Rodriquez and Brian Wilson

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Here comes the first dilemma, do I count a double bill show as one or two shows? The performers are very distinct and different and never play together, but, hey, they are on the same bill. Let’s put this question off until next May when I am short a couple of shows and need to start counting bands, not shows.

Back to the Mann Music Center for Brian Wilson and Rodriquez. If you have not seen “Searching for Sugarman,” you should absolutely watch it. It is this excellent movie about an artist who had a couple of albums in the 70s, achieved mild success, then packed it in and became a working stiff (like the rest of us). Unbeknownst to him, his music became the soundtrack for the anti- apartheid movement thousands of miles away in South Africa. He becomes this mystical creature and someone sets off to “find” him. It turns out not to be that hard, because he lives in Detroit. Anyway, he has found some newfound fame as a result of the movie and is now touring with Brian Wilson on some dates. I was excited to see him.

It was interesting. I was really intrigued by the movie and I was looking forward to seeing him. And his music was exactly the same and sounded just like his earlier albums, folksy with a touch of Bob Dylan interspersed with lefty politics. All good, except it was like time stood still and he was still in the 70s. There has been a lot of political music made in the last 40 years, but his is not some of it. In the late 80s early 90s, I went through a stage where I did not buy any music made after 1978, this would have been a good show to see back then, but not in 2015.

thumb_IMG_3955_1024Though a bit disappointed but still glad we made the effort to get there early, I settled in for Brian Wilson. I had seen the movie “Love and Mercy” a couple days before and was starting to form a mild obsession with him, his story and his music. I had already been listening to his new album incessantly since I bought it months ago in preparation for the show. Additionally, just like Paul McCartney, I believe that “G-d Only Knows” is the greatest song ever written. (FYI- this will not be the last Paul McCartney similarity you will learn about). So I was pumped. Sadly, I was not impressed. His band was awesome. They were tight, fun and had great vocals, but Brian, well Brian is not the young Brian Wilson. And I knew that going in, but I guess the years of drug, recreational and medical, use really took a toll, but I just could not get past his slurring of words. It was just really uncomfortable and I felt somewhat exploitative watching him.

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Sometimes that happens, you get really excited about a show and it just falls way below your expectations. Then, you have those shows, where you expect very little and are blown away. This is not the first time this has happened and won’t be the last. Ultimately it is worth it only for the shows you never see coming.

40 (or 39) shows to go, 336 days left…

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Ramble on Rex

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As it turns out, the Moore family is not the only musical family I happen to know. I also know the “too hard to keep track of how everyone is related” LeCompte clan and was invited to a “Ramble On Rex” party and concert on Saturday night. The original intent was to have an all day party with neighbors, but since it was torrential downpours, it was moved inside. These guys were great. Some family members, some neighbors, some folks just sitting in for the evening.

One thing I noticed about getting older is how people’s relationships with music change. When I was younger and friends were in bands, it was much more about making it. There were a lot of practicing, angst and general passion for getting signed. However, now I see that a lot of my friends who are still playing in bands are just doing it because they, simply, just love music and still want to create it. They are not it for fame and fortune, they are in for it exactly the right reason-for the love of the game.   And I totally prefer that and I will always make an effort to see a friend’s band play when they have those infrequent gigs.

41 shows to go, 340 days left…

Parlour Tricks

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Post Warren Haynes and Railroad Earth, Love and Mercy (Brian Wilson biopic), celebrating #lovewins, watching our gals win another World Cup soccer match, Susan and I pull into Milk Boy for Parlour Tricks ( a schmooney to buuny kind of day). These guys are a fun pop band out of Brooklyn, “recipients of the Village Voice‘s award for Best Pop Band in New York 2014,  PARLOUR TRICKS (formerly Lily & The Parlour Tricks) has been hailed as “the perfect combo of pretty and gritty.”” And they were totally fun! We went because one of the members happens to be the son of our favorite wine storeowner, Greg Moore. The Moore family is not only renowned for their excellent wine store, Moore Brothers, but also for their musical talent, so this was not a mercy concert trip even a little bit. We thoroughly enjoyed them, drank some ice cold canned beer, bought their new album, and home by 11:00 pm. Awesome!

