Driving in this day was beginning to take on a very slow crawl. What the hell? Why is traffic going so dang gum slow? Who the hell? . . . Why? . . . What? . . . There’s a dang gum bus up ahead that doesn’t know where it’s supposed to be going . . . and why do I have this southern draw to my writing? Oh, that bus belongs to the band. “That must be Mr. Daniels himself”, I say to my wife. That bus up ahead was slowly inching its way into the casino parking lot and we were stuck behind it. I had a feeling Charlie would be moving kinda slow nowadays but didn’t realize his bus would be assuming the same comfortable pace. “Let’s go damn it, I gotta show to go to”, I again think to myself. Perhaps I was more interested in getting a cold beer before the show began.
This story actually begins with an old t-shirt I now currently reserve to use for sleeping. I stared at it one day wishing I had a newer version of the Charlie Daniels Band (CDB) Volunteer Jam concert black shirt. Instead the grossly faded and tattered remnant was to remain in its place in the drawer for future nightly dreaming. “Hmmm”, thinking to myself I decided to take a gander at the Internet and see if I can find out any tour information about the CDB and if they are expected to do a show anywhere nearby. I’m again thinking I have probably seen the CDB about a dozen times and I never miss a show if they are near; but my search on the internet revealed a lifeless website devoid of tour information and current stories or products for sale. I kind of just blew that off for a few weeks until I saw that shirt again. Then I performed the same website search ritual as stated earlier.
That t-shirt story continues. One day while driving home from work, I happened upon a small sign garnishing the expressway I frequent on my commuting travels. The sign read “Casino Pauma – Charlie Daniels Band – Feb 28”. WHAT??? I had just months before been concerned after the second website search for tour dates revealed nothing. I had thought Charlie Daniels’ health may have been faltering and restricting his ability to tour. I hadn’t seen nor heard much of anything accept for a television commercial I saw in the recent past.
Once I saw the sign I immediately began making plans to purchase tickets for fear this may be the last time he comes around. He’s 79 years old and many musicians of his caliber begin to significantly taper their appearances around that age. I was very happy to find tickets still available at a venue I have never been to before, and I was hoping to have a time to find another great place to see a show nearby my home.
I live about 20-25 minutes from 5 Indian gaming casinos, some of which I had written about before after attending various events, shows and restaurants. This time was my wife and I’s first trip to Casino Pauma, as it remains the only casino in the area still in a circus-type tent structure. Living in this area for so long, we’ve witnessed most of them having already transformed to brick and mortar structures over the years. We also experienced their music venues change from parking lots to building structures, from building structures to bigger building structures and a little vice versa; some for the better and some for the worse.
Inside of the casino there are three selections of food establishments and two bars. The pizza and sandwich deli offered fresh made individual sized pizzas that I have been told were very good. The deli also offers some kind of pretzels and a host of pre-made/pre-packaged sandwiches similar to what you may find at the school cafeteria. The Café is toward the back from the main entrance next to the buffet and another bar area. I never made it back there to that area other than to help my wife initially find the café. We mainly held tight to the Red Parrot Lounge bar just inside the main entrance. It was a very busy bar especially since it’s just inside the main entrance and everyone hits there first. There’s a small band stand for the nightly music and dancing and that’s where we found ourselves hanging and pre-gamming for the big show.
Now you are probably wondering why seeing CDB is so important for me. Let me date myself back several years and several venues in which I have seen Charlie Daniels perform. My first was at the San Diego State Amphitheater, unmistakably probably the best outdoor music venue ever in San Diego. My older brother had taken me when I was about 17 while he was attending the university. At that first appearance, I had really enjoyed the show that began with a solo guitarist kicking off with a very powerful rendition of Pure Prairie League’s “Amie”. I remember that day vividly as I was young enough to holler out a country “Whoooot” that even Charlie looked up over his microphone with a big hearted smile during that show.
I have seen the CDB cruise up the Mississippi River on top of a river boat. That day the boat parked directly in front of my wife and I as we were seated along the bank of that majestic waterway. I’ve seen Charlie playing along side of greats like the Marshal Tucker Band at Pala Casino’s outdoor Starlight Theater, again arguably one of the best music venues in San Diego. I have seen the CDB perform at several festivals and county fairs throughout the years. I search the band out if they hear or read they are local and even if I hear of them playing where I am traveling about the country. The CDB is the kind of musical performer that has always touched my heart singing about deep-hearted American and country stories, patriotic melodies and always showing his very strong support for America and the military. Charlie Daniels is probably the first country and western musical performers I have followed throughout my entire life. Now I find that there are so many more of the old style country singers that have run with very deep roots in the Americana themed tunes.
Casino Pauma is just a bit different than the other gaming casinos in the North San Diego region in that it is the only casino that is still currently in a tent, the only casino that doesn’t have an outdoor lounge area and the only casino that reverses its name after the word “Casino”. It’s not called Pauma Casino, like Harrahs, Pechanga, Pala or Valley View. It’s called “Casino Pauma”. I’ve always just known it as such and it’s always just been that way as far back as I have known.
Casino Pauma’s concert venue is actually a separate tent from the casino itself and you must pass through this white tent corridor to get in; they look like the kind you buy at Costco. The inside of the concert venue reminded me of a elementary school multi-purpose building as if I was getting ready to watch a Christmas play with the other 800 folks (815 seating capacity) in attendance.
The CDB started their show pretty close to the stated 5pm start time on this Sunday. I quickly noticed there was a lack of really quality sound since there were no speaker elevated off of the floor or stage area that is common for musical stages nowadays, so the sound never really got past the first several rows of seats. Not to say the sound wasn’t good, it just was noticeably inferior to the other concert venues at the other casinos that have performance stages.
Charlie Daniels never lets me down and always pays significant tribute to the military and often times other musicians he has performed with or left their mark on his soul over the years. His stories come at you quickly as he talks about what he feels and why he performs such songs on his playlist. This time he played tributes to Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. His tributes always are well performed and well received. Charlie’s band has always been very energetic and deeply into the show as they perform a number of hits and cover renditions that pay tribute or have significant country stories to tell, like Legend of Wooley Swamp, Long Haired Country Boy and his abrupt finally this night, The Devil Went Down To Georgia. I accepted his no encore finish because of the small crowd that was sold out at 800 in this venue. I would have left early also. The crowd was still very appreciative and well entertained. We stood along the back and sides near the bars (no craft beer and limited spirits) most of the show without problem and quickly exited to head back into the casino for a seat at the inside bar.
Once back at the bar, we were again quickly served as the casino band began to gather again at the stage area. I passed by them briefly and Kyle (singer) mentioned that they had noticed that it was time to get their game on since Charlie’s show ended so abruptly. About 10 or 15 minutes into their first set and a very crowded bar had several folks around me, my wife and brother-in-law included all exclaiming “these guys” (referring to Kanan Road, the band) were really shredding up the classic and southern rock tunes. I was very impressed with their strong originals mixed with just the right covers to complete an evening of country rock. They really made for a great after CDB show party that night. Check them out at http://www.kananroadband.com.
Well, I never got that T-shirt replaced, but I did get this bitchen red-neck hat for bull ridin’ if I happen to go that route someday.
Get ‘er done!