It’s a Beautiful Day will shine again in Park City
Violinist David LaFlamme is celebrating his 50th anniversary as leader of the progressive and psychedelic band It’s a Beautiful Day.
Now, 76, the former Utahn has decided to cut back on his touring, and cited his age as the main culprit.
“I recently did four shows in a week and a half, and I tell you, I haven’t been in such physical pain in years,” he chuckled. “I traveled every day and did a show every night, and I prepared for the final night, which was a cancer benefit in Monterey, California, in the bathtub. All I did was spend the day in a hot bathtub in the hotel until it was time to go to work.”
LaFlamme, who is known for his professionalism, made it through the concert.
“It was a good show and the guys in the band told me it was probably the best they’ve heard me play,” he said. “I told them it’s because I spent the day in the bathtub.”
LaFlamme will bring It’s a Beautiful Day’s farewell tour to Park City next week. The band known for the hit “White Bird” will perform at the Egyptian Theatre Dec. 20 and 21, and will fittingly usher in the winter solstice.
The bandleader is ready to play for a hometown crowd.
“Park City has been a home away from home for us,” LaFlamme said during a phone call from his home in Southern California. “Every time we come back it feels like such a blessing to spend with my family and party in Park City.”
He said now is a good time to retire.
“We’re calling this our farewell tour, because it’s gotten so hard for me to do a lot of touring,” he said. “These days I’m not looking forward to doing much more international tours. And while I had toured France and Britain every year for several years, it’s gotten so difficult to get around with the airlines.”
The band features LaFlamme, his wife Linda Baker on vocals, original drummer Val Fuentes, bassist Toby Gray, keyboardist Gary Thomas, guitarist Rob Cunningham and percussionist Michael Prichard.
“I think the band has never sounded better,” he said. “Sometimes I feel like all the older guys who are playing with me are breathing their final breaths into this.”
Not only is 2017 the 50th anniversary of It’s a Beautiful Day, it’s also the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love.
“We had a wonderful show at Golden Gate Park this past summer to commemorate the occasion,” LaFlamme said. “It was a small show and unannounced, but 20,000 hippies showed up. I felt so good because we had all of those people and there wasn’t any bad incidents.”
As a bonus, the DeYoung Museum, which is located in the park, opened a Summer of Love exhibit mentioning the band that ran all season.
“It had displays of all the famous San Francisco groups — Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother and Holding Company, the Grateful Dead and us,” LaFlamme said. “It was nice to be included.”
In addition to the anniversary performances, It’s a Beautiful Day has experienced a sort of resurgence.
LaFlamme appeared in an episode ofNBC’s “Bay Area Revelations,” produced by documentarian Peter Coyote, and “White Bird” popped up on two more TV shows.
The first was on the PBS crime drama, “Prime Suspect.”
“So we were sitting and watching the first episode and the camera pans down to show a beautiful blonde girl lying in a pool of blood in her carport,” LaFlamme said. “You see the police and detectives discussing the situation and all of a sudden ‘White Bird’ comes on. Talk about knocking you off your chair.”
The other nod to the band was during the Alex Gibney documentary “Rolling Stone: Stories from the Edge.”
“We were watching the TV special about the 50th anniversary of Rolling Stone Magazine and one scene showed a picture of Paul Kantner and Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane lying on a bed with their little girl between them,” LaFlamme said. “All of a sudden ‘White Bird’ started playing. I thought that was weird because shouldn’t it have been ‘White Rabbit?’”
LaFlamme took the segment in stride.
“I can’t tell you how many times people get ‘White Bird’ and ‘White Rabbit’ mixed up when they find out that I’m in It’s a Beautiful Day,” he said. “Originally I used to apologize and tell them in my song you don’t get larger or smaller. You just hear about a bird that flies around. So after so many times, all I would just end up going with the rabbit and say, ‘Thank you very much.’”
LaFlamme. who was born in Connecticut and raised in Utah, started playing the violin when he was five.
“My aunt gave it to me because her daughter got discouraged while learning how to play,” LaFlamme said.
Laflamme trained and won a competition to perform with an upstart orchestra: the Utah Symphony.
After joining the military, he moved to San Francisco and eventually formed It’s a Beautiful Day.
Over the past half-century, LaFlamme, who is one of a handful of rock ‘n’ roll violinists, has received honors through performing benefit concerts with his contemporaries, as well as being the subject of an exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.
Although he is retiring, he will still perform benefit concerts throughout the next year.
“My plan is to focus and shed light on the poor souls who lost their homes in the California fires,” he said. “It’s terrible. When you drive around, you see something like a war zone. Even the malls are gone. So I want to do fundraiser for them, and I hope to spend more time doing that.”
Still, LaFlamme said he will return to Utah as much as he can because he has so many great memories, like the time he wanted to learn some skiing tricks from Olympic Gold Medalist Stein Eriksen, who passed away in 2015.
“I remember one winter I got onto a gondola with him and he was with two women who looked like they were from Hollywood,” LaFlamme said. “I thought this was my chance to get a free skiing lesson and my plan was to get behind them and follow them down the mountain.”
Little did he know Eriksen and his companions would race down the face of the mountain.
“As they swished back and forth like it was nothing. I was trying just to stay alive,” LaFlamme guffawed. “I was completely out of my element. But what a great memory.”
Prog and psychedelic band It’s a Beautiful Day, lead by violinist and former Utahn David LaFlamme, will return to Park City for a two-night run at 8 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 20-21, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. The band is known for its songs “White Bird” and “Girl With No Eyes.” Tickets range from $23 to $35. They can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.
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