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…