THE BUZZ: Waiting for Jack White

By on April 29, 2015

Surprise performance at Pink Garter doses fans with indelible all-day experience


Jack White strums with sincerity at the Pink Garter Theatre. Photo: David James Swanson

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – The official announcement arrived 8 a.m., Thursday morning via Facebook and Twitter, sending a chorus of cheers through the 80 or so people already hunkered down in camp chairs on Broadway and Glenwood. Ten days earlier, Jack White had announced on his website that after his headlining slots at Coachella, he would embark on a short acoustic tour, visiting the five states he had never played in before.

But there was a twist: The locations and dates would not be announced until 8 a.m. the day of the show; tickets would go on sale at noon, limit one per person, and they would cost just $3 dollars. Among the states that had just won the Jack White lottery were Alaska, Idaho, the Dakotas and Wyoming. The news immediately spun the Jackson Hole rumor mill, and soon people all over town were speculating the likelihood that Jackson might be Whites Wyo. pick. Couple this with another rumor that Pink Garter Theatre had a secret show planned for Thursday, April 23, and some people began wiping their schedules clean preparing for an entire day waiting in line.

I happened to be one of those people, No. 43 to be exact. Ive been a Jack White fan since just before I moved from Michigan to Jackson in 2001. As a suburban Detroit resident and music nerd, I listened to the Detroit born and bred White Stripes, but never had the chance to see them live. The bands rise to national fame coincided with my move to Wyoming, and their music was a connection to home and the vibrant music scene I abandoned. In those early years when I was feeling homesick, I would cue up White Blood Cells or De Stijl and ponder if I could really make a home in Jackson. So in 2007 when a White Stripes show was announced at Snow King, I immediately bought tickets, only to have the band break up shortly before their scheduled Jackson date. White continued on with The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, and finally a solo career, winning 11 Grammys along the way, but throughout that time, he never made it to Jackson.

Now fast forward to 2015. On April 23, when the alarm went off at 6:30 a.m., the impulse to hit snooze was overwhelming. It had been a late night at work, and sleep never comes quickly after a restaurant shift. But the nagging voice in the back of my mind reminded me that I had something important to do, so I fed the dogs, brushed my teeth, and drove to the town square. I posted up at 7:15 in a line that had already stretched beyond Jackson Hole Roasters placing me squarely in front of The Boardroom. I staked my claim and looked around, quickly realizing I knew everyone in line, and that everyone in line knew everyone else in line. This is Jackson in the off-season. A common topic of conversation included the last time anyone had stood in line for a concert. The answer being, I cant remember. Only a powder day, or Jack White, apparently, could invoke this type of early morning vehemence in Jackson.

Jacksonites somehow managed to entertain themselves while waiting hours in line. Photo: Lindsay Cook

Jacksonites somehow managed to entertain themselves while waiting hours in line. Photo: Lindsay Cook

We were all impatiently awaiting the announcement of the show, when the curveball came: White would indeed be playing at the Pink Garter, but there would be two shows, one at 4 p.m. with tickets on sale at noon, and one at 9 p.m. with tickets on sale at 4 p.m. The line quickly restructured itself, with the early show people stretching towards Glenwood, and the later show crew which eventually garnered fans who drove from other parts of Wyoming, Utah, Idaho and Montana creeping out towards Cache. Once territories had been established, the whole scene seemed like a normal night out in Jackson, except it was a drizzly afternoon on Broadway. The guys from Dustcutter Lemonade passed out free samples, which became mixers for whatever spirits happened to be on hand. With a lawn chair as a placeholder, people freely mingled with each other, took bathroom breaks, went on bagel runs, or nipped over to The Wort for a quick Pakos. And since this is Jackson Hole, everyone brought his or her dog to the party. The celebratory atmosphere endured until tickets finally went on sale at noon. We were ushered up the Pink Garter stairs five at a time into The Rose to hand over our three dollars and receive a wristband. Wristbands affixed, our group decided to start the line for entrance, so wed be ready to commandeer prime seats when the doors opened.

The next three hours were a blur of mimosas, Cards Against Humanity, bacon, NBA Jams on Sega Genesis, Pinky Gs pizza, wristband Instagram selfies, oh, and figuring out who was going to open my restaurant that night. After a total of eight hours, we were finally allowed in. Anointed with a shot of whiskey from a bartender at The Rose, we sprinted up the stairs and down to the front row.

Since 2010, The Pink Garter Theatre has been sowing a reputation as the premier spot in Wyoming for world-class music. In recent years it has hosted a roster of renowned names such as De La Soul, Band of Horses, T.V. on the Radio, Public Enemy, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Dilated Peoples, and Talib Kweli. Owner Dom Gagliardi is the music mastermind of the Garter. Most nights he remains behind the scenes, but from the shadows you can often detect a glimmer in his eye as he proudly watches these acts, that might never have visited Wyoming otherwise, light up the Garters stage. When asked how hes managed to secure musical majors in a small town like Jackson, Gagliardi pointed to a few factors. All shows are ultimately dictated by the artist, but the Pink Garter has done a good job being a consistent venue, actively putting on 60 or more shows a year. The support of our locals allows the Pink Garter to pursue bigger and bigger acts, he said. Were trying to take this from being a little town to a legit market; its our job as a venue and as a community to make that happen. Gagliardi acknowledged that attracting a performer of Whites level is a historical feat for both the music scene in Jackson and the Garter. Jack White is as real as it gets, he said. Its over- the-top special to experience something of this caliber.

As I settled into my seat in the front row, it finally sunk in. One of the biggest musicians in the world, and arguably the greatest guitarist in the last 30 years, had chosen Jackson for one of five intimate seated concerts. According to Whites website, after these shows, he will be taking a break from performing live for a long period of time, which I personally suspect will be forever. As this dawned on me, the house lights dimmed, and a blue hue painted the stage, blue being Whites color of choice since he embarked on his solo career, even requiring band members to dress in blue.

Whites tour manager, the sharply dressed Lalo Medina, appeared on stage first, requesting one thing from the audience: that they remain as engaged as the musicians that were about to take the stage. This meant, he explained, putting cell phones and cameras away and enjoying the moment instead of trying to document it. Medina directed fans to Whites website, where they could download free photos from the evenings performance.

A few minutes later Fats Kaplin (dobro), Dominic Davis (upright bass), and Lillie Mae Rische (fiddle) emerged from backstage, followed by White, donned in a blue suit, his hair slicked back in a Johnny Cash bouffant and a faint smile across his pale face.

The group spent the next 70 minutes tearing through songs from all stages of Whites career. The set list included Blunderbuss, Temporary Ground, Hotel Yorba, A Martyr for My Love for You, and a Hank Williams cover, all played closer to bluegrass in style than Whites usual, guitar driven music. Through it all, a normally rowdy Jackson crowd remained silent, focused, reverent even, which, according to Gagliardi, was not the case at other venues on this short tour.

Only when it was time for an encore did the audience grow appropriately boisterous, tapping their feet and clapping their hands in unison, pleading for White and company to return to the stage. The encore concluded with a heartrending rendition of the Lead Belly classic Goodnight Irene, which left more than a few tear streaked faces in my row. And with that, the band bowed, the blue lights faded, the house lights rose, and we stumbled outside to a dreary, surreal April afternoon with the shared understanding that, together, we had just experienced a historic moment in Jackson Hole.

About Jeremy Weiss

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