Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Neil Young Nation

by Kevin Chong

"The Riverboat was the pre-eminent coffehouse," said Jennings. "It was run by a German immigrant named Bernie Fiedler, who was a coffee salesman originally. Fiedler designed it to look like the inside of a riverboat, so there were pine-paneled walls with brass portholes." The Riverboat was a long narrow basement room that sat about 120 people. The seats were booths, and no seat was farther than fifty feet from the stage. It was an intimate space, especially for big-name acts like Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Phil Ochs, Gordon Lightfoot, and Joni Mitchell. "There was always a lineup. On the biggest nights, Fiedler would turn over the crowd several times. There'd be a seven o'clock show and an eight-thirty show and a ten o'clock show. Visiting celebrities had to go to the Riverboat. Bernie Fiedler booked them all. He turned it into the showcase venue in Yorkville. And it was a launching pad for a lot of up-and-coming singer-songwriters."


After Four to Go came and went, Neil tried remaking himself as a folksinger. "He had his twelve-string and people would often see this tall, skinny figure walking along Yorkville Avenue. He played mostly at open mike nights at different coffehouses like the Half Beat, the New Gate of Cleve, and the Cellar." Young would cover songs by Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs and do originals like "Sugar Mountain."

No comments: