Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks at Belly Up
Solano Beach, California
Saturday, July 9, 2005
by Kevin Cloud Brechner

I'd had a very busy day so I had to really kicked it to drive the two hours
south from Los Angeles to Solana Beach to the Belly Up Tavern. I arrived
at 8:45 pm, fifteen minutes before the show was to begin. Solano Beach
is one of a string of relatively small beach communities that lie in a strip
along Interstate 5 in North San Diego County. Another of the towns in
that strip is Encinitas, the home of Surfdog Records. Surfdog arguably is
the best thing lately that has happened to further Dan Hicks' career.

The Belly Up tavern is a long established music venue. David Grisman
played there the last night. It is a large barn-like room that looks like a
converted Quonset hut. It was recently remodeled with pictures of
musicians lining the roof line. A long bar ran perpendicular to the stage,
and that is where I planted myself, because when I got there is was
strictly SRO with Dan Hicks fans taking all the seats on the sides and in
the upper balcony on the right side of the stage. Directly in front of the
stage was a vacant dance floor, which later was filled with people
standing. I felt lucky I had a bar to lean on and to take notes. A woman
at the bar behind me said, "This is going to be a long night."

In honor of Dan I ordered a Harvey Wallbanger. I have never had one.
The bartender explained that it was a screwdriver with Galliano.
Apparently they are not too popular these days. He wasn't sure he still
had any Galliano. He finally found it on a top shelf behind some other
bottles. I should have ordered a Robb Roy perhaps. I got blank stares
from the others around me when I mentioned a virgin kamakazi. I
remember liking Galliano way back then, but this Harvey Wallbanger was
not that exciting.

Shortly after I arrived, the opening act started. It was a duo from the
San Diego area called Berkeley Hart. They were sort of a conservative
beach version of Flo and Eddie crossed with Simon and Garfunkle.
Definitely a folk act with some comic overtones. A good opening act that
entertained the crowd but in no way threatened the main act. One guy
was tall with a Hawaiian shirt and long wavy hair. He played acoustic
guitar. The other guy was shorter, rounder, and had a brown beard that
hung down mostly under his chin. He played guitar or harmonica. They
played original songs. One of them was called "Give me back my heart."
They did an alphabet song with lyrics involving spelling out letters like
BFD and SEX. They did a cover of "Stir It Up." They asked the lighting
technician for some smoke from the smoke machine while they did their
"rock and roll" number. It took a while but they got their smoke or, more
accurately, haze. I never heard the rock and roll though.

I am standing at the end of the long bar, directly in front center of the
stage except for the big dance floor which put me 50-60 feet from the
stage. The bar swung off to the right of me where the waitresses
handled their orders. The large dance floor in front filled up with people

Unfortunately a group of six Amazon people decided to stand right in
front of me. They were in their mid twenties. One guy was thin, but at
least 6'6. Three of the women were at least 6 feet tall. One whom I
labeled the Catholic schoolgirl had long curly brown hair, a dark sweater
and a pleated plaid miniskirt that looked like those Catholic school skirts,
except for its length. The six of them effectively blocked most of the
stage. I could see the performers from the mid chest level up. They also
talked to each other constantly through the whole show.

Near the end of the Berkeley Hart act singer Susan Rabin walked through
the crowd on the dance floor followed shortly by the Hot Licks and then
Dan the Man. Small bursts of applause followed from the crowd when
they saw him. Berkeley Hart finished up their set with a song called "Big
Bad Barbie Doll."

A break prior to the main act. The house was now full. After about ten
minutes, Dan and The Licks wandered on stage and fussed around
setting up. The usual set-up: The Lickettes, new member Roberta Donnay
(not sure of the spelling, pronounced "Doe-Nay")and Susan Rabin on
stage right, the bass player, Paul Smith, upstage center. Stage left of
him was the fiddler/mandolin player, Richard Chong. To left of him was
the guitar player, Dave Bell.

Roberta was wearing a tight black dress off one shoulder with a thin
strap. The skirt portion had an angled panel of patterned brown cloth
that swept across the front. Her hair was long, straight and dark.
Sunglasses throughout the night. Susan Rabin, also in dark sunglasses
wore a pink satin top with very short shortsleeves. Black skirt. Her
blond hair had some flips going on on top. Paul Smith looked Mr.
Conservative. He had on a white shirt with a large print design and white
pants. He wore clear glasses. Richard Chong had on a goofy white hat
with a black hat band. I don't know why the latter day Licks fiddlers all
seem to think you have to wear a goofy hat. I think it is a Bay area
thing. He had on a long sleeved plum colored shirt, black vest and dark
slacks. Dave Bell had a long sleeved brown shirt with charcoal slacks and
a black belt. Dan was also dressed rather conservatively. This is the first
time I can remember him wearing a short sleeved shirt in concert. The
shirt was black with some kind of a gold colored emblem on the breast
pocket. I couldn't make out what it was.