42 shows to go, 341 days left…

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Warren Haynes and Railroad Earth

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Recently, I decided to check out XPN’s schedule. Susan and I had plans to see a band later that night (see Parlour Tricks), but the “XPN’s Free at Noon” concerts are just too hard to resist. It is one of these things in Philly that I think we take for granted. Every Friday, WXPN, our alternative public radio, sponsors, exactly what the name implies, a free noontime concert. It is usually an artist in town for a show that night or maybe someone just wanting to promote their newest album. The thing is that these are totally legit and well-known bands. I have seen a ton of good shows, including Adele, right before she became famous. The year I saw her she later went on to win “best new artist” Grammy. Before the Grammys, though, on a very cold day in January, I was listening to this new phenomenal talent. XPN also broadcasts it live, so there is usually a hard stop after 45 minutes. It is a perfect midday mini concert. Inevitably, a member of the band will ask if anyone works, because I, guess, it is kind of curious to see a roomful of folks at a free concert on a work day drinking beer.

So taking advantage of that rare Friday off, I checked out the schedule and saw that Warren Haynes and Railroad Earth were playing. I also saw that it was sold out, but decided to take a chance and see if I could get in. A lot of friends totally dig Warren Haynes, Allman Brothers, Government Mule, etc and I was curious to see if I would too and was worth checking him out.

Got there and, indeed, I was not on the list (shocking since I had not RSVP’d), but the volunteer was kind enough to let me in. It was great. Having some mild regrets for not trying hard enough to see the Dead for one of their Fare Thee Well shows, it totally hit the spot. Some good ole rock and roll with hints of jam band thrown in. As is usually the case, I would definitely pay to see a full show, which I think is exactly the goal of these XPN shows. 45 minutes later I was headed downtown to catch a matinee of the Brian Wilson flick “Love and Mercy” since I had tickets to a show coming up.

43 shows to go, 341 days left…
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PHonic

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When I realized early on that I had absolutely no musical talent whatsoever, I decided that since I couldn’t make music I was going to support the musicians who make it.  To me that translated into buying CDs, not downloading songs, and going to concerts.  I have had this rule for as long as I can remember   In fact, my first year out of college when I was making $10,500 annually, I still made sure that I bought two CDs every month.  It is my own little contribution to the artists in the world.

Imagine how excited I am, then to be able to see a show where my friend is playing.  I had that honor on Saturday of seeing my bad ass bass player, Chris C., play with her latest band PHonic at Fergies.  She too, has a deep love of music.  We see a lot of shows together, a lot.  In fact, we created and follow religiously, the “Joan Osborne Rule.”  The Joan Osborne Rule is pretty easy to understand- every time Joan comes to Philly, we see her. We have seen her in large venues, on small stages, acoustic and with bands and during a Phillies world series game. That should tell you a lot, Phillies are almost as big a love as music and I went to a show during a world series game, a world series game!

Anyway, I was lucky to catch one of Chris’ last shows before she and her husband Lew move to Colorado. I am hoping that I get to see a show with her in her new city before the year is up.

44 shows to go, 346 days left…

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Wild By Law

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I love Philadelphia.  I actually love everything about it and in a non ironic way.   And then there are times when you really love your city and exclaim “Wow, Philly just got this really right!”   The Night Market is one of those things.  There are complaints that it is too crowded and unwieldy and you have to wait for hours in line to get something to eat or drink.  However, I see it as one big excuse to drink a beer outside and chat with old acquaintances  that you don’t normally see.  I love me a good block party.   We went to the one recently in our neighborhood and there was a stage with bands. Got to do all of the above and catch a show by Wild By Law.  Yup, it counts.

