treated to a deja-vu: It was another break at another Elvin concert, and there he was again! Right next to me at the bar, again!
Ahhh, good times, good memories.
Although I loved the old Palms in Davis, when it moved to Winters, it became so easy to catch more shows and discover performers I never even knew I loved: Solas, Eliza Gilkeyson, Those Darn Accordions, The Waybacks, The Austin Lounge Lizards, the Trailer Park Troubadours… I could go on and on. I never saw a show at The Palms that I didn’t love, and I’ve sorely missed it since it went dark in April.
But, it’s about to light up again. And, although I’m excited to see what Andrew and Nora will bring to town and where they’ll go with The Palms 2.0, I’m also bittersweet about a Palms show beginning without prior Palms owner Dave Fleming coming to the microphone on stage to introduce the band. That was a ritual of sorts — Dave’s familiar voice always ushered in something special and intimate. I’ll miss that, and Dave too.
I’ve always had a special fondness for Dave. He was one of the few people in town who was as wacky and irreverent as me, and sometimes as grumpy and snarky too. Turns out, giddiness and snark love company just as much as misery does, and given the Opera House’s close proximity to the old Express office, Dave made great giddy, snarky company. We used to have long, wonderful chats about everything from the finer points of great guitar riffs to the best way to administer medicine to cats, and everything in between. How much did I like Dave? I didn’t mind if he came to visit on press day. If you’ve ever visited on press day and shivered at the chill in the room, you understand the significance. But, it was never too icy for Dave.
Now, the old office is gone and Dave is too. He’s moved on to the next chapter of his life, and I wish him all the happiness in the world. The best send-off we can all give him is to help carry the musical legacy he built forward, and help The Palms grow and thrive.
Thanks for the memories, Dave, and here’s to a bright future too.
And now, we’ll close with a bit of Palms trivia that no one ever remembers but me: Bringing the Palms to Winters was my idea first, and I can prove it.
Years ago, I’d read in the Enterprise that The Palms was looking for a new home when developers bought the Palms property. My boss, Charley Wallace, is one of the Winters Opera House owners, and I knew they were looking for a tenant. Bingo. My matchmaker antennae started trembling, and I wrote a column advocating the relocation of The Palms to Winters, then pitched the idea to Charley and our new city manager, John Donlevy. Discussions were had, arrangements were made, and in 2002, The Palms held its first show in the Winters Opera House. I still say I’m the catalyst that made it all happen. There are those who’ll say otherwise. However, they can argue with the dated newsprint.
Anyway, regardless of how The Palms got here, credit for its reopening go fully to Andrew and Nora. And now, it’s up to all of us to help them succeed.
See you there, Frond.
(P.S. — Dave if you’re ever in town, please stop by. Even if it’s a Tuesday.)