Finally an announcer proclaimed "Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks." Dan
thanked the announcer and the audience and indicated they were going
to play some "folk swing music." The first song he said would be
"Evening Breeze." "It starts slow," Dan proclaimed. It built into a bubbly
bouncing tune, but the bass solo was a little lackluster. It nonetheless
got big applause.

Dan thanked the audience and then said, "We're gonna do another kind
of up-tempo tune, just to keep things up-tempo. It is our pleasure to be
in the greater San Diego area." He went on to over-praise the area
before starting off on ""Long Come A Viper." It opened with a nice slide
guitar solo followed by a mandolin solo and then another guitar solo. At
the end of the song, another big hand.

"Here's a tune we have from the Surfdog label in Encinitas, the town next
to us. It's from Selected Shorts, which was followed by Susan and
Roberta singing "Selected Shorts." They started doing a song and
apparently really screwed it up, because they stopped before the vocals
even started. Dan said to the audience, "Thank you for being so
understanding. That's all we're going to do of that tune."

And they moved on to "That Ain't Right." The guitar solo had a cool
electric "wah-wah" effect. It certainly looked like an acoustic guitar, but
there must be some sort of electronic processor magic going on between
that acoustic guitar and my ear.

Next was a new song I have never heard, with lyrics something like "If
there ever was someone who was generous, gracious, and good, it
was..." and it sounded like he said "my Dad," but I couldn't make it out
over the constant din of noise from the younger crowd on the dance
floor. While all the surrounding tables and chairs were filled with Dan
Hicks fans, the dance floor seemed to be populated with a younger
crowd who had in mind a lot of vocal socializing. Including the 6
Amazons in front of me. Anyway, the new song had a very beautiful
guitar intro and some lovely "ooh oohs" from the Lickettes. Nice
ethereal fiddle and guitar solos. Maybe somebody in the Hixlist can come
up with the song title.

Next Dan introduced the band members. He introduced himself as Billy
Idol. Then the next song was also new to me, but my guess is the title is
"There are blues"(?) because that line was repeated in they lyrics as
they filled in the many different types of blues. Upbeat swing time.
More big applause.

"That one was too good for you, Ladies and Gentleman," said Dan, the
Man. "Thanks for coming, though.....We had a request for I Scare
Myself." (instant applause) "We'll be doing that in a minute." You could
tell the constant jabber from the crowd was bugging Dan a little bit. He
said, "It's the kind of night-everyone talking, but we're going to give it a
little slack." Dan announced a celebrity in the audience, Don Johnson.
"Don, what the fuck, give it up. He's with a well stacked black chick."
The next song Dan announced was from Selected Shorts, the phrase
repeated in verse by the Lickettes. They next performed "One More
Cowboy." Unfortunately Willie Nelson was not present to accompany
them. I ordered a rum and coke to wash away the taste of the Harvey

After the applause, somebody in the band needed to do something
because Dan announced, "We're going to take a 30 second break. He
announced tomorrow's shows at The Mint in Los Angeles. Then he said
the thirty seconds were about up. The announced next song was from
Selected Shorts (The Lickettes pipe up the phrase). "This doesn't mean
much to you now, but it will when you get to know the album a little
better." They performed "I'll See You In My Dreams." Still more talking
from the younger crowd members, but one of the Amazons was moving
to the music. Big hand from the crowd at the end.

Next the perennial favorite, "I Scare Myself." Big applause just when Dan
proclaimed the title. He said, "The next song is called "I Scare Myself,'
(big applause) or in Spanish "Yo Scare Myself'." The background vocals
were nice on this song. The solo's were all adequate. Dave Bell threw in
a little Hendrix in his guitar solo. The fiddle solo got a lot of cheers, but
to my over-critical ear it was just okay. He never stretched it. The bass
solo was kind of interrupted by the rhythm clicks from The Lickettes, but
it was okay too. The audience started clapping along in time with the
music, which seemed strangely odd to me. I thought the best solo in the
tune was when Dan was doing his fake solo with Dave Bell playing it while
turned away from the audience. The audience loved it and clapped away.
Big applause at the end.

"Here's one you can dance to," Dan said. They went into "Honeysuckle
Rose." Dan and the Lickettes did their synchronized soft shoe dance
which got a big hand. In the middle of the song though the Amazons
had had enough and left, presumably for another club and some potential
new action. Sorry to see you go. Write if you find work. The rest of the
crowd seemed to enjoy the song though.

