The city of Austin, Texas loves to keep life weird. Everyone knows Austinites will celebrate anything, including a fictitious donkey’s birthday: Eeyore’s Birthday Party. Each June, we host 40,000 or more motorcycle enthusiasts for three-days of music, attractions, and craziness: The Republic of Texas Biker Rally. We even have a special day set aside where thousands of people gather to just laugh at each other’s silliness: The O’Henry Pun-Off. So what could be more fitting for our city than an evening spent under the stars, laughing at two Grammy-award winning comedians as they tell jokes about cannabis and grooving to some classic R and B music performed by incredibly talented musicians.
The comedy duo of Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong, known simply as Cheech and Chong, rolled into Austin’s Backyard Live Oak Amphitheater at Bee Cave on Friday, June 6, 2014, for an evening filled with laughs. The duo also brought along their musical friends, the band, War.
The sun was just setting in the cloudless sky and the temperature was nearly perfect for early June in Central Texas as the beautiful Shelby Chong took to the gorgeous outdoor venue’s stage to open the evening. Shelby warmed up the crowd with a short, but funny comedic routine filled with anecdotal quips about her 30 year marriage to Tommy Chong. I’m sure, if given the opportunity, Shelby could have supplied enough laughs to fill the entire evening just by herself.
Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin soon joined Shelby on stage for a Question and Answer session with questions provided in advance by audience members and queried by Shelby. This was more of a comedy skit than an actual Q and A session. Not surprisingly, a large portion of the discussion was centered on the duos marijuana exploits, as well as Texas’ laws regarding cannabis. Since the duo are known for their cult classic movie, Up In Smoke, and several other movies centered around the hippie culture and marijuana use, it was not a surprise that the topic was covered. Of course, this was a comedy-laced discussion since it was Cheech and Chong.
The duo told the audience that they are on tour with War because the band will be a part of their new movie that’s in the works. In addition to the movie, War has just released their first new studio album in 20 years, Evolutionary, and Cheech and Chong are featured on the track “That L.A. Sunshine.” War joined Cheech and Chong on stage for several numbers from the past including “Basketball Jones,” “Me And My Old Lady,” and “Save The Whales.” Tommy played along on guitar during these songs.
While Cheech and Chong took a break to prepare for some of their classic routine skits, War entertained the audience with “Me And Baby Brother” and several other old favorites. Although War only has one of the original band members with them now, they still sounded great on these classic songs.
After a short intermission, Cheech and Chong returned to the stage to perform some of their classic and always popular routines including, “Dave’s Not Here,” “Santa Claus and His Old Lady,” and the acid scene from “Up In Smoke.” Although Cheech and Chong have performed these skits countless times and the audience had probably seen them all of the many times before this performance, laughter filled the venue each time.
War returned to the stage again while Tommy and Cheech prepared for their next set. The band’s only original member, Lonnie Jordan, dedicated “Spill The Wine” to “all the lovely ladies of Austin, Texas.” Other War classics followed, including the audience favorite, “Low Rider.”
During the bands set, Jordan introduced a special musical guest joining the band, Blind Melon Chitlin, who was, of course, Tommy Chong regaled in a red hat and sunglasses, and playing guitar. A second special musical guest, Alice Bowie, was Cheech Marin dressed in a pink tutu worn over a fake tattoo body suit. Mickey Mouse ears and a pink guitar added to the hilarity of the outfit. “Alice” really rocked the stage during his song, but being “an old-timer” in the business, he needed a walker to exit the stage.
While Cheech recovered from his solo and changed for his next skit, Tommy joined the band to introduce the members: Keyboardist and lead vocalist, Lonnie Jordan; Percussionist, Marcos Reyes; Drummer, Sal Rodriguez; Guitarist, Stuart Ziff; Bassist, “Pancho” Tomaselli; Saxophonist and Flautist, David Urquidi; and Viet Nam Vet, Harmonica player, Stanley Behrens.
Behrens then performed a rousing rendition of our National Anthem for the appreciative crowd, before Cheech returned to the stage to perform the “Mexican American National Anthem.” Cheech then followed with “Born In East L.A.” while Tommy and Shelby danced. Making sure to get in another plug for the new album, Cheech and Chong joined War for “That L.A. Sunshine” before closing out the night with the entire cast singing War’s classic, “Why Can’t We Be Friends.”
While the majority of the material performed on the night was already familiar to most of the audience, everyone seemed to have a great time sharing some great laughs. After all, it was classic Cheech and Chong. And laughter is good for the soul.
Review by Margy Moore
Photographs by Scott Moore/ Limelight Imaging