Words by: Tony Zangara | Images by: Joey & Keith Blake
Cheech & Chong :: 10.03.08 :: Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom :: Hampton, NH
Ever since my brother moved to New Hampshire, I use any excuse I can get to the trip up north. It's a six-hour ride from where I live, but it's through some of the nicest country you can find. When I saw that the Cheech & Chong tour was going to be a half hour away from him, I knew I had found my reason. A series of phone calls were followed by a run to the venue box office and a day off request from work. All of those stars aligned, and I was on my way.
The ride was like a trip through an art gallery, with New England showing off its full palette of color in the form of changing leaves. The Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, if you've never had the pleasure of attending, is physically on the ocean. There's the box office, sidewalk, sand and Atlantic Ocean, all in the matter of 20 yards. And my brother kept telling me the history of it - how intimate it was (holds roughly 1200), how Jim Morrison and George Carlin had graced the stage there.
We got in a few minutes early, and immediately befriended our waitress and her refreshing beverages. While the lights were on, I scanned the crowd, curious as to what kind of people made it out. To my surprise, the majority of the crowd was older. It was mostly couples on dates enjoying themselves. The rest were younger, mellow folk, with your hard drinking Red Sox fans peppered in for good measure. You didn't have to worry about any fools being shady or anyone getting blitzed out of their mind that couldn't handle it. It was just right.
The lights dimmed and quickly everyone's attention was drawn to the stage. A lot of people were surprised to see Tommy's wife, Shelby Chong, come out and do an opening set. Like most in the crowd, I too was a bit skeptical at first, but she won me over with ease. She had everyone rolling with her account of Chong being taken away in cuffs while sporting morning wood! She did a solid half hour, and was treated to a nice ovation at the end. She gave a little intro, and quickly made way for the legends themselves.
The place went absolutely nuts. Cheech couldn't help but smile as he came out and launched into "Cruising with Pedro de Pacas." Next thing you know, Chong is sitting there in a bra, talking about dog poop! I felt like I was fifteen again, skipping school and watching the old videos. What I quickly noticed was how crisp and dead on the act was. Skit after skit was performed flawlessly. The only complaint I have is that they weren't able to do everything. "Let's Make a Dope Deal," "Blind Melon," "Alice Bowie" and "Old Man in the Park" were hits with the crowd. I was hoping for "Basketball Jones" or a little "Dave's Not Here," but it didn't matter. I was still blown away by everything they did do. My brother was screaming, "Shoot the moon!" Someone in the sea of people replied, "Cover the freak with the basketball!" It was like singing along during a chorus but with jokes.
|Cheech & Chong :: 10.03 :: New Hampshire|
They did about an hour total, which felt longer. Usually, when you have a good time, time flies. This felt like a dream. A good one. One that I didn't want to wake up from. As the perfect send off, they left us with a warm version of "Up In Smoke" with Chong playing the guitar and Cheech helping with the singing. Everyone got in on it and shared the moment - a smile for the heart to match the smile on our faces. And with that, they were gone.
It took a little while for the cheers to die down and for everyone to kind of snap out of it. We all just looked around at each other with that "Did you just see that?" stare for a few minutes. Yeah, we did just see that.
Go see Cheech & Chong. Get in the car and drive if you have to. They are national treasures that should be seen by as many people as possible. These guys are The Beatles of the comedy counter culture. And like the real Beatles, don't spend your whole life wishing you could have seen them. Now's your chance.
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