Tom Waits (Live Show Review, 2013)

As I write this, I’m sitting next to fellow Screwhead Pierce Nahigyan struggling to get free of the Shoreline Ampitheater in Mountain View, California. We have just attended Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit, specifically to see a rare live performance by the legendary Tom Waits, whom we both idolize.

The last few days have seen me working on the tallship Spirit of Dana Point in Santa Barbara- not close to Mountain View, but closer than Dana Point, where I live. So it was that Pierce drove to meet me and sail the waters off of Santa Barbara. After a delightful sail and a fairly early evening, we headed for many hours in a Northerly direction; our destination was Mountain View; our goal was to see Mr. Waits.

And see him, we did. He performed for about forty minutes- now, was it worth driving for fourteen hours to see him for those forty minutes? Was it worth braving the “gusty winds” on the freeway that we now face on the return trip? Will it be worth sauntering through tomorrow in a terrible state of sleep deprivation?tomwaits

Heeeeeell yes.

We arrived at the venue at approximately 3pm; at this point the show had started just recently. On the lineup were – in no particular order- Jenny Lewis, Diana Krall, Elvis Costello, Heart, My Morning Jacket, and of course the greatest band ever to exist: Fun. I say that with all of the sarcasm that was implied. I don’t like Fun. I don’t even know how to write their name in this review because of that damn period (fun.) that they use. Pierce felt bad for them because it seemed no one had come to see them.

No one come to see acoustic fun.?.? Perish the thought.

We, of course, were there to see Tom Waits, but, fittingly, we had to wait, for he would not take the stage until 7:05pm as the cock crew. So we shuffled about, drinking beer and discussing Christopher Nolan’s failures as a Batmanologist. We waited in line for countless minutes so I could acquire a cup of coffee only to discover the coffee peddlers only accepted cash, which I did not carry. I was miffed.

Finally, after a fourth beer, we headed to the lawn to anticipate the arrival of the great Mr. Waits- here’s where we’d discover if hours on the road was worth it.


Waits performed songs from his albums Bad As Me, Rain Dogs, Heart of Saturday Night, and probably others. In between songs, he regaled his audience with his own peculiar brand of anecdotes, gutturally drawled in his unique and otherworldly growl.

“I owe Neil a lot of money,” he said, “Because I borrowed from him to invest in a restaurant in the seventies. We were gonna serve eel, ice cream and fish scales. It would all be gluten-free. But the restaurant went under and Neil lost all that money. Now he gave me two options: Jail time, or do the Bridge School Benefit.”

Yes… That’s probably what happened. Seeing Waits live has long been a dream of mine, and though we traversed gusty winds and long nights and could not acquire coffee or Pepto-Bismol, it was absolutely worth it. Now I type this up on my iPhone on the long and agonizing drive back, dreading the terrifying  day at work tomorrow; but at least I did my part to emulate Waits’ famous booze-soaked wanderer.

My brain hurts.


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