Jon Dindas: "Heady Times at The Capitol Theatre" (and Onward)
Finally, can you share your memories of the opening nights and then talk about what you’re doing now.
The second opening night, the night that was supposed to be the opening night, was Peter’s 40th birthday. We ended up doing a montage on the walls for him and it was very celebratory. For us, with the Dead and their history there, having Bob Weir come out and be first was going to be really special for us. Bobby, and The Roots and a jam, that ended up being in my production office with Trey, Warren and Grace borrowing my guitars to work out arrangements. I was like, “Great, this is the second show, I guess we’re having some fun.”
That was going to be the big thing, the opening night, and then Peter called me and said “I think we’re going to do something the night before,” and I said, “No, you promised me we weren’t going to do anything before. We’re not going to be ready.” And he said, “Dude, it’s Dylan.” I said, “Right” and you know, it was Dylan. Dylan rehearsed there for years. Completely honestly, the opening night of the Capitol Theater is not quite a blur, but I feel like I was there for parts of it. I have very specific memories of seeing my parents and talking to Bob Dylan for a moment, and hanging out with Jeff Kramer, Dylan’s manager, and trying to get him not to smoke cigarettes in my office. There are lots of those, but overall, the combination of doing a huge production, the first show, and this was the day we had been looking forward to for two years, it was just so much. It really took weeks for me to sit back and try and go through that and see what it was. And it worked! Dylan looked happier than I’d ever seen him.
I’ve seen maybe fifty Dylan shows in my life and I would count that as one of the better ones, in terms of his song selection and everything else. So that was special, and Dylan is Dylan. I never thought I would do a Dylan show in my room, forget opening night. It was pretty heady. The second night, Pete’s birthday, that was the real opening of the Capitol Theater because it was our friends. The Roots have been doing shows with Pete and I for five or six years, we both know their management very well. Bobby was there for the room and for us, and Grace and Trey and everybody coming down wanted to be a part of something. Everybody in that room knew what we were trying to do.
We had a book we got everybody to sign and Warren said, “What you’re doing in this room reminds me of why I want to play music.” I took a picture of that and texted it to Pete and said, “Pete, we did good.” That was the beginning.
Speaking of Warren, I also want to say how much I’ve enjoyed worked with him over the years and in specific, Christmas Jam, because it’s a charity and it’s an event where great artists play for free to literally build a house. Wilco is an amazing experience because of the artistic nature of it, but Christmas Jam because of who we do it with, Sheryl Crow and Phil Lesh and all these people, and what it actually means may be the most meaningful thing I do.
Going back to the first night I also will say that I mentioned to Dylan that I named my daughter Johanna after “Visions of Johanna” and he said, “Hey, cool” and then walked away from me. I was up in my office doing paperwork during his set and he started playing “Visions of Johanna.” That was already on the set, he didn’t play it for me but his tour manager, was like, “Dude, stop what you’re doing and go listen to the song you named your daughter for.” I was like, “Yeah, okay.” That was a cool moment.
What are we doing now? As Peter does, he came to me in December or so and said, “Hey, we did it. The Cap, it’s everything we wanted it to be.” I really think it’s true, the hours of talking about what we wanted it to be, I think that’s what it is and it will only get better. But he said, “We did this and now it’s time to do the next thing.” Again, when he asked me about the Cap, I love the Cap, I literally put a year, a year and a half of my life into it and I wasn’t thinking about leaving anytime soon, but Peter has a company that basically own the Capitol and the Brooklyn Bowl and the other Bowls that are being worked on and some other projects that we’re doing that will soon to be announced. But the team they’d brought together didn’t have a voice for production, of how the shows were going to be put on in all these places. How these entities will run from that point of view. So he asked me to come on as the director of production for the company and since February first that’s what I’ve been doing.
It’s very interesting; it’s another moment in my life where I’m taking a slight turn on my career path because now I’m still involved in the Capitol Theater and the shows they put on there and other things we will be announcing later that are show related, but a lot of what I’m going now is helping to design the production stuff, the audio/video projection screens for Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas, which has been announced and other things that will come. So this is a little bit of a new thing. I did it at the Capitol; I knew how to go into a field and build a little town and put on a festival but I had never built a room before, and doing it at the Capitol was an amazing place to learn. So now I’m taking that new skill and bringing it to some of Peter’s other ventures, all of which are exciting and some of which we’ll be able to announce soon and I think will really catch people’s eyes.
Can I throw one thing in? At this point I realized that we’re grownups, which is amazing to me, but one of the things I’ve started to get a lot was younger people in the industry asking me for advice and the theme all along that I’ve followed is “Do everything that you can” and “Learn everything that you can” about all of them because they all have an impact on what you end up doing. Then while you’re doing that, figure out what you love. Figure out what this industry is about, learn everything you can, do whatever you can, figure out what you love and do it. This job is incredibly difficult, it’s very cool and it has a cache, but I think a common misconception of a lot of people is with jobs in rock and roll or sports is that it’s easy. All those people work harder than anybody, so you’ve got to love it if you’re going to put in the eighteen hour days and put up with all of the other stuff. So if you love it then go for it, but if not than then just go to the shows and enjoy.