Before the next song audience members were shouting out song titles.
One of them was "Coast to Coast." Dan said, "Fantastic. You never
know when we'll take your requests." He started "Coast To Coast." He
sang the first line then pointed to the audience to finish the verse. When
that fizzled, he moved on to the next song, which was "Payday Blues."
Before they started, Dan said, "I'm going to ask the audience to contain
themselves." One couple slow danced to the song. About one quarter of
the audience who had been on the dance floor had left, but all the tables
and stools were still firmly held by Hicks fans. The slide guitar solo was
good in this song.

With the applause, Dan said, "Thank you very much, Ladies and
Gentlemen. I appreciate it very much. We'll get Don Johnson to come
up here. He has a voice that resounds. Get the fuck up here, Don."
Next they played "Strike It While It's Hot." It had a great guitar opening.
Two bald guys in their early 50's in suits came into the club and stood
near me. Listening, the taller one said, "They got a country thing going
on here." The song had beautiful guitar and fiddle solos. It made me
notice that the solos seemed much more animated and beautiful on the
newer songs. I realized that it was probably because these newer songs
belonged to these newer guys. The older DHHL songs had all been
developed by somebody else who they had to emulate. This was one of
the best songs of the night.

More calls for requests. Dan responded, "We hear you out there. We like
getting input on what we play." Then he ignored the requests and did
another band intro. This time he introduced himself as Billy Joel. "You all
know me. I'm Billy Joel."

Another New Song that I don't know the title. The lyrics went "I had a
wonderful time last night, at least they told me I did." It was a slow
swing. Lots of people on the dance floor were getting into it dancing by
themselves. Even one of the guys in the suits, a tan silk outfit, was
dancing across the floor by himself. Everyone wanted to sway to this
song. A striking looking older "blond" woman walked by with a sparkling
black mesh top. She shimmied as she walked.

After the applause died down, Dan said, "This is a signature tune. Some
folk songs are based on other songs. Bob Dylan's "Blowing In The Wind"
was based on "Blow Ye Winds, Mariners." This song is "The Buzzard Was
Their Friend." It is based on "Tom Dooley." An eternal triangle sort of
song. Following the laughter of those who got the joke, he said, "We'll
be here all week, Ladies and Gentlemen." Heads were a bobbin' during
this song.

During the song a strange guy wearing a sleeveless knit red top under a
tan leather vest came up to hit on two young women standing at the bar
near me. Totally ignoring that he was standing right in front of me he
talked through the whole song. He was wearing a plexiglas ring with a
red and white plastic design kind of swirling deep inside. He wore clear
wraparound glasses and that, along with his hair style and leather vest,
seemed to remind me of Roy Orbison, but with no class whatsoever. He
leaned very close to the women. He made them laughed and then tried
to impress them by telling the he was in a band. He gave them his band
card. The women were too smart for him and started turning away. He
eventually left with some parting remark I am sure he felt was quite

Just as he left Dan and the Licks ended the song and ended the set. Dan
and The Lickettes leave the stage while The Hot Licks play parting music.
Lots of people streamed out at the point. But the hard core fans were
stomping and screaming for more. The band came back shortly for an
encore of "I Feel Like Singing." During the song Dan held a note for a
long, long, long time. Reminded me of the Mexican soccer announcer
who says "goal!" for about two minutes after every goal. Dan has a set
of lungs on him, that is for sure. Susan did a scat solo that was really
good, and the new singer, Roberta Donet (?) also did a nice scat solo
demonstrating she has a great range. At the end of the song the singers
raised their arms to indicate "That's all, folks," and left the stage while
The Hot Licks played the chase music. More shouts and stomps from the
crowd, but the house turned on the juke box and ended all hopes of

The audience streamed out of the hall like it was top half of the 8th
inning and there was no hope of our team winning. I hung around to
watch the post show activities. After a while Dan and the band came
out to talk with fans. I saw the weird Roy Orbison guy talking to Dan and
hand him a card. Probably to let Dan know that he was in a band too.
Never hurts to publicize. Later Susan Rabin came over and asked if I was
Nick. She said they were looking for a guy named Nick. I told her I
wasn't Nick, but I complimented her on the background vocals and on
Selected Shorts which I thought was one of their best Dan Hicks albums
since the "70s. She said Roberta was new but was working out really
well, then she was whisked away by someone else. All-in-all it was a fine
night at the beach.

Set List:
Evening Breeze
"Long Come A Viper
That Ain't Right
(New Song-"generous, gracious, and good")
(New Song-"There are blues...")
One More Cowboy
I'll See You In My Dreams
I Scare Myself
Honeysuckle Rose
Coast To Coast (Only the first line of song)
Payday Blues
Strike It While It's Hot
(New Song-"I had a great time last night")
Buzzard Was Their Friend

Encore: I Feel Like Singing