45 shows to go, 348 days left…

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Robert Plant

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I always know it is summer when I see my first show at the Mann Music Center. I have seen shows there for the past 30 years and there is something so comforting when you reenter those gates at the end of a long and cold winter. Last night was no exception.

First, the set-up. The Mann Music Center has been around forever, and while it has been upgraded throughout the years, there is still an old time, bordering on stubborn, feel to it. First, they just refuse to put any identifying signs in the parking “lot” so you have absolutely no reference point of where you are parked when you leave at the end of the evening,. There are always a few folks wandering around, usually bickering, at the end of a show trying to locate their car. Second, the parking “lot” is grass, so there are always some folks who are either stuck in their spot, after a particularly drenching rain, or park oddly, since there are no real guidelines of how to park in a field. Third, there are no real lights outside of the venue, so at the end of the evening, you are wandering around in the dark and muddy field trying to find your car. I happily experienced all that last night. Not trying to locate my car, mind you, I am “that guy” who parked outside of the lot along the Ave of the Republic to save the $20.

Onto the music. I saw Robert Plant last night. It was a last minute thing. I was planning on trying to see Courtney Barnett at Union Transfer on Monday night. Though it was sold out, I thought I could stroll down and score a ticket. However, I just could not motivate to do so.   So, come 2 days later and I am panicked that I have not seen any shows to move towards my 50 shows in the year goal. Left the softball field after the last play, changed in the car, drove over the Strawberry Mansion Bridge and 8 minutes later I was at the Mann. Bought a $20 lawn ticket from Roddy, who told me he will be “working” the Mann all summer long, and was inside. I sadly missed the Pixies but was there in plenty of time for the headliner. Happily, I ran into friends Joanne, Jonathan and Amy. We even had time to enjoy a beer, chat and people watch together. Delicious!

I always like to stop at the top of lawn for the view, and obligatory photo of, the Philadelphia skyline. Last night’s show was not sold out so there was plenty of room for lounging and dancing on the lawn. The other thing about the Mann is their grass. It is spectacular. First thing, take off those shoes and tickle your feet in the grass. There is nothing quite like being at a concert dancing barefoot in grass. Amy, giving up her ticketed seat to enjoy the lawn, joined me. After a bit, we decide to venture down and try and get a little closer. I am a bit of a wanderer during concerts. I like to experience the concert from different sections of a venue, around different fans and hear music from a variety of places. I have no problem trying to get as close as possible. I also have no problem being asked for my ticket and then leaving when unable to produce one for a certain seat. Last night was no exception, as we made our way pretty far down for a couple of songs only to be asked by a very nice usher if he could see our tickets,. Fulfilling our end of the social contract of seat jumping at a show, we simply said “we don’t belong here” and left.

Onto Robert Plant. I like led Zeppelin, don’t get me wrong. I actually like Led Zeppelin more the older I get. However, I really started to dig Robert Plant when he made the album a couple years ago with Allison Krause. Then I learned he dated Patty Griffin and he was all about showcasing blues music, Americana, different talented but lesser known musicians and being an all-around great guy. This was actually my third start at trying to see him.   First time, I wanted to see the tour behind the Raising Sand album, but was discouraged by some old time bluegrass fans who convinced me for a second to join them on the “we don’t like Allison Krause anymore” side. Second, I had tickets (with Amy) for his Tower show a couple years ago with the Band of Joy. It was a total blizzard that night and we chose safety over music. We learned last night, from Jonathan and Joanne, bad call. They said it was spectacular. I was glad to finally get to see him after these false starts.

I was not sure exactly what I was expecting. Maybe some bluegrass, some southern blues, whatever. I actually thought it would be kind of mellow. It was anything but. He is a total rock and roll star. I did not sit the whole time, dance, boogied, swayed and generally bounced about. I would say there was about 60-70% Led Zeppelin songs, which was more than I expected and less than I want. In a word, it was, Awesome!

46 shows to go, 350 days left…

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